On June 6, 1944, Canadian, British, American and other Allied troops took part in Operation Overlord, the largest sea invasion in history, with the goal of seizing the Nazi-held coast of France in Normandy.
They landed across five assault beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Despite many elements that went wrong, the Allies persevered. They all gained a foothold onto European soil at their designated landing beaches. It was the pivotal moment of World War II when the Allies could begin to retake Europe from the Nazis.
D-Day is a fabled event in military history and popular culture, the subject of movies, documentaries, novels and real stories shared by veterans returning home.
And for countless families across Canada and the U.S. whose fathers, brothers, grandfathers and uncles fought on D-Day or in any battle of World War II, as well as students, new citizens, community groups and military and veterans' groups, the landing beaches are essential travel destinations to honor, first-hand, the monumental task and tremendous sacrifices made on D-Day.
The 75th anniversary of D-Day highlights the opportunity for travel advisors to help their clients and community members make this essential pilgrimage. For advisors and agencies looking to increase their group business, D-Day landing beach visits are natural group travel occasions.
Canada's Juno Beach
The Juno Beach Centre is the focus of any Canadian trip to the landing beaches. Today, visitors can stroll along the sandy beach and walk in the very footsteps of the Canadians who landed there. Travelers can relive their brave stories at the Juno Beach Centre displays, and learn about the entire Canadian war effort during the Second World War. They learn from young, bilingual Canadian guides who provide information at the Centre and give tours of the imposing German fortifications that are still preserved on the beach.
The Juno Beach Centre also has dedicated bilingual staff to help with group reservations, as well as local resources for travel professionals creating a custom tour for a group.
Omaha Beach and Utah Beach in America
The highlight of an American visiting the landing beaches is Pointe du Hoc on Omaha Beach, where U.S. Army Rangers accomplished an inconceivable, 100-foot cliff climb under heavy fire. At the top of the cliff today, a poignant memorial rises from the dramatic, shell-hole marked battlefield ruins and Nazi fortifications that remain.
Other memorials, cemeteries, and beaches in the area fill a day or several moving days of exploration.
Sword Beach and Gold Beach in France
For Canadians and Americans able to travel to Europe, a visit to the landing beaches there is amazingly easy to undertake, by nearly any mode of transportation. No matter what travel style suits an advisor's client or group – FIT, land tours, river cruises (on the Seine from Paris), or ocean cruises calling on the northern coast of France (usually Le Havre) – travel advisors have many options to book customers on their journeys.
FIT travelers can be assisted with rental car, private tour or train (especially rail pass) reservations; and make their way to the landing beaches from all major cities of Northern Europe: Paris, London, Amsterdam and more.
Help from suppliers
Canadian travel advisors should note that many tours or shore excursions to the landing beaches include American landing beaches but do not include Canada's Juno Beach. Advisors can add value to their client relationship by ensuring Canada's Juno Beach Centre is part of a client's trip.
There are suppliers that offer both Canadian and American landing beach tour options. Land tours offered by Globus, Collette, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations include both countries' landing beaches as part of general-interest tours of France or Northern Europe, as well as war memorial or battlefields tours of the region. Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways and Uniworld offer shore excursions to Juno Beach Centre, as well as U.S. and European landing beaches from their Seine River cruises. Oceania Cruises and Princess Cruises calling in Le Havre also offer shore excursions featuring both Canadian and U.S. landing beaches.
A visit to Normandy's D-Day landing beaches is a pilgrimage every Canadian and American should make, especially now, with the 75th anniversary revealing how few living veterans remain to keep this history alive for us all. Travel advisors can share their commitment to remembrance by organizing groups and FIT travel to these important overseas, national history sites.