Airborne Museum

Parking

The museum does not have its own parking, but both opposite the entrance and behind the museum are public car parks.

Toilets

The museum has toilets, and there is also a public toilet by the car park at the end of the path beside the museum.

Gift Shop

There is a well appointed gift shop with a nice selection of books and a range of other items.

The Musée Airborne at Sainte-Mère-Eglise in the American airborne sector is every bit as good as its equivalent, the Memorial Pegasus, sixty miles east in the British sector. Admittedly it can't boast to having its own bridge - but to compensate they do have a C-47, a Waco glider and now a Piper Cub.

The museum is split into three distinct buildings, with the last of these being a recent addition which opened shortly before the D-Day 70th Anniversary in 2014. A possible extension to the building may be developed in the future with the help of the Reagan Foundation. This would likely house a projection room, lecture room and a temporary exhibition space.

The oldest building - in the shape of a parachute canopy - was inaugurated in 1964 by General Matt Ridgway of the 82nd Airborne. The smallest of the three, this building is dominated by a Waco glider which visitors can actually walk through. A large, curved display cabinet contains a vast array of documents, artefacts and photos.

In 1984 Ridgway's successor with the 82nd Airborne - General James Gavin - inaugurated the second and much larger "C-47" building. As its name suggests the centrepiece of the construction was an aircraft. The C-47 named "Argonia" is a genuine Overlord veteran which delivered paratroopers and towed gliders. Again, the building's shape was inspired by the shape of a parachute canopy - albeit much different from the original Waco building.

As well as the uniforms, weapons and news articles on display, there is an elevated viewing platform which allows visitors to get overhead views of the Argonia. One of the things we like about the C-47 building is the way the museum refreshes the mannequin displays around the aircraft. On our most recent visit a fairly realistic looking General Eisenhower was chatting to black-faced, fully kitted paratroopers. It was actually quite a strange feeling to almost "step inside" the famous photograph taken at Greenham Common airfield as Ike chatted to troopers from the 502nd PIR on 5th June 1944.

In the courtyard area between the older buildings are several other items of interest, including a truck and Sherman Firefly tank. There is also a rather nice view of the church tower from which Private John Steele hung suspended within his snagged parachute harness during the early hours of 6th June, a scene portrayed memorably by actor Red Buttons in the film The Longest Day.

The newest building is the largest of the three, and this time is shaped to represent an aircraft's wing. The name on the building is "OPERATION NEPTUNE" but you'll find no mention inside of the massive invasion fleet. Very different from the other exhibition spaces at the Museum, visitors to this building are taken on an absorbing journey of the American paratrooper in Normandy from the initial jump to fighting in the hedgerows.

Although the quality of all the dioramas in the new building are excellent, nothing really tops the initial "experience" which takes place inside the genuine fuselage of a C-47. Sharing the space with paratrooper mannequins, visitors are flying above the drop zone whilst anti-aircraft artillery explodes outside. The fuselage vibrates and the noise of the engines is almost deafening. Visitors then exit the aircraft through the side door and find themselves on a glass bridge above the fields of Normandy, with paratroopers and other C-47 aircraft below. It really was a unique experience and alone was worth the museum's modest entrance fee.

May 2016 saw the inauguration of the Ronald Reagan Franco American Conference Center at the Museum. This new, modern looking structure is yet another example of the investment being made at the Museum. The new Center was funded in partnership with the Ronald Reagan Foundation, with half the interior space being devoted to a 120-seat cinema and the other half being allocated to temporary exhibitions.

The Airborne Museum at Sainte-Mère-Eglise should be on the "must see" list of everyone visiting the Normandy battlefields. With its latest addition it is now the largest, and quite likely the best D-Day museum in Normandy. Our only criticism, and we're really struggling to find fault here, would be the lack of descriptions of some of the glass encased items.


Updated: July 2016


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