- Special Sections
- Public Notices
By Robin Edward Reed
National D-Day Memorial Foundation
Misconception: The Memorial is honoring or intended to honor Stalin with the placement of a bust.
Fact: The Foundation would never seek to “honor” such an individual. The interpretative plaque accompanying the Stalin bust clearly acknowledges his crimes against humanity. Illuminating Stalin’s role in the planning of Operation Overlord is not to “honor” him as a person, but to recognize him and his country in a coalition effort to win the war. D-Day after all was multinational in scope. To be good stewards of history, the Foundation is charged with telling the full story. History is a “messy business” and too often, is sanitized, highlighting only what we wish to remember. By not acknowledging Stalin as an ally, as some would have us do, we erase an important part of history and do an injustice to future generations who attempt to learn from the past.
Misconception: Stalin had nothing to do with D-Day.
Fact: Stalin had a great deal to do with the Invasion. Stalin had been pushing for the opening of a second front since the summer of 1941. During the 1943 Teheran Conference he was determined to make Operation Overlord the focus of their talks. The “Big Three” (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) spent the majority of their time discussing when and where that effort should commence. Teheran marked a turning point in the war. It was the Invasion plan (D-Day/Overlord) that completely sealed their alliance. Stalin made clear that the Invasion of Western Europe had to be the primary military focus in 1944. There would not have been a D-Day without this political component.
Misconception: This is the D-Day Memorial not the World War II Memorial.
Fact: To say that the Memorial should only address June 6, 1944, is to deny the efforts on the home front and would ignore the success of the troops as they fought their way through Europe as a direct result of Overlord. The Foundation stands firm in its resolve to tell the full and accurate story of not just June 6, 1944, but what made it possible, how it was planned, and what occurred in post-history because of it. The Invasion of Normandy was global in its impact and it had many stakeholders around the world. Simply put, D-Day did not happen in a vacuum.
The Memorial is proud to teach students and adults of all ages about D-Day and on a larger scale about the history of the war. In just 10 years, the Memorial has seen more than one million visitors, educated more than 100,000 school students from throughout the country, hosted more than 150 commemorative programs and events (including lectures on World War II), recorded hundreds of oral histories, amassed a significant collection of artifacts for the future education center, and has given thousands of tours to guests from throughout the country and world, while educating them about World War II and the history of the invasion.
Misconception: Including Stalin at the Memorial has nothing to do with the Foundation’s mission of honoring the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces on D-Day.
Fact: The Foundation firmly believes it has always honored the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied forces as witnessed by the support of our World War II veterans. However, the second part to the Foundation’s mission remains to “preserve the lessons and legacy of D-Day.” D-Day encapsulated much more than the landing on June 6. There was a legacy that followed. To ignore the developments that occurred in the years after the invasion, and because of the invasion’s success, is to dishonor those who fought and died on the beaches that day. Their legacy is much larger than the events of June 6.
Misconception: Critics claim that the decision to take down the Stalin bust indicates that the Foundation acknowledges it made a mistake by installing it.
Fact: The Foundation removed the bust temporarily in order to incorporate it into an Allied leader’s display. The Foundation felt that an Allied leader’s exhibit could better outline the relationships between the leaders, particularly FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. There are in fact, two distinct stories at the Memorial. One story presents the military aspects of D-Day and specifically honors the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Merchant Mariners who participated in the Invasion. The other is the Allied political contribution to that story.
To highlight both stories, the Foundation will move the four Allied leaders “off the circle” within the main grounds and reincorporate them into one location on site separate from the soldier’s story. By having an “Allied Leaders” section at the Memorial, future generations can learn about the history of diplomacy and the strange and disturbing allies we sometimes make. Future education programs will address the consequences for allying ourselves with someone like Stalin. By having an exhibit that includes Stalin, we can more effectively address his crimes against humanity and his role in starting the Cold War. Indeed, history is not always pretty, but there is much we can learn from it.
Several of the designs have the Allied leaders’ located on “Stettinius Parade,” but no final design has been approved. The schedule of the new interpretative section installation is planned for late spring or early summer.
Misconception: A last-minute plaque was added noting Stalin’s crimes as well as his role as a WWII ally.
Fact: These accounts reported in some news outlets were completely false. The plaque always has accompanied the Stalin bust.
Misconception: There is no promised advisory committee.
Fact: The Foundation is in the processing of identifying individuals that will compose the advisory group and the intention is to have that functioning by early spring. The group will serve as a sounding board for the Foundation with represented opinions from many different constituencies.
Misconception: There is a direct connection between the proposed cost of the Education Center with the installation of the Allied Leaders’ Interpretative section.
Fact: There is no connection between the cost for the Education Center and the Allied leaders’ political statuary section. The $15 million to $20 million proposed campaign included funds for an education center, endowment, preventative maintenance schedule and operating cost for two years.
Misconception: All the Foundation’s intentions are focused on the Allied Leaders exhibit, to the exclusion of other components and stories that should be developed at the Memorial.
Fact: The Foundation is working on many projects to be readied by the 10th Anniversary of the Memorial in June. Some examples are: flight nurses, military police, NATO, mulberries, Lend Lease, 9th U.S. Air Force, and a special recognition of the Merchant Marines and Naval Armed Guard the weekend of Maritime Day.
Misconception: The controversy surrounding the Stalin Bust has hurt support for the Foundation.
Fact: There is no denial that the controversy has caused certain special interest groups and important individuals (on both sides) to end their support. On the other hand, it has rallied many of our significant donors, created new ones and generated renewed interest in the Memorial.
In conclusion, the board of trustees and staff take the various viewpoints of our veterans, members, special interest groups and the general public very seriously. After listening, we have concluded that the majority opinion is that the expansion of the interpretation at the Memorial is a positive direction. We believe that the creation of a separate political leaders section is a responsible direction and makes for a more complete story at the Memorial.
With all due respect to those who disagree, we hope that this approach will pave the way for supporters and critics alike to join together to make the Memorial the best it can be and to allow it to remain a poignant asset for the community, the nation, and most of all its World War II veterans.