Medal of Honor recipients, whose graves are in the American Cemetery at St Laurent.
Their headstones are lettered in gold.
Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt* (Plot D, Row 28, Grave 45)
Citation: for gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt's written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.
Tech Sergeant Frank Peregory* (Plot G, Row 21, Grave 7)
Citation: On 8 June 1944, the 3d Battalion of the 116th Infantry was advancing on the strongly held German defenses at Grandcampe, France, when the leading elements were suddenly halted by decimating machinegun fire from a firmly entrenched enemy force on the high ground overlooking the town. After numerous attempts to neutralize the enemy position by supporting artillery and tank fire had proved ineffective, T/Sgt. Peregory, on his own initiative, advanced up the hill under withering fire, and worked his way to the crest where he discovered an entrenchment leading to the main enemy fortifications 200 yards away. Without hesitating, he leaped into the trench and moved toward the emplacement. Encountering a squad of enemy riflemen, he fearlessly attacked them with handgrenades and bayonet, killed 8 and forced 3 to surrender. Continuing along the trench, he single-handedly forced the surrender of 32 more riflemen, captured the machine gunners, and opened the way for the leading elements of the battalion to advance and secure its objective. The extraordinary gallantry and aggressiveness displayed by T/Sgt. Peregory are exemplary of the highest tradition of the armed forces.
1st Lieutenant Jimmie W Montieth Jr* (Plot I, Row 20, Grave 12)
Awarded posthumously for bravery on Omaha beach on D-Day
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. 1st Lt. Monteith landed with the initial assault waves on the coast of France under heavy enemy fire. Without regard to his own personal safety he continually moved up and down the beach reorganizing men for further assault. He then led the assault over a narrow protective ledge and across the flat, exposed terrain to the comparative safety of a cliff. Retracing his steps across the field to the beach, he moved over to where 2 tanks were buttoned up and blind under violent enemy artillery and machinegun fire. Completely exposed to the intense fire, 1st Lt. Monteith led the tanks on foot through a minefield and into firing positions. Under his direction several enemy positions were destroyed. He then rejoined his company and under his leadership his men captured an advantageous position on the hill. Supervising the defense of his newly won position against repeated vicious counterattacks, he continued to ignore his own personal safety, repeatedly crossing the 200 or 300 yards of open terrain under heavy fire to strengthen links in his defensive chain. When the enemy succeeded in completely surrounding 1st Lt. Monteith and his unit and while leading the fight out of the situation, 1st Lt. Monteith was killed by enemy fire. The courage, gallantry, and intrepid leadership displayed by 1st Lt. Monteith is worthy of emulation.
I've been here a couple of times now. On my first visit, we spent an hour in the late afternoon walking around this peaceful place. As with all of the cemeteries in the Normandy D-Day landings area, the place is immaculate.
On my most recent visit, we went first thing in the morning. This gave us ample time to walk around and seek out the graves of the Medal of Honor recipients. These graves are lettered in gold. We paid our respects to Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt (Plot D, Row 28, Grave 45), who died of a heart attack in July 1944. He played a vital part in the success of the D-Day landings at Utah beach. Beside him lies his youngest brother, Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed in the First World War, and who was re-interred here when the cemetery was made.
We also went to see the Nilands brothers, Preston and Robert (Plot F, Row 15 Graves 11 & 12), whose story inspired the Speilberg WWII film Saving Private Ryan.
We then took the path down to Omaha beach. When you get to the bottom of the steps and look back up to the cemetery, you get some idea of the formidable landscape, not to mention the German defenses, that the landing troops had to contend with.
A must do visit for any D-Day landings tour.
Unlike other cemeteries there is a strictly kept closing at 18:00 so don't leave it too late in the day to visit.
As an American with a Dad who fought in France, we were welcomed with open arms. The museum at Omaha Beach is a must see and the nearby American Cemetery has a new Educational Center where you learn intimately about the courage, strength and commitment of the soldiers that fought as young men in WWII in Normandy. Check out www.francewillneverforget.com to see the heart of the people of St Laurent sur mer.
The first World War II American Cemetery in France was initially established near this site on June 7, 1944, just the second day of the Normandy invasion. After the War ended, several permanent cemeteries were established in Europe for America's lost soldiers. The Normandy American Cemetery is one such location. This cemetery marks the final resting place of over 9,000 American heroes who gave their lives on D-Day or the ensuing battles.
This site also houses a great memorial to the American dead.
The cemetery and memorial are open daily from 9am to 5pm except Christmas Day and New Years Day.
The Normandy American Cemetery is one of 24 American military cemeteries around the world. These cemeteries honor 125,000 American dead who may never return home.
Omaha Beach, near St. Laurent, was the site of the fiercest fighting on D-Day, 6 June 1944. US 1st and 29th Divisions landed here on the initial day of the operation with many more troops to follow in the coming weeks and months. This beach is markedly different from Silver, Juno, and Gold, as it has a steep hillside just a hundred meters from the water's edge. This hillside was embedded with layer upon layer of German pillboxes, bunkers, trenches, tunnels, and gun emplacements designed to stop an invasion such as this.
Omaha Beach stretches across six miles of sand, from Colleville-sur-Mer to Vierville-sur-Mer.
From the top of the hill above the beach, you have a great view of the German defenses designed to stop the Allied attack. These defenses are amazing -- how could a single person involved in the attack ever think they could overtake these massive stone fortresses designed to kill? How did these brave men ever make it off the beach against such strong defenses?
It all came down to sheer determination in the minds of individual soldiers. Some did it for their countries or families, some had the right instincts, others were following orders or were using skills honed from months of training. No matter what, these men are true heroes who gave all to make the world a better place.
The cemetery is open daily to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm except December 25 and January 1. It is open on host country holidays. When the cemetery is open to the public, a staff member is on duty in the Visitors’ Building to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites.
Along Omaha Beach, near Saint-Laurent, you see this monument, called "Monument Signal": it is a monument to the American soldiers died during the landing on Normandie, started June 6 1944. The second picture shows a gun (or is it a howitzer?) used during World War II.
This museum features some vehicles from the Normandy invasion in 1944 as well as many items found at the beaches, uniforms, etc. The museum is not bad, although I wish that it would focus more on the historic events and background instead of the items. Anyway, perhaps the "Musee du debarquement" in Arromanches is a better choice.
If you have some time, go to the beach which is close to the town and visit the different monuments.
The front center cross marks the grave of George O. Spoerl from New Jersey. My mind was overwhelmed, as I tried to imagine the individual story of each young man. Then the mind starts to take in the scope, the number of lives, the connections cut from parents, wives, children.
Our American friend Sue told us the story of visiting this cemetery with her friend Marilyn. It was Marilyn's first visit here, and she was searching for the grave of her father, who was killed before she was born.
Melancholy, Admiration, Humility, Gratitude, Sadness, Respect, Pride,... powerful emotions are provoked here.
Saving Private Ryan is a fictional movie about a platoon in Normandy that lands on the beach during the D-Day invasions, then is sent on a mission to find a Private Ryan whose brothers have been killed. This is based on the true story of Fritz Niland who had two brothers killed and another missing during World War II. Niland was found by an Army Chaplain at Normandy and sent home to his family.
The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan takes place here, on this path, at the Normandy American Cemetery in St. Laurent France.
As you stand at the memorial, you look out across the graveyard, and the scope of the casualty of war hits you hard. Each cross or Star of David, a man.
At the far end of the reflecting pool, you can see a memorial chapel in the distance.
At the overlook point, this "orientation table" maps out the amphibious assault at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches. Directly beyond the table you can see Omaha Beach, which proved to be particularly difficult and lethal. The US 1st and 29th Divisions met intense resistance and challenge, from the Germans and from the terrain.
There are so many ghosts here... and imagining what the cemetery occupants endured here staggers the mind.
Three of the graves in the cemetery are marked with a gold star, and the engraving is highlighted in gold. It is not, as in this case, because the individual came from a famous family, but rather to indicate that the person was awarded a Medal of Honor.
Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. served in the US Army during WW I and WW II. He died of a heart attack a few weeks after leading his troops onto Utah Beach.
The cross to the left of his grave marks the resting place of his brother, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed at the age of 20 during WW I and burried in France. His body was later moved to be next to his brother.
Gold stars served as a different symbol back in the United States. Any mother who lost a son during the war was known as a "Gold Star Mother." The families of individuals killed during the war would display a gold star in a window of their home.
As described on the Gold Star Mother website, the gold star symbolizes "the honor and glory accorded the person for his supreme sacrifice in offering for his country, the last full measure of devotion and pride of the family in this sacrifice, rather than the sense of personal loss which would be represented by the mourning symbols."
I was fortunate enough to visit Normandy a few years ago (2001) and a group of us lads decided to call in at the American War Cemetery to pay our respects to those that had gone before us. Little did we know how much of an afect the visit would prove. It was a truly emotional rollercoster of a day and one I don't think any of us will forget in our lifetimes.
Please take the time to visit this great monument to the brave soldiers who played no small part in securing peace in our time. From the moment you walk in to the cemetery very few words are spoken. None of us had any relatives buried there and if it affected us in such great magnitude, I dread to think how it afffected families of those buried.
After four years work, Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer cemetery was inaugurated in 1956. It overlooks the beaches of Omaha, and all is designed to make emotion overwhelm the visitor : the long central view, the memorial with a huge map of the battle, the "Garden of missing" where are registered the names of 1 557 missing soldiers, and the ten squares of perfectly lined up steles of 9 386 American soldiers, including 4 women.
The cemetery is open daily to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm except December 25 and January 1. It is open on host country holidays. When the cemetery is open to the public, a staff member is on duty in the Visitors Building to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites.