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Normandy American Cemetery Welcome Screen

General Cemetery Tour

An overview of the cemetery from the history of its construction and design to the personal stories of those commemorated here.

The Normandy American Cemetery commemorates the sacrifice of those who served in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings in Normandy and subsequent Normandy campaigns.

9,387 of those who perished are interred at the cemetery while 1,557 are commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing. There are 49 sets of brothers and three Medal of Honor recipients buried in the cemetery. The cemetery was dedicated on July 18, 1956.

The Normandy American Cemetery contains a visitor center with a permanent exhibition depicting the significance and main events of Operation Overlord.

The Visitor Center

The Normandy Visitor Center was dedicated in 2007, and contains a permanent exhibition depicting the significance and main events of Operation Overlord, codename for the D-Day landings. It may take up to two hours for visitors to explore the entire exhibit. 

The upper level, just past the entrance, contains a reception area where cemetery staff can assist visitors. The upper level also contains a disappearing-edge infinity pool, visually connecting the visitor center with the expanse of the English Channel. Touch-screen kiosks contain the ABMC Honor Roll, giving visitors the opportunity to look up information about those buried in the Normandy American Cemetery.  

The exhibition continues downstairs with several films that play periodically in addition to exhibitions detailing the events of the Normandy invasion. Interactive kiosks give visitors the chance to explore the history of World War II and to delve deeper into Allied invasion of the continent, from the landings at Normandy through to the Liberation of Paris. 

The Normandy Visitor Center ends with the Hall of Sacrifice, a space containing the faces and stories of those who participated in and are commemorated at the cemetery. 

The Overlook / Observation Table

The diagram on the orientation table shows where Allied Forces landed on June 6, 1944. Below you, and expanding out to your left and right, are visible one of the five landing zones, Omaha Beach, one of the two landing zones for American forces Omaha. The height of the cliffs below you demonstrates the enormity of the task at hand. On that day there was no cover for the troops on the beach - the defenders had previously removed all trees and shrubs to improve their field of fire.

Pathways to the left and right of the observation table allow you to walk down to the beach. It is a 20 minute walk down and a 30 minute walk back up. Even just walking down to the second bench (three minutes) and looking back up the hill reveals the courage and sacrifice needed to gain the cliff tops, the first step for Allied forces fighting for the liberation of Europe.

The Memorial

The memorial is flanked by the garden of the missing to the east and the reflecting pool on the west. The memorial structure consists of a semicircular colonnade with gallery housing battle maps at each end and a large bronze sculpture in the open area formed by its arc. 

The loggias and colonnade are made of Vaurion, a French limestone from the Cote d’Or region. Centered in the open arc of the memorial facing the graves area is a 22-foot tall bronze statue, The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, created by the American sculptor Donald De Lue. The statue stands on a rectangular pedestal of Ploumanach granite from Brittany, France. Encircling the pedestal of the statue on the floor in bronze letters is the inscription: MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY OF THE COMING OF THE LORD.

On the interior walls of the loggia are maps depicting several operations of World War II including the landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944, air operations over Normandy during March through August 1944,  and military operations in western Europe from June 6, 1944 to May 8, 1945. The maps in each loggia were designed by Robert Foster of New York City and executed by Maurice Schmit of Paris, France.

Map depicting "The Amphibious Assault Landing" on June 6, 1944.
Map depicting "The Landings on the Normandy Beaches".
Map depicting "Military Operations in Western Europe".

Located in the tall rectangular openings in the east and west walls of each loggia is a large bronze urn on which two different scenes in high relief were sculpted. These urns were designed by De Lue and depict a range of scenes symbolic of war, honor, victory, resurrection, eternal life, hope and peace. 

An urn relief featured at the memorial of a figure representative of God moving over water. The laurel symbolizes those who lost their lives at sea.

The ceilings of the loggias are of blue ceramic tile by Gentil et Bourdet of Paris.  The floor of the open area within the arc is surfaced with pebbles taken from the invasion beach below the cliff and embedded in mortar. Each aspect of the memorial is dedicated to honoring the men and women who lost their lives during the invasion of Normandy and subsequent operations in World War II.

The Garden of the Missing

To the west of the visitor center, on a semicircular wall in the garden of the missing are engraved tablets honoring the 1,557 missing in action who died in the region, and whose remains were not recovered. A bronze rosette beside a name shows that their remains were later recovered, identified and buried.

A War Department Administrative Review Board established the official date of death of those commemorated on the tablets of the missing as one year and a day from the date on which the individual was placed in missing in action status. 

Above the names on the walls of the missing is the following inscription in English and French: HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES. THIS IS THEIR MEMORIAL THE WHOLE EARTH THEIR SEPULCHRE. COMRADES IN ARMS WHOSE RESTING PLACE IS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD.

Radiating from the memorial to the curved walls of the missing are five paths dividing the garden into four truncated fan-shaped lawn areas. Two paths paralleling the arc of the memorial and the garden wall connect the radiating paths. 

The Chapel

The circular chapel in the graves area is constructed of Vaurion limestone except for its steps, which are made of granite. Surmounting the chapel is a bronze finial with an armillary sphere that serves as a lightning rod. On the outside wall of the north of its entrance are two inscriptions separated by an engraved star. Directly above the chapel’s exterior door is an engraved replica of the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest award for valor. 

The engraved replica of the Congressional Medal of Honor on the exterior of the chapel.

There are six grave plots between the memorial and the chapel, making the chapel the heart of the cemetery. From an aerial perspective, the chapel is the center of the Latin cross created by the cemetery’s layout.

Inside the chapel, there is a beautiful stained glass window behind the altar, illuminating the chapel with soft yellow light. On the glass around the edges of the window are 48 stars representing the then 48 states. Immediately above the altar table is a Star of David with a dove in the center of the star. Affixed to the lower half of the window is a thin teakwood Latin cross, the sides of which are encased in gold-leaf copper. The altar sits on a two-tiered platform of travertine limestone quarried in France and is flanked on both sides by flags of the United States, France, Great Britain, and Canada. 

The altar inside the chapel is inscribed with 'I Give Unto Them Eternal Life And They Shall Never Perish.'

The ceiling holds a colorful mosaic symbolizing the United States’ fight for freedom, and France’s gratefulness to those Americans who died while liberating Europe’s oppressed peoples. It was designed and executed by Leon Kroll of New York City. The United States blesses her sons as they depart by sea and air to fight for freedom, and France bestows a laurel wreath  signifying victory upon American dead who gave their lives to liberate Europe’s oppressed peoples. The return of peace is illustrated by the angel, dove and the homeward bound ship.

The mosaic ceiling depicts Lady Liberty sending soldiers and ships to France. The second woman, representing France crowns the American dead with a laurel wreath of peace.

The interior walls of the chapel are also constructed from travertine limestone quarried in France. Inscribed on the south interior wall is the inscription: "Through the gate of death may they pass to their joyful resurrection." Above this inscription lies a Latin cross in relief carved on a circle. Separating the inscription and cross are three small, engraved stars. 

Directly opposite on the north interior wall of the chapel is the inscription: "Think not only upon their passing remember the glory of their spirit." Over the inscription are the tablets of Moses surmounted by a Star of David carved in relief on the circle. Separating the inscription and the tablets are three small, engraved stars.

The Statues

At the west end of the central mall, past the chapel, stand two allegorical statues of Italian baveno granite representing the United States and France. Each statue watches over the thousands of graves at Normandy American Cemetery. Both figures hold the respective national symbols of these countries: a rooster for France, and an eagle for the United States.

The right statue holding the national symbol, a rooster, of France.
The left statue holding the national symbol, an eagle, of America.

The Time Capsule

Embedded in the lawn here is a time capsule. Inside this sealed capsule are news reports of the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings. The capsule is covered by a Ploumanach rose granite slab upon which is engraved: “To be opened June 6, 2044”, 100 years after the Normandy landings. Affixed in the center of the slab is a bronze plaque adorned with the five stars of a General of the Army and engraved with an inscription reading: “In memory of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the forces under his command, this sealed capsule containing news reports of the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings is placed here by the newsmen who were there.” 

The Visitor Center

The Normandy Visitor Center was dedicated in 2007, and contains a permanent exhibition depicting the significance and main events of Operation Overlord, codename for the D-Day landings. It may take up to two hours for visitors to explore the entire exhibit. 

The upper level, just past the entrance, contains a reception area where cemetery staff can assist visitors. The upper level also contains a disappearing-edge infinity pool, visually connecting the visitor center with the expanse of the English Channel. Touch-screen kiosks contain the ABMC Honor Roll, giving visitors the opportunity to look up information about those buried in the Normandy American Cemetery.  

The exhibition continues downstairs with several films that play periodically in addition to exhibitions detailing the events of the Normandy invasion. Interactive kiosks give visitors the chance to explore the history of World War II and to delve deeper into Allied invasion of the continent, from the landings at Normandy through to the Liberation of Paris. 

The Normandy Visitor Center ends with the Hall of Sacrifice, a space containing the faces and stories of those who participated in and are commemorated at the cemetery.