June 5, 2008
Bedford to observe 64th Anniversary of D-Day Invasion
The National D-Day Memorial was dedicated on June 6, 2001. Bedford was chosen as the location for the Memorial because the community experienced this country’s severest per capita losses on D-Day.
The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford will observe the 64th Anniversary of D-Day on Friday, June 6th with a special ceremony at 11 a.m. Program highlights include wreath-laying, recognition of D- Day veterans, guest speakers and music.
Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division will be on hand to act as escorts for D- Day veterans attending the ceremony. The battalion also has units in Bedford, Christiansburg and Roanoke.
“It is a real honor for us to escort the D-Day veterans,” said Maj. Scott Smith, commander of 1st Battalion. “Our Soldiers share the same 29th Infantry Division patch as those who stormed the beach of Normandy, and many of these Soldiers have served their country in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. It is a tremendous connection that both generations share.”
Dedicated by the President of the United States on 6 June 2001, the National D-Day Memorial exists in tribute to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The National D- Day Memorial Foundation operates and maintains the Memorial. Its
educational mission is to preserve the lessons and legacy of D-Day.
One of modern history’s watersheds, D-Day was the climactic engagement of the Second World War. The Allies’ successes on D-Day foreshadowed the dissolution of Hitler’s Third Reich. Operation Overlord’s epic scope remains unprecedented. On June 6, 1944, an Allied Expeditionary Force representing twelve nations launched more than 5,000 boats and ships, 11,000 aircraft, 28,000 aerial sorties, and landed 150,000 ground troops.
The D-Day cost was high with more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.
According to the Memorial’s official web site, Congress warranted the establishment of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford because it was “emblematic of all communities, large and small, whose citizen-soldiers served on D-Day.”
Like eleven other Virginia communities, Bedford provided a company of soldiers (Company A) to the 29th Infantry Division when the National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment was activated on February 3, 1941. Some thirty Bedford soldiers were still in that company on D-Day, and several more from Bedford were in other D-Day companies, including one who, two years earlier, had been reassigned from the 116th Infantry to the First Infantry Division.
By day’s end, nineteen of the company’s Bedford soldiers were dead. Two more Bedford soldiers died later in the Normandy campaign, as did yet another two assigned to other 116th Infantry companies. Bedford’s population in 1944 was about 3,200. Proportionally this
community suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses.
Operation Overlord was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken before or since June 6, 1944. Many of the first young men, most not yet 20 years old, entered the surf carrying eighty pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection.
The Memorial has four major components that represent the sweep of D-Day from the early planning and preparation for it, through the Channel crossing and landing in France, on to the Allied victory and consolidation on the beaches, and beyond Normandy into the landscape of postwarEurope. Within those components, visitors encounter a moving array of small memorials and tributes. Many of those are brought to life by the figurative sculpture emplaced throughout the