Normandy American Cemetery
Also known as the Omaha Beach Cemetery and Cimetière Américain de Normandie
14710, Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Size: 172.5 acres (70 hectares)
Number of interments: 9387
Open: Except on December 25 and January 1, the cemetery is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm from April 15 to September 15, and from 9 am to 5 pm the rest of the year. Admission closes 15 minutes before closing time. The cemetery is open on holidays in France. When it is open, staff members in the visitor center can answer questions or escort relatives to grave and memorial sites.
The most-visited American military cemetery outside the US stands above a stretch of beach south of the English Channel on the northern coast of France. More than 9,000 men and four women are buried in the Normandy American Cemetery under row upon row of white crosses and Stars of David.
On June 6, 1944 — D-Day — American soldiers joined Allied Forces for the liberation of France. 2499 Americans fell before the Allies chased the Germans from heavily fortified Omaha Beach.
Two days after the landing, the American dead were buried temporarily in the first American cemetery to be established in Europe in World War II. Called St. Laurent-sur-Mer, the cemetery was a holding place for servicemen until their families could be contacted. Next-of-kin could request repatriation or permanent burial in France. Nearly 60% of the fallen were sent home, while the rest were interred on land donated by France in gratitude for America’s sacrifice.
A half-mile-long access road leads to the Normandy American Cemetery, which covers 172.5 acres on the headlands above the D-Day beaches. The cemetery is the largest US World War II graveyard overseas. Buried there are 9383 men and four women, victims of various battles. 33 pairs of brothers lie side by side. The graves are aligned on a vast green lawn divided by paths.
A $30 million visitor center was dedicated by the American Battle Monuments Commission in 2007, on the 63rd anniversary of D-Day. The visitor center, which serves as the entrance to the cemetery, welcomes approximately a million people each year.
At the heart of the cemetery rises a 22-foot-high bronze nude called “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves,” sculpted by Donald Harcourt De Lue and cast in Italy. The statue is surrounded by gold letters that proclaim, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord.” Behind it stands a semi-circular limestone colonnade that says, “This embattled shore, portal of freedom, is forever hallowed.” At each end of the colonnade is a loggia which displays maps of the Battle of Normandy. The loggias are engraved, “In proud remembrance of the achievements of her sons and in humble tribute to their sacrifices, this memorial has been erected by the United States of America.”
A semicircular garden on the east holds the Walls of the Missing. Its dedication reads: “Here are recorded the names of Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country and who sleep in unknown graves. This is their memorial. The whole Earth their sepulcher. Comrades in Arms whose Resting Place is Known Only to God.” Of the 1557 names listed, some are now marked with rosettes because they have since been discovered and identified.
Two of President Theodore Roosevelt’s sons lie here. Theodore Jr. was the president’s eldest son. He fought in both world wars and received the Medal of Honor. In WWII, he served as a general. He was one of the first Americans to come ashore in France. He landed at Utah Beach, two kilometers farther south than they’d planned, but he encouraged his men by saying, “We’ll start the war from right here!” A month after the landing, he died of a heart condition.
His brother Quentin had died in aerial combat during World War I. He had been buried in Chamery Cemetery in the Marne region of France, but he was brought here to lie beside his brother.
The pathway from the cemetery down to the beach was closed in April 2016, due to security concerns. A viewing platform overlooks the battlefield, now a peaceful sandy beach that stretches as far as one can see.
Normandy American Cemetery is the largest overseas World War II graveyard, but the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery from World War I contains the remains of 14,000 Americans.
This clip from Saving Private Ryan was filmed in the Normandy American Cemetery:
American Battle Monuments Commission page for the Normandy American Cemetery
Directions to Omaha Beach
Other American military cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii
The USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Soldiers’ National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery, Mackinac Island, Michigan
San Francisco National Cemetery, San Francisco, California
Mare Island Cemetery, Vallejo, California