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After the war: the regrouping of graves: Colleville

Discussion in 'Colleville-Sur-Mer' started by Jim, Sep 16, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    At the end of the Second World War, there were several hundred provisional cemeteries. 24 of which were in France laid out by the American Grave's Registration, an ancillary service of the U.S Army. About ten cemeteries were in Lower Normandy, Vierville, Colleville, Saint-Laurent, two at Saint-Mere-Eglise, Blosville, La Cambe, Orglandes, Mariguy, Saint-James and Le-Chene-Guerin.
    It was in 1947 that fourteen sites worldwide were chosen as permanent cemeteries for American soldiers. The choice of site bore reference to a glorious feat of arms nearby in the Second World War. For each of these an architect was to design a non-confessional chapel, a wall to commemorate the missing, a museum containing battle-maps and a visitor’s hall as well as a war memorial. In the same year, France and the United States governments signed an Agreement regarding the setting up of five permanent cemeteries in French soil. Between 1947 and 1954 the American Graves registration repatriated the bodies of 172,000 soldiers to the USA at the request of their families; 14,000 of these were from Normandy.
    In Lower-Normandy, two historic sites were decided on Colleville-sur-Mer at Omaha, the first of the Allied Landings in Northern Europe and at Saint-James in the Manche where at one time General Patton had his Command-post. a symbol of the Avranches Breakout. In 1956 the government of France granted to the United States rights of the lands in and around the cemeteries and monuments.
    The American Battle Monument Commission was created BY an act of Congress in March 1923. It is responsible for everything concerning monuments and memorials commemorating the American Armed Forces who fell in battle on foreign soil. This is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United Slates Government, although financed by the US Government. The Superintendent in charge of each cemetery is an American citizen.


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    These two cemeteries are well organised to welcome visitors with personnel always available to give information and maintain supervision. They are the only cemeteries in Lower Normandy with definite visiting hours. Colleville in particular has a touristic element as shown by its large parking areas for cars and coaches. It is said to have nearly two million visitors a year. Droves of tourists arrive in coaches attracted by the way in which one nation has honoured its Fallen in the cause of Freedom. A large expanse around the Memorial has been left for ceremonies and parades beneath flags flying on very tall masts. The Commemoration is a striking reminder of one generation sacrificed for another.
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Colleville Cemetry

    From 1947 onwards, the bodies of soldiers buried in the provisional cemeteries nearest to Colleville were taken there by the American Arm in March 1948 the graves from three cemeteries near Sainte-Mere-Eglise were removed, amongst which was that of General Theodore Roosevelt. The architects, Harheson, Livigston and Larson, as well as Stevenson a landscape gardener, all from Philadelphia, were given the task of laying out the cemetery the memorial and 173 acres of ground overlooking the Landing Beaches. After four years in construction it was finished in 1956, given the name of the Normandy American Cemetery and inaugurated on 19th .July of the same year.

    This aerial view of the Cemetry gives you an idea of the size of it.

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    Situated on a plateau overlooking Omaha Beach the grave-yard is a vast rectangle parallel to the shore. The land put at the disposal of the United States, stretched right down to the beach for about a kilometre in length and six hundred metres wide. It included also. the way from the 'Route Departmental' up to the Cemetery gates, no one enters Colleville Cemetery by chance, one has to make one's way there. It is a vast majestic park, making the most of its position and the surprise effect. The sea, framed between a double row of' evergreen oaks draws the visitor to the focal point. The eye ranges over the immense green carpet studded with white crosses in faultless lines.
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The entire layout of the site is determined by the majestic central mall on which the monuments are arranged. At the eastern end of the main axis stands the Memorial, a spacious construction - two loggias linked by a semi-circular colonnade which is reflected in a rectangular pool.

    The Rectangular Pool

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    The whole symbolises an opportunity for future generations of remembrance and reunion. In the centre of the Memorial at the axis of the mall a bronze statue seven metres high symbolises the soul of American youth emerging from the waves. Around the plinth can be read: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord". The work is that of the sculptor Donald de Lue of New-York. The terrace between the loggias is studded with shingle from Omaha Beach.


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    The Memorial is built of limestone from Vaurion in the Cote d'Or, the plinths and the steps are in granite from Ploumanach in Brittany. Beneath the blue ceramic ceilings in the two loggias arc maps and explanations of the Battles engraved in the stone. On the south side the largest map traces the 6th June landings from England. On each side two others depict the naval plan of the Landings and the air operations that preceded it. Three theatres of conflict: Army, Navy and Air-force, where soldiers, sailors and airmen gave their lives. In the North Loggia a gigantic map shows military operations in Western Europe from 6th June 1944 to 8th May 1945. All the maps have been drawn from the American Battle Monuments Commission documents by Robert Foster.

    Two great bronze urns, the work of Donald de Lue flank the entrance of each loggia. Their decor symbolises on the one: War and Death with women and children stricken with grief and misery at the loss of a dear one. The other calls to mind those who perished at sea, the resurrection and Eternal Life. Behind the Memorial, below the terrace, is the garden of the Missing. It forms a semicircle. The walls are inscribed with the name, rank, unit and State of origin of 1,557 missing servicemen. In central position under the Memorial Colonnade is an extract from the dedication of the Memorial, by General Eisenhower, taken from the “Livre d'Or" kept in Saint Paul's Cathedral in London.
     
  4. Jamie 111

    Jamie 111 New Member

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    Graves

    Another fantastic thread Jim.

    Again the photographs are first class.

    And once again the details are very well presented.

    Brilliant!
     
  5. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    i learn something new, i didnt know that the brothers were both in here, especially the one from the 1st WW :thumb:
     
  6. -Spitfire-

    -Spitfire- New Member

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    Just read this story. A very good one:thumb:
     
  7. Buford

    Buford New Member

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    When you showed the aerial photograph of the graveyard...it took my breath away. It was simply shocking to see so many graves, and the sheer size of it all. A humbling and poignant reminder of the folly of war.
     
  8. RustySword

    RustySword New Member

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    Wow, those photos put a lot into perspective. Great information.
     
  9. r2b2ct

    r2b2ct New Member

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    Those are definitly some awesome pictures. They show the honorable graves of the fallen soldiers in a both touching and dignified manner. Very nice!
     
  10. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The Grave Stones are made from white marble from Lasa in Italy indicate the religion of each soldier: a Star of David for members of the Jewish faith and a Latin cross for Christians. On each is the soldier's name, rank and unit as well as the State he came from and the date of his death. From the memorial no inscriptions can be seen since the graves face west. The graves bear no distinctive signs or flowers; each one forms a part of the whole, of a great army. All are in strict alignment to the axis of the Central mall, all face west towards the United States.

    This picture shows both Stones that indicates the Soldiers Religion

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  11. James Stewart

    James Stewart Active Member

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    Jim's photos ( sadly) are no longer visible, have added a few more, these taken in 2012 and 2016. Normandy2014 792.JPG Normandy2014 796.JPG Normandy2014 797.JPG Normandy2014 799.JPG Normandy2014 805.JPG Normandy2014 814.JPG Normandy2014 817.JPG Normandy2014 800.JPG IMG_6314.JPG IMG_6316.JPG

    Normandy2014 792.JPG Normandy2014 796.JPG Normandy2014 797.JPG Normandy2014 799.JPG Normandy2014 805.JPG Normandy2014 814.JPG Normandy2014 817.JPG Normandy2014 800.JPG IMG_6314.JPG IMG_6316.JPG
     
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  12. James Stewart

    James Stewart Active Member

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    Lowering the flags in the evening, assisted by a veteran.
    Prompted in part by the sections here I am looking over previous years' photos knowing that we will not get over this year.
    We were late getting to the cemetery, about 40 minutes before it closed and were fortunate to see these gentlemen taking down the flag, The young man caught my eye when he was saluting, a youth corp member perhaps, I did not wish to intrude and ask him, but I often wonder. A day he will I am sure always remember, it may be that he went on to serve in the US military, and if so safely I trust.

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  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Good photos. Coleville is big, but not the biggest in France.
    Over the past few years I have been several times to the Meuse Agronne cemetery at Romagne -sous-monmtfaucon Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery | American Battle Monuments Commission
    There are over 14,000 war dead buried there. Their story is not as well understood, but their loss would have left their families grieving.
     
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  14. James Stewart

    James Stewart Active Member

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    I picked this wee book up in Normandy a few years ago ( Published in 2014) , a history of The American Cemetery at Colleville.
    The American war dead were buried sometimes once, twice or three times. la cambe was, to begin with, an American cemetery before passing to the German war dead.(As was Marigny).
    It is some years since I have been to the cemetery at St. James, a very well maintained national cemetery and a great credit to the staff who keep it in such fine order. ( As is Colleville.) IMG_9403.JPG IMG_9404.JPG
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2020
  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The treatment of American war dead is unique because of the options given to next of kin to repatriate bodies, not given to those of the commonwealth. All of the bodies were dug up after the war and the coffins sorted into two piles, those for repatriation and to remain in theatre. Only after those bodies that were to be repatriated could the ABMC lay out the cemeteries. This accounts for their beautiful symmetry and parade ground precision. Moving tributes to the sacrifice paid by the New World to save the Old.
     
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  16. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I've seen mention of bodies being buried up to seven times.
     
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  17. James Stewart

    James Stewart Active Member

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    I have read similar and seen some photos of French civilians and POWs doing this work, it must have left a terrible mark on them. There seems to be a pattern of the German war dead being moved to Allied cemeteries when the dead from them were relocated.
    A very traumatic task for all concerned, the dead buried in scattered graves all over the region, multiple burials understandable and ( sadly) the loss of identity in some cases.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    There is an excellent book by Peter Barton called the Lost Legions of Fromelles. This is the story of the 1915 and 1916 battles of Fromelles, France and the subsequent loss, rediscovery and reburial of the graves of nearly 300 commonwealth servicemen in Pheasant Wood war cemetery. Although this about the first world war, it covers some of the practical difficulties experienced by the registration and burial organisations and poses a few questions about how WW2 war dead were identified and treated.
     
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