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Utah Beach

Though Utah Beach didn't have the same intensity of fighting as Omaha (which I visited next), there were still 450 casualties from the 23,250 men who landed there.

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Soldiers look onto Utah Beach

There were lots of men and women in uniform. This shot wasn't staged -- these two men were just standing there, looking out on the beaches (to their left) and the Utah memorial (directly ahead).

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Monuments

One of the many monuments to specific brigades or divisions along the beaches.

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Musee

Dozens of museums dot the landscape of Normandy. You could spend weeks here and still not see everything, I think.

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Tank and obstacle

Cleared from the beaches long ago, many of the beach obstacles live on elsewhere, as a reminder. This tank faces inland, its back to the beach.

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Utah Beach - east

Facing roughly eastward down Utah Beach.

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Utah Beach - museum

The view from the sea, headed inland. The curved building is the back of the Utah Beach museum.

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Utah Beach - west

Looking northwest along Utah Beach.

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Jeep

There were hundreds of Jeeps and other military vehicles all over the area, many giving rides.

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Ambulance

An immaculate WWII ambulance. No rust. This can't live here, right?

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Army truck

An Army truck of...some kind. My WWII vehicle knowledge is more plane-based. Anyone?

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Omaha Memorial

Heading down the coast, the next beach area was known as Omaha. Easily the biggest battle of the day, with 3,600 Allied casualties, more than 1 in 10 of the 34,250 soldiers who landed that day.

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Les Braves

The striking Les Braves monument.

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Rainbow

Thanks to the on-and-off rain, a rainbow appeared right as I was taking these pictures.

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Les Braves, looking east

Looking down towards the main assault areas.

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Omaha houses

Now, you can buy a house right on Omaha Beach. I wonder how much the owners know of the war and this beach's importance.

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Up the hill

This was one of the few ways off the section of beach known as Easy Red, and one of the first cleared. Also one of the rare intact casemates.

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Casemate

Interestingly, a rusted out gun is still here, sitting in stagnant water.

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Omaha - Fox Green

This is the big hill overlooking what I believe was the section called Fox Green, one of several monuments. What thoughts does that gentleman have, reading the names inscribed?

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Fox Green

This is the view from one of the casemates overlooking Omaha Beach.

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Omaha, eastward

Looking east toward Fox Red.

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Emplacement

The remains of a gun emplacement.

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Casemate

One of a handful of casemates that are slowly falling apart.

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From inside

Dirt has largely filled in the entranceway, but you can still enter in a crouch. This is the view looking out.

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More trucks on the beach

These gents were racing, I think.

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Major casemate

One of two larger casemates, you can walk into the main section where the gun once was.

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Casemate interior

Not much to look at now. Standing water, mud, even some graffiti.

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Sun setting

The second major casemate, the top is home to another monument (which possibly has been damaged, as it was wrapped in plastic).

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Casemate interior no. 2

The view is roughly westward. Note the tracks on the floor, where I believe the gun turret would have swiveled.

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Casemate interior ceiling

Rusty, yet still standing after all these years.

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Jeep at sunset

The rays of the setting sun frame this Jeep nicely. The sun sets at 10pm this time of year.

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Tracks in the sand

The remains of some spirited beach driving.

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Morning

I came back the next morning. This picture was taken 6:30am, the same time the first Higgins boats were hitting the beach, 70 years earlier. Notice how light it is already.

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Cliffs after dawn

Looking westward, towards Pointe du Hoc.

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Hill from the water

A view similar to what the soldiers tasked with taking Fox Green would have seen, plus 70 years of foliage.

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Looking east

Fox Red's slightly less daunting task.

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A sight not unlike this

Looking up the hill toward the remains of the German casemates, from the water.

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Prefab concete

These are one of the only remains of anything on the beaches from those days. I believe they're prefab concrete blocks meant as a base for the temporary docks they built after the beaches were cleared.

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Memorial

At the entrance end of the cemetery is this stone half-circle memorial, with the "The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves" statue in the center.

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Alcoves

To the sides of the main monument, huge maps diagram the invasion of Normandy and Europe at large.

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Normandy invasion

It took my brain a second to comprehend, as the map is flipped (to me, anyway).

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Operation Neptune

Again, the map is flipped around, but here you can see the boats that were involved in the beach landings.

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Deserved

All throughout the cemetery, WWII veterans were followed by groups of all ages. Pictures taken, autographs signed, hands shaken, these men were treated like rock stars. (I even overheard one of them saying so.)

As it should be.

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Stage set

For the official presentations, this set is erected in front of the main monument. Look at all the seats.

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Crosses and stars of white

Humbling.

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Tom Brokaw

Tom Brokaw was here for NBC News, interviewing many of the veterans who had returned for the 70th anniversary observance.

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Chapel

In the center of the cemetery is this small, round chapel. Around it are benches where several veterans were sitting, talking to small groups of people, signing autographs, and having their pictures taken.

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Kilometers of chairs

The stage is somewhere in the distance. There's going to be a lot of people here, as there should be.

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Rows and rows and rows

9,387 buried here, out of over 407,000 Americans and 16 million total dead for Allies.

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