The deep-water port of Cherbourg was absolutely vital to the success of the Allied troops on the continent.
Possession of the port would enable American ships to navigate directly from the United States to mainland Europe. After the U.S. troops landed on Utah Beach on 6 June 1944, the Germans blocked the road to Cherbourg. Montebourg was conquered after fierce fighting and was almost completely destroyed in the process. The Americans decided to isolate Cherbourg by cutting off the Cotentin peninsula. On 18 June 1944, they reached Barneville on the west coast of the Cotentin. Approximately 40.000 Germans were closed in. Some of them surrendered, but the majority retreated around Cherbourg. The Americans rushed towards the city, where they encountered heavy resistance.
Massive bombing by Allied aircraft and warships weakened the German defences. On 26 June, the Americans managed to seize Fort du Roule, an imposing fortification perched on a hill overlooking the harbour. On the same day General von Schlieben surrendered to General Collins. The city was almost intact, but the port facilities were completely destroyed by the Germans. Still, after extensive emergency repairs the first ships were able to use the harbour by late July.
The museum located at Fort du Roule reminds us of the occupation and liberation of the Cotentin peninsula, as well as the role played by the port of Cherbourg in the Allied operations. Situated 117 meters above sea level, it offers a breath-taking view of the harbour.