France Regions

The American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer

Hallowed Ground in Normandy at Colleville-Sur-Mer

As you stand atop the cliff at Colleville-Sur-Mer, marble crosses and Stars of David stretch as far as the eye can see. More than 9000 Americans are buried here, having died in the waves of troops that came ashore on June 6, 1944, and the many days and weeks after.

Headstones at the American military Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer in Normandy, France.
Headstones at the Colleville-Sur-Mer American cemetery in Normandy, France.

Covering 172 acres, the cemetery was dedicated just after World War II. Though it’s often assumed to be, it is not considered American soil. Devoted French volunteers tend to the graves, place flowers, and place American flags on July 4 and Memorial Day. Visitors can sometimes be lucky enough to be part of the flag-lowering at the end of the day, when Taps is played. Wreath-laying must be pre-arranged but is gladly done.

Visit Colleville-Sur-Mer from Paris:
American Normandy D-Day Tour from Paris
D-Day Tour with Overnight in Bayeux and Mont St. Michel
Custom and Private Normandy D-Day Tours

Unlike at the German and British Cemeteries, the age of the dead is not displayed. It is known, however. The average age was 22. A featured part of the cemetery is an enormous marble wall inscribed with the names of the missing, some 1557 men whose remains were never found.

A statue in the center of the memorial at the American Cemetery at Colleville Sur Mer.
A statue in the center of the memorial at the American Cemetery at Colleville Sur Mer.

Though the visitor center is closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day, the cemetery is otherwise open to anyone who wishes to pay their respects. Luminaries buried there include Medal of Honor winners Jimmy Monteith, a First Lieutenant who tirelessly rallied stunned troops and tanks to penetrate the German line behind the dunes on June 6, and Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Perhaps the saddest graves are those of the 33 sets of brothers who died freeing France.

Anyone who visits this cemetery comes away with a solemn respect for the troops and for the heavy, but necessary, cost of defeating Hitler.

To find individual graves at Colleville-Sur-Mer visit the American Battle Monuments Commission website.