Friday, 17 June 2011

American Cemetery in Normandy

My family took a trip to Normandy, France and we were fortunate to have my parents be able to join us. For the last several months the children and I have been studying WWII -- the European campaign and this trip was a way to have the children experience the campaign up close. This was important for my father and I as my Uncle Tom (father's brother) fought in WWII. Uncle Tom doesn't talk much about the war but we know (from military records) he arrived in France in September 1944. I also know he was wounded twice and earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. My Uncle is almost 90 years old and it is my hope that I will be able to speak to him further about his memories.

We had an amazing opportunity to experience the 67th commemoration of D-Day at the American Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer in Normandy, France. This was a moving experience.

At the front of the cemetery is this statue. It signifys the US men's spirit.

When we first arrive it was a dark rainy day. Here we were able to capture the raising of the American flag.

Thankfully the skies cleared up right before the ceremony began. Here are the French Marine cadets in formation

US soldiers arriving

The dignitaries arrive

Lots of speeches, this was the one area where I was disappointed as there was very little English translation so I had no idea what was being said.

The laying of the flowers by the dignitaries

Meeting some of the WWII vets that had come to Normandy. The children and I shook each of their hands and Thanked them for serving. So many people wanted to shake their hands that some of the men broke down in tears. It was so moving.

This gentleman was there in his uniform with his family. His family passed out a business card with his name, rank and the campaigns he fought in. His name is Battalion Sergeant Major Raymond W. Sylvester. I want to honor him by mentioning him:)

After the ceremony we toured the cemetery and discover several things I didn't know.

1. America was the only country from WWII which gave families a choice of whether to have their loved one buried in the country where they died or have their bodies brought back to the the US for burial. There are approximately 10,000 graves here in this one cemetery.

2. All grave markers were facing towards the US, in this case westward facing.

While wandering the cemetery we found several graves with these flower arrangements in front of them. They were left by the lone survivor of a downed B-24 Liberator bomber, with a photo of the crew as young men and showing the man in the grave and the one person who lived.

Here are the graves of two sons of an American president, side by side. They are for General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. and Quentin Roosevelt, both sons of President Theodore Roosevelt and distant cousins of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. General Roosevelt, landed with the 4th Infantry Division on D-Day on Utah Beach. He was already well into his middle age and had insisted on coming along with the invasion. His efforts to rally the men on the beach that morning led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor, which is why his grave is marked in gold. He was not killed by enemy action, but died of a heart attack a couple of weeks after the invasion. Quentin was killed during World War I and originally was buried elsewhere, but after the war the family requested that Quentin's remains be buried next to his brothers.

It is custom on Jewish grave markers to leave a stone on the marker instead of flowers.

There were many re an actors at the cemetery. It was so weird to see an American WWII uniform and then hear a French accent.

The movie Private Ryan is based on these four men, 2 of which are buried here.

Dignitaries leave on a helicopter.

A memorial at the visitor center at the cemetery.

I am so glad to have been able to experience this ceremony and will remember it always! I will be posting more on our amazing Normandy trip. Hope you come back:)

Please join the NOBH crew.


  1. Wow! I was moved just reading about this. What a great experience for you and your kids. I pray it will stay with them for years to come. Blessings!

  2. Wow!! Another wonderful experience. Very moving. I hope you get a chance to hear some more of your Uncle's experiences so that you may share them with the children.

  3. Wow, I'm tearing up reading this. Thank you for doing this post. We too easily forget how many men died to preserve our freedoms.

  4. Such a wonderful and meaningful visit! I can only imagine how touching it must have been to remember and meet some of the men who fought for our freedoms! Thanks for sharing and clicked a vote for you! :)

  5. I was so curious why France would have a cemetery for American soldiers... I think that's really cool. I do like how their grave markers were all facing towards the U.S.