On June 4 and 5, the National Park Service at the Eisenhower National Historic Site will commemorate the anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops from Great Britain, Canada, Poland, France, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Belgium and the United States were involved in transport, air support and landings on the beaches in Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded these troops and eventually three and a half million soldiers in the European Theater who defeated Nazi Germany.
Eisenhower and the soldiers who made the landings will be remembered in a special program by Park Rangers, Eisenhower and the Men of D-Day. “Eisenhower always said that the real hero in World War II was G. I. Joe,” said Carol Hegeman, supervisory historian at the Eisenhower National Historic Site.
Visitors will have an opportunity to learn about the D-Day invasion through a hands-on experience with equipment and uniforms. 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, from mid-June to mid-August. This program was made possible by a grant from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Society.
On June 4 and 5, two living history groups will set up World War II army camps at the Eisenhower site. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the camps and talk informally with the living historians from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. U.S. Army infantry, paratroopers, tankers and artillerymen will be presented by the 9th Infantry Division Living History Association. A British Commando unit will be presented by the Combined Operations Living History Association.
Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel will conduct tours of the Soldiers’ 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, according to Siegel.
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 5. 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.
For more information contact the Eisenhower National Historic Site at 717/ 338-9114 or visit the web site at www.nps.gov/eise