American and German WWII Memorials in Normandy


PHOTOS: Cemeteries at Colleville-sur-Mer and La Cambe, Normandy
Nine photographs plus information

One big advantage of living as an expat in Germany or other European lands is the easy acccess to Europe’s many attractions. Besides travel within Germany itself, a short trip across its borders puts you in France, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, or several other neighboring nations.

When I was living in Berlin (for two different stints in Germany) I traveled to many European countries, but primarily to France. One of my French trips took me, along with a few family members, to Normandy to visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer and the German Military Cemetery at La Cambe.

MORE: Also see the related Web links below.

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer sits on land that France has granted to the United States. There is another American war cemetery in Normandy. Despite its name, the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial, near Saint-James, is actually located in Normandy, on the border with Britanny. The Utah Beach American Memorial is only a short drive from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

As large as it is, the cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer is not the largest World War II burial place in Normandy. About ten miles (16km) from the American cemetery is the much larger German Military Cemetery and Memorial near the town of La Cambe. While the US cemetery has 9,387 graves, the German cemetery at La Cambe is the final resting place for over 21,000 German war dead. About 100,000 soldiers on both sides perished during the fighting in Normandy.

The new Normandy Visitors Center at the American cemetery opened in 2007. The $30-million complex was dedicated by the American Battle Monuments Commission on June 6, 2007 during the commemoration of the 63rd Anniversary of D-Day. The center is set in a wooded area of the cemetery, east of the Garden of the Missing. The Normandy Visitors Center offers exhibits and films about the cemetery. The Colleville-sur-Mer American cemetery draws approximately one million visitors each year.

NOTE: Click on a photo to view a larger version.


PHOTO 1
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer is dedicated to the US soldiers who fought and died during and after the D-Day invasion of Normandy on Tuesday, June 6, 1944. Not far from this US cemetery lies the German cemetery at La Cambe.

Normandy American Cemetery

The 172-acre (70 ha) American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer lies atop a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, one of the sections of the French coast where Allied troops landed during the D-Day Normandy invasion. The serene beauty of the memorial’s location offers a stark contrast to the hell that faced the attackers on June 6, 1944. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


PHOTO 2
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial: Crosses

American Cemetery crosses

Rows of crosses (and a Jewish star) at the American Cemetery and Memorial. The English Channel can be seen in the background. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


PHOTO 3
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial: The G.H. Washington cross

G.H. Washington cross

This cross in the American Cemetery bears the name of George H. Washington, an Army Air Force First Lieutenant from Oklahoma who died in the service of his country on August 18, 1944. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


PHOTO 4
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial – Beach view

Omaha Beach from the cemetery

The American Cemetery sits on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. A paved pathway leads between the cemetery and the beach, but it was closed to the public for security reasons in April 2016. However, beach access is still available to the public nearby. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


PHOTO 5
Pointe du Hoc, Normandy. The Utah Beach American Memorial.

Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc juts out into the English Channel and divides what the Americans named Utah Beach (left) from Omaha Beach (right). A new Visitors Center opened at the Utah Beach memorial in 2011. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


PHOTO 6
The Utah Beach American Memorial. On the beach.

Utah Beach

Today tourists can walk along a very peaceful Utah Beach. Part of the old Visitors Center can be seen on the left in this 2009 photo. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


La Cambe: The German Military Cemetery and Memorial
Der Soldatenfriedhof von La Cambe – Cimetière militaire allemand de La Cambe
The German Military Cemetery at La Cambe (near Bayeux) in Normandy was originally the site of a combined World War II battlefield graveyard where American and German soldiers, sailors, and airmen were buried in two adjacent fields. Beginning in 1945, two-thirds of the fallen Americans at La Cambe were transferred to the United States for burial, while the remainder were reinterred at the new American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer (see above). Construction of the new La Cambe German War Cemetery began in 1958, using mostly youth volunteer help. La Cambe was officially inaugurated as a war cemetery on September 21, 1961.

Today La Cambe, with more than 21,000 German soldiers’ graves, is the largest of six German World War II cemeteries in France. The other five are: Champigny-Saint-André German War Cemetery (near Saint-André-de-l’Eure), Marigny German War Cemetery (near La Chapelle-en-Juger), Mont-de-Huisnes German War Cemetery (near Huisnes-sur-Mer), Orglandes German War Cemetery, and the Saint-Désir-de-Lisieux German War Cemetery. Fallen German soldiers are also found in 10 British World War II cemeteries, including the Bayeux War Cemetery, with over 460 German graves, and Cheux-St.-Manvieu, with 555 German graves.

Unlike the American and Commonwealth War Graves Commissions, the German War Graves Commission (Der Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) receives no government support. It is entirely voluntary and depends on gifts and donations for its work.


PHOTO 7
The German Military Cemetery and Memorial at La Cambe, Normandy. Wide view.

German War Cemetery

The German war cemetery at La Cambe is arranged around a large earthen mound, or tumulus, under which is a mass grave containing mostly unknown soldiers. Atop the tumulus is a large basalt lava cross flanked by two statues. Arranged around the central tumulus are 49 rectangular grave fields. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


PHOTO 8
A grave marker at the German Military Cemetery and Memorial.

German grave marker

A typical marker in the German war cemetery reads “a German soldier.” In this case, Ogefr. (Obergefreiter = Private First Class/Lance Corporal) Heinrich Zimmer, b. 18 October 1910, d. 22 July 1944. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


PHOTO 9
Flowers at the German Military Cemetery and Memorial.

German cemetery flowers

Flowers left to commemorate the fallen adorn the base of the tumulus at the center of the German cemetery at La Cambe. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo


Other American Cemeteries and Memorials in Normandy and Europe:
• Ardennes American Cemetery (Belgium)
• Brittany American Cemetery (Normandy, France)
• Cambridge American Cemetery (UK)
• Lorraine American Cemetery (St Avold, France)
• Luxembourg American Cemetery
• Netherlands American Cemetery (Margraten, Netherlands)
• Utah Beach American Memorial (Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy)

For a complete list of American WWI and WWII cemeteries and memorials worldwide see: ABMC: Cemeteries and Memorials from the American Battle Monuments Commission

Other WWII Cemeteries and Memorials in Normandy and Europe:
• Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery
• Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery

World War I Sites
Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was a German war hero and flying ace from the First World War. There are also many WWI cemeteries in France, Germany, and other European countries. See the ABMC link above for a list of World War I American cemeteries.

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