On Saturday and Sunday, June 5th and 6th, the National Park Service at the Eisenhower National Historic Site will commemorate the 66th anniversary of D-Day. Approximately 160,000 Allied troops representing Great Britain, Canada, Poland, France, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Belgium and the United States were involved in the transport, air support and landings on the beaches in Normandy, France. These troops under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and eventually the 3,500,000 troops he commanded in the European Theater went on to defeat Nazi Germany.
Eisenhower and the soldiers that made the landings will be remembered in a special program,Eisenhower and the Men of D-Day. Park Rangers will present a talk about Eisenhower’s role as Supreme Commander and his concern for the men that fought under his command. Eisenhower always said that the real hero in World War II was G. I. Joe. Visitors will have an opportunity to learn about the infantry that made the D-Day invasion through a hands-on experience with the equipment and uniforms they wore. The program will be presented at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. It will also be presented daily during the summer season, mid June - mid August. This program was made possible by a grant from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Society.
Two living history groups will also set up camp and provide informal interpretation from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. The 9th Infantry Division Living History Association will portray various U.S. Army forces from infantry to paratroopers, tankers and artillerymen. The Combined Operations Living History Association will portray the British Number 4 Commando and French Resistance Forces. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the camp and talk informally with the living historians.
On Sunday, June 6, as part of the National Park Service commemoration of the anniversary of D-Day, Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel will conduct tours of the Soldier’s National Cemetery that focus on World War II soldiers buried there. Resting near the Civil War dead in the cemetery where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address– and overlooked by many visitors – are 1,600 World War II veterans including two seamen killed at Pearl Harbor, eleven who fell in the D-Day landings, an artilleryman killed in the infamous Malmedy massacre, the young pilots of B-17’s, B-24 Liberators and B-26 Marauders, and one boy from Allentown, Pa., who was killed in the Marine Corps’ first Pacific battle on Guadalcanal at the shocking age of 15.
Siegel’s extensive research on these World War II soldiers killed in action is the basis for the compelling stories he tells on the cemetery tour. The free tours will be presented at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, June 6. Visitors should park in the National Cemetery parking lot off of Taneytown Road. The tour begins inside the Taneytown Road cemetery gate.
Eisenhower National Historic Site is open daily. All visits are via shuttle bus from the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center, 1195 Baltimore Pike in Gettysburg. Shuttles depart every half-hour from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekends and every hour on weekdays. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $5.00 for children ages 6-12, under 6 free.