The National D-Day Memorial will mark the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord with a ceremony on Tuesday, June 6 at 11 a.m. This year’s commemoration features one of the nation’s best-known World War II veterans, Jerry Yellin.
On August 14, 1945, as a Captain in the then U.S. Army Air Forces, Yellin flew the final combat mission of WWII. Paul Schlamberg, Yellin’s wingman, paid the ultimate price on that sortie to become the final American to die in battle during the war. For years afterwards, Yellin struggled to come to terms with his combat experiences. He was eventually able to make his own peace and become a nationally-recognized advocate for the cause of the American veteran. His inspiring story will be told in his keynote address titled “Purity of Purpose”.
Following the address, D-Day veteran Ash Rothlein will preside over the annual remembrance at the Memorial’s “Homage” sculpture. The observance reminds up of the heroes of June 6, 1944 who did not return home to receive our thanks. Representatives of the nation of France, a people always ready to honor those who liberated them from brutal Nazi occupation, will join us for the tribute. Rothlein will hang his own Legion of Honor Medal, presented to him by the French government, on the statue.
The Memorial will also dedicate the new visitor’s center and gift shop, housed inside a Quonset hut. Quonset huts are the iconic structure of WWII, utilized in both theaters and on the home front. They served as barracks, hospitals, storage depots, latrines, garages, and any other function that would fit under their signature curved roofs. The on-site Q-hut will be reminiscent of the barracks in England where American forces stayed while preparing for the Normandy invasion, demonstrating the Memorial’s commitment to telling the complete story of D-Day and providing an educational experience for guests. The Memorial’s Quonset hut will be named in honor of Bobbie Johnson, a WWII aviator and longtime Memorial supporter and volunteer.
Guests are invited to a post-ceremony book signing with Jerry Yellin and his sister Maxine Giannini inside the Quonset hut. Mrs. Giannini is the widow of artist and D-Day veteran Ugo Giannini, who chronicled his experiences that day and throughout the war in a series of realistic sketches, some created just hours after the events they depict. Ugo Giannini’s artwork will be on display during the book signing.
The 73rd anniversary commemoration will also feature an authentic P-51 flyover, music by the 29th Division Band, wreath-layings, recognition of WWII veterans, and a reunion tent.
D-Day and WWII veterans are asked to contact the Memorial office at (540) 586-DDAY for special seating. Preferential parking is also offered to older and disabled veterans. The Memorial is offering free admission to all guests all day on June 6.