There are numerous tours from Bayeux to see the sights of the Invasion of Normandy. Being that I was visiting from the US, I decided to take a full day US Beaches Tour.
Although this was a tour visiting the US sights of the Invasion of Normandy, the first stop on the tour was La Cambe German Cemetery.
Now why would we start our US tour visiting a German cemetery?
There are a couple of reasons, one of which is for us to be able to see the contrast in the German cemetery vs. the US cemetery that we would be visiting later in the day.
Another reason was that the La Cambe German Cemetery was originally started as an American cemetery during the war. The cemetery was for both Americans and Germans. After the war it became the largest German cemetery in Normandy without over 21,000 soldiers buried here.
Of these 21,000 soldiers buried in this 15 acre cemetery, 300 of them are buried in the hill that serves as the centerpiece of the cemetery. On top of this hill sits a black cross with two statues surrounding it.
You can walk up to the top to get a closer look of the cross and statues and also a view of the cemetery as a whole. When viewing the cemetery from up top, I noticed how subdued it was compared to cemeteries home in the US. I was happy to see that they had plaques to mark most gravesites with a few crosses scattered throughout. It makes for a more peaceful site to visit.
That afternoon, we visited the American Cemetery in Normandy.
There are over 9,000 US soldiers buried at this 172 acre cemetery.
Unlike the plaques and few black crosses in the German cemetery, the gravesites here are all marked with crosses made of Italian white marble.
A few of the crosses are recognized with a gold star, like this one for General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Also marked are the graves for other Generals, Medal of Honor recipients and the Niland brothers who the movie Saving Private Ryan is based off of.
There are also 300 unknown soldiers buried here and also the Wall of Missing which honors the over 1,500 missing in action soldiers.
The cemetery is an actual site of one of the battles of the Invasion of Normandy as it sits overlooking Omaha Beach.
Our visit to the cemetery was very well timed as we were there to witness the daily flag ceremony.
There is something very moving hearing taps playing and seeing the flag lowered and folded while in a military cemetery. It reminds you that the flag holds as a symbol not just for our country but for all those who fought for the our country. Without them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms and rights that we have today.
If you have never witnessed this ceremony before, I highly recommend it.
The differences in the cemeteries were very apparent. From the location of the cemeteries to the scale that each cemetery was displayed. These differences reflect the differences in the countries themselves. America has always been a country that goes all out, the bigger the better with everything they do. While European countries are a little more subdued.
I enjoyed seeing both of these cemeteries and being able to pay my respects to the soldiers lost during the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Next week, I will discuss some of the sites where the Invasion took place.