National D-Day Memorial

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National D-Day Memorial pool with Overlord Arch

The National D-Day Memorial is a war memorial located in Bedford, Virginia. It serves as the national memorial for American D-Day veterans. However, its scope is international in that it states, "In Tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944" and commends all Allied Armed Forces during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 during World War II.[1]

The memorial, bordering the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia, is an area of over 50 acres (200,000 m2) that overlooks the town of Bedford. It officially opened on June 6, 2001 with 15,000 people present, one of whom was then-President George W. Bush.[2] About 60,000 people have visited the memorial each year. Of those, more than half are from outside of Virginia.

The "Bedford Boys" and the location of the memorial[edit]

Thirty-four Virginia National Guard soldiers from the town of Bedford were part of D-Day. Nineteen of them were killed during the first day of the invasion, and four more died during the rest of the Normandy campaign. The town and the "Bedford Boys" had proportionately suffered the greatest losses of the campaign, thus inspiring the United States Congress to establish the D-Day memorial in Bedford.[3][4]

The Bedford Boys included two sets of brothers: twins Roy and Ray Stevens, with Ray killed during the landing while Roy survived, and Bedford and Raymond Hoback, both killed.[5] The losses by the soldiers from Bedford were chronicled in the best-selling book The Bedford Boys by Alex Kershaw, and helped inspire the movie Saving Private Ryan.[6] The movie's director, Steven Spielberg, helped fund the memorial, including funding for the creation of the Arnold M. Spielberg Theater, in honor of his father, a World War II veteran.[7]

The National D-Day Memorial Foundation[edit]

The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3)organization that had its beginnings as a small committee in 1988 with the prospect of building a memorial to dedicate the sacrifices made by the Allied Forces on D-Day. The idea had been looked at, but support for its completion did not exist prior to the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion in 1994.[8]

Presently, the foundation is headquartered in Bedford. After 8 months of 2 co-presidents, In May of 2013, April Cheek-Messier was named the president of The National D-Day Memorial Foundation. It charges itself with expanding the memorial, such as when it listed on plaques the name of every one of the 4,413 Allied soldiers who died in the invasion, the most complete list of its kind anywhere in the world. The memorial is currently trying to one better itself with its attempt to compile a list of every service member that participated in Operations Overlord and Neptune (Overlord was the code name of actual invasion whereas Neptune was code for getting the troops across the English Channel for the invasion).[9] The organization also involves itself in assisting veterans and their families such as undertaking the search for family members of soldiers whose personal belongings have been found after years of being lost.[10]

Fundraising and building the memorial[edit]

Detail from the memorial

Fundraising and building the memorial took approximately seven years of planning and approximately $25 million to complete. In 1994, the town of Bedford donated 11 acres (45,000 m2) of land to the memorial. The foundation purchased additional acreage, bringing the total size of the memorial to 50+ acres. In 1997, the foundation received a one million dollar donation from Charles Schulz, who, with his wife, volunteered to head a fundraising campaign for the memorial.[11]

According to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, the memorial is a continuum of three distinct plazas which follow on a time line. The first plaza, Reynold's Garden, symbolizes the planning and preparation activities for the invasion through the execution of the order for the invasion. It is in the shape of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force combat patch. The second level, Gray Plaza, reflects the landing and fighting stages of the invasion. It includes what is called the invasion pool with beach obstacles in the water, sculptures of soldiers struggling ashore, and a representation of the Higgins craft used for the invasion. This section includes intermittent jets of water spurting from the pool replicating the sights and sounds of sporadic gunfire. The names of the United States' losses appear on the west necrology wall of the central plaza, the rest of the Allies' losses on the east necrology wall. In the spirit of Dwight D. Eisenhower's one-team command philosophy for the AEF, no other distinctions are made.[1] The last and uppermost plaza, Estes Plaza, celebrates victory and includes the Overlord Arch and the twelve flags of those Allied nations that served in the Allied Expeditionary Force. The Overlord Arch represents the victory of Operation Overlord and bears the invasion date of June 6, 1944 in its height at 44 feet (13 m) and 6 inches (150 mm) tall.[1]

Tourism[edit]

The memorial is open Monday through Sunday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. During the months of January and February and part of March, the invasion pool is drained for maintenance. In addition to the memorial's static displays, on several weekends throughout the year, the memorial hosts events relating to remembering World War II. Examples of such events have included a weekend long encampment of World War II re-enactors and a World War II-style religious mass in addition to Memorial, Veteran's, and D-Day activities that occur annually.[1]

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 37°19′50″N 79°32′10″W / 37.33056°N 79.53611°W / 37.33056; -79.53611

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d The National D-Day Memorial Foundation
  2. ^ Alex Kershaw. The Bedford Boys. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003, p. 234
  3. ^ "Why Bedford?". National D-Day Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  4. ^ Seale, Shelley (5 June 2015). "A Virginia town remembers the Bedford Boys, who gave their lives on D-day". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  5. ^ "Bedford Boys' D-Day loss still casts shadow in Virginia town". CBS News. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  6. ^ Hale, Julie (November 2004). "The Bedford Boys". bookpages.com. BookPage. Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  7. ^ "Memorial Day evokes D-Day memories". The Washington Times. 29 May 2000. Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  8. ^ Kershaw. Bedford Boys. p. 233
  9. ^ "Education." National D-Day Memorial. http://www.dday.org/index.php?page=education
  10. ^ Searching for Family of D-Day Soldier to return Items. WSLS 10 On Your Side, reported by Angela Hatcher (February 18, 2010; Roanoke, VA; NBC affiliate, WSLS)
  11. ^ Kershaw. Bedford Boys. p. 233-35

Byron Dickson, Architect. The National D-Day Memorial: Evolution of an Idea. 104 pp. (ISBN 978-0-615-44142-9)

External links[edit]