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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday, 7 July '09: Normandy American Cemetry


I wandered silently among the rows of white gravestones at the American Cemetry and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy as the sun at last broke through the clouds. This is an immaculately kept memorial to the American soldiers who fell in France between 1941 and 1945 - a total of 9 387 burial places including 307 unknown burials.

The cemetry is located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach on land granted to the US by the France.

In Beevor's book, I read how the seabirds of the Mer Estuary flew round and round in panic-stricken circles as the guns roared over the marshes on June 6, disturbing their peace. This little bird sang sweetly in the branches over the gravestones and allowed me a quick snapshot.

The graves of Jewish soldiers are marked by the Star of David. Several bore a memorial pebble.

A cross marks the other graves. On the front is inscribed the name of the young man and the state from which he hailed. You can just discern his Army number at the base of the cross at the back. I searched for and found two graves of young men from North Dakota, my 'adopted' state.

The names of 1 557 war dead who could not be located or identified are inscribed on the wall of a semicircular garden at the east side of the memorial. In the centre of the memorial you can see the bronze statue entitled Spirit of American Youth.

An unexpected obstacle to the Allied tanks in the ensuing battle of Normandy were the bocage, the thick, high hedgerows which are the boundaries of the Normandy meadows. The German troops were accustomed to the landscape but the Allies never reckoned on these leafy barriers to the movement of men and vehicles.

The Peace Memorial at Caen documents, in realistic displays, the D-Day landings, Battle of Normandy and the War in Europe. Caen was virtually levelled by Allied bombing aimed at flushing out German defenders. The Canadians lost over two thousand men in the battle for Caen. The town was only taken on 11 July 1941 more than a month after the D-Day landings.


The entrance to the Memorial depicts a beachhead, established at such a price on the landing beaches. As I left the building along with a young American couple, I remarked, "We just have no idea of how fortunate we are to have never experienced anything like this!" They nodded their fervent agreement.
This record of my holiday forms part of My World. Join others for a glimpseof their world at My World every Tuesday.

17 comments:

Hazel said...

I love browsing graveyards!

Your blog is such a delight. Thanks for the visit at mine. I love the beautiful things I read on your profile page. You don't know how charming they are to me. Sirs Tristram and Galahad are gorgeous! *Hugs*

ladyfi said...

A very touching post.

Janet said...

Beautiful post today! I know my husband would find this place very interesting. Maybe on our trip to Europe in April? We will have to plan!

Avril said...

Very interesting! Thick, well manicured lawns contrast so well with the white crosses - makes good photos even though sad.
I found, during my first visit to the Tower of London, I just couldn't take a photograph of the spot where so many people were beheaded - it just didn't seem right. But on the other hand, I have taken photos in graveyards - they are fascinating.

pammiejo said...

I intend to go there someday. My father landed on Omaha Beach D-Day plus 6 with a medical unit. He got to go back there quite a few years ago. He never said what that meant to him and he's gone now. After seeing "Private Ryan" with him, he did talk about landing there and what he saw and did. A moving memorial! PAM

Guy D said...

Very touching indeed, great myworld posting.

Have a great week.
Guy
Regina In Pictures

Smilingsal said...

This is an impressive post, and I'm glad I stopped in to visit. Life has been quite busy for me with our move, my internet hook-up is slower than molasses in January, and I've only been visiting those who left comments. I've missed you.

Sreddy Yen said...

Wow...excellent photos, especially the one with the bird. I love your new header too. It must be quite haunting to walk through a graveyard like that.

Sreddy

Lily Hydrangea said...

wonderful thoughtful post, thank you.

Babooshka said...

This is a very powerful and poignant post. Indeed we often forget just how lucky we are due to people laid to rest here.

erin said...

thank you for sharing this glimpse of the memorial and beach and cemetary. your photos are excellent.
have a lovely week.

Gaelyn said...

Great post. This represents an incredible tribute to those who died. I like the idea of the birds now singing over this land instead of dieing in panic themselves. Nice captures.

Louise said...

This is a very thoughtful post with wonderful photos. I am curious about your "adopted state."

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this tribute to the many allied troops whose lives ended there. If you can adopt a state, perhaps a state can adopt you. So consider yourself adopted by Wisconsin! North Dakota is nice, too; we drove through it on our way to Wisconsin! Those crosses are as clean and stark as a winter snowfall. And my eyes are stinging and not from wind-driven snow.

Dirk said...

Ik heb deze begraafplaats al enkele malen bezocht, steeds indrukwekkend en ik word er stil van. Bij ons in Belgiƫ in West-Vlaanderen zijn dan weer tientallen begraafplaatsen van WOI. Duizenden jonge mannen gestorven... waarom?

nadia said...

That is such a well-maintained memorial. Thank you so sharing this amazing part of your world with us.

PS: I love the bird picture.

Alexandra said...

Looks to have been a memorable trip. The song bird picture is sweet.
Alexandra