WASHINGTON — One by one the names were read, of the boys who became men for hours and days before being gun downed on the cliffs and beaches of Normandy 75 years ago today.
The almost 9,000 names of those buried in the Normandy American Cemetery in France rang out to the few ears at the World War II Memorial at the National Mall in Washington on Wednesday, the eve of the invasion. There is no complete list of those who were killed at Normandy.
A few blocks away, at the National Museum of American History, one of the grabbing hooks used by U.S. Rangers to scale the steep Point du Hoc cliff-side is on display. It is believed to be one of only two remaining.
There are no remembrances regarding D-Day at the Pentagon. The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, is in Normandy for 75th anniversary events.
Asked why there was no recognition at the Pentagon for this anniversary, Pentagon officials had no reply.
The Veterans Administration estimates that about 348 World War II veterans die every day. According to news reports, just 30 U.S. veterans of D-Day were scheduled to go to France for this year’s anniversary.
“D-Day doesn’t resonate historically in the U.S. like it does in Europe. It just doesn’t,” Earl Tilford, a military historian and retired Air Force intelligence officer, told TMN in an interview.
“For Europeans D-Day meant and still means the beginning of the end of the Nazis. On another level it means the end of the war that began 30 years earlier in the summer of 1914,” he said. “For the U.S., D-Day indeed represents an enormous multi-national operation done successfully. Historically, they are commemorating a watershed event. We’re recalling a bloody but successful operation.”
Perhaps it is fitting that D-Day is being remembered more in events large and small across America, in many of the towns where the soldiers whose names were read Wednesday night left to be in the liberation of Europe.
In Herndon, Va., 23 miles from the memorial, the high school band is participating in celebrations in Normandy. Band members planned to carry photos and vignettes of crew members who served on the USS Herndon during the invasion, one of the lead ships in the armada. USS Herndon veteran James Clemont, 94, of Minnesota, is to join the band’s trip.
Also in Virginia is the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, 203 miles from the World War II Memorial. This monument was dedicated in 2001 and has the names of more than 4,400 Allied soldiers who died during the invasion. It stands on an 88-acre memorial that features a 44-foot tall granite arch, a reflecting pool and English gardens.
Nineteen of 32 soldiers from Bedford were killed on D-Day, the highest per capita loss of any town or city in America.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) spoke at the remembrance on Wednesday and noted what D-Day meant to those oppressed by the Nazi regime. They heard that the Allies had landed and it gave them hope as it did all Americans, Kaine said. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to deliver remarks at today’s ceremony.
Muskegon, Ohio, 693 miles from the memorial, is celebrating the anniversary with displays vendors and tours of the USS LST 393 (landing ship tank) used in the landings and then to carry more than 5,000 Nazi soldiers to prisoner-of-war camps in Britain; there will also be a USO-style dance.
In Portsmouth, N.H., 492 miles from the memorial, two of the last remaining high-speed motor boats used in the invasion are on display.
Conneaut, Ohio, 369 miles from the memorial, has a reenactment of the landing planned for this summer.
Museums are also doing their part.
The WWII Museum in New Orleans was to start observance of D-Day today at 6 a.m. — the approximate time the invasion began. All day real-time briefings are to be reported as if it were 1944. Visitors can board a Higgins boat replica to get a sense of what troops felt as they rode the waves to shore.
Other ceremonies are planned in locations that include the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Va.; the National Museum of the Air Force in Riverside, Ohio; the International Museum of World War II in Natick, Mass.; the Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Spring, Calif.; the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, N.Y., and the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh.
By the time the last names were being read at the World War II Memorial in Washington, the wind whipped up as the skies much as it did the night in England on June 5, 1944, in the hours before the invasion was to begin.