Utah Beach: An American military motoring journey
The military world looks often underrated in spite of a diversity of vehicles. The Utah Beach, one of the US D-Day beaches in France hide treasures.
The WW2 has deeply changed our world in our way to move on with the rising of the cars of people. The Beetle, the German unforgettable car for everyone modified our ways to build cars. Using cheaper and affordable vehicles was the priority for Europe which was destroyed in a few years only.
Some bikes were modified into military vehicles (© A.Saboureau).
On the other side of the Atlantic, the United States developed a military motoring engineering by using their knowledge and their growing and young labour force to produce the famous jeeps, the unexpected amphibious vehicles and amounts of supplies for the various operations of the D-Day.
The origins of the legendary Jeep's reputation
The Musée du Débarquement located on the Utah Beach seems to be the right place to understand how one of the most important military plans was prepared to become an international successful operation. The transports played a crucial and complementary role. The aircrafts, the shipping and the motoring were the key of a transportation strategy to disembark on the French coasts in June 1944. Between amphibious vehicles and classic military lorries, you discover how the aircrafts and the military ships were complementary carrying the terrestrial supplies such as the lorries or the off-road vehicles from the beaches to the lands. Among them, an automotive gem was hidden. The Jeep became the best way to move easily in the desolate lands of Normandy in the next weeks and months of the Allies operations.
A Willy-Overland found on the Omaha Beach (© A.Saboureau).
The Jeep Willy-Overland won its proud reputation to be practical on unwelcomed terrains and destroyed roads. Described as the perfect military four-wheel drive car, the Jeep has became a symbol of freedom over the decades for the Europeans people. From the beaches to the French cities, over 640,000 units were built during the WW2. Later, the Jeep gave birth indirectely to the classic Land-Rover Rover and the Toyota Land Cruiser, two of the most exported civic off-road cars all over the world. More than a brilliant military engineering, the Jeep has contributed to liberate the souls of the next generations in the posterior decades as the Beetle did it with the beach buggies in the 60's.
The golden era of the amphibious vehicles
The WW2 also sounds like an era in which the amphibious vehicles had a real utilitarian role for sailing and landing from the English Channel to the French coasts in Normandy. The Galipoli battle during the WW1 had proved that transport was really helpful in hostile environments in 1915. However, the motoring engineering wasn't enough developed to assure the safety of men on board. The heavy losses of thousands of soldiers from the Commonwealth were considered as a human disaster for the British Royal Navy. The Battle of Gallipoli is often considered as a failure pointing out the advantages of the maritime transport on seas as carriers for the soldiers and supplies on the other side. If the lorries and cabs were requisitioned by the armies, the tanks and the amphibious vehicles needed to be improved during the last world war. The WW2 was the golden era of the transports as the Allies proved it during the D-Day.
The LVT-2 "Water Buffalo" (© A.Saboureau)
The WW2 gave the opportunity to the GIs to prove their valuable and practical engineering. In a purpose of a safe landing, the LVT-2 nicknamed the " Water Buffalo" showed the amphibious vehicles was helpful to invade a territory by protecting the soldiers heavy weapons. Invented by Donald Roebling, an American engineer, that amphibious vehicle saved the lives of people in the 1930s in Florida during the tough storms. A decade later, what was the previous LVT-1 nicknamed "Alligator" became the LVT-2 "Water Buffalo". Improved with better and modern equipements for the needs of the D-Day operations, 3,000 units are built in two years and were sent in Europe and in the Pacific ocean. The Water Buffalo had a top speed of 12 km/h on water while it could be driven at 32 km/h on terrestrial environments.
The rising of the US motoring during the WW2 could be compared with the golden era of the British industrial revolutions. Even if the amphibious vehicles were forgotten after the D-Day, Jeep became a reliable brand over the decades. The modern off-road cars don't hide a proud origin.