The first time I heard the story of D-Day was in 1984 on the 40th anniversary of the historic event and I was in the living room of my grandparents’ home watching a television special about the day. The anniversary was well documented that year.
I remember the day so vividly because I could gather from my grandparents’ reactions of the show that it was a very special story. This set of grandparents served in the war from their farm in Wisconsin. Farmers were needed on the home front to feed the troops, our country, and our allies.
The videos of the 40th anniversary introduced my 8-year old mind to the graphic footage of Operation Overlord and laid the groundwork for honoring the ultimate sacrifices made by all of those men jumping from airplanes and storming the beaches and the families back home.
Nearly every big anniversary of the date — 50th, 60th, 70th added more and more stories and clarity about the enormous undertaking. And now, the 75th anniversary is upon us and not many remain that lived through ‘the longest day’ to tell their stories in first person.
This video from CBS News commemorated the 70th anniversary and told the story of the Bedford Boys.
The relatively small town of Bedford, Virginia sent 35 of their sons to D-Day. Twenty-two perished. The town realized the highest casualty rate from one single American hometown.
News of the battle was reported during the night. It was Sunday morning forty days later when the families started receiving the Western Union telegrams notifying each of their sad news. In the story from CBS News, Lucille Boggess talks about how her mother received the telegrams about her two brothers’ deaths as they were preparing to leave for church. The first telegram was delivered by the sheriff. The second telegram came by a cab driver.
Today Bedford is home to the National D-Day Memorial. The hallowed grounds freeze in time a tiny glimpse of D-Day. Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 1944. It is regarded as the battle that changed the momentum of the war and gave all hope that it would end soon. Each passing year gives us a chance to pause and consider the ultimate price paid for freedom — both in Europe and on the home front as each mother received her yellow Western Union telegram.