Sunday, June 06, 2010

Normandy Cemetery

Almost 10,000 Americans are buried in Normandy's cemetery.

So many lost ... so much went wrong ... but they persevered. Some lived, some died. Their assault on the beaches of Normandy were instrumental to turning the tide, the beginning of the end of World War II.

Raymond Mays of Chesterfield County, VA, who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, talks with the Richmond Times-Dispatch today about that fateful day. Now 92, Mr. Mays was a Sergeant with the Army's G Company, 11th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, when they attacked the beach. His remembrance of those who fell around him offers a window into the events and mass confusion of that day, and friends who died around him.

Services and tributes are going on today at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Why was such an important memorial located in the small town of Bedford nestled at the Blue Ridge Mountains? The Other McCain lists a short history of the "Bedford Boys."

This chapter from The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice tells the story of how the local National Guard Unit lost 19 young men on D-Day, the most of any locality in America, and so it was decided the memorial should be located in Bedford.

The last of the surviving Bedford Boys passed away April 19, 2009. Ray Nance was remembered in an article in the RTD:
Nance, 94, was among the 35 young men from Bedford who stormed Normandy’s Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

In a 2007 interview, Nance recalled the day 65 years ago when he was wounded by shrapnel in his hand and foot. He took cover from machine gun fire in a pool of floating bodies. He watched friends die, he lay on the beach for hours and was ultimately rescued by a sergeant from Roanoke.

Of those 35 Bedford Boys to land on the Nazi-held beaches at the start of the D-Day invasion, 19 died in the first wave and two shortly after. The loss of 21 soldiers in Bedford’s community of 3,200 gave Bedford the highest proportional losses for D-Day, and led to the drive to build the National D-Day Memorial there.
“Every time I heard him talk about D-Day, he often said he never understood why he left and all the other men died,” [Bedford resident Lucille] Boggess said. “I think he was always a leader. All the men looked up to him.”
It was said after D-Day that we would never forget. Will future generations remember that promise?

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