The calm sea stretches out beyond the sand dunes. It is hard to imagine that mere decades ago, this picturesque landscape set the stage for the battle that would change Europe’s fate.
It is on these shores that the Spirit of Utah Beach was born. For over seventy years, it has been swept up by the wind and carried out into the world, spreading three fundamental values: success, innovation, commitment.
Of an epic battle which changed the fate of history and restored hope to the world.
Brought about by technological advances and modern tactics, which made this success possible.
Of the soldiers whose courage and determination proved that together, as one, men held the keys to success.
Among many others, two men in particular summarize the Spirit of Utah Beach. Five minutes before H hour, piloting his B-26, Major David H. Dewhurst, made a critical decision that weakened the German forces and secured the successful landing of the infantry ashore.
Michel de Vallavielle, gravely wounded during the fight, owes his life to the American surgeons who operated on him at Utah Beach and sent him to England. Five years later, he was elected Mayor of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, and in 1962, de Vallavielle went against the will of his constituents and
founded the Utah Beach D-Day Museum to express his gratitude towards the Allies and the sacrifice they had made.
Today, David and Gene Dewhurst, the sons of Major David H. Dewhurst, are the primary sponsors of the Utah Beach D-Day Museum, presided by Charles de Vallavielle, son of Michel de Vallavielle. In their own way, David, Gene, and Charles perpetuate the legacy left by those who fought on June 6, 1944: that of the Spirit of Utah Beach.
Fully revised in 2011, following the museum’s renovation, the permanent exhibition highlights the value of the museum’s collection and lays the foundation for future innovative projects – projects that will require targeted financing and generous support from donors.
Although already present throughout the permanent exhibition, the multimedia content needs to be reinforced. A large, tactile screen is set to be installed in the entrance hall, retracing the important milestones in the history of Utah Beach from 1944 to today, and thereby giving guests an interactive preview to what awaits them inside the museum.
Among these projects, are the improvements made to the permanent exhibition. Using immersive projectors, visitors are teleported into the heart of the logistical and tactical plans laid out by the chiefs of command for Operation Overlord.
Restored to its original state, the briefing room where pilots were given the details of their mission before takeoff, has to be modernized. This will increase its educational potential and attractiveness, and will underline the major role of the air force in the success of D-Day.
Another multimedia project underway at the museum is the installation of a triptych panel screening alternating testimonies of three key players during the German occupation: a villager of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, a German soldier based bunker WN5, and an American GI stationed in England in anticipation of D-Day. These three testimonials dramatize the dark years lived in this region of the Cotentin.
To promote the museum and help spread the Spirit of Utah Beach to younger generations, the Utah Beach Association aims to create enriching educational programs. Sponsorship, both individual and corporate, plays an important role in the financing of these programs.
To reach schools outside of Normandy, the Association hopes to create partnerships with other regions (such as the Ile-de-France) and the ministry of National Education. The presence of a docent during the museum visit would help raise national awareness of the importance of preserving the Beaches’ history.
Such a program could reach students as far as the United States. Implementing virtual tours via video-conferences in middle and high schools would allow the Spirit of Utah Beach to travel far and wide, all the while expanding the museum’s visibility.
Lastly, in order to make the museum accessible to the greatest number of people, the Utah Beach Association aims to launch a global digitalization platform to allow citizens from around the globe to take a virtual tour of the museum.
Board of directors & mission
The Utah Beach Association is headed by a Council Administration made up of its three founding members, elected to hold office for 6 years:
- Mr Gene Dewhurst, President, Honorary member,
- Mr Nicolas Kelemen, Treasurer, architect in charge of the renovation and expansion of the museum.
- Mr Georges Selnet, Secretary.
Among its main objectives, the Utah Beach Association aims to:
- Facilitate the upkeep and expansion of the museum,
- Act as council to the museum’s directors,
- Take on cultural and financial projects with both French and foreign parties interested in the history of the Normandy landings and the preservation of their memory,
- Drive these initiatives to benefit the museum,
- Help interested persons discover and treasure this period in history.
Keep the public informed on the goals of the Association and the museum’s initiatives.