Events planned this week for 70th anniversary of D-Day

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By Tom Wilmoth

    Bedford’s focus will once again turn to that fateful day, 70 years ago, when Operation Overlord commenced and the men of Co. A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division joined thousands of others as they stormed the beaches of Normandy.
    It was June 6, 1944, and the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower echoed through the heart of a nation; the heart of the men who would be carrying out the mission:
    “Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
    “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
    “But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
    “I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
    “Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
    This weekend, the valor, fidelity and sacrifice displayed by those carrying out the mission will be remembered with the 70th anniversary of D-Day activities scheduled in Bedford this Friday through Sunday, June 6-8.
    Area businesses have partnered with the National D-Day Memorial Foundation to set the tone in Centertown as visitors from all over the nation, and world, descend on Bedford to participate in the events.
    Those happenings will include:
    • The 70th Anniversary of D-Day Commemoration on Friday, June 6 at 11 a.m.  The anniversary will be observed in a special ceremony at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. During this event the Bedford Boys “Homage” sculpture by the late artist, Jim Brothers, will be dedicated. Program highlights include an honor guard, recognition of D-Day veterans, guest speakers, dignitaries including French and British representatives and special music. The commemoration will begin with a morning ceremony featuring the laying of wreaths by D-Day units. Other activities include veterans oral history stations, a USO show featuring the 29th Division Band and a “Salute to Sinatra” at 1:30 p.m., a reunion tent, displays by living historians, a flyover and a parachute jump by the Golden Knights.
    • Outdoor Movie Night and Canteen, Friday, June 6. The public is invited to the Memorial for an outdoor movie night with a 1940s theme. The Canteen will offer the best of period refreshments and the featured film will be “Casablanca.”  The film begins at dusk.
    •  D-Day Parade, Saturday, June 7 at 10 a.m. The community of Bedford will host the1940s parade featuring antique cars, bands, veterans and living historians. At 11 a.m,. a bell will toll marking the 19 from Bedford killed on June 6, 1944.  Walking tours will be available for those interested in visiting some of the more famous Bedford Boys sites as mentioned in Alex Kershaw’s award winning book “The Bedford Boys: One American Town’s Ultimate Sacrifice.”
    •  Tommy Dorsey Orchestra performance, on Saturday, June 7 at the National D-Day Memorial at 7 p.m.  This event is guaranteed to be a fun filled night that will transport you back to the 1940s. Advance tickets are on sale now. Tickets are $25 per person in advance or $30 at the door.  Call 540-586-3329.
    • Veterans’ History Project at National D-Day Memorial, June 6-7. D-Day veterans attending 70th Anniversary events were invited to contact the Foundation in advance to schedule an interview to have their wartime experiences recorded as part of the Veterans History Project. The Memorial is seeking oral histories from veterans of Operation Overlord and civilians on the homefront with memories of D-Day. Interviews will be recorded on DVD and housed in the archives of the National D-Day Memorial for use in educational programming. Interviews will be conducted throughout the day  June 6 and June 7; preregistration was required.
    • Field Chapel Service, Sunday,  June 8 at 11 a.m.  Conclude the 70th anniversary observance with an authentic WWII field chapel ecumenical service.