D-Day at 80: DC-area events commemorate anniversary of epic assault

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Commemorating D-Day on the 80th anniversary at WWII Memorial

It was the most ambitious and complex amphibious landing in history when, on June 6, 1944, 175,000 men and 50,000 vehicles, from motorcycles to armored bulldozers, crossed the English Channel and landed in Nazi-occupied France.

Almost 11,000 airplanes and 5,333 ships and crafts of all types supported the invading troops.

Code-named Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion on Normandy’s beaches was the culmination of meticulous planning, led by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The massive military operation led to the liberation of France and the eventual end of World War II.

In a 1964 interview with CBS anchor Walter Cronkite on Omaha Beach, Eisenhower said, “It’s a wonderful thing to remember what those fellows 20 years ago were fighting for and sacrificing for, what they did to preserve our way of life. Not to conquer any territory, not for any ambitions of our own. But to make sure that Hitler could not destroy freedom in the world.”

June 6 marks the 80th anniversary of what came to be called D-Day. Events and exhibits will honor those who sailed, flew, landed, survived and died during the assault. Here are some within driving distance.

Virginia War Memorial, Richmond

From June 6 through the summer of 2025, the War Memorial will share the stories of some Virginians who participated in the invasion. Visitors can see interviews and read oral histories collected over two decades ago.

The memorial’s executive director, Clay Mountcastle, said, “D-Day was one of the most significant dates in our history. With each passing year, fewer and fewer people understand the significance. There’s no better way to understand it than through the veterans that experienced it.”

Exhibits will cover the troops’ training, the landing, paratrooper and glider operations, hedgerow fights, the Battle of Saint-Lo and the Normandy Breakout. The museum will also display 65 World War II artifacts, including uniforms, helmets, photos, letters and other items.

National Museum of the U.S. Army, Lorton

The National Museum of the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir is hosting a D-Day exhibit and educational programs until mid-November.

At “D-Day: Freedom from Above,” museum-goers can “parachute” behind enemy lines using interactive “HistoPad” technology and learn the stories of Army paratroopers, who, loaded with gear, leaped out of airplanes behind enemy lines on D-Day to support the ground forces.

The exhibit also features stories of individual soldiers’ landings and their actions on the ground after landing, including friendly overtures by French villagers who provided food and medical aid.

Visitors can see four medals of honor awarded to soldiers for actions performed on D-Day, medals never before previously displayed together.

D-Day Memorial and Bedford Boys Tribute Center, Bedford

On June 6, the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, in southwest Virginia, will host a ceremony recognizing veterans with speakers, music, flyovers, a wreath laying, exhibits, an authentic Higgins boat and book signings.

Virginians had some of the heaviest losses on Normandy’s beaches with 171 killed. Bedford suffered the country’s highest known per capita D-Day loss of any community. The town and county of Bedford had 44 soldiers, sailors and airmen at Normandy, and 20 of those died, known as the “Bedford Boys.”

On June 6, the Bedford Boys Tribute Center will hold a wreath-laying in front of the courthouse, and the courthouse bell will ring once for each man killed in action. At 6:44 p.m., all of the county’s church bells will ring for one minute.

Eisenhower Historic Site, Gettysburg, Penn.

The Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg, Penn., will host a World War II weekend titled “1944: The Great Crusade” Sept. 20-22.

Visitors can enjoy three days of programs and living history, including speakers, ranger-guided tours and family activities.

More information

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