Seventy-Five Years After D-Day
This Thursday the world will commemorate the 75thanniversary of D-Day.
As a Navy Officer, I was stationed in Pearl Harbor for three years. As a direct result, my connections to World War II veterans became a transformational part of my career and my life.
To this day, I stay in touch with several of those veterans – including one centenarian who was a Pearl Harbor Survivor and a D-Day Survivor. USS Nevada was the only ship to get underway from battleship row on the morning of December 7, 1941. USS Nevada, and my friend Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Derby, were
Nevada was one of 3 U.S. battleships involved in D-Day operations. In total, there were more than 170 combatant ships from Allied nations, coupled with more than 500 other ships supporting the operation. More than 156,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches in and around Normandy as a part of Operation Overlord.
I’m sure you have seen reporting about the upcoming anniversary, or watched coverage of previous ceremonies. The thousands of white headstones and crosses and the dramatic cliffs are beautiful.
The closest I have been to Normandy is USS Normandy – a guided missile cruiser. I was aboard the ship on Veterans Day 1999. The ship was in port in Port Everglades, as Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg met with WWII veterans and Gold Star families. This was in between the release of “Saving Private Ryan” and the mini-series “Band of Brothers.”
In August 2010, after returning from my own wartime experience – a one-year tour in Afghanistan – I decided to visit the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.
I had heard about the memorial, and made the decision – before the days of Google maps, and GPS car navigation – to get off I-81 in Virginia and find Bedford. I am glad I did. It is a stunning memorial.
The National D-Day Memorial is intended to give you a perspective of the deadly beach landings during the invasion. The side walls, and ramp of a landing craft are made from polished granite. Sculptures are of soldiers making their way out of the boat, to the beach, and up a cliff. Some look like they will make it, but there are also sculptures of those who were killed in the attempt.
What captures your attention almost immediately is that what should be still water is disrupted on a regular basis by blasts of air from under the surface of the water. The look and the sound of the blasts of air are designed to replicate the sound and look of bullets hitting the water.
I hope my photos will give you a glimpse of this special place.
The faces on the sculptures are penetrating – especially their eyes.
And in the midst of all the death and heroism that is commemorated in this memorial – there are butterflies. The flora that surrounds the memorial is a butterfly garden.
So, the next time you are driving north on I-81 – give yourself some extra time. Take the road less traveled, and go visit the National D-Day Memorial.
The memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia because the small town had the largest per capita loss of life in D-Day operations. The town of 3,200 lost 19 sons and brothers during the invasions and another four men in the coming days of the Normandy operations.
To view more than 100 photos from the National D-Day Memorial – visit our NewsofDavidson.photos page.
Jane Campbell, U.S. Navy, Capt. ret., grew up in a military family and lived around the globe before graduating from Davidson College with a degree in Political Science. During a 25-year career in the Navy, she served aboard three different ships and held a variety of shore-based assignments. She was stationed on the East and West coasts, as well as overseas. She had tours at the Pentagon and the White House, and volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan. She moved to Davidson in late 2014 and has become involved in a variety of volunteer activities with college, church, and community. She serves as a photographer and Sports Editor for News of Davidson.