Top 10 Things To See When Visiting The D-Day Beaches In Normandy

 

 H/T  War History OnLine. 

Normandy Visit

The Normandy landings took place on D-Day, 6 June 1944, it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. Today millions of people visit Normandy every year to see for themselves where the battle was fought. We have compiled a list of 10 things we think you should see when you visit the battlefields of Normandy.

1. Pegasus Bridge & Museum

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On the night of 5 June 1944, a force of 181 men, led by Major John Howard took off from southern England in six Horsa gliders to capture what was to become known as Pegasus Bridge. The force was composed of D Company (reinforced with two platoons of B Company), 2nd Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry; 20 sappers of the Royal Engineers of 249 Field Company (Airborne); and men of the Glider Pilot Regiment.

The object of this action was to prevent German armour from crossing the bridges and thus stop them from attacking the eastern flank of the landings at Sword Beach.

Five of the gliders landed as close as 47 yards from their objectives from 16 minutes past midnight. The attackers poured out of their battered gliders, completely surprising the German defenders, and took the bridges within 10 minutes.

The original Pegasus Bridge now resides in the grounds of the Pegasus Museum. The museum was inaugurated by HRH The Prince of Wales on 4 June 2000, Brigadier James Hill, Françoise Gondrée foundress with General Sir Richard Nelson Gale as Président and lies at the Eastern end of the current bridge.

Click for more info on the Pegasus bridge museum

2. Sword Beach – German Command bunker Ouistreham

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Just a stone’s throw from the beach and only a few minutes away from Pegasus Bridge, the Atlantic Wall Museum is housed in the former German Army HQ that controlled the batteries guarding the Orne Estuary.

Built from 5,000 tonnes of steel and concrete, this massive 17m tower which overlooks the seaside villas of Riva-Bella is unique of its kind. The tower has been restored so that it looks exactly as it did on the morning of June 6, 1944.

Inside the rooms on each of its six storeys have been entirely refurbished and returned to their original functions, including an engine room, barrack room, pharmacy, armory, ammunition store, map room, radio room, switchboard, model room and observation post with a powerful telemeter.

Spaces are also dedicated to the crack troops who breached the Atlantic Wall and the special equipment they used. The battle damage is still clearly visible.

More information can be found on their website or  Tripadvisor

3. Juno Beach Center

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The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day.

Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance.

Since 2004, the Juno Beach Centre’s Canadian guides have conducted guided tours of Juno Park, leading visitors through the remains of the Atlantic Wall, recounting the history of the D-Day Landings. The guided tour gives local context specific to Courseulles and the Battle of Normandy and complements the visit of the museum which conveys the role of Canada throughout the entire Second World War.

The bunker located in front of the Juno Beach Centre was uncovered and its access was cleared with the creation of Juno Park in 2004. This bunker was a German observation post that was part of the Atlantic Wall defence system. In 1944, it contained radio equipment that allowed its occupants to communicate with other bunkers and coordinate the defence of the beach. A machine gun post was positioned on the top of the bunker. A steel dome (removed in the late 1970s) protected the “look-out”. It is a great example of the German strategy to fortify the port of Courseulles.

Guided tours now include visiting the tunnels that lead to the underground Command Post of the 6th Company, 736th Infantry Regiment of Hauptmann Grote which controlled the site in 1944.

More information on the Juno Beach website

4. D-Day Museum Arromanches

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It was on the beach of Arromanches that, during the Invasion of Normandy immediately after D-Day, the Allies established an artificial temporary harbour to allow the unloading of heavy equipment without waiting for the conquest of deep water ports such as Le Havre or Cherbourg.

Although at the centre of the Gold Beach landing zone, Arromanches was spared the brunt of the fighting on D-Day so the installation and operation of the port could proceed as quickly as possible without damaging the beach and destroying surrounding lines of communication. The port was commissioned on 14 June 1944.

This location was one of two sites chosen to establish the port facilities to unload the massive quantities of supplies and troops needed for the invasion during June 1944, the other was built further West at Omaha Beach. The British built huge floating concrete caissons which, after being towed from England, then were formed the walls and piers forming and defining the artificial port called the Mulberry harbour.

Even today sections of the Mulberry Harbour still remain with huge concrete blocks sitting on the sand and more can be seen further out at sea.

Learn more about the harbor in the D-Day Museum

5. Batterie de Longues

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The battery at Longues was situated between the landing beaches Omaha and Gold. On the night before the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944, the battery was subjected to a barrage comprising approximately 1,500 tons of bombs, although much of this landed on a nearby village.

The bombing was followed from 0537hrs on the morning of the landings by bombardment from the French cruiser Georges Leygues as well as the U.S. battleship Arkansas. The battery itself opened fire at 0605hrs and fired a total of 170 shots throughout the day, forcing the headquarters ship HMS Bulolo to retreat to safer water.

Three of the four guns were eventually disabled by British cruisers Ajax and Argonaut, though a single gun continued to operate intermittently until 1900hrs that evening. The crew of the battery (184 men, half of them over 40 years old) surrendered to the 231st Infantry Brigade the following day.

The heaviest damage was caused by the explosion of the ammunition for an AA gun, mounted by the British on the roof of casemate No.4, which killed several British soldiers.

Open to the public are four casemates with artillery plus the observation bunker (which was used in the movie “The Longest Day”)

More information can be found on Tripadvisor

6. Overlord Museum

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Located at a short distance of the famous “Omaha beach”, on the D514 facing the roundabout that provides access to the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer. Overlord Museum chronicles the period of the Allied landing until the liberation of Paris.

The collection was collected by someone who was both a witness to the conflict and involved in the reconstruction of Normandy.

The museum contains the Leloup collection which has been built up over half a century of research, salvage and purchases of historic pieces from the Normandy battlefields. Everything from a reconnaissance plane, V1 flying bomb, more than 10 armoured fighting vehicles, 30 soft skin vehicles, artillery pieces, poster, signs, documents and personal objects all bearing witness to the terrible fighting in 1944.

Restoration of many of the vehicles to full running order , accurately equipped and painted have taken many thousands of hours by a dedicated team of skilled specialists. Some of the vehicles developed for war are unique as the factories and companies that produced them no longer exist, illustrating the preservation of the past technologies realized by the Overlord Museum Omaha beach

More information can be found on their website.

7. American Cemetery

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The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 as the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II.

The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.

Normandy is ABMC’s most visited cemetery, receiving approximately one million visitors each year.

The visitors center depicts the significance and meaning of Operation OVERLORD and honors the values and sacrifices of the World War II generation.

More information can be found on the ABMC Website

8. Pointe Du Hoc & Range memorial

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The World War II Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument is located on a cliff eight miles west of Normandy American Cemetery, which overlooks Omaha Beach, France. It was erected by the French to honor elements of the American Second Ranger Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. James E. Rudder. During the American assault of Omaha and Utah beaches on June 6, 1944, these U.S. Army Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs and seized the German artillery pieces that could have fired on the American landing troops at Omaha and Utah beaches. At a high cost of life, they successfully defended against determined German counterattacks.

 

The monument consists of a simple granite pylon positioned atop a German concrete bunker with tablets at its base inscribed in French and English. The monument was formally transferred to ABMC for perpetual care and maintenance on January 11, 1979. This battle-scarred area on the left flank of Omaha Beach remains much as the Rangers left it.

More information can be found on the ABMC Website

9. Utah Beach Museum

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In 1962, the mayor of Saint Marie du Mont, Michel de Vallavieille, decides to create the Utah Beach D-Day Museum as a living expression of the town’s appreciation and gratitude for the Allies’ sacrifices. The Museum will initially be housed in one of the German command bunkers of strongpoint WN5.
The Museum’s unique collection of artifacts is largely the result of his tireless efforts, and the friendships he developed over the years with officers and American veterans.

Almost 45 years later the Utah Beach Museum now recounts the story of D-Day in 10 sequences, from the preparation of the landing, to the final outcome and success. This comprehensive chronological journey immerses visitors in the history of the landing through a rich collection of objects, vehicles, materials, and oral histories.

Admire an original B26 bomber, one of only six remaining examples of this airplane still in existence worldwide, and relive the epic experience of American soldiers through the film “VICTORY IN THE SAND,”.

By the end of your visit, you will understand the strategic choices for the Allied invasion of Normandy and the reasons for the success at Utah Beach. Thanks to your visit, you will also have contributed to the safeguard of the site and the preservation of the memory of the Allied soldiers’ extraordinary sacrifices.

More information can be found on the Utah Beach Museum Website

10. Dead Mans Corner Museum

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Normandy, France, 6 June 1944. It is only just 00:15 when the American paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division of General Maxwell D. Taylor parachute over the Normandy, thus becoming the first soldiers to reach the French territory; their main mission is to capture Carentan. This town is defended by the elite of the German troops, the paratroopers of Major von der Heydte, the “Green Devils” of the 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment.

 

The Germans are entrenched in Saint-Côme-du-Mont, the last bastion before Carentan. They have the order to defend the town until their last man dies. It is crucial for the Americans to capture Carentan as quick as possible. They are waiting for the support of the light tanks of the 70th Battalion that landed in Utah Beach. The road from the beach is the only way they can go.

It comes from the beach, passes through Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and ends half way on the road Carentan/Saint-Côme-du-Mont, at a crossroads named – since then – the « Dead Man’s Corner” by the Americans.

A sole house stands at this crossroads; it is used by the German paratroopers as headquarters, then as aid post. The Dead Man’s Corner Museum is located in this very building, in the highly historical place of Saint-Côme-du-Mont.

Indeed, the house of the Dead Man’s Corner has been acquired by the Carentan Historical Center and turned into a museum.

During the first development phase of the D-Day Paratroopers Historical Center, it has gathered within this historical building an impressive and authentic collection of material used by the American and German paratroopers, related to this legendary site.

In 2015 the museum opened the D-Day Experience in which you have the chance of boarding a C-47 Dakota that participated in the invasion in a simulated parachute drop!

Learn more about the museum on the Dead Mans Corner website

More, Much More

We have selected but 10 of the museums and attractions that Normandy has to offer, there are dozens more museums, locations, towns and memorials that are well worth a visit.

 

Normandy honours D-Day veterans

H/T  War History OnLine.

The French and others around Europe, while Americans,  including Obama, have chosen to forget.

My family and I will always remember the price paid by The Greatest Generation to keep the world free.

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The northern district of Normandy in France is preparing to honour and commemorate the veterans and soldiers who gave their lives during World War Two

The D-Day landings took place on 6th June 1944. It was the beginning of the liberation of France as thousands of Allied troops stormed the beaches at Normandy against the Nazi German invaders.

Now, Normandy’s local authorities have been honouring the veterans who took part in the landings with a commemorative 70th anniversary medal. The medal is to say a special thank you to all of those who took part in the operation and liberated France.

Joseph Stott from Utah is now 90 years old, and was just 19 when he landed at Omaha beach, has received the medal from French authorities. Joseph will join other veterans on an Honorary flight back to France this autumn with their families. They will visit the World War Two memorial in Normandy and take part in commemoration ceremonies.

Operation Neptune, as the beach landings were known and part of the overall Operation Overlord, was one of the biggest sea to land invasions in world history. The operation was the beginning of liberating France and the rest of Europe from Nazi Germany. It was the pinnacle to an attack that led all the way to Berlin and the fall of the Third Reich.

The operation was planned from 1943 onwards. There was a huge deception plan underway alongside the actual D-Day landings, so that the Germans would not suspect when and where the real attack was going to be made, the KSL.com reports.

Operation Bodyguard was the deception plan. In the lead up to D-Day the weather was not ideal, but if the Allies postponed they would have to wait another two weeks to allow for the phases of the moon. So military leaders decided to go ahead. Germany was anticipating an attack from the Allies, and Nazi Field Marshal Rommel had been put in charge of German troops in France, as well as ensuring coastal fortifications were suitable to fend off an Allied attack.

The first part of Operation Overlord was a huge air and sea attack onto the French mainland. Around 25,000 Allied paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines during the night, followed by hundreds of divisions of land troops being shipped to the French coast early the next morning. Normandy’s beaches had been divided into five sections by Allied commanders, these were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. The entire section stretched 80kms of the French coastline.

There were strong winds and many landing craft were blown off position, so many troops landed under heavy enemy fire. The beaches were littered with mines and defence obstacles put there by the Germans.The most casualties were at Omaha beach since it has very high cliff faces from which the Germans could defend well. Only Juno and Gold beaches were taken by the Allies in the first day of the invasion. The other beaches were all take around six days later.

Pearl Harbor: 16 Days To Die – Three Sailors trapped in the USS West Virginia

H/T War History OnLine.

I can not imagine the horror of being trapped like that and slowly dying as your oxygen ran out.

 
 
The sunken battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) at Pearl Harbor after her fires were out, possibly on 8 December 1941. USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard. A Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane (marked "4-O-3") is upside down on West Virginia's main deck. A second OS2U is partially burned out atop the Turret No. 3 catapult. Note the CXAM radar antenna atop West Virginia´s foremast.

The sunken battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) at Pearl Harbor after her fires were out, possibly on 8 December 1941. USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard. A Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane (marked “4-O-3”) is upside down on West Virginia’s main deck. A second OS2U is partially burned out atop the Turret No. 3 catapult.

 

In the aftermath of the attacks on Pearl Harbour during World War Two stories emerged of sailors who were trapped in the sunken battleships, some even survived for weeks.

Those who were trapped underwater banged continuously on the side of the ship so that anyone would hear them and come to their rescue. When the noises were first heard many thought it was just loose wreckage or part of the clean-up operation for the destroyed harbour.

However the day after the attack, crewmen realised that there was an eerie banging noise coming from the foward hull of the USS West Virginia, which had sunk in the harbour.

It didn’t take long for the crew and Marines based at the harbour to realise that there was nothing they could do. They could not get to these trapped sailors in time. Months later rescue and salvage men who raised the USS West Virginia found the bodies of three men who had found an airlock in a storeroom but had eventually run out of air.

They were Ronald Endicott, 18, Clifford Olds, 20, and Louis Costin, 21. Within the storeroom was a calendar and they had crossed off every day that they had been alive – 16 days had been crossed off using a red pencil. The men would have been below deck when the attack happened, so it is unlikely that they knew what was happening.

Those who survived the attack and were crew on the USS West Virginia have remembered the story and retold it quietly as a story of bravery and determination of the young soldiers.

In truth, the US Navy had never told their families how long the three men had survived for, instead telling them that they had been killed in the attack on the harbour. Their brothers and sisters eventually discovered the truth but were so saddened that they did not speak of it.

One of Clifford’s friends and comrades Jack Miller often returned to the harbour and would pray for his friend at the site of the sunken wreck. He says that just the night before the attack they had been drinking beer together, and he had wanted to rescue him desperately in the days after the attack.

However there was no way of any rescue crews getting to them since if they cut a hole in the ship, it would flood it, and if they tried to use a blowtorch it could explode since there was too much oil and gasoline in the water.

Survivors say that no one wanted to go on guard duty anywhere near the USS West Virginia since they would hear the banging of trapped survivors all night long, but with nothing that could be done.

Admiral Yamamoto, The Architect Of The Sneak Attack On Pearl Harbor

H/T War History OnLine.

Japan would never invade the United States. We would find a rifle behind every blade of grass.” Isoroku Yamamoto.

The man who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, was an unusual and contradictory figure. A man with peaceful international connections around the world, he would lead his country’s navy in a war he did not believe in, trying to win a conflict he expected to lose. Though a senior figure who was not fighting on the front line, he would die in military action, as the tide of war hung in the balance.

1. An International Figure

Born in 1884, Isoroku Yamamoto became a career naval officer. He graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at the age of twenty, was wounded at the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War, returned to training at the Naval Staff College, and emerged as a Lieutenant Commander in 1916.

The Japanese naval establishment was less aggressive than that of the army, and Yamamoto was an advocate of gunboat diplomacy over actual war.

This was particularly true in relation to the United States, a country he knew well. He studied at Harvard from 1919 to 1921, was twice the naval attaché to Washington, and while in the US took the time to study its business practices and customs. He accompanied diplomats to naval conferences in 1930 and 1934, providing military insight into talks about arms limitation.

Isoroku Yamamoto
Isoroku Yamamoto

2. Naval Innovations

Initially a gunnery specialist, in 1924 Yamamoto changed his focus to naval aviation. Aerial combat had only been a feature of warfare for a decade, since the First World War had pushed the European powers into finding ways to fight with aircraft. Yamamoto was therefore at the cutting edge of military thinking, dealing with techniques and technologies that would be vital to the very different naval combat of World War Two.

First as head of the Aeronautics Department and then as commander of the First Carrier Division, Yamamoto gained extensive experience in his field. He pushed for innovations in naval aeronautics, such as a focus on long-range bombers operating from land against enemy fleets. This led to the adoption of land-based bombers equipped with torpedoes, and long-range aircraft such as the Mitsubishi G3M and G4M medium bombers, which could fly great distances but at the price of fragile, vulnerable frames.

Yamamoto at Tokyo Station enroute to take command of the Combined Fleet on August 31, 1939.
Yamamoto at Tokyo Station enroute to take command of the Combined Fleet on August 31, 1939

 

Made into an admiral and commander in chief of the navy, Yamamoto brought innovative approaches to the way existing forces were fielded. Gathering Japan’s six largest aircraft carriers into the single First Air Fleet, he provided the Japanese navy with a force of incredible striking capacity. The downside of this was that it put all Japan’s best eggs in one basket, making her best carriers vulnerable to being taken out in a single successful attack.

3. Opposition to War

As Yamamoto made his changes, Japan was heading towards war. The army was generally more belligerent than the navy, and Yamamoto fitted this picture, opposing the army’s grandiose plans not only to conquer East Asia, but to take on the United States of America.

Yamamoto’s opposition was not based on principles. For all that he admired things about the US, he was a military man and a loyal supporter of Japanese power. He opposed the war because he did not believe Japan could win it. He believed that America was too vast and powerful for Japan to conquer and that without conquering them Japan would not be able to defeat the Americans.

By the time he was proven right, Yamamoto would be dead and his country ruined.

4. The Reluctant Planner

Yamamoto with staff on Nagato sometime in 1940.
Yamamoto with staff on Nagato sometime in 1940.

“If I am told to fight regardless of the consequences, I shall run wild for the first six months or a year, but I have absolutely no confidence about the second and third years.”

– Admiral Yamamoto

Unfortunately for all involved, the pro-war faction gained control of the Japanese government. They were determined to break American influence in the region and dominate it themselves. They believed that through a fast offensive they could seize the oilfields and the other raw resources they needed to support the war, and so emerge victorious beyond that first year.

Though he still expected disaster, as a loyal officer Yamamoto bowed to the will of his superiors. He was now faced with the unenviable task of planning the initial knockout blow meant to win that first stage of the war. And so he worked to the best of his ability in planning the attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. This surprise attack with aircraft and midget submarines was meant to destroy the American carrier fleet, crippling Japan’s opponent before the war really began.

The attack on 7 December 1941 was only a partial success. The American fleet suffered great damage but was far from taken out. The Americans were enraged by the attack and launched themselves into the war with total commitment and with great determination.

5. After Pearl Harbor

Yamamoto at Rabaul with Jinichi Kusaka in April 1943.
Yamamoto at Rabaul with Jinichi Kusaka in April 1943.

Initial Japanese successes at sea did not lead to American negotiating an end to the war, as Yamamoto and others had optimistically hoped. As the Japanese high command grappled over the decision of what to do next, Yamamoto went back and forth in backing others, until he was able to gain support for his own plan to advance on Midway.

The resulting Battle of Midway was a significant defeat for the Japanese and a turning point in the war.

6. Death in Action

The crashed remains of Yamamoto's Mitsubishi "Betty" bomber in the jungles of Bougainville.
The crashed remains of Yamamoto’s Mitsubishi “Betty” bomber in the jungles of Bougainville.

Following Midway, the Japanese lost the momentum of their initial successes. Yamamoto kept them pushing against the Allies, and Japanese resources, in particular the supply of planes on which his plans were so reliant, started to become scarce. In the longer war of attrition, American industry showed its strength.

In April 1943, following a further significant defeat at Guadalcanal, Yamamoto undertook an inspection tour in the south Pacific to help raise morale among forces there. The Americans got word of his location and, on direct orders from President Roosevelt, ambushed Yamamoto’s transport plane on 18 April. Yamamoto and those traveling with him were killed.

He died in a war he opposed, still trying to win it to the end.

 

Truscott, The General Who Apologized To The Dead Soldiers, Memorial Day 1945

H/T War History OnLine. 

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When asked to give a Memorial Day speech in 1945, General Lucian Truscott who had just spent the past 3 years retaking Europe from Nazi Germany reluctantly agreed.  Not one to pursue the glory of the camera or headline of a Newspaper, Truscott preferred to let his competence on the battlefield speak for itself.  After all, there was no short supply of Generals to take up the mantle as premier media diva.

Truscott who would fight the war relatively unknown to many quickly proved himself as one of the most reliable Generals of the entire conflict.  First seeing combat as an observer on the famed Dieppe Raid, Truscott would rise through the ranks as he chased the enemy out of North Africa, through Italy and on into the heart of Germany.

However, it would be his Memorial Day speech at the Rome-Sicily Cemetery in 1945 that would set him apart as an orator as much as a General.  The words were neither fancy nor long, but the manner in which he delivered this speech have become the most genuine remembrance of Memorial Day one could imagine.

Memorial Day Origins

Memorial Day originated in the aftermath of the American Civil War and its history is can often be as confusing as its modern interpretation.  Placing flowers on the graves of the fallen had long been a tradition before the Civil War, but with over 600,000 dead the notion of decorating the graves of the fallen become much more culturally significant in both the North and South.

Multiple cities lay claim to being the site for the original Memorial Day that cover ground from as far South as Charleston, SC and as far north as Waterloo, NY.  There is even a story that the first true Memorial Day occurred when freed slaves decorated the graves of fallen Union Soldiers in South Carolina.

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Decoration Day ceremony Columbus, GA in 1868

And while you can inject yourself into the debate over who created Memorial Day if you like, it is more worth noting that after the war that had killed so many Americans honoring the fallen took on a heightened significance.  All of the various Memorial Day events were then referred to as Decoration Day noting the need to place flowers on the graves of the fallen. By 1868, Decoration Day ceremonies were being held in 27 States and over 180 cemeteries.  By 1869 the number of cemeteries participating had doubled.
Appropriately enough, the date of May 30th was chosen for Decoration Day as it was determined that was the date in which flowers would be most-ready to bloom.  After all, what’s a Decoration Day without the appropriate flowers.  By 1882, the name Memorial Day had begun to be used to describe the holiday and became much more prevalent by World War 2.  However, it would be a 1967 law that cemented the name Memorial Day and also moved it from May 30th to the last Monday in May.
Moving the date would prove controversial as it was designed to create a 3-day weekend and is thought by many to cheapen the holiday.  Until his death in 2012, Hawaii Senator and WW2 Medal of Honor Recipient Daniel Inouye proposed a resolution every year to move Memorial Day back to the original date.  And while celebrations of Memorial Day can vary wildly, it is General Truscott’s words that still strike at the heart of every man and woman to ever wear the uniform.

Addressing the Fallen

The Rome-Sicily cemetery would be the final resting place for thousands of Truscott’s men.  Having fought the vicious campaign up the Italian Peninsula, General Truscott would always hold the hallowed ground in honor as he saw first-hand the cost it took to reclaim it.  The podium from which he was to speak was situated with the crowd of dignitaries, journalist, and military brass to the front with the graves of his fallen men behind him.

As he stepped on stage he looked out on the crown eager to hear his words and then did something absolutely remarkable.  General Truscott turned his back on the crowd and began to address directly the graves of his fallen men.

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Americans landing at Anzio Beach in Italy

He wouldn’t stand to listen to older men speak that death on the battlefield was glorious saying “he didn’t see much glory in getting killed in your late teens or early 20s.”  He promised that if indeed encountered such living men he would “straighten them out” on behalf of his fallen soldiers.

And while there is no recording of Truscott’s words, famed WW2 cartoonist Bill Mauldin was present to write down the words.  Mauldin would describe it as the most moving gesture he ever saw.

Memorialize the Fallen

In modern times, there is often as much confusion about Memorial Day as there is about its history.  In part because of the date change, many have trouble separating the day from any other 3-day weekend.

Often, living Veterans receive thanks and well-wishes much to their frustration as they above all recognize this day is not marked for the living.

Some Veterans will graciously accept it and then grizzle under their breath, while some will take the opportunity to bluntly correct those who make such a mistake.

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Sicily Rome American cemetery via abmc.gov

One can only imagine General Truscott would have been in the latter camp.  The man who didn’t spare any Memorial Day words to the living, but instead gifted them to his fallen understands the true nature of Memorial Day.

For living Veterans, Memorial Day is a somber event but equally a call to live life.  The fallen in combat have purchased the opportunity to live an abundant for their surviving comrades and most would consider living life to the fullest as the most appropriate way to honor the fallen.

General Truscott’s speech remains as one the most fitting tributes to fallen soldiers from a man who knew better than most the true cost of war.

10 U.S Memorial Day Facts you might not know

This is from War History OnLine.

For Gold Star families every day is Memorial Day.

I am a Gold Star family member.

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The Memorial Day in United States commemorates all those men and women who lost their lives while protecting the nation. Following are some important facts about the American Memorial Day.

  1. Since its very humble beginning on May 5, 1866, the Memorial Day was celebrated on 30th May every year. However in 1971 US congress established a new date for the day, and announced the last Monday of May as official Memorial Day.
  2. Initially the memorial day only commemorated U.S. personnel died during a deadly civil war from 1861 to 1865, but later it took under its wing all those who died for the country.
  3. A total of 620,000 Americans perished in the civil war, while 644,000 Americans lost their lives in all the other conflicts since then. American Civil War is still the single most deadly conflict of the American history.
  4. The ‘national moment of remembrance’ was set at 3 pm on Memorial Day. This was made possible by ‘the national moment of remembrance act’ in 2000 signed by President Clinton on Dec. 28.
  5. The Memorial Day had varying standings in past, one of which was a different name for the day. It used to be called the Democratic day. It was believed that soldiers died upholding the democratic values of the young nation.
  6. Red poppies have always been associated with the remembrance of the dead soldiers. People wear poppies to pay respect and tribute to those who made sacrifices for the nation.
  7. The most interesting fact about the memorial day is that although Federation celebrates the memorial day along with most of states remembering the union soldiers, however many states still celebrate the memorial days for confederate dead soldiers.
  8. About 5,000 people attended the first ever Memorial Day ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery, the Democrat and Chronicle reports.
  9. Most of the deaths that took place during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 were as a result of a small pox outbreak. The total number of deaths is estimated to be around 620,000 – 365,000 Union while 260,000 confederate soldiers.
  10. Following is the estimate of the total number of American causalities since the Civil War.
  • In the Civil War 620,000 Americans died
  • WWI, 116,516 U.S soldiers died
  • In the Second World War 405,399 Americans died
  • Korean War killed 36,574 Americans.
  • 58,220 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam War
  • In Operation Desert Storm a total of 148 Americans died in the battlefield while another 145 died elsewhere during the operation.
  • 4,422 Americans died in the Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • In Operation New Dawn 66 U.S Army personnel were killed
  • 2,318 Americans perished in the Operation Enduring Freedom.