Saturday, January 12, 2013

Visiting D-Day Sites in Normandy: American Cemetery

Our 3rd stop on our half day tour with Eva was the American Cemetery. When you are on the cemetery grounds, you are standing on American soil!

To get to the cemetery from the parking lot, you walk down a wooded path.
Then you entered "The Garden of the Missing". On these walls are listed "the missing in action who gave their lives in this region." If I remember correctly, they were separated by branch of service.
In cases were remains were later recovered, identified and buried, a bronze rosette is placed beside the name. As you can see, besides the name of the missing, you'll also find their rank, unit, and state from which they served.
Then you enter the memorial. In the center is a statue. On either side is a map - this one is titled "Military Operations in Western Europe: 6 June 1944-8 May 1945."
Walking out of the memorial, you get your first glance at the headstones. Usually, there is a reflecting pond here, but it was drained at this time and a man was working in ti.
The cemetery is divided into 10 plots with a central path. The headstones are made of white marble with Latin crosses and Stars of David. Although the families of those Americans killed in this area were given the choice to have their remains moved home, many chose to have their bodies remain here... on the land they fought so hard to free.
This is a grave of an unknown soldier. It says "Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God."
There are also women buried in the cemetery. Elizabeth A Richardson served with the American Red Cross and died June 25, 1945.
A Star of David headstone for a Jewish soldier. I first saw the stones placed on these graves at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
In a second building, the chapel, there was this mosaic ceiling. According to the American Battle Monument Commission brochure, it depicts "America blessing her sons as they depart by sea and air" on the left and "a grateful France bestowing a laurel wreath upon the American dead" on the right.
From the edge of the cemetery, you can see how it overlooks Omaha Beach. Some of the soldiers who died on D-Day were originally buried at the beach but were later moved to this cemetery.
Lastly, I want to recomend 4 videos that are shown at the cemetery's visitor's center. The first is a two minute video about the cemetery itself titled "Normandy American Cemetery." The second is title "Letters" and you meet some of the soldiers who are buried here through letters, home photos & videos, and learning more about their lives before the war and when they died. This one really had me crying! The third is called "On Their Shoulders" and it tells the specific stories of 3 men who were killed - another very moving video. And, the fourth is "OK, Let's Go" about Eisenhower's decision to launch Operation Overlord on June 6th. Another touching film! You can find all four videos at the American Battle Monuments Commission site.

1 comment:

lahbluebonnet said...

So calm and beautiful today...stark contrast to when they died. Such heroes to give us that peace...

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