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Honoring D-Day heroes by keeping their memories alive

US troops landing at Normandy Beach_US Coast Guard archives1
U.S. troops landing on Normandy Beach, D-Day 1944. (U.S. Coast Guard archives)

Today, June 6, is not an official holiday. But it is a day worth commemorating, especially as there are so few people left who were part of D-Day 80 years ago today.

More than 160,000 Allied troops were part of the largest seaborne invasion in history on June 6, 1944, launching the beginning of the invasion of German-occupied western Europe. It led to the freeing of France from Nazi occupation and was a key to the Allied victory in World War II.

“The price of unchecked tyranny is the blood of the young and the brave,” said U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking earlier today at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France. the final resting place of the final resting place of 9,388 American military personnel who died during World War II. The majority of the soldiers were killed during the Normandy invasion and subsequent military operations, including the D-Day landings.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, after a remembrance ceremony. (Photo by Peter K Burian via Wikimedia Commons)

“Their generation, in their hour of trial — the allied forces on D-Day did their duty,” said Biden. “Now the question for us is, in our hour of trial, will we do ours?”

Honoring and ensuring the memories: As we ponder that question of our future, we must note our past and commit to keeping its lessons available to all who come after us. If we don’t, it and its crucial and triumphant lessons will be lost.

We are losing our living history. The men and women who fought and won WWII are in their 90s or older. Only 119,550 of the 16.4 million Americans who served in World War II were alive as of 2023, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics.

If one of those few remaining heroes is in your family, make sure thank them for us all today.

The rest of us can help preserve these crucial memories by supporting the various museums that preserve the experiences. Below are three in my neck of the woods that you might find of interest.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition to its features exhibits, multimedia experiences, and collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, the museum also offers online collections, virtual field trips, webinars, educational travel programs. It also hosts the International Conference on World War II. In addition to accepting WWII artifacts, the museum welcomes monetary (and other) donations to support its mission.

Why New Orleans? The Crescent City area is home of the landing craft vehicle, personnel (LCVP), or Higgins boat, the craft that brought U.S. soldiers to shore in every major amphibious assault of World War II. Andrew Jackson Higgins and the 30,000 Louisiana workers of Higgins Industries designed, built, and tested 20,000 Higgins boats in southeastern Louisiana during the war.

The National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. The museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate and provides the nation's most comprehensive account of World War II in the Asiatic-Pacific theater. It also houses the Center for Pacific War Studies, whose archives hold thousands of manuscripts, documents, photographs, and recorded interviews with Pacific War veterans. It is a premier destination for scholars of Pacific War history.

Why Fredericksburg? This relatively small Texas Hill Country town is the boyhood home of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Nimitz served as commander in chief, United States Pacific Fleet, and was soon afterward named commander in chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, during World War II. It accepts financial and historic artifact donations.

A quick note from personal visitation experience: Plan to spend more than one day here, as you’ll be surprised at how much time you spend at the many indoor and outdoor exhibits.

The Battleship Texas in Galveston, Texas. The USS Texas is the world's last surviving Dreadnought. It also is the last remaining battleship to participate in the landings at Normandy. In addition, the Texas also served in World War I, and was on the front line of innovations in gunnery, aviation, and radar throughout her 34-year career, during which she was home to tens of thousands of sailors and marines from all around the nation. Again, the Battleship Texas Foundation, which operates operate the ship on behalf of the State of Texas, with oversight from Texas Parks & Wildlife and the Texas Historical Commission, accepts artifact and monetary donations.

Why Galveston? After decommissioning, the U.S. Navy originally towed the USS Texas to the Lone Star State to serve as the nation's first permanent memorial battleship. She was officially transferred to the state in ceremonies at San Jacinto Battleground on April 21, 1948. In the summer of 2022, Texas was moved to Galveston for extensive repairs. You can see some of the ship's history and work being done on it now in this Austin NBC affiliate KXAN's video. The Battleship Texas Foundation is finalizing an agreement with that Texas coastal city for the Texas’ permanent mooring at Pier 20 in Galveston. The grand reopening date for public tours is late 2025.

Battleship Texas_San Jacinto Texas_2014
The USS Texas in San Jacinto, her first home when she was retired to her namesake native state. The people in the bow area give you an idea of the battleship's size.  (Photo by Kay Bell)

Another personal observation: When Battleship Texas lets landlubbers come aboard again, do it. The hubby and I toured the ship in 2014 when it was still in San Jacinto. It’s not just Texas pride talking when I say it was a fantastic experience. 

Supporting the history and getting a tax break: As noted, I’ve seen the amazing exhibits at the two Texas-based facilities commemorating the role of U.S. service personnel.

Now, after learning of the New Orleans' museum, which puts three such notable WWII historic sites in such close proximity, we are planning a military history vacation when the Texas' work is complete.

If you can't make it to any of the locations, or even if you can, you can help these places continue to keep their historical perspectives available to future generations, by contributing.

Since all are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, if you itemize, you can claim your charitable gift as a tax deduction.

You also might find these items of interest:



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