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Posts Tagged ‘D-Day’

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Remembering Tom Blakey

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Tom Blakey sitting at his volunteer post at The National WWII Museum.

On Thursday, January 15, 2015, The National WWII Museum acknowledged a sad milestone in the death of the Museum’s legendary volunteer Thomas Blakey, a former U.S. Army paratrooper who fought in the European Theater. Blakey died at his home early Thursday morning.

Blakey, a retired oil company executive, has long held status as the Museum’s No. 1 volunteer. He donated approximately 15,000 hours to the Museum since its opening in 2000, serving as a speaker and interpretive guide. He also is a favorite interview subject for national media organizations reporting on anniversaries of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, and was recently interviewed by Tom Brokaw in New Orleans and Normandy in conjunction with the 70th anniversary. He was also among recipients of the French Legion of Honor medal.

“We lost a great American, a hero of World War II, and one who meant a great deal to the Museum,” said Museum President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller. “He was an iconic figure here and a dear friend. He will be greatly missed.”

Giving his status in the interpretation of WWII history, Blakey’s passing serves as a reminder of the rapid disappearance of the war generation.

According to statistics from the Veterans Administration, the number of veterans from the war has dipped below 1 million, a small fraction of the 16 million Americans who served. The nation is losing these men and women and their memories at a rate of 492 a day.

Blakey was a treasured presence at the Museum, as he typically greeted visitors in the Louisiana Pavilion each morning and shared details of his personal war story, including participation in the D-Day invasion, the Battle of the Bulge and other battles.

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Blakey at Camp Mackall, North Caroline in 1943. Image courtesy of the National Archives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Blakey walked through the doors of Museum, originally known as The National D-Day Museum, before it opened to the public in 2000. Of the more than 4 million visitors who have visited the Museum, many were fortunate enough to hear his story, shake his hand, take a photo and hear his thundering laugh.

A native of Nacogdoches, Texas, Blakey came from humble beginnings. His father left when he and his brother were young and his mother instilled a strong sense of responsibility in her boys. While he often told young people they could be anything they wanted to be if they just worked hard enough, he was also generous to those in need of assistance throughout his lifetime. He liked to say he was just lucky but would also add that “what one does with luck matters.”

When WWII called, Blakey answered, serving as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. In the early hours of June 6, 1944, he landed in a church cemetery and made his way to a small but strategic bridge at La Fiere just west of Ste. Mere Eglise. There he was a part of a fierce defense of the bridge, well remembered in the history of the U.S. Army. After the Normandy Campaign, Blakey participated in Operation Market Garden in Holland and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. When asked what he remembered about the Bulge campaign, he would answer bluntly: “Cold, snow, ice and death.”

During the Bulge battle he was pulled off the front lines to serve as an aide to Lt. Gen. Lewis Brereton of the 1st Allied Airborne Army. After the war ended, he stayed in Paris as an aide to General Brereton. He often told stories of life in Paris after the end of the war and the many challenges civilians faced in rebuilding their lives. He was proud to have helped in any way he could and thrived in an environment where he could act as a problem-solver.

Blakey returned to Normandy eight times after the war, most recently as part of a Museum trip commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day. With every trip, he said it would most likely be his last, but admitted that he would always want to return one more time. He said he felt at home there, close to Americans who fought and died during the invasion. And he had a deep love for the French people who always treated him with gratitude.

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Blakey posing with gifts of gratitude sent by CBS Sunday Morning viewers.

Towards the end of his life, Tom revealed a secret he had lived with for nearly 70 years when he spoke to a group of recent war veterans. Tom had suffered severely from effects of PTSD, admitting that it had affected him and his personal relationships for decades. He felt it was important to share because he believed it might help these young men who were also dealing with the challenges of returning from combat. Soon after, he told his story on CBS Sunday Morning, along with how his work at the Museum had finally freed him. Even in his last moments, he was making plans to return to his volunteer post at the Museum.

Blakey would often call the institution a “Museum of people.” The personal stories of everyday Americans mattered the most, he said.

One of his greatest joys was explaining to younger visitors how a child’s toy, known as the “cricket,” played an important role in D-Day. U.S. troops would click the noisemaker, which sounded very much like the insect it was named for, in the darkness when they sensed someone was near. If they clicked back with the correct response, as Tom would say, “You knew you had a friend.”  The Museum always had a devoted friend in Tom Blakey.

There will be a public memorial service for Tom Blakey on Monday, January 19 at 10 am at The National WWII Museum in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.

Learn more about the remarkable life of Tom Blakey:

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D-Day Veteran Returning to Normandy: Tom Blakey

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This June, the Museum will be taking four D-Day veterans back to the shores of Normandy, France to partake in the 70th Anniversary of D-Day commemorations. During their time in Normandy, they will revisit the battlefields where they were stationed and will be honored with other veterans at the 70th Anniversary French and American Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery. These veterans will also share their war stories with those aboard the Museum’s 70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise in a Veterans Panel monitored by NBC’s Tom Brokaw.

Meet D-Day veteran Tom Blakey, of the 505th Reg., 82nd Airborne Div., who will be traveling back to Normandy with the Museum this June.

Blakey at Camp Mackall, North Caroline in 1943. Image courtesy of the National Archives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Blakey at Camp Mackall, North Caroline in 1943. Image courtesy of the National Archives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Tom Blakey, was born in Nacogdoches, Texas but his WWII service took him far from his hometown. He jumped into Normandy on D-Day as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. He landed in a church cemetery and made his way to a small but strategic bridge at La Fiere just west of Ste. Mere Eglise. There he was a part of the “costliest small-unit action in the history of the US Army.”

After the Normandy Campaign, Blakey participated in Operation Market Garden in Holland and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. During the Bulge he was pulled off the front lines to serve as an aide to Lt. Gen. Lewis Brerton of the 1st Allied Airborne Army, where he was stationed in Paris for the remainder of the war. Tom has been a loyal volunteer of The National WWII Museum for 14 years and recently he received the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest award to any person, civilian or military.

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D-Day Veteran Returning to Normandy: Darold Rice

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This June, the Museum will be taking four D-Day veterans back to the shores of Normandy, France to partake in the 70thAnniversary of D-Day commemorations. During their time in Normandy, they will revisit the battlefields where they were stationed and will be honored with other veterans at the 70th Anniversary French and American Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery. These veterans will also share their war stories with those aboard the Museum’s 70thAnniversary of D-Day Cruise in a Veterans Panel monitored by NBC’s Tom Brokaw.

Meet Darold Rice of the 359th Reg., 90th Div., who landed on Utah Beach and fought in the Faliaise Gap on that fateful day that brought the Allies closer to victory who will be traveling with the Museum this June.

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Image courtesy of John Grindahl.

Darold Rice grew up in Flint, Michigan.  He registered right when he turned 18, in July 1943.  Less than one year later he was landing at Utah Beach on D-Day.  He served as the ammo bearer for a water-cooled machine gun in “D” Company of the 359th Regiment.

Due to the losses incurred during “Exercise Tiger,” Darold’s unit was attached to the 4th Infantry Division for D-Day and landed in the late afternoon of June 6th.  Upon landing, they began to make their way to Ste. Mere Eglise to link up with the paratroopers.  He was involved in heavy fighting on Hill 122 near La Haye-du-Puits then his unit swung east to help trap the Germans in the Falaise Gap.  He had a “ring-side seat” for the battle for Chambois as his unit overlooked the town in August 1944.

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D-Day Veteran Returning to Normandy: George Klein

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This June, the Museum will be taking four D-Day veterans back to the shores of Normandy, France to partake in the 70thAnniversary of D-Day commemorations. During their time in Normandy, they will revisit the battlefields where they were stationed and will be honored with other veterans at the 70th Anniversary French and American Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery. These veterans will also share their war stories with those aboard the Museum’s 70thAnniversary  of D-Day Cruise in a Veterans Panel monitored by NBC’s Tom Brokaw.

George Klein at age 23. Image courtesy of Les Klein.

George Klein at age 23. Image courtesy of Les Klein.

Meet D-Day veteran Lt. George Klein of “F” Co., 2nd Ranger Bn., who will be traveling with the Museum this June.

George Klein, of Chicago, joined the National Guard in a horse-drawn artillery outfit in Feb. 1938 at the age of 17.  Federalized in March of 1941, he went to Camp Forest Tennessee where his unit was transferred from horse-drawn to mechanized unit.  In May 1942 he went to OCS Class 25 in Ft. Sill Oklahoma and went to the 80th Infantry Division, where he volunteered 2nd Ranger Battalion in April 1943.  As a 2nd Lt. he was Company Commander of “Fox” Company of the 2nd Rangers.  In September, during training, he fell off a cliff and broke his ankle, while the 2nd Rangers moved to Florida and he went back to the 80th Infantry Division after convalescing.  He volunteered for overseas duty and joined the 5th Infantry Division in Ireland.  He was on leave in London in February 1944 walking down the street he met Col. James Rudder of the 2nd Rangers.  Klein asked if Rudder remembered him, to which Rudder replied, “Yes.  You’re the idiot Lt. who fell off the cliff and broke his ankle!”  Rudder asked if he would like to rejoin the Rangers and Klein accepted gladly.  Back with the Rangers, Klein crossed the English Channel with his Rangers for D-Day.  Scaling the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, Klein encountered the German defense forces on the Pointe and engaged in combat where he was wounded late on the afternoon of June 6th.

 

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D-Day Veteran Returning to Normandy: Cosmo Uttero

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This June, the Museum will be taking four D-Day veterans back to the shores of Normandy, France to partake in the 70th Anniversary of D-Day commemorations. During their time in Normandy, they will revisit the battlefields where they were stationed and will be honored with other veterans at the 70th Anniversary French and American Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery. These veterans will also share their war stories with those aboard the Museum’s 70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise in a Veterans Panel monitored by NBC’s Tom Brokaw.

Cosmo Uttero in 1943. Image courtesy of Cosmo Uttero.

Cosmo Uttero in 1943. Image courtesy of Cosmo Uttero.

Meet D-Day veteran Cosmo Uttero, of the 175th Reg., 29th Div., who landed on Omaha Beach, who will be traveling with the Museum this June to Normandy.

Cosmo Uttero of Wellesley, Massachusetts joined the Army in June 1943 at the age of 17.  He was assigned to Ft. Devens, Massachussetts and then went to Camp Croft, South Carolina for basic infantry training.  After finishing training in 16 weeks he went straight overseas on the Queen Elizabeth, landing in Scotland in November 1943 where he was assigned to the 29th Division.  From there he shipped down to Cornwall, England where he and his unit were told that they would be the spearhead of the invasion.  They trained along the English coast until 10 days before D-Day, when he was sequestered in preparation for D-Day.

On June 4th his ship sailed for France, but had to turn back due to bad weather and the invasion being postponed for one day.  On D-Day, Uttero’s unit was not set to land until the day after but the horrific losses suffered by the first waves of the 29th Division forced his unit to go in at Vierville-sur-Mer around 12:00pm on June 6th.  Dealing with seasickness onboard the landing craft, Uttero wondered what it was going to be like dying, but his seasickness made him feel like dying would’ve been the lesser of two evils.

Unloading in neck-deep water, Uttero made his way to the beach after jettisoning all of his gear.  As soon as he reached the beach he retrieved a rifle from one of his fallen comrades and made his way forward to the high ground overlooking Omaha Beach.  After making it to the top of the bluffs, he made his way to a small building, having a chance to look back at all of the dead men and burning and wrecked vehicles down below.

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The National WWII Museum Commemorates D-Day 70

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As the world comes together to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, The National WWII Museum, which originally opened as The National D-Day Museum in 2000, will honor, educate and reflect both in New Orleans and abroad.

All activities are included with admission unless indicated otherwise.  All events are subject to change.

This 70th Anniversary of D-Day commemoration is brought to you with support from The American Legion Ed Brauner Post #307.
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Can’t join us in New Orleans? Follow the story of D-Day as told though the Museum’s collection of artifacts images and oral histories with our timeline.

Friday, June 6, 2014 in New Orleans

The US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center will open at 6:00 am on June 6. All other Museum Pavilions will open at 7:30 am, closing at 8:00 pm.

Andrew Higgins Drive between Camp and Magazine Streets will be closed to all traffic on June 6, 2014 from 6:00 am-5:00 pm. Please adjust your route accordingly.

6:30 am – 7:15 am
H-Hour Ceremony
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Join us for an emotional commemoration of the Allied landings at Normandy with James Carville at the exact time of the invasion including a presentation of  D-Day veteran oral histories from the Museum’s collection. This event is free and open to the public.

8:00 am-9:30 am
Lecture and Book Signing – Dr. Lyle W. Dorsett, “The Soul Needs Training Too”: Military Chaplains Help Prepare Troops for Operation Overlord
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Dr. Dorsett, author of Serving God and Country: United States Military Chaplains in World War II, will explore the role of chaplains at D-Day.

8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Beyond All Boundaries
The Solomon Victory Theater
This exclusive 4D film, produced and narrated by Tom Hanks, features dazzling effects, CGI animation, multi-layered environments and first-person accounts from the trenches to the Home Front read by Brad Pitt, Tobey Maguire, Gary Sinise, Patricia Clarkson, Wendell Pierce and more. This film will show every hour on the hour with a final screening at 7:00 pm.
Purchase Tickets

8:00 am – 7:35 pm
Final Mission: The USS Tang Experience
The US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Relive the last epic battle of the USS Tang, the most successful submarine in World War II for its fifth and final war patrol. This experience will run every 15, 35, and 55 after the hour with the final showing at 7:35 pm.
 Purchase Tickets

9:00 am – 5:00 pm

D-Day Briefings
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Museum historians and curators will report on the action at Normandy throughout the day, allowing visitors to follow the progress of the Allies.                          

D-Day Remembered
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion: Forbes Theater
Experience the news of D-Day as those on the Home Front did through newsreels and film footage of the day.

Oral History Showcase: Stories of D-Day Veterans
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion: H. Mortimer Favrot Orientation Center
Hear first-person accounts of the day with video oral histories of D-Day veterans from the Museum’s collection.

Living History Corps
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
Museum artifacts will be on display as WWII reenactors wearing the uniforms and carrying the equipment of both the Allied and Axis forces share their knowledge about the day-to-day lives of military men and women and the broader lessons of World War II.  

Higgins Boat Tours
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
An extremely rare opportunity, visitors will be allowed to board the Museum LCVP or “Higgins Boat” as a curator explains the craft’s role in the D-Day invasion.

Rockwall Adventure
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
Kids can enjoy a rockwall adventure while Museum staff share the story of the legendary Pointe du Hoc Rangers at D-Day.

Normandy Beaches Diorama
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion

“What Does D-Day Mean to You?”
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Share your thoughts on the lessons and legacy of D-Day. Select comments will be shared on the Museum’s Blog.

10:00 am – 10:30 am
US Marine Corps Brass Quintet Performance
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
A military band will perform a selection of anthems, patriotic songs and marching music.

10:30 am – 12:00 pm
D-Day Ceremony
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
This commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day will include a very special presentation of the French Legion of Honor to a number of WWII veterans who helped liberate France from Nazi rule. Additionally, the ceremony will feature representatives from the Museum, Allied countries, veterans, and a local student who will honor the memory of a New Orleans soldier who lost his life on D-Day with performances by Sharon Turrentine, the Museum’s Victory Belles, and the Military Band.

12:00 pm
Museum Birthday Celebration
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
We take a moment to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the Museum’s grand opening on June 6, 2000, with an annual tradition of birthday cupcakes.

1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Hands-On History
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Visitors will be able to pick up and try on original and reproduction helmets, uniforms, boots, packs and other personal equipment used by American, British and German soldiers on D-Day.

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
D-Day Veterans Panel Discussion
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
A panel of D-Day veterans will share their first-hand experiences.

2:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Performance – The Victory Belles
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
The Museum’s Victory Belles will perform patriotic favorites for visitors.

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Lecture – “The Critical Factor: Weather on D-Day”
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Damon Singleton, New Orleans meteorologist and retired Navy, gives a talk on why bad weather pushed back the original date of D-Day. The lecture includes, from the Museum’s own collection, a German weather chart from June 6, 7, and 8, 1944 that predicted the weather would be bad and no invasion was expected.

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
Lecture and Book Signing – Dr. John C. McManus, The Dead and Those About to Die
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Acclaimed historian, Dr. John C. McManus shares the harrowing story of the famed Big Red One and their role in the assault on Omaha Beach in his newly released book.

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
The Andrews Brothers
Stage Door Canteen
Mistaken identities, madcap comedy, romance and musical treasures fill this sweet and hilarious show. It’s 1943 in the South Pacific and, tonight, The Andrews Sisters headline the big USO show. But when a flu outbreak quarantines the girls, stagehands Max, Lawrence and Patrick, along with pin-up girl Peggy Jones, hatch a plan to save the day! Add spectacular dining by Chef John Besh and the American Sector restaurant for the ultimate experience!
Purchase Tickets

6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Baton Rouge Concert Band Performance 
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
A 60-piece band will perform a selection of anthems, patriotic songs and marching music.

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Outdoor Film Screening – Band of Brothers, Episodes 1 & 2
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
This free film screening includes the first two episodes of the award-winning HBO miniseries Band of Brothers shown outdoors in the shadow of the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Showtime is at 8:00 pm. The American Sector will be on hand with food and beverage available for purchase. No outside refreshments will be allowed. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets. Seating is first-come-first-serve. This event is free and open to the public.
RSVP

Saturday, June 7, 2014 in New Orleans

Exhibits will open at 9:00 am on June 7, closing at 5:00 pm.

Andrew Higgins Drive between Camp and Magazine Streets will be closed to all traffic on June 7, 2014 from 8:00 am-5:00 pm. Please adjust your route accordingly.

 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

D-Day Remembered
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion: Forbes Theater
Experience the news of D-Day as those on the Home Front did through newsreels and film footage of the day.

Living History Corps
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
Museum artifacts will be on display as WWII reenactors wearing the uniforms and carrying the equipment of both the Allied and Axis forces share their knowledge about the day-to-day lives of military men and women and the broader lessons of World War II.  

Higgins Boat Tours
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
An extremely rare opportunity, visitors will be allowed to board the Museum LCVP or “Higgins Boat” as a curator explains the craft’s role in the D-Day invasion.

Rockwall Adventure
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
Kids can enjoy a rockwall adventure while Museum staff share the story of the legendary Pointe du Hoc Rangers at D-Day.

“What Does D-Day Mean to You?”
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Share your thoughts on the lessons and legacy of D-Day. Select comments will be shared on the Museum’s Blog.

Oral History Showcase: Stories of D-Day Veterans
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion: H. Mortimer Favrot Orientation Center
Hear first-person accounts of the day with video oral histories of D-Day veterans from the Museum’s collection.

Normandy Beaches Diorama
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion

9:00 am – 10:00 am
Baton Rouge Concert Band Performance
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
A 60-piece band will perform a selection of anthems, patriotic songs and marching music.

10:00 am – 11:30 am
Lecture and Book Signing – Dr. John C. McManus
US Freedom Pavilion
Acclaimed historian Dr. John C. McManus will discuss the actions that occurred at Normandy following D-Day.

11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Lecture and Book Signing – “An Epic of Spiritual Heroism”:  The Role of Combat Chaplains in WWII by Dr. Lyle W. Dorsett
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Dr. Dorsett, author of Serving God and Country: United States Military Chaplains in World War II, will explore the role of chaplains at D-Day.

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
D-Day Memory Panel with Dr. Günter Bischof, Dr. John McManus and Dr. Michael Dolski, moderated by Dr. Keith Huxen
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
This panel discussion of premier historians explores the memory of D-Day from the French, American and German perspectives.

1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Hands-on History
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Visitors will be able to pick up and try on original and reproduction helmets, uniforms, boots, packs and other personal equipment used by American, British and German soldiers on D-Day.

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
70th Anniversary of D-Day Documentary: Beaches of Red
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion: H. Mortimer Favrot Orientation Center
Beaches of Red is a documentary produced by the Department of Defense covering the development and deployment of Higgins landing craft during World War II. It begins with a historical overview of the circumstances necessitating the development of landing craft, follows the development of Higgins boats, looks at their use at Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Normandy, and concludes with a look at how landing craft technology continues to influence amphibious tactics.

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
“On That Day – D-Day Experiences”
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Local students pay tribute to the Allied troops of D-Day and offer translations from local French citizens who witnessed history.

At Normandy 

Guests on the Museum’s sold-out 70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise will attend the official commemoration of the anniversary of D-Day at the American Cemetery. Along with witnessing the ceremony, the group will pay private respects and walk the hallowed grounds where 9,387 Americans are buried.

Special guests on the tour include WWII veterans, Tom Brokaw, Rick Atkinson, Rob Citino, Donald L. Miller and more.

Find out more about unique travel opportunities with America’s WWII Museum at ww2museumtours.org.

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Understanding D-Day: Travel to Normandy

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The Invasion of Normandy from the National Archives.

The best way to learn about historical events is to actually visit the sites where those events took place.

As the Director of the Museum’s Travel Programs, I can speak with some authority on this.  My years here at The National WWII Museum have taken me from London, to the beaches of Normandy, through Belgium and Luxembourg, into Germany and Austria, along the French Riviera and the “boot” of Italy, and even through the Philippine Islands.

But my very first visit to Normandy, on our 2005 Victory in Europe Tour, is the one that always stand out the most.

I had studied D-Day for 10 years, watching all of the movies and documentaries; reading the best books on the subject; listening to the stories of the WWII veterans who were actually there, but I learned more in one minute of standing on the bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach than in the previous 10 years combined.

Perspective.  This was a word that kept floating in my head during the tour and after when people asked me what I learned on the trip.  No matter how much you have analyzed and studied photos and maps, only being on the ground can bring these sites to life.  The only word I could come up with was perspective.

I saw D-Day through the perspective of the men storming ashore and the near-impossible task that lay ahead of them.  Most importantly though was the perspective from the German side of the beaches.  Positioned atop the bluff, just outside of the Normandy American Cemetery grounds, one can imagine what it would have been like for the soldier manning the defensive positions awaiting the armada to unload its human cargo.

Easy.  That was another word I kept coming back to.  How “easy” it must have been for the defenders to unleash their own private hell on the GIs who made it off of their Higgins Boat.

Though I have returned to Normandy every year since that tour in 2005, I still am overcome by a wave of pride, sorrow and wonderment at what the American soldiers faced, suffered and achieved on that June day.

And I am still amazed at how much more there is for me to learn about D-Day.

Over the years, the National WWII Museum has brought guests over to Normandy and has developed wonderful connections with locals.  These connections have flourished into friendships with tour guides, various museums, and individual civilians who provide our tours with wonderful assistance and access.

You too may join the National WWII Museum and our friends in Normandy on a journey this fall on our    D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy & Liberation of France Tour that takes history buffs on a one of kind travel experience hitting all the spots the Allies conquered.  Learn more about how you may join the tour here:  http://www.ww2museumtours.org/normandy/

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Blog by Jeremy Collins, Director of Travel & Conference Services at the National WWII Museum.

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Normandy Academy: The Eastern Flank

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A recreation of a Horsa Glider at the Pegasus Bridge Museum

The 2014 Normandy Academy will take high school and college students from the pages of history to the beaches and battlefields of Normandy. Students will take an 8 week online course through Nicholls State University that will prepare them to think critically about the causes, events and outcomes of D-Day. Following the course, students will arrive at the Museum to examine documents and artifacts relating to the invasion and its aftermath. Finally, students will spend six days in Normandy following in the footsteps of the soldiers, viewing monuments and museums and interacting with locals.

The first full day of touring will take the students to the eastern flank of the invasion. The day begins with a tour of Pegasus Bridge, the first Allied objective captured on D-Day. In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Horsa Gliders under the command of Major John Howard of the British 6th Airborne Division landed in fields only several yards from the bridge.  The operation went so smoothly that the element of surprise meant that there was very little German opposition. Howard’s men would repel a small counterattack later that morning, and reinforcements arrived to ensure that the Germans could not retake or destroy the bridge.

The next stop is the Grand Bunker Museum in Ouistreham. The museum is itself an artifact as it was the Fire Control Tower for the area around Sword Beach. The tight spaces inside the bunker reveal the dangerous combat that awaited soldiers as they stormed the beaches in the morning hours. From the observation room, students can look out over the English Channel through a stereoscopic range finder.

After a picnic lunch in Arromanches and a view of the remains of Mulberry “B,” students will view the film Normandy’s 100 Days in the Arromanches 360° Circular Cinema. Featuring archival footage on nine high definition screens that surrounds each viewer, quotes from military leaders in several languages narrate the action.

A poppy field near the artillery battery at Longues sur Mer

A poppy field near the artillery battery at Longues sur Mer

The last site visited is the remnants of a German artillery battery at Longues sur Mer. This is the only German battery in Normandy with the 152 mm guns still in place. This battery engaged in a long duel with British ships on June 6, as the last intact gun continued firing well into the evening. Adjacent to the guns, a field of poppies may be seen depending upon the spring weather in Normandy. After a bus ride back to the hotel, dinner will be enjoyed in small groups at local restaurants.

Registration for the 2014 Normandy Academy is ongoing. To register or receive more information, call 1-877-813-3329, ext. 514 or visit us here.

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Spotlight on Staff – An Unlikley Curator

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The July 12, 2013, Times-Picayune featured a story on an “exhibit” that many guests might miss on their visit to the Museum. Nestled among the bottles of liquor behind the bar at the Museum restaurant, the American Sector, are a collections of bottles and containers that have a very real and tangible link to history. Curated by bartender, Billy Vincent, the sand comes from Iwo Jima, Omaha Beach and the sites of 18 other D-Days. If was collected by visitors, Museum volunteers, staff, restaurant patrons and anyone who has heard about the collection and it is growing all the time. “There were 121 Pacific invasion sites,” Vincent said, ‘but I’m really looking for sand from the North Africa and Italy campaigns.”

Read the full article and see more photos of the collection.

Billy Vincent has been with the Museum since 2009. He is a proud veteran of the US Marine Corps.

 

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Dispatch from Normandy

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Museum Curator, Larry Decuers, reported this morning from Normandy, where he is escorting the Museum’s Allied Invasion in Normandy Tour.

06:36, H-hour, D-Day+ 69 years. We travel to the Vierville draw, where A company, 116th regiment, 29th division came ashore at this precise moment 69 years ago today. Everyone reflects on the sacrifice of these young men in a moment of silence which is gently broken by ‘Amazing Grace’ played on the bagpipes. Simply breathtaking.

Photo by curator, Larry Decuers.

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