My personal guide

Discover the Liberation Route of Saint-Lô

« Saint-Lô, Chef-lieu du département de la Manche qui a su garder une entière confiance dans la destinée du pays, a subi dans la nuit du 6 au 7 juin, avec un calme héroïque, un bombardement aérien à un tel point massif que ses habitants ont pu se considérer comme citoyens de la capitale des ruines ».

Légion d'honneur et Croix de guerre remises par Vincent Auriol le 2 juin 1948.

Saint-Lô, Capital of Ruins… 

Half-timbered houses, colonnaded theater, music kiosk, thriving shops—overnight, the city of Saint-Lô traded its status as a prosperous and tranquil prefectural town for the unflattering nickname, given by Samuel Beckett, of the "Capital of Ruins." The liberation of Saint-Lô was challenging, with considerable losses, and the successive bombings on June 6, 1944, transformed the city forever.

In the footsteps of heroes… 

Discover, through a walk, the remnants of a page of history that has forever marked Saint-Lô !

Mémorial of la Madeleine

The Chapelle de la Madeleine is the remains of a former leper colony dating from the 13th century. It is listed as an historical monument, and is a Memorial to the soldiers of the 29th and 35th Divisions who fought for the liberation of the town. There are photos capturing the fighting and the liberation of the town, commemorative plaques, pictures and flags given by American nationals and veterans, as well as personal objects which belonged to them. A model shows the advance of military operations of the 17th to 18th July 1944 with an interactive illuminated route.

It is open every weekend from mid-June to the “Journées du Patrimoine” (Heritage Days) in September from 2.30pm to 6.30pm.

Freely accessible

Street Général Gerhardt

On 18th July 1944, at the end of the afternoon, the 29th Division, commanded by General Charles Hunter GERHARDT, entered Saint-Lô by the Isigny road. A plaque fixed to the wall of the cemetery commemorating this event was unveiled on 4th June 1994, as part of the ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Landings. This part of the road to Isigny was called the rue General GERHARDT from then on.

The Blanchet Mausoleum

Major Glover S. JOHNS Jr, Commandant of the 1st Battalion of the 115th Regiment of the 29th US Infantry Division, set up his command post in this mausoleum after intense artillery barrages forced him to leave the post at the Carrefour de la Bascule.

In the cemetery at Saint-Lô, rue Général GERHARDT, on the right at the entrance.

Free unrestricted access.

Civilian victims’ Square

In the Saint-Lô cemetery there are the bodies of the civilian victims recovered from the ruins after the bombardments of 6th June 1944.

In the cemetery, beyond the central Carré Central des Militaires, turn left.

The Major Howie Roundabout

In 1947, the Military Academy of Staunton in Virginia decided to accord him a special honour by putting a bronze bust in front of one of their buildings. Several months afterwards, the Academy offered Saint-Lô an identical bust. Set up on 18th July 1948, it was placed in front of Saint Croix Church first of all, then, in June 1969, it was transferred to the crossroads which would bear his name from then on. The monument erected to him was unveiled during ceremonies in the presence of Major Howie’s wife and daughter, and of General Bradley, commandant of the 1st American Army in

Sainte Croix Church and Major Howie

Saint-Lô was liberated on 18th July 1944. On 17th July, General Gerhardt ordered that Major Howie’s body should be wrapped in a blanket and transported on the bonnet of a Jeep leading the convoy as it entered the town. On the morning of 19th July, the body, wrapped in an American flag, was placed on the ruins of Saint Croix Church. The photo of his wrapped body rapidly became an iconic image of the war in the United States. His name could not be mentioned because of the military censorship at that time, but also because the Howie family had not yet been informed of his death. The war correspondent of the New York Times, Drew Middleton, therefore named him
“The Major of Saint-Lô”. A plaque affixed against the wall of the church records the memory.

The prison gate

Saint-Lô Prison was built in 1824, and destroyed during the night of 6th/7th June 1944. The Germans had left nearly 70 prisoners locked up inside: 24 survived, and 46 bodies were found among the rubble, including 33 members of the Resistance. An urn containing the ashes of the prisoners was placed at the foot of the Gate. The Prison Gate has become a Départemental memorial to the Resistance in honour of the victims from this period.

Notre-Dame Church

Lorsque les premiers éléments de la 29e Division entrent dans Saint-Lô le 18 juillet, l’église Notre-Dame apparaît très mutilée, les voûtes de la nef et des bas-côtés sont effondrées, les vitraux du chevet et des façades latérales sont arrachés… mais les 2 tours restent intactes ! 

When the first elements of the 29th Division entered Saint-Lô on 18th July, the church appeared very badly damaged: the vaults of the nave and the aisles had collapsed, the stained-glass windows in the apse and side walls had been torn out... but the 2 towers remained intact!
The north tower fell during the evening of 18th July, and the south tower lost its steeple during the day of 19th...
Should they be re-built? Yves-Marie Froidevaux, Manche Département Historical Monuments (Monuments Historiques de la Manche) architect, explains his views:
“The west façade of the Notre-Dame Church will carry the stigmata of the 1944 drama for generations to come ... It will be a wounded cathedral ... A cry, a prayer for peace”.

When approaching Notre-Dame Church in Rue Carnot, a
shell is visible, embedded in the angle of a buttress. 

The Roundabout of 6th June 

The monument dedicated to the civilian victims of 6th June 1944, up against the rock face beneath the Tour des Beaux-Regards, was unveiled in 1969. Some people talk of 463 victims, others of 800...

The Tunnel

In March 1943, the Germans decided to dig a tunnel under the rock With five German civilian overseers, around fifteen French and foreign workers, most of them part of the STO ( Forced Labour Service), worked on this project until June 1944, probably to set up an arms and ammunition dump.
During the afternoon of 6th June 1944, a German officer agreed that the patients in the hospital opposite the rock face could be transferred there. During the night, they were joined by those who had fled from the burning town.
Some 700 people were sheltered and cared for there.

The tunnel is situated near the Tourist Office. Not accessible to the public.

First stone of the Reconstruction

Inaugurated by President Vincent AURIOL on June 6th, 1948.

This is fixed near the intersection of Rue Saint-Thomas and Rue Valvidemesle, to the left of the “Bistrot 59” restaurant.

France-United States Memorial Hospital

Built with a financial contribution from the Americans, the France-United States Memorial Hospital was opened on 10th May 1956. Its functional and aesthetic architecture still looks modern. A huge mosaic produced by Fernand Léger pays homage to peace and Franco-American friendship.
Among the vibrant colours of the French and American flags, two hands are stretched out, full of hope, towards a Normandy symbolised by a branch of apple blossom.

The hospital is situated in Rue Dunant, in the direction of the Route de Villedieu, and the fresco is freely accessible.

The Irish hospital

Until June 1944, Saint-Lô hospital was on the banks of the River Vire, opposite the Tour des Beaux-Regards among the ramparts. After the establishment was destroyed, the inhabitants of the town and surroundings were treated in very insecure conditions. From the beginning of 1945, the Irish Red Cross made an offer to the French Red Cross to set up a hospital, made up of twenty-five wooden buildings, and provide personnel and equipment. The Irish hospital opened for business at Christmas 1945. It was directed by Colonel Thomas McKinney, and employed 12 doctors and surgeons, 23 nurses and 7 administrative staff, including the famous writer Samuel Beckett. The hospital was handed over to the French Red Cross on 31st December 1946, while awaiting the construction of the France-United States Memorial hospital.

Monument at the entrance of Collège Pasteur – rue Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny. 

The Village of Hutrel

Le Hutrel is one of the rare villages remaining intact which preserve the memory of the inhabitants of Saint-Lô fleeing the bombardments of June 1944. Thousands of them passed through here in a few hours or a few days and still remember the solidarity and comfort shown to them by the inhabitants of Le Hutrel.

Take the Route de Tessy, the last road on the right before the ring road

The Executed victims Wall

On the Route de Tessy-sur-Vire, a sign on the left saying “Mur des Fusillés” (Executed victims Wall).
The track leads to a shooting range near which a remembrance stone has been erected commemorating the sacrifice of 30 members of the Resistance executed here during the occupation.

On the Route de Tessy-sur-Vire, a sign on the left saying “Mur des Fusillés” (Executed victims Wall).


Sites and memorials on the territory...