On The Beach ©
This article will be a comprehensive
overview of the 11 American and 2 German
temporary cemeteries established during the
Normandy Campaign. The Graves Registration
Company’s basic function was to establish
cemeteries, collect the dead and oversee the
identification and burial of the dead. They
were to also catalog all personal
possessions found on the deceased.
The Company consisted of Headquarters, 1st,
2nd, 3rd and 4th
Platoons. The Headquarters Platoon
contained the same number of men as Platoons
1 to 4 but performed a different function.
Headquarters Platoon had two officers, the
Company Commander and the Executive Officer,
who was a Civil Engineer and was responsible
for plotting and laying out the cemeteries.
The Executive Officer had two Technical
Sergeants under him serving as draftsman.
The rest of the Headquarters Platoon
consisted of medics, clerks, cooks,
mechanics and drivers.
A Platoon consisted of one officer and 25
enlisted men and was broken into Platoon
Headquarters and 1st, 2nd
and 3rd sections. Platoon
Headquarters contained a Lieutenant, the
Platoon leader and a Staff Sergeant
assistant Platoon leader, a clerk and 3
medics attached from Company Headquarters.
The Staff Sergeant was responsible for
verifying all records of burial from his
squads and submitting them to Company
Each section contained a collecting squad
and an evacuation squad. The collecting
squad had a squad leader and 2 enlisted men
whose job was to recover bodies from the
battlefield and recover personal effects.
They would then take the dead and their
personal effects to the collecting point.
The collecting point was run by the
The evacuation squad contained a squad
leader, attached Staff Sergeant Medic, 2
truck drivers and a clerk. The evacuation
squad leader and medic would establish
identification and try to determine the
cause of death. The clerk’s job was to list
and dispose of the personal effects
properly, sending it to Company
Each of the four Platoons was attached to a
Division for the invasion of Normandy. In
the case of the 607th, the 1st
Platoon was not assigned to a division due
to losses suffered in Exercise Tiger. The 2nd
Platoon was attached to the Sixth Engineer
Special Brigade; 3rd Platoon to
the Fifth Engineer Special Brigade both on
Omaha Beach and the 4th Platoon
was attached to the First Engineer Special
Brigade that came ashore on Utah Beach.
Some of the companies held back a Platoon in
reserve such as the 606th which
kept the 4th Platoon with Company
Headquarters at the start of the invasion.
The original plan was for the Beach
Battalion Groups under the Engineer Special
Brigades to establish collecting points.
The dead would be transported to the
cemeteries established by the 607th
2nd and 3rd Platoons
on D +3, 9 June. The planned location of
the two cemeteries was near Cricqueville and
At 1530 hours 6 June 1944 the 3rd
Platoon of the 607th
Quartermaster Graves Registration Company
landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy. The
Platoon consisted of First Lieutenant Robert
E. Berry and 25 Enlisted men. They were
attached to the Sixth Engineer Special
Brigade and were the first Graves
Registration troops to arrive in Normandy.
Due to the nature of the fighting when the 3rd
Platoon arrived on the beach the dead lay
where they fell on the beach or were
floating amongst the wreckage of the first
waves of the invasion. The Platoon did not
receive any help from the Beach Battalions
who were still working to clear the beach
exits. They did receive assistance from 309th
Quartermaster Railhead Company and the 3168th
Quartermaster Service Company as well as
The other problem was that both
Cricqueville and Sainte Honorine, the
original locations for the cemeteries, were
still occupied by the enemy.
They quickly set up a collecting point to
start processing the dead that were located
in front of Dog Green Beach. 3rd Platoon of
the 607th opened American
Cemetery Number 2 on Omaha Beach 7 June 1944.
The Cemetery was located just to the west of
the Vierville Draw Exit 1 on the far edge of
Dog Green. The cemetery was established in
the area of the largest amount of
casualties, where Companies A and B and D of
the 29th Infantry’s 116th
Infantry Regiment had landed on D-Day. Co A
was the boys from Bedford, and they left 85
men dead on the beach. Co B of the 116th
lost 54 men on Omaha Beach, Co D 33 men.
 Between these two
companies 172 men were buried on the beach,
over one third of the 457 men buried there
between 7 June and 9 June.
Trenches were dug by bulldozer with one dog
tag left with the dead with the other dog
tag attached to a simple wooden stake. The
Cemetery at Omaha Beach had not been planned
but due to the high number of casualties and
for reasons of sanitation the burials could
not wait. Another factor was one of morale.
The Army didn’t want incoming troops to see
scores of dead Americans on the beach.
7 June saw the arrival of the 2nd
Platoon of the 606th Graves
Registration Company attached to the 29th
Infantry Division. The 1st and 3rd
sections arrived between 1700 and 2300 hours
and assisted the 3rd Platoon of
the 607th with the burials on
Omaha Beach. The 606th 2nd
Platoon’s 2nd section arrived 8
June at 0900 hours and the Platoon
Headquarters at 1400 hours.
The 1st Platoon of the 606th
was attached to the 1st Infantry
Division arrived on 8 June at 0950 hours on
Omaha Beach and moved inland to establish
collecting points with each regimental
combat team of the 1st Infantry
Division. The collecting points consisted
of three men from the 606th and
11 men from the Service Company of each
Regiment. They would perform that duty
until they rejoined the Company on 14 July.
While the 3rd Platoon of the 607th
and 2nd Platoon 606th
continued with the task of burying the dead
on the beach, 8 June also saw the arrival of
the 607th 2nd Platoon
who was attached to the Fifth Engineer
The 25 enlisted men were led by First
Lieutenant Ernest J. Terry. The 2nd
Platoon arrived on shore at 1145 hours and
promptly moved up the bluffs overlooking
Omaha Beach. There they established what
was to become the first Permanent American
Cemetery in France.
This Cemetery was named St. Laurent Number 1
and was established on the site that was to
become the Normandy American Cemetery. This
Cemetery was established as the first of two
planned cemeteries. The Omaha Beach
Cemetery was closed on 9 June. The 607th
3rd Platoon moved to the St.
Laurent Cemetery No. 1 on 11 June to assist
the 2nd Platoon.
Following the closing of the Omaha Beach
Cemetery the 606th 2nd
Platoon moved to the La Cambe area and set
up the planned Second Cemetery on 10 June
and established collecting points with the
29th Infantry Division. These
tasks were completed between the dates of 10
thru 15 June. Assisting them was a service
Platoon consisting of 1 officer and 49
enlisted men. 14 June saw the 606th
2nd Platoon being relieved by the
2nd Platoon of the 608th
Quartermaster Graves Registration Company
now attached to the 29th Infantry
Division taking over the La Cambe Cemetery.
The 2nd Platoon of the 606th
was then attached to the 2nd
Armored Division. On 20 June the 608th
2nd Platoon was relieved by the
608th Company Headquarters and 1st
Platoon. On 25 June the 608th 2nd
Platoon began collections and evacuations
with the 29th Infantry Division.
The third Platoon of the 606th
was attached to the 2nd Infantry
Division and on 12 June established a
Division collecting point 2 miles north of
Le Molay. The remaining two Platoons
Headquarters and the 4th were moved to the
Bernesq area on 14 June to search the V
Corps area for isolated burials. The 3275
Quartermaster Service Company provided the
location for the isolated burials.
At the end of June 1944 in the V Corps
sector here is a breakdown of the Graves
Registration Companies and their locations.
The three companies located in this sector
are 606th, 607th & 608th.
The 606th has the Headquarters
and 4th Platoon located in the
Bernesq area searching for isolated
burials. 1st Platoon is attached
to the 1st Infantry Division
operating the collections point for the
Division. The 2nd Platoon is
attached to the 2nd Armored
Division and is in reserve on 30 June. The
3rd Platoon is operating the
collections points for the 2nd
The 607th has the entire Company
together at St. Laurent No. 1 except for the
4th Platoon. The reconstituted 1st
Platoon and the Hq Platoon joined the other
Platoons on 29 and 30 June respectively at
St. Laurent No. 1.
The 608th Headquarters and 1st
Platoon are located at the La Cambe Cemetery
performing burials. The 2nd
Platoon is running the 29th
Infantry Divisions collecting points. The 3rd
Platoon is operating the collecting points
for the 3rd Armored Division, and
the 4th Platoon is with the 30th
Infantry Division operating collecting
In The Air
The operational plan for the Utah Beach
Graves Registration Company landing also
contained an airborne component. The 603rd
Graves Registration Company had the 1st
Platoon attached to the 4th
Infantry Division; the 2nd
Platoon attached to the 9th
Infantry Division, the 3rd
Platoon to the 90th Infantry
Division and the 4th Platoon to
the 82nd Airborne Division. The
4th Platoon sent one man in via
glider on 6 June, Sergeant Elbert Legg. The
4th Platoon of the 607th
was scheduled to come ashore on Utah Beach.
They were attached to the 1st
Engineer Special Brigade.
Sergeant Legg came in by Glider with the 82nd
Airborne Division’s 407th
Airborne Quartermaster Company at 2115
hours 6 June 1944, 5 ½ hours after the 607th
2nd Platoon came ashore at Omaha
Beach. After landing Legg, started
searching for a suitable spot to set up a
collecting point. After choosing a field to
set up a collecting point, Legg was
approached by 1st Lieutenant
Fraim and told that Fraim was the Graves
Registration officer for the 82nd.
Fraim was an officer in the 407th
Airborne Quartermaster Company. He told
Sergeant Legg to pick out a location for a
cemetery. Legg said that he wasn’t supposed
to open a Cemetery but set up a collecting
point to evacuate the bodies. Legg had no
supplies to run the cemetery. Fraim agreed
but stated that Legg should be prepared to
start burying men if the need arose.
Sergeant Legg selected a large open field to
establish the collecting point before dark
that already contained the bodies of dead
paratroopers. More bodies arrived, and
Lieutenant Fram told Legg to start laying
out how the burials would be started. Legg
walked to the northwest corner of the field
and used his foot to make a hole in the
ground and put a stake in, to mark the first
grave at what would become known as the
Blosville Cemetery. This cemetery was
located just to the southwest of the Les
Forges Crossroads south of Ste. Mère-Eglise.
It was actually located in the town of
Carquebut, but the Americans referred to it
with the name of the largest local town.
Sergeant Legg was told that local Frenchmen
would be hired to dig the graves as Legg’s
Platoon hadn’t arrived yet. Unbeknownst to
Legg there had been a problem back in
England with his Platoon and the two
attached Platoons of the 3041st
getting into their convoy. They would not
arrive until the night of D+7 13 June.
The morning of 7 June arrived, and the first
burials in Normandy started. The first man
buried by a Graves Registration Company was
Private Scott L. Clair of the 82nd
who had been killed on 6 June. 33 burials
were performed the first day by Legg and his
team of Frenchman. Legg had laid out a plot
of 200 graves for the Americans and the next
day started one for the Germans, as well.
He had a slit trench dug in the corner of
the field threw a shelter half over it, and
this became his office unit the balance of
his Platoon arrived.
The 4th Platoon from the 607th
came ashore on Utah Beach on 7 June and the
next morning started a cemetery in the
Pouppeville area codenamed Macon. The Macon
Cemetery was closed on 18 June, and the
Platoon is then sent to Orglandes to open
the first German Cemetery. The Orglandes
Cemetery is opened on 18 June and would
become one of two permanent German
Cemeteries in Normandy.
The 603rd 1st Platoon
was scheduled to go ashore 6 June, but due
to a malfunctioning ramp had to wait until
the 7th to go in. They were
scheduled to meet up with the 607th
4th Platoon but due to the delay
had to scrap that plan. They stayed on the
beach in the area of the 4th
Infantry Division’s Quartermaster.
The Platoon leader was 1st
Lieutenant Harry Dubrov. The next day 8
June they started the 4th
Infantry Division’s Cemetery at St. Martin.
The Cemetery was closed on 16 June, and they
joined the 3rd Platoon running
the first cemetery in Ste. Mère-Eglise.
The Cemetery at Hiesville was started for
the same reason as the one at Omaha Beach,
expediency. The 101st Airborne
Division had located there Medical Company
at Hiesville and needed to bury the bodies
of the dead. The 101st was the
only Invasion Division that was not assigned
a Graves Registration Platoon. The 101st
407th Airborne Quartermaster
Company was tasked with starting this
There was a group of glider pilots in
Hiesville awaiting an opportunity to get to
Utah Beach and transportation back to
England. They were enlisted in starting the
cemetery. German POWs were used to dig the
graves and the 407th and the
Glider Pilots oversaw the burials and filled
out the paperwork. The 607th 4th
Platoon sent a detachment of men to
Hiesville on 12 June to assist with the
German burials, processing 97 Germans before
returning to the Macon Cemetery on Utah
Beach. The last burial at Hiesville was on
The cemetery at Ste. Mère-Eglise was opened
on 10 June by the 603rd 3rd
Platoon that came ashore on 8 June. Part of
the Platoon went to St. Martin to assist the
1st Platoon and the remainder
went to Ste. Mère-Eglise to find a location
for the cemetery they were supposed to
open. This was supposed to be a cemetery
for the 90th Infantry Division’s
dead but would become the VII Corps
Cemetery. They selected a field a few
hundred yards to the east of the town
cemetery and began laying it out. The first
burials were started on 10 June in Plot B
after the rest of the Platoon had rejoined
The 2nd Platoon came ashore on June 8th
and joined the 3rd Platoon at
Realizing in the third week of June that the
first Ste. Mère-Eglise Cemetery will not be
large enough to continue burials a new site
was selected for the next Corps Cemetery.
The second cemetery at Ste. Mère-Eglise is
opened just west of the village. The name
of this cemetery is Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 2.
This was opened on 24 June by the 603rd
minus the 4th Platoon at
Orglandes and part of the 3rd
Platoon which is left behind to close up
Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 1 with the last burials
26 June 1944.
Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 2, is closed on
29 December 1944.
13 June saw the arrival of Sergeant Legg’s 4th
Platoon late in the evening. Detachment A
of the 3041st Graves Registration
Company which consisted of the 1st
and 2nd Platoons was scheduled to
land with the 603rd Hq and 4th
Platoons. The 603rd Hq Platoon
joined the rest of the Company at Ste.
Mère-Eglise No. 1 on June 14th.
The 3041st 1st Platoon
joined Legg and his 4th Platoon
at Blosville. The 2nd Platoon’s
LCVP hit a mine and 3 men were killed, and
one was listed as missing. The balance of
the 26 men was wounded and evacuated back to
England. The original Blosville Cemetery
was closed on June 14th, and the
new one is laid out in the same field with
80 more men were buried by the 603rd
and the 3041st. The 603rd
4th Platoon is sent to
Orglandes to work with the 607th
4th Platoon on 20 June.
At the end of June 1944 in the VII Corps
Sector, here is the breakdown of the Graves
Registration Companies. 603rd
minus the 4th Platoon is at Ste.
Mère-Eglise No. 2; The 4th
Platoon of the 603rd and the 4th
Platoon of the 607th are at the
German Cemetery at Orglandes. The 1st
Platoon of the 3041st is at
Blosville. The 2nd Platoon of
the 3041st has been lost when
their LCVP hit a mine; the 3rd
Platoon is in the England with the 35th
Infantry Division and would come into
Normandy during the first week of July. Hq
and 4th Platoons will arrive in
Normandy on 1 July from England rounding out
The last temporary Cemetery in Normandy is
opened outside the village of Marigny on 31
July by the 603rd Graves
Registration Company. This will be the last
of the 11 Temporary Cemeteries opened in
Normandy. Marigny will handle the
casualties from the St. Lo Breakout. Marigny
No. 1 and Marigny No. 2 are opened No. 1 for
American dead and No. 2 for the German dead.
This article while focused on the Graves
Registration Companies during the month of
June 1944 will also cover three units during
the month of July. The Hq Platoon and the 4th
Platoon of the 3041st arrive at
Blosville on 2 July. Due to the loss of the
2nd Platoon of the 3041st
14 enlisted men join as replacements on 13
July. On 14 July the 1st Platoon
of the 3042nd Graves Registration
Company is attached to the 3041st
at Blosville, as well. Blosville Cemetery
will become the largest American Cemetery in
Normandy. Burials will continue there until
late in 1947, just before the cemetery is
One of the odd facts about this campaign was
the assignments given to the 607th
4th Platoon drew during the
campaign. The 4th Platoon was
scheduled to go into Normandy with the Hq
Platoon that arrived on 29 June. Due to the
loss of most of the 1st Platoon
during Exercise Tiger the 4th
Platoon took the place of the 1st.
Platoon was the only Platoon given the task of
disinterring three cemeteries during the
campaign. First the 4th Platoon
returned to the Cemetery on Utah Beach and
disinterred and moved the bodies to Ste.
Mère-Eglise No. 2 between 24 and 29 June.
They returned to Orglandes on 1 July, but
were then ordered to Hiesville where they
disinterred the entire cemetery between July
2nd to the 4th.
On 5 July the 607th 4th
Platoon disinters the 401 American dead at
the 82nd Cemetery (Blosville) and moved them to
Plots A and B at the new part of
the Cemetery. They also remove the 131
Germans buried at Blosville to Orglandes.
The dead at the Cemetery on Omaha Beach are
disinterred on 12 and 13 July by the 607th
2nd Platoon and moved to St.
Laurent No. 1.
During the last week of August, the dead at
St. Martin are disinterred, then moved to
Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 2 by the 610th
2nd Platoon led by 1st
Lieutenant Leo M. Duffy.
The Cemeteries opened during the Normandy
Campaign in order by date were;
82nd Airborne Division Cemetery
at Blosville selected the evening of 6 June
and opened the morning of 7 June. 401
Americans are buried there when the Cemetery
is closed on 14 June. They will be moved to
the new Blosville Cemetery to Plots A and B
on 5 July 1944.
Omaha Beach which is later designated as St.
Laurent No. 2 is opened during the afternoon
of 7 June. 457 American and Allied dead are
buried there, and then disinterred and moved
to St. Laurent No. 1 12 and 13 July 1944.
The Macon Cemetery on Utah Beach is opened
on 7 June and buries 272 American, 5 Allied
and 91 German dead. The Cemetery is closed
on 18 June, and the dead are moved to Ste.
Mère-Eglise No. 2 on 24 June.
St. Martin Cemetery is opened on 8 June and
buries 264 Americans, 3 Allied and 189
German dead. The cemetery is closed on 16
June, and the dead are moved to Ste.
Mère-Eglise No. 2 during the last week of
Hiesville is opened on 8 June by the 101st
Airborne Division and Glider Pilots from
various units. 249 American and 188 German
dead are buried there. The cemetery is
closed 18 June, and the dead moved to
Blosville Cemetery on 5 July 1944.
St. Laurent No. 1 which is opened on 8 June
will see the burials of 3,643 American, 83
Allied and 1293 German dead are buried
The cemetery will be closed to burials on 14
August. The site of St. Laurent No. 1 will
become the permanent Normandy American
Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 1 was opened on 10 June
and buries 2,199 Americans and 1000
Germans. The Cemetery was closed for
burials 26 June 1944.
La Cambe Cemetery is opened on 10 June and
buries 4,227 American, and 1,616 German
The cemetery is closed for burials on 16
August. The La Cambe Cemetery site will
become one of the two Permanent German
Cemeteries in Normandy.
Blosville Cemetery is opened on 15 June for
burials in a new configuration. There will
be a total of 5,826 burials here before the
cemetery closes at the end of 1947.
The German Cemetery at Orglandes is opened
on 18 June and will see the burial of 6,074
German dead as a temporary cemetery. This
along with La Cambe becomes a Permanent
Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 2 is opened on 24 June
and buries 4,109 American and 30 Allied
dead. The Cemetery is closed to burials
late December 1944.
Marigny Number 1 is opened on 31 July 1944
and buried 3,043 American and 52 Allied
dead. The Cemetery is closed for burials
October of 1944 but will burial isolated
burials through 1945. Marigny Number 2 is
designated a German Cemetery and buried
1,553 dead as of May 1945.
Brian N. Siddall
January 6, 2013
(Updated November 7, 2023)
interview with Leo M. Duffy May 7,
 Compiled from
Graves Registration Weekly Report of