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The first capital was Coutances until 1796, and it resumed that role after World War II because of the almost complete destruction of Saint-Lô during the D-Day invastion of Normandy. When Saint-Lô was rebuilt, it again became the capital.
The department includes the Cotentin Peninsula and the islands of Chausey. It is part of the region of Basse-Normandie and is surrounded on three sides by the English Channel and on the other by the departments of Calvados, Orme, Mayenne, and Ille-et-Vilaine.
Inhabitants of the department are called Manchots or Manchois.
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