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The National D-Day Memorial is located in tiny Bedford, Virginia -- here's why

WJLA – Washington D.C. 3 days ago Kevin Lewis
© Provided by WJLA – Washington D.C.

The National D-Day Memorial is located in the tiny town of Bedford, Virginia. It's located around four hours southwest of D.C. and 40 minutes due east of Roanoke.

“I don’t know if there’s really a better place for this memorial," memorial tour guide Imogene Morris said. "We have the dubious honor of having the highest per capita loss of any community across the country on D-Day itself. We lost 19 young men in the first 15 minutes, basically, of the beach invasion, and one more later that day. [Bedford, Virginia was a] community of about 3,200 people [at the time]. That’s a really heavy burden to bear.”

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The memorial is broken into four sections. The tour begins in an English garden. A sculpture of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower stands within a folly. A tile mosaic above Eisenhower's head depicts his bold and complex D-Day invasion plan.

“[Eisenhower] actually carried a hand-written note in his pocket on D-Day, where if it failed, he was going to take personal responsibility and resign. That’s a leader. Pretty special," Morris remarked.

There are six busts in the garden. Morris referred to the men as Eisenhower's war cabinet. They were in the room when Eisenhower gave the go.

“The large plaque that we have here, this was Eisenhower’s order of the day. The retired teacher is going to give you a homework assignment. If you go to YouTube and you type in 'Eisenhower’s order of the day,' you can hear him deliver this. It is remarkable, the recordings, videos and photographs, that we have from D-Day.”

The memorial's second section uses a large plaza to symbolize troops crossing the English Channel. The Bedford Boys, as they're called, were part of Company A.

“When Company A got there on D-Day, it was almost the low of low tide. They had a beach the depth of at least three football fields to cross, with virtually no cover. How did anybody make it? It just amazes me. Company A goes in on D-Day with 170 men. By the end of the day, 91 dead, and 64 wounded. This will leave 15 to fight another day. They’re just decimated.”

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Bronze plaques along the plaza bear the names of the more than 4,400 allied service members who were killed on D-Day. One side lists all of the American names, the opposite side contains the names from all of the other Allied nations.

“That’s our bullets going off. Like bullets hitting the water," Morris said, referring to a water feature in the memorial's reflecting pool. "The curved structures with the darkened windows are to be like the German bunkers, and they just wipe us out. There are no waterfalls on the beaches, that’s there for noise. Nothing, I’m sure compared to real life, but it gives you a little more of the feel for it.”

A triumphal arch stands in the memorial's third section with the word "OVERLORD" inscribed on its façade. That was the official operation name for D-Day. The black and white stripes on the top of the arch recall the pattern Allied Forces put on their aircraft to prevent friendly fire.

“[The arch] is 44 feet, six inches, for June 6, of 1944. It is remarkable the details that have been built in," Morris shared.

There are flags for all 12 Allied nations, big and small, that took part in D-Day.

“Our flag comes first in the position of honor. The rest then are in alphabetical order. So, Australia, the next one is Belgium, Canada, as close as you can get today to Czechoslovakia, then France. On the other side, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom.”

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The Memorial's fourth and final section contains a copy of a sculpture that honored 42 men from a small French town, killed during the span of World War I.

“Then over two decades later, on D-Day of all days, [the sculpture] was hit, she was knocked over, she was damaged, and our copy shows the same damage, missing part of the face, the jaw, the neck. The reason they left the damage was to be a constant reminder of how fragile peace is. This is our copy of that. So, she’s really special," Morris added.

For hours of operation, ticket prices, and other frequently asked questions, visit The National D-Day Memorial's website.

GENERAL EISENHOWER'S FULL ORDER OF THE DAY

"Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

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