Colleville-sur-Mer. Grainville-Langannerie. Bayeux. Ver-sur-Mer.
Today marks the 69th anniversary of D-Day – the invasion of France, and the beginning of the end for the Third Reich. Throughout the beach areas of Normandy are somber ‘villages’ of the dead heroes, who fought in those infamous invasions in 1944. “In total, the Allied armies comprised nearly 3 million soldiers spread over 39 divisions: 20 American, 14 British, 3 Canadian, 1 Polish and 1 French.”
Some of the Polish soldiers were buried in British cemeteries; but the majority is buried in the Polish cemetery at Grainville-Langannerie. There 696 graves are marked with crosses or with a tablet engraved with the Cross of David.
Almost every unit of the Canadian 2nd Corps is represented in the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery. Most died later in the Normandy battles, while participating in the capture of Caen and the thrust to the South. The cemetery contains 2,958 graves with 87 of those remaining unidentified.
Near the southern ring road of Bayeux is the largest British War Cemetery of World War II. Close to Arromanches and the landing beaches; nearly 4,000 British have their final resting places, and they are joined in this somber place by 17 Australians, 8 New Zealanders, 1 South African, 25 Poles, 3 French, 2 Czechs, 2 Italians, 7 Russians, 466 Germans and one unknown unidentified body. A memorial names 2,808 more missing soldiers.
And in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer are the graves of 9,387 of our military dead. In a garden on the Walls of the Missing, 1,557 names are inscribed.
As part of the 40th anniversary memorials held in Normandy, President Reagan spoke. In part he said, “You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”
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