Observing the 70th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, from near and far
June 6 is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, marking the beginning of the liberation of Europe and the end of World War II. People around the world will gather at museums and memorials to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of the 175,000 Allied troops who landed along a 50-mile stretch of France’s Normandy Coast. Here are some of the events:
National WWII Museum, New Orleans
Founded by historian Stephen Ambrose in 2000, the 178,000-square-foot museum kicks off D-Day at H-hour 6 a.m., the approximate time the amphibious invasion began. D-Day briefings will be reported in real time throughout the day. Visitors can board a replica of a Higgins boat to experience the harrowing assault on the beaches or climb a rock wall while learning the story of the cliff-scaling Pointe du Hoc Rangers. In the evening, the first two episodes of the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” will be screened.
Info: June 6, https://www.nationalww2museum.org
National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Va.
The quaint community of Bedford suffered the highest per-capita D-Day losses in the nation when 22 of its young men, including two brothers, perished on June 6, 1944. Dedicated in 2001, the 88-acre memorial features a commanding 44-foot-tall granite Overlord arch, reflecting pool, English gardens and necrology walls. A morning ceremony will dedicate a new sculpture honoring the Bedford Boys. Activities to follow include a 1940s theme parade, an outdoor screening of “Casablanca” and a USO show featuring the 29th Division Band and a “Salute to Sinatra.” Also on the agenda: a P-51 and a C-47 flyover and parachute jump by the U.S. Army Golden Knights.
Info: June 6-8, https://www.dday.org
Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home, Abilene, Kan.
As supreme allied commander in Europe, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was responsible for the extensive planning of Operation Overlord. Activities will include a sunset symphony concert, the Ft. Riley Band and the official opening of “World War II Remembered” and “Be Ye Men of Valour,” exhibits exploring significant victories as well as contributions by lesser-known countries and resistance groups. A screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Ritchie Boys,” about a group of German-born Jews who escaped to America and served as interrogators in the U.S. Army, will be followed by a lecture by one of the original Ritchie Boys, Guy Stern. On June 7 museum director Timothy Rives will discuss “Not So Famous Last Words: What Did Eisenhower Say When He Launched the D-Day Invasion?”
Info: June 6 and 7, https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov
World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C.
United States Naval Academy professor and author Craig Symonds will be master of ceremonies at the commemoration. Representatives from each Allied nation that took part in the Normandy campaign will lay wreaths at the Atlantic Arch.
Info: 11 a.m. June 6, https://www.wwiimemorialfriends.org
S.S. Lane Victory, San Pedro
With France’s consul general in Los Angeles, the U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans of World War II organization will honor the D-Day anniversary at Berth 49 in San Pedro with aircraft flybys and displays of World War II-era vehicles, military hardware and memorabilia. A special ceremony for invited dignitaries and veterans who served in France and in the European liberation campaign is tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m.
Info: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. June 7. $5 adults, $2 for children, https://www.lanevictory.org
D-Day Museum & Overlord Embroidery, Portsmouth
The museum is best known for its 3-by-8-foot-long “Overlord Embroidery” tapestry, which traces the progress of Operation Overlord from 1940 to 1944. Prominently featured is piper Bill Millin, who played under fire during the landings on Sword Beach. A six-day celebration begins with a reunion of Normandy veterans, an amphibious landing on Southsea Beach by the Royal Navy and a sunset concert.
Info: June 3-8, https://www.bit.ly/1s8hmpK
Churchill War Rooms, London
Although the Imperial War Museum in London is closed in preparation for the 100th anniversary of World War I, Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s underground bunker remains open. The $30 admission will let you explore the maze of rooms where Churchill and his inner circle plotted the war and took refuge during the Blitz.
Royal Air Force Museum of London
The museum, home to more than 100 Royal Air Force aircraft such as the Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane, is hosting a free D-Day themed weekend with tank rides, tours of D-Day artifacts, live music in a 1940s tea garden, model airplane making and a screening of “Saving Private Ryan” on June 6.
Info: June 6-8, https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london
Commemorations culminate on June 6 in Ouistreham on the Normandy coast, where President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Queen Elizabeth II and Russian President Vladimir Putin will gather to remember the more than 9,000 Allied soldiers killed or wounded that day.
Through August, 5 million people are expected to attend more than 60 events in Normandy honoring the D-Day anniversary. On the agenda are tours of landing beaches, reconstruction of Allied camps, paratrooper drops, a soccer tournament, military vehicle parades, concerts, marathons and a 24-town synchronized fireworks display on June 5. With nearly every village in Normandy having its own museum devoted to D-Day it’s easy to get lost, so you can see highlights at https://www.ddayfestival.com, https://www.the70th-normandy.com
Normandy American Cemetery
This cemetery, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel, is the resting place of approximately 9,387 Americans soldiers who died in Europe during World War II. On June 6, U.S. and French troops will attend opening ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. with a ceremonial flyover, invocation, laying of wreaths and flag raising. Selected Wind Bands from across the U.S. will also perform a June 6 concert here, conducted by Col. Arnald D. Gabriel of the U.S. Air Force Band and an Army machine gunner who fought during the Battle of Normandy.
Airborne Museum, Sainte-Mère-Église
Sainte-Mère-Église became famous when American paratrooper John Steele’s parachute caught on a church steeple, leaving him hanging for hours before he was captured by the Germans. The museum is dedicated to the paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions who jumped into Normandy in the pre-dawn hours. Two aircraft that took part in the invasion, an original Waco Glider and Douglas C-47 plane Argonia, fill the main hall. In the recently opened “Operation Neptune” room, visitors can relive D-Day events as they board a C-47 in England, then land in the church square and take part in the capture of bridges and the battle of the hedgerows.
Utah Beach Museum
The 50-year-old museum, built on the beach where American troops stormed ashore, recounts the story of D-Day in 10 sequential sections from preparations to final battle. One exhibit, housed in an original German bunker, displays weapons, military equipment and everyday objects used by Nazi soldiers. Situated around the grounds are monuments and plaques honoring specific divisions and officers, including Maj. Dick Winters of Easy Company. Official ceremonies June 5 and 6 include Legion of Honor awards, parachute jumps and fireworks displays.
“The Patton Concerts: Liberation & Reconciliation for Every Generation.” Helen Patton, granddaughter of Gen. George S. Patton, will present two concerts on Utah Beach. Patton will sing a special anthem, “The Greatest Generation,” composed for the anniversary. Musicians and bands from Germany, Holland and Normandy will also perform at the free concerts.
Info: June 5 and 7, https://www.facebook.com/PattonConcerts/Info
Curated for the 70th anniversary is an exhibit of 100 civilian and military objects from 100 days of the Battle of Normandy. The pieces included signage and clothing (a wedding dress made from parachute material), goofy decoy paratrooper dummies and German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s epaulette. Take a stroll around the lush gardens on the property including the British Garden inaugurated in 2004 by Prince Charles. On the facade of the memorial, two gigantic frescoes will be painted by artists based on the theme of the liberation of Western Europe.
Info: June to September, https://www.normandy.memorial-caen.com
Closer to home, honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day by visiting these World War II-related museums and landmarks in Southern California: the Queen Mary in Long Beach (www.queenmary.com), Battleship Iowa (www.pacificbattleship.com) and SS Lane Victory, both in the Port of San Pedro, and the Gen. George S. Patton Memorial Museum (generalpattonmuseum.com) in Chiriaco Summit, Calif.
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