Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial – Colleville-sur-Mer, France - Atlas Obscura

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Colleville-sur-Mer, France

A memorial to the nearly 10,000 American soldiers laid to rest on the beaches of Normandy during WWII. 


Without the invasion in Normandy, which lead to the withdrawal and defeat of the Nazis, the world would be a different place. Today, the sacrifices of the American soldiers who landed on the beaches of France on D-Day are not forgotten: Every year people visit the Normandy American Cemetery bringing flowers and flags to show their respects. Standing between the endless lines of crosses the reality of the sacrifice sets in. Nobody leaves this cemetery without feeling moved. 

The Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in June 6, 1944, which were divided into sectors where the troops would land. The American troops landed on Utah Beach and on Omaha Beach, the last sector and the one best secured by the German troops. The number of casualties at Omaha Beach was much higher than at the other five landing points put together.

An accurate casualty count might never be known, but officially the U.S. Army counted 124,394 casualties, among them 20,668 dead soldiers. On D-Day alone 2,499 Americans died on the beaches of Normandy to help free Europe from the tyranny of Adolf Hitler.

On June 8 the American troops started to bury their dead soldiers in a temporary graveyard on top of a hill in Colleville-sur-Mer, close to Omaha Beach. After the war, France granted the United States the use of that land and an additional area, all together 172 acres of land, free of charge and tax. In this place, 9,387 American soldiers found their final resting place at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Among them are Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the son of President Roosevelt, and the former president’s brother Quentin, who died in WWI and was brought to rest beside him. A father is resting beside his son, just like 33 other pairs of brothers buried together here, among them Preston and Robert Niland, two of the brothers whose story the film Saving Private Ryan is based on. Approximately 14,000 other American soldiers, who originally were buried here, were brought home upon request of their families. Also on the grounds is a chapel, a lookout point over Omaha Beach with educational signs, several statues and the American WWII Memorial. A monument in the “Garden of the Missing” features the names of another 1,557 Americans who lost their lives during the invasion of Normandy but could not be found or identified. 

Know Before You Go

Open daily except 25th December and 1st January.

Opening Hours:

15th April to 15th September: 9.00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
the rest of the year: 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.

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