National D-Day Memorial: Remember, Learn, Share
It’s always a bit humbling when you learn that something you thought you knew all your life is not exactly spot on. I learned something new from my visit to National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. So I thought that I’d share it.
Since WWI, the Army used the codes D-Day and H-Hour when the actual day and time of battle were undisclosed. For example, D-3 means D minus 3, or three days before the operation. Likewise, D+27,393 is 27,393 days or 75 years after D-Day. It so happens that this June 6, we commemorate 75 years since the Normandy Invasion that turned the tides for Allied Forces in World War II.
D-Day was not the name of the operation
My brother Clay, a WWII buff, would give me a hard time if he knew that I always thought that D-Day was the name of the June 6, 1944 operation. As a boomer, growing up in the postwar era, I understood ‘D-Day’ to mean that specific – and horrific – battle on the coast of Normandy, France. I didn’t know it by its true name, ‘Operation Overlord’ until I visited the poignant National D-Day Memorial while touring Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway.
Why is the National D-Day Memorial in the small town of Bedford, Virginia?
“Why is this here?” was one of the first things I asked myself when I learned that the National D-Day Memorial was just nine miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the beautiful and rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. I thought that such a massive memorial complex would be situated in Washington DC or another high-population area. Not in the small town of Bedford, Virginia.
Fact is that this rural Virginia town with a population of around 3,000 in 1944 suffered higher per capita casualties of the campaign than any place in the US. Twenty-two of the 32 Bedford men who were part of the invasion died.
“This somber connection to D-Day and the community’s commitment to honor the sacrifice of those brave souls are two of the primary reasons Bedford was selected as the location for the National D-Day Memorial, which opened in 2001,” explains Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge website.
Best-selling book “The Bedford Boys” inspires the movie Saving Private Ryan
The best-selling book “The Bedford Boys” documents the small town’s losses. It was this book by journalist Alex Kershaw that inspired the movie Saving Private Ryan. In fact, Steven Spielberg, the movie’s director, is a benefactor of the National D-Day Memorial. He donated to the memorial in memory of his father, who was a WWII vet. Incidentally, Kershaw recently published another book about D-Day (on May 14, 2019) entitled “The First Wave.” It’s now on my “Want to Read” Goodreads list.
Moved to Tears
Although each paid admission includes a complimentary guided walking tour, I chose to walk through parts of the 50-acre monument alone. While strolling the paved pathways, I was unexpectedly moved both emotionally and spiritually. Through the sounds of the fountains, the emotion depicted in the statues and the informative bronze tableaux, I experienced a connection with those who turned the course of human history and was moved to tears.
In tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944
Flags of all the countries, which made up the Allied Forces, cracked in the stiff wind. The memorial commemorates the sacrifice of all D-Day participants and not just the local heroes. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded on D-Day alone. United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Danish sailors participated in the battle along a 50-mile stretch of beach held by the Nazis.
SHAEF Commanders honored at National D-Day Memorial
Th SHAEF Commanders honored at National D-Day Memorial are shown in the above photo and are left to right: Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, Commander in Chief, 12th US Army Group; Admiral Sir Bertram H Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander in Chief, Expeditionary Force; Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander, Expeditionary Force; General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Expeditionary Force; General Sir Bernard Montgomery, Commander in Chief 21st Army Group; Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Allied Air Commander, Expeditionary Force; and Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower.
A sculpture of General Dwight D Eisenhower is inside the garden folly surrounded by busts of of his principal subordinates.
After returning home, memories continued to come up and I finally made a list of all the personal connections that I have to D-Day.
- Born at Fort Campbell, KY, home to the 11th Airborne Division (Air Assault) and later the reactivated 101st Airborne, I am an Army brat. The 101st is known for its role in Operation Overlord and other operations in WWII.
- As a young high school foreign exchange student to Normandy in the 1970s, I was profoundly moved by a visit to Omaha Beach.
- In the 1990s, I stayed at the Grosvenor House in London adjacent to Hyde Park and was surprised to learn that the hotel’s “The Great Room,” originally built as an ice-rink, became an officers’ club during WWII. Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton were regular visitors.
- This year, while on a Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge press trip, I made an unplanned visit to the National D-Day Memorial. I’m glad I did.
What are YOUR connections to D-Day? Please leave a comment below.
The memorial will commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day June 6-9, 2019 with a huge airshow. I wish I could be there. Maybe somehow I can pick up the live streaming between the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, and Normandy, France. If you know how I could do that, please leave a comment below.
National D-Day Memorial
3 Overlord Cir, Bedford, VA 24523
IF YOU GO
$10 per adult – includes guided walking tour
$8 per Veteran or Active Duty Military
$6 per student (ages 6-18) or older with valid college ID
Under 6 – free
Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm with the exception of Monday closings December through February. Closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day, and at noon on New Year’s Eve.
Walking tours are scheduled daily between 10 AM and 4 PM. Guided walking tours are approximately one hour and leave from the Gift Store Quonset hut.
The Arizona travel writer, UNSTOPPABLE STACEY, was hosted for her visit to Virginia’s Blue Ridge as is typical in the travel industry. However, the journalist believes in full disclosure and reminds her readers that her opinions are her own.
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