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The National D–Day Memorial

The National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA The National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA:
The Final Tribute
In a sleepy little Virginia town stands a large, multi–part memorial commemorating 'the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Armed Forces who landed in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.'

Founded by the nonprofit National D–Day Memorial Foundation, the National D-Day Memorial (www.dday.org) is located in Bedford, Virginia, the home town of the Bedford Boys, a US military unit that suffered the worst American casualties of that fateful day.

Bedford, population 3,200 in 1944, was the home of Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment. Of the 170–soldier company, 91 men died, 64 were wounded, and only 15 were able to continue fighting by the end of D–Day. Of the 35 Bedford soldiers in the company, 19 died on D–Day, thus accounting for the highest per capita loss from any single community in the United States.

The Virginia unit was the only National Guard contingent to land in the first wave of D–Day; all others were regular Army units composed of recruits from across the United States. Thus, the heavy losses sustained by the 116th on Omaha Beach translated into devastating losses for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944, now known simply as D–Day, was the turning point in World War II – the decisive battle that spelled the beginning of the end of Hitler’s dream of Nazi domination of the world. It was the largest military operation ever undertaken. On June 6 alone, 2,499 Americans and 1,914 allies lost their lives, 4,413 in all.

By placing the Memorial outside of Washington, D.C., it is emblematic of all communities, large and small, whose citizen–soldiers answered the nation’s call to arms. Years of hard work and dedication were finally realized on June 6, 2001 when the Memorial officially opened to the public. At the dedicatory ceremony President George W. Bush, Jr. said, "You have raised a fitting memorial to D–Day, and you have put it in just the right place – not on a battlefield of war, but in a small Virginia town, a place like so many others that was home to the men and women who helped liberate a continent."

The Monument features three plazas, each commemorating a specific stage in the D–Day invasion, from planning to victory. The English Garden connects the site with England and Southwick House in particular, site of Allied headquarters and staging area for the invasion. Here the patch worn by the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force is depicted in a large–scale floral display. Cast in bronze nearby is Eisenhower’s Order of the Day, issued to every D–Day participant as the invasion got underway. An English Folly houses a larger–than–life–size statue of Gen. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of SHAEF.

The National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA The National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA:
The Invasion Pool
The Invasion Tableau is the centerpiece of the Middle Plaza, a large blue–gray expanse symbolizing the channel crossing from England to France. At the far end of the plaza is a stylized landing scene, where a granite representation of a Higgins landing craft sits at the edge of a large pool leading to a sandy beach. Three life–size bronze sculptures 'Through the Surf,' 'Across the Beach,' and 'Death on Shore' capture scenes commonplace on the morning of the landing. Air jets beneath the water create the illusion of enemy fire in the water around the statues. The soldiers appear to be moving toward a German bunker, a heavy concrete structure that forms the backdrop of the landing scene. Nearby, circular outparcel areas house tributes to the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Corps to honor all branches of service participating in the invasion. The National D–Day Memorial is the only institution in the world to have researched and created a name–by–name listing of those killed on June 6, 1944. The names are inscribed on bronze plaques and displayed at the Memorial on the Necrology Wall.

Victory Plaza features a Victory Arch, 44–foot, 6–inch tall, inscribed with the word "OVERLORD," the operational name for the invasion of Normandy. Centered beneath the arch is 'Final Tribute,' a bronze rendering of a soldier’s battlefield grave marker. The code names of the five D–Day landing beaches are inscribed in a semicircle around the arch base. The plaza is surrounded by flags of the 12 Allied nations that participated in the invasion: the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

An education center including a theatre, exhibit spaces, seminar and video rooms, computer education work stations, and research and archival space is being planned to complete the memorial complex.

Read more about the Bedford Boys here

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