The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Category : Normandy

At the end of D-Day on June 6, 1944, it was Omaha Beach where American soldiers held control, but it was tenuous. It wouldn’t be until later in the week that European liberators on Gold, Juno and Sword beaches taken by British and Canadian divisions also forged ahead, allowing the Allies to link the beachheads and begin the inevitable march towards Paris and ultimately Berlin and victory.

On Omaha Beach, the U.S. 1st and 20th Infantry Divisions battled German resistance over a beach strewn with obstacles placed there under the direction of German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. To reach the plateau where the Normandy American Cemetery now stands, troops fought across an open area of up to 200 yards and attacked up steep bluffs under withering fire.

It is appropriate this hallowed ground is where the Normandy American Cemetery stands. The cemetery complex is 172.5 acres, containing 9,387 headstones, with 9,238 Latin crosses and 149 Stars of David. The cemetery also records 1,557 troops missing in action, three Medal of Honor recipients, and 41 sets of brothers.

Two symbolic statues of Italian Baveno granite representing the United States and France stand at the west end of the central mall. The chapel features a mosaic ceiling depicting America blessing her sons as they depart by sea and air, and a grateful France bestowing a laurel wreath upon the American dead.

The Memorial features a 22-foot statue, The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, facing west toward the headstones.

The Garden of the Missing has engraved tablets honoring the missing in action who gave their lives in the Normandy region. A bronze rosette beside a name shows that the remains were later recovered, identified and buried.

The Visitor Center depicts the significance and meaning of Operation OVERLORD and honors the values and sacrifices of the World War II generation.

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is part of the American Battle Monuments Commission, and is one of 14 permanent American World War II military cemeteries on foreign soil. The government of France granted the use of the cemetery and memorial land in perpetuity as a permanent burial ground without charge or taxation.

The American Battle Monuments Commission is an agency of the United States government and operates and maintains 24 American cemeteries and 25 memorials, monuments and markers in 15 countries.

The first chairman of the commission was General of the Armies John J. Pershing, the victorious commander of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. General Pershing’s words, promising “time will not dim the glory of their deeds” is the vision of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

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