Keep your eyes peeled for the grave of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the eldest son of the great American president, who served in France as a Brigadier-General.
On a high bluff overlooking Omaha beach is the peaceful, immaculately kept Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. There are 9,387 graves here, arranged in perfect rows over an area of 172 acres. Most were killed in action during the 1944 Normandy campaign, and especially on D-Day itself, but there are also men buried here who died as early as 1942.
Storming the Beaches
On June 6th, 1944, thousands of Allied troops stormed the five Normandy beaches that were codenamed Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold. The first two of these were assigned to the American forces. Utah was taken with relative ease, but Omaha was the stage for D-Day’s bloodiest battle, with near-impossible conditions coinciding with a stronger-than-expected German force. Nearly 2,500 American men lost their lives that day, and two days later a temporary cemetery was created just above Omaha beach.
Honouring the Dead
A permanent land grant from the French government was given after the war, and the current site is a beautiful testament to the men who lost their lives fighting against tyranny in Europe. The centrepiece is the large semicircular colonnade which contains maps and stories from American operations in Normandy. In the centre of the colonnade is a 7m bronze statue entitled “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves”.
If you get a sudden pang of familiarity as you walk around the cemetery, it’s probably film-related — the American cemetery features at the beginning and end of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan”.
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