We’ve had the privilege of visiting the American Cemetery in Normandy twice. Our first visit was on Easter Sunday in April 2012 during our first Viking River Cruises trip. We visited the grave of Tracey’s great uncle Merton McDonald, who had died in Normandy in July, 1944. We were the first members of the family to visit his grave.
We were so blown away by the way that the French revered the fallen Americans there that we returned three years later (the day before D-Day) on a second cruise, this time with Tracey’s sister and her mother, who is likely the last person alive who knew Merton.
On our first visit, we left a picture of Merton with his sister (Tracey’s grandmother) at his gravestone:
On both visits, Viking arranged for a wreath placement at the cemetery, hosted by one of the visitor center’s staff. We asked if it was permissible to leave a picture at the grave site. Our lovely host, named Sophie, said that it was allowed, but that she wanted the picture. The visitor’s center gathers information about those buried there to help with research. With so many of the fallen having been young and often unmarried, visitors these days are usually not direct descendants, so the visitor center staff are grateful for any information that they can obtain.
We promised Sophie that we would send a copy of the photo and additional information once we got home. Three years later, we brought along a collection of scanned copies of Merton’s wartime letters and photos, including the picture below. Amazingly, Sophie was also working that day, and she was so grateful she gave bissous to Tracey’s mother.
The cemetery is so impressive. The grounds are actually considered American territory.
The memorial at the entrance is also beautiful:
We cannot recommend visiting this site enough. We would like to go again, and hope that our children will do so, too.