Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Infantrymen storm the Beaches of Normandy,
June 6, 1944.

 

Seventy-five years ago, beginning at 0630 hours the Allied troops began storming the beaches of Normandy. Five different beaches were ambushed spanning 50 miles of shores: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword. Canadian and British forces took control of the beaches of Juno, Gold and Sword while the hardest battle was fought on Omaha Beach. The goal was to take control of the German held plateau, where the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial now stands. Of the sixteen tanks deployed, only two tanks survived the battle and everything was left to infantrymen after just two hours of battle.

By the end of the day, American soldiers held a fragile hold of the plateau after forging only 300 yards of open beach and scaling heights overlooking the Channel. The Americans took the largest toll of casualties with more than 3,000 lives lost in the greatest amphibious assault in history. Approximately 156,000 Allied soldiers landed, and about 73,000 were Americans. In less than one week, the Allies linked up the five beaches and continued onward, slowly overtaking the German Army.

Set upon the plateau that was conquered on D-Day, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is home to more than 9,380 graves, including the Walls of the Missing which contains the names of 1,557. Bronze rosettes mark the graves of those that have been identified in the last seventy-five years. The site was originally American St. Laurent Cemetery that was established on June 8, 1944.

Should you ever want to visit, the cemetery is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, France and overlooks Omaha Beach and the English Channel. The cemetery is run by the American Battle Monuments Commission and is one of (14) permanent American World War II military cemeteries that are located on foreign soil. In 2007, a Visitor’s Center was dedicated and renovated in 2019 to include personal stories, a timeline of D-Day and includes more emphasis on the French resistance. Volunteers and workers are there to guide you through your visit and answer questions. The cemetery is only closed on Christmas Eve and January 1st and is open on the host country’s holidays.

By the end of the day, American soldiers held a fragile hold of the plateau after forging only 300 yards of open beach and scaling heights overlooking the Channel. The Americans took the largest toll of casualties with more than 3,000 lives lost in the greatest amphibious assault in history. Approximately 156,000 Allied soldiers landed, and about 73,000 were Americans. In less than one week, the Allies linked up the five beaches and continued onward, slowly overtaking the German Army.

Set upon the plateau that was conquered on D-Day, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is home to more than 9,380 graves, including the Walls of the Missing which contains the names of 1,557. Bronze rosettes mark the graves of those that have been identified in the last seventy-five years. The site was originally American St. Laurent Cemetery that was established on June 8, 1944.

Should you ever want to visit, the cemetery is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, France and overlooks Omaha Beach and the English Channel. The cemetery is run by the American Battle Monuments Commission and is one of (14) permanent American World War II military cemeteries that are located on foreign soil. In 2007, a Visitor’s Center was dedicated and renovated in 2019 to include personal stories, a timeline of D-Day and includes more emphasis on the French resistance. Volunteers and workers are there to guide you through your visit and answer questions. The cemetery is only closed on Christmas Eve and January 1st and is open on the host country’s holidays.

Crosses mark each grave at the Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial. Buried with disregard to rank, each cross has either the Star of David or the Latin Cross.

The cemetery also commemorates the lives of the Army Air Forces that were shot down over France as early as 1942. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is a consolidation of the ten temporary cemeteries that were in the area and was dedicated on July 18, 1956 by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The ABMC was first spearheaded by John J. Pershing, who stated, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

More information can be found at https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery

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