On this day in 1944, approximately 100,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily-fortified beaches of Normandy, France, while an additional 150,000 personnel were concurrently coming across the English Channel by sea and air, to fight Nazi Germany and “The Axis of Evil.” The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, originally picked June 5, 1944, as the date for the largest military invasion in history, code-named “Operation Overlord,” but bad weather forced a postponement. After meteorologists told him that the weather would clear the next day, the invasion was on. As it turned out, however, the weather was nearly as bad during the attack on June 6th.
General Eisenhower described the operation as a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion, and by day’s end on June 6th, the Allies had gained a foot- hold in Normandy. However, the cost was extremely high, with more than 9,000 Allied soldiers killed or wounded. But the success of Operation Overlord, which would also come to me know as “D-Day,” was the beginning of the end of World War II, and the evil that was Nazi Germany.
I did not have adequate time during my lunchtime bike ride to go to The National D-Day Memorial, because it is located a couple of hundred miles away in the small, rural town of Bedford, Virginia. Proportionally, Bedford suffered America’s severest D-Day losses. Recognizing Bedford as symbolic of all communities, large and small, whose citizen-soldiers served and sacrificed on D-Day, Congress approved the placement of The National D-Day Memorial there.
So for this ride, I instead chose to commemorate the anniversary of this event by riding to and writing about the U.S. National World War II Memorial, which is located on the National Mall in D.C., on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, between The Lincoln Memorial and The Washington Monument (MAP). The National World War II Memorial is dedicated to Americans who served in the military, and to civilians, for the various services and sacrifices made during World War II.
The design of the Memorial consists granite pillars arranged around a plaza and fountain, with two arches located on the northern and southern ends of the plaza. Each of the 56 pillars is inscribed with the name of one of the then 48 states in the United States, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska and Hawaii territories, and the commonwealths of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The northern arch is inscribed with “Atlantic” and the southern one with “Pacific,” representing the two fronts of the war.
The meaning of the memorial to honor members of “The Greatest Generation” is best summed up by the inscription at the main entrance to the Memorial, which reads: “Here in the presence of Washington and Lincoln, one the eighteenth century father and the other the nineteenth century preserver of our nation, we honor those twentieth century Americans who took up the struggle during the second world war and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: a nation conceived in liberty and justice.”