Did you know there are American patriotic sites in France?
The WWII cemetery in Normandy is most famous, but there are many other American cemeteries in France and more!
I never knew there were so many American cemeteries in France … even when I was living and wandering there.
It was only later, when I was doing some research, that I found out American patriotic sites in France were much richer and more diverse than the historic handful I had been lucky enough to see—
While the American cemetery in Normandy for WWII heroes is best known of the American cemeteries in France and very much worth seeing as part of a patriotic pilgrimage, America’s longstanding friendship with France has endured for centuries. Nothing displays this more readily than the blood shed by each for the other in their respective wars.
Because of this, there are several American cemeteries in France for fallen military. There are also many other patriotic sites that are often overlooked, but nevertheless emblematic of the past we share and the bravery of many who could never go home.
The following are American cemeteries in France, mainly from World Wars 1 & 2.
Each cemetery is thoughtfully laid out and landscaped, with an adjoining chapel and memorial. The thought and planning put into them are exquisite and often illuminate the importance of the various battles, particularly of those buried in that particular location.
As such, the setting readily fosters pilgrimage and reflection—especially walking along paths by the sea or in a garden, or among the markers of the fallen.
Why were they there? What did they value so much they gave their lives in exchange? How should we then live and remember?
Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial
Dedicated in 1937, 42-acre Aisne-Marne curves around its battle-damaged Romanesque chapel on the edge of the quiet, green Belleau Wood. Here lie 2,289 dead, most lost in the 1918 battles in the region. Inside the memorial chapel are carved the names of 1,060 missing.
Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery
The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery honors the volunteer American aviators who died serving France during World War I as part of the Lafayette Flying Corps. Many of these fought in the Battle of Verdun or the Somme Initiative and were greatly respected for their daring. Their backgrounds were diverse—authors, athletes, a diplomat, and an FBI agent, for instance. There are 68 sarcophogi in the crypt—49 U.S. aviators, 2 French officers who wished to be buried with their American comrades, and empty ones for those who were brought back home for burial or never found.
Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial
The 130-acre Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery houses the remains of the largest number of American military dead not only among American cemeteries in France but in all Europe—an astonishing 14,246. A large visitors’ center with interpretive exhibits and displays brings us closer to those who were lost and tells more about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and why it mattered. Long rows of markers point to the chapel on the hill. Tablets of the Missing record the names of missing soldiers, while rosettes mark the names of those who have since been found. Nine Medal of Honor recipients are buried here.
Oise-Aisne American Cemetery
This is the 2nd largest WWI American military cemetery. Its curved memorial is made of pink sandstone displaying the names of its 241 missing, so they won’t be forgotten. Famous poet Joyce Kilmer is buried here, along with 6,012 comrades. It is beautifully landscaped—a fitting place to walk, ponder, and remember.
Somme American Cemetery
The 1,844 soldiers buried in this 14-acre cemetery in the rolling Picardy countryside mostly died while serving alongside British units or in action near Cantigny. An American eagle decorates the heavy bronze doors leading into the chapel and light enters through a cross-shaped crystal window above the altar. The walls are covered with the names of 333 missing. Those since found and identified have had rosettes added next to their names.
St Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial
Dedicated in 1937, the 40-acre St Mihiel American Cemetery is the resting place for 4,153 military dead, most of whom were killed in the St Mihiel Offensive. Viewed from above, the cemetery is divided into four plots connected by a large sundial capped by an American eagle. Medal of Honor recipient John Hunter Wickersham is buried here. There is also a small chapel with a beautiful mosaic depicting an angel sheathing its sword, a map room, and a dark marble wall with the gilded names of those never found.
Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial
Located just outside Paris (you can see the Eiffel Tower), Suresnes American Cemetery hosts the dead of both world wars: 1,559 Americans from World War I and 23 unknown dead from World War II. There are bronze plaques displaying the names of nearly 1,000 more missing or buried at sea. Twin sisters Dorothy & Gladys Cromwell, nurses and recipients of the French Croix de Guerre, are buried here. The chapel contains pillars of polished marble and a beautiful angel mosaic and adjoins loggias commemorating each of the world wars.
Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial
Brittany American Cemetery is in the countryside southwest of the D-Day landing beaches. Its 28 acres of rolling hills are the burial place of 4,404 American servicemembers lost mainly in the Brittany and Normandy campaigns in 1944. Two Medal of Honor recipients lie buried here—Ernest Prussman and Sherwood Hallman. The curving wall of the memorial terrace lists the names of 500 more who are missing. The granite memorial and chapel overlook the cemetery.
Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial
Here overlooking the Moselle River and valley are the graves of 5,252 American military dead. Most died in battles in northeastern France or in Germany, including members of the Japanese-American 442nd regiment. There are four Medal of Honor recipients buried here. On the walls of the Court of Honor surrounding its limestone memorial are the names of 424 who remain missing.
Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial
Among the American cemeteries in France, the 113-acre Lorraine American Cemetery holds the largest number of U.S. military dead from World War II: 10,481. Five Medal of Honor recipients rest here. A carving of St Nabor, patron saint of the nearby town of St Avold, looks out over the graves from the 67-foot memorial. Altar sculptures inside the elegant chapel symbolize the eternal struggle for freedom. Walls outside display the names of 444 missing, with rosettes marking the names of those since identified.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
The fame of this 172-acre cemetery along the Normandy coast is connected to the scale of the sacrifice of those who rest here: 9,386 military who mainly lost their lives in the D-Day landings and the operations that followed (4,000 of them lost on the Omaha Beach landing alone). There are three Medal of Honor recipients buried here, along with 45 sets of brothers. A semicircular garden framed by the Walls of the Missing display the names of 1,557 who were missing.
The chapel and memorial with its colonnade and granite statues and the extensive visitors’ center are worth visiting. But what really stuck out for me here was the path alongside a wall overlooking the sea. The orderly lines of the graves of the dead…the flag flying high…the blue waves below…the benches perfect for sitting and looking out. It is designed to be a place of remembrance and reflection and is a worthy place of pilgrimage. “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Rhone American Cemetery and Memorial
This smaller 12-acre circular cemetery holds the remains of 851 American military dead, as well as the names of 294 missing—most lost during the liberation of southern France. There are cypress and olive trees and quiet gardens, a devotional chapel and mural, mosaics.
Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial
(See above in World War I American cemeteries in France.)
Other patriotic American sites in France:
Picpus Cemetery is the resting place for 1,306 people executed during the Great Terror of 1794. It most famously houses the remains of the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American & French Revolutions.