John Robert “Bob” Slaughter of Roanoke was a survivor of D-Day, a sergeant in the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Like his fellow soldiers, he received a copy of the Order of the Day as he awaited the order to begin the invasion of Normandy. But unlike most of the men, he realized the historic nature of the document and of the day. He circulated through his company and had his buddies sign their names to his copy; then folded it into a plastic bag and tucked it into his wallet. He carried his Order of the Day through the rest of his time in service, and afterwards described it as his “most treasured souvenir of the war.”
Of the 75 men who signed Bob’s Order that night, eleven would be dead within hours.
Slaughter went on to become the founder of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, and perhaps the best known D-Day Veteran in the nation. He died in 2012. Earlier this year, his family donated his framed copy of the Order of the Day, along with the rest of his papers, to the Memorial he did so much to build.
“This little scrap of paper is one of the most significant items in our collection,” said John Long, Education Director for the D-Day Memorial. “Few original copies of Ike’s Order survive, and fewer with the signatures of D-Day participants. It’s chilling to hold Bob’s Order and think about what it took to get it across that beach, and that for so many heroes it was the last time they wrote their name.”
The Order is, however, in very fragile shape. Printed on inferior wartime paper, it literally endured months of battlefield conditions. Creased, torn, faded and unfortunately repaired with tape, this highly significant artifact stands greatly in need of conservation. “Yet the rarity and historical significance of Bob’s Order of the Day make it imperative to preserve this endangered artifact,” noted Long. “It’s a testament to one of the most important battles of the 20th Century and to the men who fought it.”
Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts is a project of the Virginia Association of Museums and was originally funded through an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Connecting to Collections Statewide Implementation Grant. Due to its success, the program has been replicated in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
The public is invited to cast their votes at www.vatop10artifacts.org. Those wishing to make a lasting impact can also donate to the conservation of any of the twenty nominated artifacts. The final Top 10 Honorees will be selected by an independent review panel of collections and conservation experts and will be announced ahead of October's Arts and Humanities Month.The timeline for the program is as follows
- August 1-31, 2016: Online voting takes place. The public may vote for their favorite endangered items and make a donation toward conservation here.
- September 27, 2016: The Virginia Association of Museums will announce Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Honorees for 2016.
“We hope folks will support our nomination in record numbers,” said Long. “It’s an important part of our history and a great way to honor the men who won the war for us.”