A recently opened museum in Normandy gives you a glimpse of what it was like for the allied airborne troops to land in the Cotentin’s flooded fields on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
From the outside it looks more like an aircraft hangar than a museum - and that's exactly what it is. Purpose-built to house the Douglas C-47 “Stoy Hora” used during the filming of Steven Spielberg's “Band of Brothers” TV series, the D-Day Experience museum should be top of the list for Airborne enthusiasts and anyone interested in Operation Overlord - the invasion of Nazi-occupied France in 1944.
Near the town of Carentan, behind the Dead Man’s Corner museum, you go past an 88mm anti-aircraft gun and into the hangar. There you can browse the exhibits relating to the US 101st Airborne and await . . . the briefing. Just as hundreds of allied troops must have done on the eve of D-Day at air bases all over southern England, you shuffle into the briefing room and wait for your CO’s arrival. After a few moments, the door opens and in walks the ghostly 3-D apparition of Colonel Robert Lee Wolverton, Commander of 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. This ‘virtual’ character then delivers the actual briefing speech given by Wolverton on June 5 1944. Before concluding his address with “Oh Lord, protect our loved ones and be near us in the fire ahead and with us now as we pray to you,” he tells you that the battalion will meet again in a year’s time in a free France.
Then, following the Colonel’s order to “Move out!” you file onto the aircraft and strap in. The flight takes only ten-or-so minutes, but in that time you see the whole cross-channel voyage through the plane’s windows. Soon the ack-ack artillery starts to take its deathly toll, and suddenly Stoy Hora is hit too. A crash-landing brings the voyage to an abrupt end and you exit the plane contemplating the horrors that awaited those real paratroopers 75 years ago.
Once out of the plane there is a fascinating exhibition about the 101st and Colonel Wolverton’s tragic and brutal demise. He never made it to his battalion’s reunion, but there is a photograph of those who were able to reunite a year later in a France that they had liberated from the tyranny of Nazi occupation.
2 Village de l'Amont, 50500 Saint-Côme-du-Mont
Phone 02 33 23 61 95
Opening times: Every day from 9h30 to 18h00