The American Cemetery at Colleville St Laurent

This Cemetery started in 1947, was chosen to be one of fourteen sites in the world to be the last resting place for the fallen of the second world war. The cemetery overlooks Omaha beach where so many of the men buried here died. It is a large park overlooking the sea, beautifully laid out and cared for. 9,386 American service personnel lie here, including 4 women. Over 300 of them have not been identified, and their inscription reads "Known but to God". Behind the Memorial, which together with the lake forms the centrepiece of the Cemetery, is a garden of remembrance and on its wall are inscribed the names of 1,557 missing servicemen who have no known grave. The grave markers are white marble from Italy, and are inscribed with the Latin cross for Christians and the Star Of David for members of the Jewish faith. On each memorial are the soldier’s name, rank and unit as well as his home State. All the crosses face the west, towards America. Facing the memorial along the great mall is the chapel, which is quite small and designed for private prayer. The Roosevelt brothers, sons of Theodore, President of the United States both lie at rest here. Quentin was killed when his plane was shot down during the first world war is the only casualty from that war buried here. His brother Theodore, who led the assault on Utah died of a heart attack on July 14th 1944. He received the Congress Medal Of Honour, the highest decoration. The family decided in 1955 to reunite the brothers. His memorial cross is inscribed in gold .(block D row 28 grave 46). There are two other Medal Of Honour recipients buried here. The Stephen Spielberg film "Saving Private Ryan" was inspired by the sacrifice of Niland family. Four brothers all fought in the war, three in Normandy. Preston, Robert and Francis landed on D-day in different units on both Omaha and Utah beaches. A fourth brother Edward served as aircrew in the Pacific. Robert was killed on June 6th at St Mere Eglise and Preston the next day near Utah beach. Francis was reported missing in action the same weeks and the authorities decided to save the fourth of the Nilands sons. The Chaplain Father Simpson was given the task of finding and breaking the news to Francis before evacuating him to England, When the Pacific war ended Edward was found alive in a prisoner of war camp and returned home. Two of the brothers lie in adjoining graves here at St Laurent in Block F, row 15, graves 11 & 12 A father and son lie side by side here in Block E, row 20, graves 19 & 20. Ollie Reed senior a Colonel commanding the 155th Infantry Regiment was killed near St Lo. Ollie Reed junior was killed the same months during the Italian Campaign. Telegrams telling of their deaths were received by the wife and mother within an hour of each other. Two brothers, Joseph and Manuel Arruda died together on Omaha beach whilst taking part in the first wave of the attack. One of the brothers stepped on a mine and both were killed. They are buried in Block G, row 9, graves 25 & 26.

The American cemetery is full of symbolism. Firstly as you enter by the original entrance you have an avenue of trees leading down to the bluffs above Omaha Beach. These are American live Oaks. The shape of these trees is prescribed by the architect, because in Egyptian mythology, when a warrior Prince is cut down in battle his pyramid has no top. These trees have no top to show that this is the resting place of warrior princes. At the head of each of the ten blocks a high ranking offices is buried. This represents a marching column passing a saluting base with the officer in charge leading his men.

Home Up

 All photographs are the copyright of Hand Maid Tours, please ask before you use them.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact