Normandy, one of fourteen permanent overseas American WWII cemeteries:
A visit to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial was part of our tour to see some of the Normandy landings sites, the famous landing beaches, the Caen Memorial and other reminders of Normandy’s place in World War II history.
The Normandy American Cemetery sits on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel, near Colleville-sur-Mer. It is located on the site where the first World War II American cemetery on European soil was established. The temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery was built by the first by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944.
The 172.5-acre Normandy American Cemetery is one of fourteen permanent WWII American cemeteries built on foreign soils by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).
This Cemetery contains the graves of 9,387 military personnel, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and the operations that followed.
The memorial consists of a semi-circular colonnade with a loggia at each end containing large maps with narratives of the military operations. At the centre is a bronze statue, a symbol of the “Spirit of American Youth”. On the Walls of the Missing on the east side of the memorial are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those who have since been recovered and identified. An orientation table overlooking the beach depicts the landings in Normandy
Facing west at the memorial is a reflecting pool and beyond is the burial area with a circular chapel and at the far end, granite statues representing the U.S. and France.
While the sea of white crosses are a poignant reminder of the immense suffering and tragedies of war, nevertheless, American war cemeteries around the world are impressive sites and hence their inclusion in tour itineraries.
In the lawn directly opposite the entrance to the old Visitors’ Building, look for a pink granite slab upon which is engraved “To be opened June 6, 2044”. Embedded in the lawn under this granite slab is a time capsule, in which have been sealed news reports of the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings. Affixed in the center of the slab is a bronze plaque decorated with the five stars of a General of the Army and engraved with the following inscription: “In memory of General Dwight Dwight Eisenhower and the forces under his command. This sealed capsule containing news reports of the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings is placed here by the newsmen who were here.” June 6, 1969.
Commemorative services are held at all ABMC cemeteries on American Memorial Day and the French Comite du Debarquement holds annual June 6, D-Day commemorative events at various locations in Normandy.
For more information on the Normandy American Cemetery see the ABMC website.