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Colleville-sur-mer Where the brain can’t register what your eyes are trying to tell you.

December 30th, 2010 by Roger in Uncategorized

Most first time visitors to Normandy manage to take in at least some of the historical areas associated with the D-Day landings. I have been to many of the  WW2 sites that commemorate the actions of thousands of brave fighting men. When I reached the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer it became almost impossible to comprehend the scale of the madness that these guys were forced into  – where for many it would prove to be the final action of their young lives.

The visitor’s centre at the cemetery includes a short film depicting the life and death of just a few of those that remained behind when the fortunate few returned to their homeland to celebrate peace. The experience helps clear the mind of your own problems and petty grumbles. It is a deeply emotional experience and one that I shall never forget.

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site, at the north end of its ½ mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of the military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.

The memorial consists of a semicircular colonnade with a loggia at each end containing large maps and narratives of the military operations; at the center is the bronze statue, “Spirit of American Youth.” An orientation table overlooking the beach depicts the landings in Normandy. Facing west at the memorial, one sees in the foreground the reflecting pool; beyond is the burial area with a circular chapel and, at the far end, granite statues representing the U.S. and France.

It was a time when men were thrust into situations they could not really comprehend – when some soldiers drowned (or were shot) before they ever reached the Normandy shore.  As one D-Day fighter, an American named Albert Nervo, told a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal in 1965:

Your mind blanks out in times like that. Your brain can’t register what your eyes are trying to tell you.

 

 

The cemetery is open to the public daily except on December 25 and January 1. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April 15 to September 15, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year.

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