French Soldiers Fill in Engraved Headstones With Sand From Omaha Beach to Show Names of Fallen Soldiers

By: Georgia | Last updated: Oct 27, 2023

French soldiers have implemented an easy, yet effective way to highlight the names of fallen soldiers on tombstones at the Normandy American Cemetery.

Sand from Omaha Beach is taken and rubbed across the white cross grave marker, making the names of the heroic soldiers who died in battle more visible. Omaha Beach holds significance as one of the landing sites of the invasion of Normandy during World War II.

Upholding an Honorary Tradition

Filling in the engraved cross with sand from Omaha Beach is a tradition that has been carried on for decades. Soldiers and civilians who visit the burial ground to pay their respects have been known to wipe the gravestones with the sand as a symbol of honor to the soldiers who died in battle.


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While this gesture has become almost customary, a viral video showing French soldiers filling in names of the deceased has recently gained popularity.


The Headstones Were Filed in on the Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion

Congresswoman Jackie Speier attended an event to honor the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, and she captured a moving moment while visiting the Normandy American Cemetery. She noticed a French soldier carefully rubbing sand across the white grave marker, making the name of the fallen soldier more pronounced.


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“The letters on the white crosses almost disappear in the brightness of the stone, so a soldier fills the indentations with sand from Omaha Beach to bring the name forward,” Speier said on Twitter.

Putting Sand on the Grave Markers is Meaningful to Many People

In the brief clip shared by Jackie Speier, a soldier is shown rubbing sand into the white grave marker of Major William A. Richards. The soldier smooths the sand out with a sponge as he delicately makes sure that all of the indentations have been filled in. Speier wrote that witnessing the ritual “sent shivers” down her spine.


Source: Wikipedia

As the video circulated the internet, many other people shared how powerful and significant the simple gesture is to them.

The Sand-Filled Headstones Hold a Great History

The act of filling in grave markers with sand from the beach dates back to the 1950s. It has been reported that French gardeners noticed that the white headstones were difficult to read, and decided to fill in the etching with sand.


Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The sand of Omaha Beach not only represents where the fallen heroes took their last steps, it also is what makes their names stand out. The connection between the two is deeply impactful.