Being on the same ground where the Battle of Normandy took place helped me better understand the experiences of those who fought and died there. How the dead are remembered across Normandy varied, and the German, American, and British cemeteries each held unique displays to honor their fallen soldiers. The ways in which these men are buried speak to each country’s culture and feelings towards the war. What struck me the most about these cemeteries were the grave markers. In the German cemetery there are crosses dispersed among the yard in groups of five, but individual markers are plain: identical square blocks low to the ground. In the American cemetery the markers are taller and either in the shape of a cross or the Star of David. In the British cemetery the markers are also taller, yet the shape of each depended on nationalities, with the British being a simple rounded rectangle and the Polish coming to a point at the top. The format of the words engraved on each stone also varies. Those at the German cemetery list the rank, name, as well as dates of birth and death. If this information is unknown, it simply states the number of “German Soldiers” in that plot. At the American cemetery the graves list each soldier’s name, rank, branch, and division, as well as their home state and date of death. The graves at the British cemetery each have an image to depict service branch and list names and date of death, often accompanied by a cross and a quotation. The inscription could be individualized by families or simply read “Known unto God.”
The type of information given at each cemetery exhibit the feelings of each country and their relationship to Normandy during the war. The German cemetery was the least landscaped and the graves were the most identical of the three, fitting with their military traditions of acting as one unit and taking pride in their common service as opposed to anything else. There were no German flags to be seen, and the only plant life sustained by the cemetery are the lawn and the trees. In contrast, the American cemetery has several flags flying, and the British cemetery is full of flower beds along the graves and wisteria vines near the entrance. The American cemetery specifically requests reverence at, with “Silence” signs posted and bells playing the national anthem as well as a recording of “Taps.” The British cemetery is not as outwardly nationalistic. I saw no flags and their dedication to not leaving anyone unburied meant that there several countries are represented there, including Egypt, Poland, and Germany. For me, the closest feeling to patriotism was evoked by several graves which read: “There is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” Each site pays homage to their soldiers in varying ways, which made me think of their individual roles in World War II and their cultural practices.