National D-Day Memorial

Perspectives ,

Posted By John Forsythe

The National D-Day Memorial, dedicated by President Bush on June 6, 2001, pays tribute to the Allied Forces who took part in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. It has hosted over 1.5 million visitors from the world over.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, over 150,000 troops made their way to the coast of Normandy. Out of the 170 soldiers in company A, 91 died, 64 were wounded, and only 15 were able to continue fighting. Most were killed within the first fifteen minutes of the assault. Of the 37 Bedford soldiers in Company A, 19 died on D-Day, as well as another soldier from company F, thus accounting for the highest per capita loss from any single community in the United States.

Fifteen years later, the Memorial is continuing in its original mission of honoring the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of the Allied Forces who participated in the Normandy invasion. Yet, it is important to note, we do not preserve the story simply for its own sake, historically momentous as it was, but rather for how it informs the world we live in today, and what it has to tell the future. We live with the effects of D-Day every day; the freedom and opportunity enjoyed by so much of the world was reborn in the first steps of Allied soldiers on Normandy’s beaches more than seven decades ago. A list of major international powers today reveals the presence of nations that over seventy years ago were either firmly under the fascist boot-heel or mightily resisting the same fate. The success of those same nations today was set in motion by millions of ordinary men and women on a single extraordinary day. The power of people, of individual courage, of innovation, these are the lessons D-Day offers the future.

In keeping with those lessons, the Memorial has embarked on exciting new initiatives as it enters the four-year commemoration phase of WWII’s 75th anniversary. Working with the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission, the Memorial is already planning for the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2019, an event that will bring international attention and most likely the last and largest gathering of Normandy veterans in the country. The event represents one of the last, best opportunities for dialogue about this pivotal moment in history between large numbers of those who lived it, those who study it, and those who live with its effects.

The Memorial is also working closely with the commission in the planning of a series of teacher symposiums in 2017 as well as panel discussions that focus on the future of WWII heritage sites once the WWII generation is no longer with us. Among our most recent initiatives on site is the creation of a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. This latest addition will be dedicated on Memorial Day 2017 and will honor Gold Star families who have sacrificed so much throughout our history.
The Memorial has embraced virtual learning through the Field Trip Zoom platform and has partnered with Google through the Google Cultural Institute and Google cardboard projects to make the Memorial more interactive. With a large collection of artifacts, our goal is to show as much as we can virtually and to provide an added resource to teachers and students. The Memorial’s virtual programming will have reached out to over 200 classrooms in downtown Chicago alone by the end of this year (the program just launched a few months ago).

The National D-Day Memorial will host the Virginia Association of Museums’ Scholarship Fundraiser Saturday, March 18th, 2017 from 4:30-7:30pm. Enjoy a guided twilight tour of Bedford’s National D-Day Memorial, which is rarely open during evening hours. A festive USO-style reception featuring refreshments, live music, and the opportunity to meet several heroes of WWII will cap off the evening.