Normandy American Cemetery

Normandy and World War II

Normandy American Cemetery

Those killed during the invasion of Normandy and later battles rest at the Normandy American Cemetery in France. Originally soldiers were buried in ten temporary graveyards. Eventually, the Normandy American Cemetery became the final resting place for these soldiers.

Normandy Headstones Face the United States

Today, the cemetery’s bright green grass is weedless and manicured. Most importantly, the soldiers are painstakingly buried directly below their markers. Plus, all markers face west toward the United States.

The white marble headstones total 9,387. They include 9,238 Latin crosses and 149 Stars of David.

Most importantly, the headstones do not have birth dates, just death dates. Without birthdates, the fallen soldiers are timeless.

The cemetery stretches 172.5 acres. It overlooks Omaha Beach and the English Channel where 2,400 troops had died.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Latin crosses and the Star of David markers are aligned precisely in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. (photo by dorothyadele)
Normandy, France
Many allied soldiers died before landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. (photo by dorothyadele)

D-Day Normandy

The Allied forces began their D-Day Normandy invasion by air and sea on June 6, 1944. Their success marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

The Allies knew that the Germans were using radio intelligence to spy on them. Consequently, the Allies provided the Germans with the wrong information.

Moreover, the goal was to steer them away from Normandy, where the Allies planned to attack. They led them to believe that their intended target was Calais, located north of Normandy.

For this reason, under Gen. George Patton’s guidance, the Allies had set up an artificial army base with weaponry in Dover, that was across The Channel from Calais, the supposed target. To ensure that it looked realistic, a film studio set up bogus barracks, tents, landing crafts, imitation tanks, and trucks.

Normandy, France
Many allied soldiers died before landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

The Germans fell for the hoax because Calais and Dover were situated on opposite banks of the narrowest part of the waterway. This narrow waterway made Calais an easy target.

Moreover, to further confuse the Germans, not only did the Allies drop simulated airborne dummies, but they attached artillery recordings and bombs to the dolls. Then they dropped them in locations far from Normandy.


On D-Day, poor weather conditions and high seas caught the Germans off guard. They mistakenly assumed that the Allies would wait for improved conditions before invading.

Some German officers believed that the Normandy invasion was a ruse to distract them from Calais, and ignored it. Others continued their parties with the locals and prostitutes. Luckily, German Field Marshall Rommel was away with his wife.

Pointe du Hoc

Strong tides caused Allied ships to drift from their targeted landing position. Unfortunately, troops arrived on the beach in wet clothes heavy with ammunition and supplies. They not only faced German artillery and weaponry, but some Germans fired from bunkers that offered them protection.

Additionally, the Allied forces faced metal beach obstructions, ditches, hedgerows, and mines. Plus they scaled high precipices. Moreover, if the Allies spotted livestock grazing in an open field they knew that the area was free of explosive devices. In other words, the livestock would have already set off the mines.

Pointe du Hoc Beach in Normandy
Allied soldiers scaled the precipice at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France. (photo by dorothyadele)
Bunkers at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy
Allies faced German bunkers at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France. (Photo by Arwin Meijer) Creative Commons

Sainte Mere Eglise

Before dropping the paratroopers, pilots met thick clouds, and many airborne missed their targets finding themselves navigating the terrain alone. The soldiers, loaded with ammunition and supplies, sprained muscles or broke their bones when they hit the ground.

Others were shot down by Germans or drowned. Some perished in fires from bombs, or trees and poles caught their chutes. For example, Paratrooper John Steele is remembered today for landing on the steeple at Sainte Mere Eglise church. The Germans captured him, and he escaped. In the photo below, you can see a replica of his chute on the steeple where he had landed.

For more information, this chart lists the fatalities, casualties and missing for the US Airborne in the Cotentin Peninsula.

Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy was the first town liberated by the Allies.
Paratrooper John Steele’s chute was caught on the steeple on Sainte Mere Eglise church during the Normandy landing. (photo by dorothyadele)
Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France
Tourists can still see bomb craters at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France.  (photo by dorothyadele)

D-Day Casualties

On D-Day, the Allies landed 160,000 troops including 73,000 Americans. Also, during the entire campaign that lasted from June 6, 1944, to August 21, 1944, the Allies endured 10,000 casualties.

Notably, the two million allied troops in Northern France sustained more than 226,386 casualties. These casualties included 72,911 missing or killed, and 153,475 wounded.

Moreover, the German’s suffered 240,000 injuries and deaths. Plus, 200,000 Germans were captured.

Omaha Beach, Normandy France
The Germans targeted the allied soldiers as they approached Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

Normandy Cemetery Walls of the Missing

In the Normandy cemetery, the Walls of the Missing list 1,557 names. Among those include 750 Americans. They died on 12/24/44 when a German submarine torpedoed the S.S. Leopoldville. Both Americans and British were killed in this attack.

Additionally, among those buried in the cemetery are officers and the enlisted. They lie next to one another with no exception for rank.

Others include thirty-three of 45 sets of brothers and a father and son that lay side by side. Moreover, three Medal of Honor recipients; 307 unknown soldiers; and  Preston and Robert Niland who inspired Saving Private Ryan rest in Normandy. Plus, two sons of President Theodore Roosevelt are interred as well.

Thoughts on Those That Desecrate the American Flag

Visiting the Normandy, France, battle sites and cemetery gave me the deepest respect for those that suffered and died for our freedom. Many of these soldiers lived an exceptionally short life and died unselfishly to protect the American flag.

Some of those who returned lived the rest of their lives with missing limbs and eyes, and others suffered mental disorders. I have to wonder how these veterans would feel about people desecrating the American flag, though they died for their right to do it.

What do you think about those who gave their lives to honor our country?

Also, what do you think about desecrating the American Flag? Do you think that these actions dishonor the soldiers and veterans who served, and serve, our country?  Please comment below.

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John M. Steele

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