Google describes Google Earth as "a 3D Interface to the planet", and truly it is so. If you have a reasonably current computer (built in this century) and a decent internet connection, you can tour the world using satellite imagery collected by various government agencies and compiled in one huge database. And like all things Google, a fully functional version of the program is available free.
Much of the U.S., including many rural areas, are in high resolution. You can recognize your own house and the car in the driveway. Most of rural France is still low resolution (think commercial airplane on a clear day). But the portion of Omaha Beach from Fox Green eastward and on to Port-en-Bessin and inland to just south of the coast highway is in stunning high resolution. Click here to install Google Earth and then return to begin your Normandy invasion beaches tour.
Google Earth allows users to create placemarks, add narrative, import and overlay images, draw lines, create tours, etc. All of this information can be shared with other users through distribution of Google Earth files. Our goal to exploit these features to delivery the following. Click on each item to take you down to that portion of the page.
Once you have installed Google Earth, open it on your computer. Take some time to learn to use it. The primary Google Earth controls are immediately below the image... play with all of them. Then try the following:
Start by downloading a new overlay of the American Cemetery. Click here
Download and turn on a map from below. Map VIII-transparent is a good one to start with. Click here to download it. This gives you a low-altitude, angled view of the eastern end of Omaha Beach.
Turn on terrain.
Get down to an altitude of 700-800 feet.
Move the image around by placing your pointer over the map, holding down the left mouse button, and dragging.
If you aren't starting to see images like the one pictured here, you've missed something. (Click on image for a larger view.) Google Earth help is available by using "Help/Contents" from the menu or by clicking here.
Below are two versions for each of the sixteen maps published in Omaha Beach (War Department, Historical Division, 1945). The transparent version excludes the white map background so that you can view the informational markings laid directly on the satellite imagery. The opaque version includes the background, so you will not be able to see the landscape beneath, but it is easier to see the markings.
The maps can be used in combination. For instance, load Map II-opaque as a background, then turn on the transparent versions of IV and IX to compare the planned objectives for inland penetration with the actual results.
Two last notes: First, these images are quite large, averaging 600 kb, so they may take several seconds to download, depending on your connection speed. Second, they will initially appear in your "Temporary Places" folder when you download them. Be sure to drag them up to your "My Places" folder before you exit Google Earth. If you want to create sub-folders within "My Places", just right-click on "My Places", select "New", and then "Folder" .
Now for the map overlays.