Today marks the 68th anniversary of the largest amphibious invasion in history, the June 6, 1944, launch of the attack by the Allied forces on German-occupied France. Sixty-eighth anniversaries don’t prompt widespread remembrances, but a few organizations are noting the date by recognizing individuals who took part in the invasion.
In Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy, France, the Richard D. Winters Leadership Monument Project will dedicate a statue depicting Major Richard D. Winters, who, as a first lieutenant, parachuted into Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division. Winters figured prominently in the book and TV series Band of Brothers, and his own Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters was published in 2008. Winters, who received the Distinguished Service Medal, two Bronze Star medals, and the Purple Heart, passed away in January 2011 at the age of 92.
At the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, commemorations will include the addition of a name to the memorial wall listing the 4,413 Allied fatalities of June 6, 1944. Amin Isbir, a coxswain with the 6th Naval Beach Battalion, had been listed as killed in action on June 8, 1944. However, his great nephew, Eric Montgomery, successfully demonstrated through his research that Isbir was killed on the beach on the day of the invasion. His tombstone in Normandy was corrected in 2009.
The very existence of the National D-Day Memorial is largely due to the efforts of another D-Day veteran, Bob Slaughter, who passed away on May 29. He and Winters received notable obituaries, but they are just two of the nearly 5,000 World War II veterans who die every week. As pointed out in the Washington Post by John R. McNeill, vice president of the AHA’s Research Division, despite a few important initiatives to preserve the memory of WWII veterans, it’s likely that only one-half of one percent of the 16.5 million who served in the war will have their stories captured and saved in any way.