Immerse yourself in the story of D-Day!

JUNE 6 1944: D-DAY AT UTAH BEACH

At 11:00 P.M. on June 5, the first Allied bombs begin to fall near the planned landing area, targeting the German battery at Saint Martin de Varreville. Beginning at 1:15 A.M., 13,000 paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st U.S. Airborne divisions drop behind enemy lines. Their mission is to neutralize German defenses, secure the landing area, and prevent the arrival of reinforcements.

Operation Overlord is underway.

As the attack unfolds, a number of carefully coordinated maneuvers are set in motion featuring each of the different military forces.

NAVAL FORCES

Force “U,” deployed off the Normandy coast, has the task of attacking German defenses on Utah Beach and protecting the Allied invasion force. As the sun rises on the morning of June 6, German sentries spot the Allied armada. One witness would later note, “The sea was black with ships.” The Allied fleet opened fire at 5:36 AM.

For over half an hour, the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers launch an uninterrupted barrage of fire at the German defenses along the coast and inland batteries at Azeville and Crisbecq.

Visitors can see an original LVT2 “Water Buffalo,” an armored amphibious vehicle which would go on to see major combat in the Pacific Theater of operations.

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THE AIR FORCES

Immediately following the naval bombardment, a squadron of bombers enters into action.

From 6:10 to 6:25 A.M., B26 bombers from the 9th USAAF pound the enemy lines on three miles of coastline, flying at low altitude and parallel to the coast to ensure their accuracy. During this time, the Free French Air Force’s (FAFL) Lorraine Fighter Group spreads a smoke screen between the coast and the ships of Force U to prevent the German artillery positions from accurately firing on the ships. The FAFL Berry Fighter Group patrols above the battlefield to defend against any possible threat from the German Luftwaffe.

Timing of the operation is critical. The first landing craft are scheduled to land at 6:30 A.M., only five minutes after the last bombs are to be dropped from the B26 bombers. Any deviation from the attack schedule will put Allied soldiers at risk from friendly fire. It is a high-risk mission, performed to great precision by exceptional men.

One of these men is Major David Dewhurst. Squadron commander of the 386th Bomb Group, his mission is to lead the final bombing run over Utah Beach just five minute before H-Hour. An original B-26 painted in the colors of his plane, the “Dinah Might,” is housed in the custom-designed hangar at the Museum.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Dewhurst graduated from the University of Texas in 1940. At the age of 22, David Dewhurst decided to enlist in the Air Force–six months before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. Noted for his flying skills, he will join the 386th Bombardment Group, the “Crusaders,” and during his state-side training he contributes to the development of the B26 Marauder.

After marrying Martha Harris, he is sent with his crew aboard their B26 Marauder “Dinah Might” to the air base of Great Dunmow in England. He will be named squadron leader, and would be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-colonel by the end of the war. Over the course of the battle to liberate Europe Dewhurst will accomplish 85 combat missions against the Germans.

One of the highlights of his military career will come on D-Day: five minutes before H-hour, his squadron undertakes a high-risk bombing run to drop 96 tons of bombs directly on German stronghold WN5 defending the Allied landing point, greatly contributing to the success of the landing on Utah Beach.

Back in Texas, David Dewhurst will be killed in a car accident shortly after the war, leaving behind two young sons, David and Eugene.

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The Land Forces

After a night at sea, crammed into landing barges, sickened by the rough seas and exhausted by hours of waiting, the 860 men of the 4th Infantry Division land on the beach at H-Hour: 6:30 A.M. on the morning of June 6, 1944. They are followed by the men of the 90th Infantry Division.

The crossing of this beach seems endless. After wading through 220 yards in water, weighted down by 70 lbs of equipment on their backs, the soldiers have to run another 550 yards under fire from the German artillery.

Fortunately, the actions of Air and Naval Forces have greatly weakened the enemy lines, enabling the Americans to reach the protection of the anti-tank wall on the beach in just half an hour.

A few minutes after H-Hour, 29 Duplex Drive amphibious Sherman tanks from the 70th Tank Battalion land on the beach.

The D-Day landing at Utah Beach is a success!

However, in the confusion of the first moments of the landing, it becomes apparent that the GIs in the first waves have landed 2 kilometers south of the sector originally planned. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. will make the key decision to engage his men by moving inland rather than attempt to relocate to the planned landing site. He famously declares, “We’ll start the war from here.”

By nightfall of June 6, 1944, 23,000 men have landed on Utah Beach.

Today, one of the iconic elements of D-Day is the LCVP assault barge, nicknamed the “Higgins Barge.” The Museum houses the only known original LCVP to have participated in the D-Day landings.

On the second floor of the Museum, a gallery featuring numerous oral histories and several major artifacts open onto a spectacular panoramic view of Utah Beach.