The D-Day Battlefields
The American Cemetery & Memorial
The $30 million dollar official Visitor / Interpretive Centre at OMAHA Beach is attached to the American Cemetery and is not a museum like the American facility at UTAH which many visitors expect to find. The new facility at OMAHA was inaugurated on 6 June 2007, and its design is dignified and appropriately low-key. The official website can be viewed here.
Information is delivered in a style in keeping with the location and includes details on the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), the body responsible for the permanent maintenance of US military cemeteries and memorials on foreign soil, the Competence, Courage and Sacrifice of the troops, and films on other aspects of D-Day including the personal stories of some of those who lost their lives here.
Paths run around and intersect the seemingly endless rows of white crosses with the most northerly route running parallel with the coast. It looks out over the bluffs and although trees now partially obscure the view, it’s clear to see the titanic task that the US troops faced on the morning of 6 June 1944. A metal gate on the cemetery’s perimeter opens onto a path that leads down the slopes so bitterly contested, but due to security concerns there has been no access from this direction for some time. There are of course no restrictions to the beach if approached from outwith the cemetery.
The Memorial, at the eastern end of the site, takes the form of a semi-circular colonnade with stone loggias at each end engraved with campaign battle-maps. Ornamental urns flank a 22ft-high bronze statue representing ‘The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves’ which was sculpted by Donald de Luke of New York. The Reflective Pool in front has a flagstaff on either side and the Stars & Stripes is raised each morning and lowered before the cemetery closes each day.
Behind the Memorial is the Garden of the Missing. It's semi-circular wall bears the names of 1,557 US military personnel who died in Normandy and have no known grave. This is in addition to the 9,387 marked burials, 307 of which are unknown.
At the time of my visit, the ground was sodden after a prolonged spell of rain and visitors were requested to keep to the paths to prevent damage to the grass.
To the west of the American cemetery is the seafront at St Laurent-Sur-Mer where the Les Braves sculpture now stands on the sand, just below the sea wall. The 9 metre-high stainless steel memorial created by Anilore Ban represents ‘The Rise of Freedom’ flanked by ‘The Wings of Hope’. The seafront here has been dramatically altered since the Second World War and the high seawall against which numerous attacking troops sought refuge on 6 June 1944 has long-since been replaced by a far lower barrier.
The large, brown stone Signal Monument is sighted in front, on the esplanade. Side panels commemorate the 1st Infantry Division and the 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team of the 29th Infantry Division. The monument marks the dividing line between DOG and EASY sectors and is at the bottom of Exit D3, les Moulins. There are a number of additional memorials in this area.
Just east of the American Cemetery, on the lower slopes, is a large plinth dedicated to the men of the Fifth Engineer Special Brigade which stands on top of Wn-62, a formidable German strongpoint which claimed the lives of many Americans on D-Day. Above the main panel on the memorial is a plaque which was unveiled on 6 June 2001 to the 6th Naval Beach Battalion.
All along this stretch open views show the excellent fields of fire afforded to the defenders from their positions.
This photo, taken with a modest telephoto lens, emphasises the lack of cover and how exposed the attacking troops would have been on D-Day.
Please bear in mind that all images on this website are Copyright. They are not free to use and have been embedded with a digital watermark. Any historic photographs from the Imperial War Museum and other organisations`s collections have been used courtesy of a `Share & Reuse` policy and are also subject to copyright restrictions.
A time capsule dedicated to General Eisenhower has been embedded near the old entrance to the site. It contains original sealed reports connected with Operation Overlord and is due to be opened on the 100th anniversary of D-Day.