The D-Day invasion occurred on June 6, 1944 in Normandy, France during World War II. A significant number of lives were lost during that day. As a way of remembering those who lost their lives, the National D-Day Memorial was created in southwestern Virginia, bordering the Blue Ridge Mountains. The memorial opened on June 6, 2001 with then-Pres. George W. Bush and 15,000 other people in attendance. Today, approximately 70,000 people visit the memorial every year. More than half of these people come from outside of Virginia as a way of paying respect.
The National D-Day Memorial – A Historical Virginia Attraction
The National D-day Memorial is located in Bedford because it lost more residents per capita during the Normandy landings than any other American community. There were a total of 19 soldiers from Bedford that were killed on D-Day. Additionally, there were another three soldiers that died later on throughout the Normandy campaign.
To this day, Bedford continues to have relationships with 11 communities found along the Normandy coast of France. One of the sister cities, Trévières, sent the city an exact replica of a World War I memorial statue that they have within their city. The statue was damaged during World War II and the statue is now found at the site of the World War 2 Memorial as well.
It took the National D-day Memorial foundation approximately 7 years of planning to erect the memorial and the total cost of was somewhere around $25 million. 11 acres of land was donated to the Memorial from the town of Bedford.
There are three distinct plazas within the World War 2 Memorial, all of which follow a timeline. The first plaza is symbolic of the planning and preparation for the invasion all the way through the order of execution. The second level is known as Gray Plaza and is symbolic of the landing and fighting during the invasion. There is an invasion pool complete with obstacles found in the water and beach as well as sculptures of struggling soldiers on the shoreline. On the west wall, there are names of all of the US soldiers who were lost. The final plaza is the Estes Plaza and is symbolic of victory. The Overlord Arch as well as 12 allied nations’ flags are included here. The Overlord Arch is what is most commonly photographed when people talk about the National D-day Memorial. It also bears the invasion date of June 6, 1944 and stands 44 feet high.
Honor the Fallen Soldiers Of D-Day With A Visit To The World War 2 Memorial In Virginia
The World War 2 Memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia, which is just outside of Lynchburg. The memorial itself is open seven days a week, from 10 AM to 5 PM, however, during the winter months, the invasion pool is typically drained for maintenance purposes.
There are always static displays and on some weekends throughout the year, you can see reenactments, a World War II style religious mass, and various other activities. These events take place on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and D-day annually. On those days, there is an influx in tourists so make sure that you allow plenty of time to visit to combat the larger crowds.
In addition to visiting the Memorial, you may also want to visit some of the other sites throughout Virginia. North of Bedford is the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, which are great for hiking. There are many exciting trails, which is why this forest is one of the top Virginia attractions. You may also decide to travel to the northeast and visit Washington DC where there is another World War 2 Memorial.
If you choose to stay within the state, there are various other war memorials throughout the history of the country as well as Jamestown, which is approximately 3 hours away from Bedford, to the east. Jamestown is an interactive historical park where you can learn more about the settlement and the various reenactments throughout the year.
You won’t need to spend money at the World War 2 Memorial to remember D-Day, but you will want to plan ahead if you want to see one of the reenactments or visit on a specific holiday or there is something additional going on. As one of the premier Virginia tourist attractions, visiting the National D-Day Memorial is a great way to get a dose of history and culture while playing homage to the brave soldiers who lost their lives fighting for country.