About the Memorial and Bedford

The Story of the National D-Day Memorial

With the advocacy and guidance of D-Day veteran and Memorial founder, John Robert "Bob" Slaughter, along with other veterans, the Memorial and Bedford, VA has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors each year.

This Great and Noble Undertaking

The Story of the National D-Day Memorial

In retirement, D-Day veteran Bob Slaughter, of Roanoke, Virginia, started attending reunions with fellow veterans and speaking to community groups about the war. Concerned there was little public awareness of what took place on June 6, 1944, and worried that his brothers-in-arms who gave their lives that day would be forgotten, Slaughter and some like-minded veterans and supporters formed a committee in 1989 that would later become the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, with the goal of creating a lasting monument to D-Day somewhere in the United States.

In 1996, Congress warranted the establishment of such a monument in Bedford, Virginia, and President Bill Clinton, who just two years prior walked Omaha Beach with Slaughter, signed legislation officially designating the National D-Day Memorial the nation’s monument to D-Day. Though declared a national monument, the project would receive no federal funding. Peanuts cartoonist and World War II veteran Charles Schulz, whose depictions of America’s favorite beagle Snoopy in scenes from the Normandy invasion appeared in newspapers across the country, signed on as national campaign chair. Saving Private Ryan director Steven Spielberg was among the Memorial’s early donors. Their combined star power helped take fundraising efforts nationwide.

Hundreds, including D-Day and World War II veterans, gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on Veterans Day 1997. The Memorial would be built upon consecrated earth, a mixture of sand from the coast of Normandy and Bedford soil. The Foundation unveiled the Memorial’s first sculpture on Memorial Day 1999. The Overlord Arch, the signature monument, was under construction by spring 2000, in time for the dedication of the Memorial’s first phase that Memorial Day. On June 6, 2001, Bob Slaughter stood beside a second American president as George W. Bush dedicated the National D-Day Memorial on the invasion’s 57th anniversary.

Since its dedication, the Memorial has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors each year. On June 6, 2019, the Memorial marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day with more than 10,000 in attendance, including more than 100 World War II veterans, who witnessed a stunning aerial tribute and keynote address by Vice President Mike Pence. The Memorial commemorated its 20th anniversary in 2021, with a renewed resolve to teach the lessons and legacy of D-Day for generations to come.

Bedford, Virginia

An Emblematic American Homefront

The Town of Bedford offered a sizeable tract of land for the Memorial. The Bedford site, a wind-swept hill, offered breathtaking, unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and the town below, the very places those who served longed to see again, though many would not. Sitting on more than 50 acres just above the town’s grade school, this would be a place to educate the generations. Officially named the Memorial’s home in 1994, Bedford has come to represent all homefront communities that loved and lost during the war.

“You have raised a fitting memorial to D-Day, and you have put it in just the right place. Not on a battlefield of war, but in a small Virginia town. A place like so many others, that were home to the men and women who helped liberate a continent. Our presence here, fifty-seven years removed from that event, gives testimony to how much was gained and how much was lost.”

President George W. Bush, June 6, 2001

The Bedford Boys

Among the hundreds of thousands massed off the shores of Normandy on the morning of 6 June 1944 were 44 soldiers, sailors, and airmen from the town and county of Bedford, Virginia. Thirty-seven of these young men belonged to Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division. For almost all of them, this would be their baptism of fire. Of the 37 assigned to Company A, 31 loaded into landing craft and headed for Omaha Beach in the first wave; the remainder belonged to supply details and would arrive later. En route, a landing craft struck an obstacle and sank, stranding dozens far from shore, including five of Bedford’s own. The remaining 26 successfully reached Omaha Beach, where 16 were killed and four wounded within a matter of minutes. Three others were unaccounted for and later presumed killed in action. Another Bedford soldier was killed in action elsewhere on Omaha Beach with Company F, bringing Bedford’s D-Day fatalities to a total of 20. In comparison with its wartime population, Bedford suffered the Nation’s highest known per capita D-Day loss, a somber distinction for the rural Virginia community.