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Virtual Omaha: A D-Day Recreation

Virtual Omaha: An Historical Recreation of Omaha Beach


FORCES brings together military history, security studies, and technology in innovative ways. One project we’re particularly excited about is a virtual reality “tour” of the D-Day beaches in Normandy, France.

For the past year, the VR Omaha project, conceived and designed by Dr.Matei, has been upgraded by junior Fellow Matt Konkoly. Woking with Dr. Matei and Dr. Kirchubel, Matt combined his computer science studies with his interest in D-Day to create a new media experience. The FORCES TEA has returned Omaha Beach to its June 1944 condition by adding contemporary defenses, foliage, and terrain, and by editing-out modern changes such as the U.S. Cemetery at Colleville or ahistorical buildings at Vierville.

During the weeks and months leading up to Operation Neptune—the D-Day landings—the Normandy beaches became among the most photographed and studied real estate in World War II. Konkoly has used historical resources, mentoring by FORCES staff, and his own considerable talents to recreate the Channel coast as it looked on the eve of the invasion. The FORCES’ Virtual Omaha project allows viewers to stand on the bluffs overlooking the landing areas and “see what was” on those fateful days. With VR goggles they can fly over the Norman countryside, watch landing craft hit the beaches, or stand next to a German 75mm antitank gun.

Besides the obvious wow factor, our Virtual Omaha simulation has practical applications for teaching this critical episode of World War II. FORCES is working to bring the project to our partners at the U.S. Air Force Air War College, located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, AL. Each spring, the Air War College holds an annual Grand Strategy Seminar, usually traveling to Normandy as part of the curriculum; but, due to Covid-19, not in 2020. Our VR project could have given these military leaders a Plan B.

Once the VIRTUAL OMAHA project is ready, the seminar’s director is considering future VR tours instead of actual visits, more effectively using many days of class time, and thousands of taxpayer dollars. Further, once our TOURS de FORCES begins in 2021, our guests wearing VR goggles will be able to see what the beaches looked like in 1944, not just try to imagine them when compared to old black and white photos.