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Approximately 800 people turned out for the National D-Day Memorial's Veteran's Day salute Tuesday.
The centerpiece of Tuesday's ceremony was a plaque, donated by the Veterans Committee of UAW Local 2069 of Dublin, Va. The plaque, featuring “Rosie the Riveter,” honors the effort of the American workers who made the weapons, equipment and ammunition that American soldiers needed to win.
Wallace Woodyard accompanied the group of auto workers. Woodyard is a D-Day veteran who served abord LST-376. An LST, which stands for Landing Ship, Tank, could beach itself and deliver heavy vehicles through doors that opened on the bow. At D-Day, LST-366 also carried a boat group consisting of three rocket boats and three LCVPs. The LCVP, often dubbed “Higgins boats,” carried infantrymen or small vehicles, hence its designation which stands for, Landing Craft, Personnel, Vehicle. Woodyard was a signalman on one of these.
He ended up in the English Channel the night of June 9, 1944.
“I was sleeping down with the small boat group,” he recalled.
They were awakened by the general quarters alarm sounding.
“The torpedo hit just a few seconds after,” he said.
His LST and another were torpedoed by German torpedo boats, Allied forces called them E-boats. The two LSTs went down with the loss of 111 sailors.
“We don't know how many soldiers,” Woodyard said.
After three hours of floating in the cold water of the English Channel, the survivors were picked up by the HMS Beagle, a British destroyer.
“It came into a minefield to get us,” Woodyard commented.
Honoring civilian workers is important to Woodyard.
“As soon as Roosevelt said it was war, the whole American public turned out to help,” he said.
“They sent us war supplies, ships, tanks,” he noted. “There was a tremendous amount the sent us.”
Richard Pumphrey, sculptor of the Winston Churchill bust, was also on hand. Pumphrey is an art professor at Lynchburg College and was commissioned by the D-Day Memorial to create the sculpture.
Creating such a sculpture requires a great deal of research. Pumphrey said that he not only studied photos of Churchill, but also read extensively about the British WWII prime minister.
“The portrait is more than a likeness,” Pumphrey said. “It isn't just of them, it is about them.”
The D-Day Memorial later honored WWII veterans with a lunch.
“29th division?” said John Hudson, looking at Pride Wingfiled's hat. “We took you to the beach and left you.”
By “we,” Hudson meant the Navy. Hudson was a young sailor aboard the USS Texas. The battleship took part in the D-Day landing, firing 1,275 pound shells at the Germans from its 14-inch guns. Hudson, a Lynchburg resident and D-Day Memorial volunteer, was a young sailor in a 40mm ammunition room that day.
Later in the day, the battleship picked up 35 wounded Army Rangers.
“Them Rangers was a tough bunch,” Hudson recalled.
He said that after being treated, one wounded man insisted on returning to his unit even though the ship's medical staff wanted to send him to a hospital.