It’s illegal to take sand from Normandy beaches, just like many other coasts across the world.
However, if you are a veteran collecting sand from D Day Beaches in tiny portions, you may be able to collect a small amount as a remembrance (but see below).
Even if you can collect it, it might pose a challenge to get it home with you.
Most countries have agricultural and customs laws that forbid bringing sand from back sand from another country.
Thus, if you’re vacationing in France and enjoying the “sacred” Omaha beach, Utah beach, or others, know the rules and regulations of the places you visit and intend to return to, in order to fully understand what you are risking.
The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.
Who Can Take Sand From The Normandy Beaches?
While military and local officials mean no offense to veterans who fought in various wars along Normandy beaches, to our knowledge, only D-Day Vets can lawfully take sand away from the beach.
The Normandy Beaches are world-renowned beaches in France that joint military forces invaded to fight the Germans who had captured France in World War 2.
Thousands of lives were lost during that battle referred to as D-Day.
The Normandy Beaches also known as D-Day Beaches, comprise Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Juno Beach, Gold Beach, and Sword Beach.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the area each year. It is not uncommon for those same visitors to want to take back at least a little of the sand.
Some take the sand to remember and appreciate what the soldiers did for them.
Others sell it illegally online. (We’ve seen it for sale for about $10-12 for a few ounces.)
Some People Have Managed To Get Sand Home With Them Despite Regulations
Despite the efforts to restrict sand collectors to veterans, it is fairly common for people to sneak sand from these beaches and find a way to get it home with them.
Sometimes folks hide small amounts of sand in their luggage.
Others mail it ahead of them, hoping it won’t get noticed.
Other people just go big, collect a bunch of it, put it in their purse, and hope for the best.
For example, Pastor John McWilliams and his wife spent their 40th wedding anniversary in France.
McWilliams recalled seeing a soldier standing on a beach in one of the many shows airing on television leading up to the 70th-anniversary celebrations, and he remembered one brief sequence that piqued his interest.
Shortly following the D-Day 70th-anniversary celebrations, Pastor John McWilliams and his wife gathered sand from Omaha Beach.
He carried 15 pounds home in two big Ziploc bags, which he planned to distribute among the veterans who served that day.
“The intention was to be able to give a small portion of that to any D-Day veteran in the United States who may be interested,” he explained. “We’re sending them this sand as a token of our respect.”
After his return, the sand was provided to veterans who took part in actual D-Day operations, not veterans who took part in later World War 2 events.
Why You Shouldn’t Take Sand From Normandy Beaches
If you’re an arenophile, the temptation might be powerful to bring back some sand from one or all of the Normandy Beaches. However, here are a few reasons that you should not.
I know we mentioned this before, but it’s not legal to take sand home from French beaches.
And European countries don’t kid around with this.
Just ask the French couple who got arrested in Italy with 90 pounds of sand; they faced jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. (source)
You risk punishment in France, and also in the countries you cross into, or ultimately return home to.
Shrapnel in the Sand
The sand at Normandy Beaches is referred to as war sand, which has been generated as a result of military operations.
The beaches of Normandy are coated in a fine dust of particles leftover from World War II’s D-Day operations.
The grains are strewn across the Normandy beaches.
Scientists in recent years have discovered fragments from weapons used decades ago during the allied invasion at Normandy beach.
War sand often contains metal and glass particles, but can also contain more toxic substances which you wouldn’t necessarily want to handle.
UN Says Sand Shortage Looms
The United Nations says sand is the second most used natural resource in the world. Sand removal for construction has been vast over the years and continues to increase.
Some cities and towns want to preserve what little they have left and are imposing hefty fines and prison time for removing anything more than a handful of the commodities.
The Normandy Beach Association specifically warns against digging into the sand but doesn’t speak to removing small portions as a keepsake.
US Laws On Bringing Sand From Overseas
The US doesn’t want you bringing sand into the country straight off the beach of another country.
The components of sand (shells, minerals, dirt) are all examples of natural materials, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Plants and livestock are both at risk from soil-borne species.
Agricultural specialists technically want to inspect and disinfect your shoes or clothing if you visited a farm or ranch in another country.
Any soil on the belongings should also be removed.
Without a permit from the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Permit Unit, no soil or earth of any kind is allowed into the United States.
To avoid fines, arrests, or being held up in an airport because of collecting sand from beaches, the best bet as a sand collector is to contact the local authorities first.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
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