During the 70th anniversary of Normandy invasion, the museum reported record admissions with an increase of 62% between 2013 and 2014. The success around these commemorations highlights the fact it’s fundamental to preserve memories of events of june 1944.
Indeed, in 2014, the Airborne Museum spent a year dense and full of emotions and events. Many veterans came for the event to attend the ceremonies to honour them. This trip in Normandy is for them a time of memories, share, joy and this is also the way to celebrate their comrades killed 70 years ago.
In 2014, The Airborne Museum celebrated its 50 years old and for this event, a new building has been built “Operation Neptune”. Thanks to its realism, this third building takes visitors through the D-Day alongside American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division
Marc LEFEVRE, President of the Airborne Museum.
In a series of galleries called “experiential zones” each preceded by an anteroom or « airlock », in which the keys to understanding the following event are provided, the visitor will be completely plunged into the heat of the action.
This trip brings to life, through different sequences, in chronological order, the experiences of the individual paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, from embarkation in England during the night of June 5/6th 1944, through to the battle of the Normandy hedgerows and the other operations in which they took part, all the way to Berlin.
June 5th, between 9.30 and 11 pm
The visitor is transported into the night of June 5th to find himself in a hangar situated on an airfield in England where the American soldiers are about to board and take off
The public then board the aircraft, visit the flight deck and the paratroopers sat along one side of the cabin, ready for their jump over Normandy.
John the radio operator makes his first appearance.
The noise is almost deafening. Anti-aircraft fire and the plane’s engines make the fuselage shake beneath the visitors’ feet.
The only source of light in the darkness comes from the cockpit instruments and the red and green flashing lights of the jump master who is standing near the jump door.
Just like the paratroopers, the visitor now steps out of the aircraft into the night sky and, looking down (through the floor of an all glass walkway) he can distinguish in the darkness below, the town of Sainte-Mère- Eglise.
The air around is filled with parachutes and C47 s, the sound of their engines combines with the explosions of artillery fire.
June 6th, between 1 and 2 am.
The visitor finds himself the town square by the church in the early hours of June 6th.
It’s still in darkness and a red glow emanates from a house on fire. The alarm is sounding and the visitor hears the voices and other noises as the locals work to put out the fire.
The faint sound of aircraft engines grows progressively louder as they pass overhead in waves, then there is machine gun fire and paratroops begin to land. A German soldier appears and the sounds of combat can be heard all around.
June 9th, 4pm
The visitor is at the La Fière bridge, in the flooded marshlands at the end of the ferocious fighting between the paratroopers and the entrenched and heavily armed Germans.
After several days of non-stop combat, the Americans have succeeded in taking and holding La Fière. The causeway is littered with all sorts of wreckage and partly submerged bodies can be made out, floating in the marshes.
The visitor walks across the Merderet bridge and then follows a path alongside a grassy bank. He hears the sounds of the advancing U.S. Troops : various vehicle noises and some wounded troopers calling to each other. Sporadic weapons fire can be heard, coming from the far side of the marsh, as the battle has already moved on.From June 13th to 15th
The visitor walks along a sunken lane with hedgerows on either side. American soldiers are crouched on the other side of the hedges. At the end of the walk, the visitor discovers that he has walked right past a German soldier without seeing him.A spacious hall is divided into several different areas:
– Press Gallery
Through archive footage and newspapers from the time, the visitor discovers the contrasting ways in which these events were being reported back home to the Allies and to the Vichy/German public.
– August 1944 to May 1945.
Here we trace the steps of the American Airborne troops after their arrival in Normandy all the way to Berlin.
The different operations in which they took part are described : Operation Dragoon (in the south of France), Operation Market Garden (Holland), the battle of the Bulge (Belgium) and Operation Varsity (Germany).
– Civilians and Veterans: A collection of artifacts, clothing, documents, photographs and film footage enables the visitor to understand what life was like for the civilian population during the liberation.
– Memorial: This area is a shrine, dedicated to the memory of the young men who gave their lives and illustrates the temporary cemeteries that were their initial resting place.
– Piper Cub: the visitor discovers a Piper Cub reconnaissance aircraft. The aerodrome at La Londe is described and its crucial role, along with all the other makeshift landing sites, in delivering allied troops and equipment.
For more information, please visit this website www.airborne-museum.org