U.S. service members buried where they fell during the 1944 D-Day invasion of France in World War II will be honored this year by Maine-made balsam wreaths.

Wreaths Across America, a Maine nonprofit that places wreaths on the graves of U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen, plans to ship almost 9,400 wreaths to Normandy, France, next month to adorn the headstones of Americans buried at the national cemetery there.

Every year, the group places hundreds of thousands of wreaths on veterans’ graves in 1,500 cemeteries across the U.S. but is expanding the practice for men and women buried overseas, said director of communications Amber Caron.

“It has been something our founder has always wanted to do,” she said. “As we are leading into the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, we thought it would be fitting to do it at the end of this year.”

Wreaths Across America recently got permission from the French government to ship the wreaths across the Atlantic and place them at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. Ceremonial wreaths will be placed on the five beaches where Allied soldiers landed at low tide “for all the men who did not come out of the water that day,” Caron said.

More than 160,000 Allied soldiers invaded the French coast on June 6, 1944, in a surprise attack on German forces occupying the country. It is usually considered the beginning of the end of the war in Western Europe.

Maine wreaths will be air-shipped to France and distributed on Dec. 1 by volunteers from the organization and from the local community, according to Caron. Anyone interested in making the trip on their own can volunteer, she said.

The organization hopes to place wreaths in Normandy every year, and eventually place them in U.S. military cemeteries across the world. The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains 26 permanent U.S. military cemeteries and 29 federal monuments and markers in 16 countries, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Philippines, the United Kingdom and Italy.

“With everything we do, it is about the mission to honor and teach,” Caron said. “Hopefully doing this we will get more people involved.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.