The US Cemetery: Colleville sur Mer

The US Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, Normandy, featured in the opening scenes of the Tom Hanks movie, Saving Private Ryan.

 

The cemetary is the final resting place of of 9,387 US service men and women, of whom around 307 are unknown soldiers.

At the end of the Normandy campaign there were nearly a dozen American cemeteries scattered around Normandy, along with hundreds of small burial grounds and isolated graves.

Repatriating over half of the fallen back to the USA, the American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) then created the cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, which at 172.5 acres is the largest American Cemetery from WW2.

Overlooking the sector where the 1st Division landed on D Day, the main building at the cemetery features a 22 ft tall bronze statue "The Sprit of American Youth Rising From The Waves" flanked by walls featuring maps showing the campaign in the European Theatre of Operations.

Multi-denominational headstones at the US War Cemetery

Photo courtesy of Brendan Murtagh, S.Wales

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Saving Private Ryan

The cemetery features in the opening and closing scenes of the Tom Hanks movie “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) and is the last resting place for the brothers who were the inspiration for this story; 2/Lt Preston Niland 22nd Infantry and Sgt Robert Niland 505th PIR. Robert was killed on D-Day, and Preston the following day.

A third brother was thought to have been killed in the Pacific, so the fourth was sent home. However, the brother in the Pacific survived the war.

 

The Spirit of American Youth statue at the US Cemetery

"The Sprit of American Youth Rising From The Waves"

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Visitor Advice

First visit the Visitors Building where veterans can sign the Veteran's Book, and others can sign the Visitors Book. Here you can also trace US servicemen and women who are in the care of AMBC.

You can also pick up a free leaflet about the cemetery. Behind the statue is the Garden of the Missing which commemorates a further 1,557 soldiers, sailors and airmen who fell in Normandy and have no known grave.

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Access

The site is well sign-posted from the main road ( D514). The site features good parking and easy level access. A path leads down to the beach.

The cemetery is usually open until 17.00. For further information contact: Normandy American Cemetery "Omaha Beach", 14710 Colleville sur Mer, France. Tel: 02 31 51 62 00