Hidden Symbolism: Details tell a powerful story at Bedford’s National D-Day Memorial

Hidden Symbolism: Details tell a powerful story at Bedford’s National D-Day Memorial
Installations at the 50-acre site follow the timeline of Operation Overlord, starting with the planning and preparation stage represented in the memorial's "English Garden." (Source: WDBJ)

BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) - There’s a story in every step at the National D-Day Memorial.

"The memorial is laid out to chronologically tell the story of D-Day," said April Cheek-Messier, president of the National D-Day Memorial.

Installations at the 50-acre site follow the timeline of Operation Overlord, starting with the planning and preparation stage represented in the memorial's "English Garden."

"When visitors come here, what they find is that our garden is in the shape of a SHAEF Patch," explained Cheek-Messier.

At the head of the garden there's a statue of Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces on D-Day, perched under what appears to be a concrete gazebo. The structure represents an English Folly called Southwick House, where planning for the D-Day landing took place.

On the inside ceiling: a map of the invasion in small mosaic tile.

"The garden also has all of Eisenhower's commanders," Cheek-Messier said. "We always point the various generals he was working with."

The main plaza depicts the D-Day landing itself. Blue concrete represents the English Channel, separated by white lines into five sections that symbolize the beaches invaded by Allied forces.

It's bordered by a reflecting pool, filled with imagery of soldiers storming the coast.

"One of the most striking scenes is the abstract replica of the Higgins Boat or "LCVP" that was used on D-Day, with a ramp down in the front," said Cheek-Messier. "This is what the troops would have come in on."

A high wall bordering the reflecting pool represents the cliffs of Normandy, scaled by soldiers depicted in bronze. They lead to a "victory" plaza, featuring the memorial's Overlord Arch.

"It is exactly 44 feet, 6 inches tall, for the date of D-Day: June 6, 1944," Cheek-Messier said of the arch.

The arch is flanked by 12 flags, one for each nation in the Allied Expeditionary Force. At the center: a solemn statue called "The Final Tribute" designed to look like the temporary graves of soldiers after the invasion.

It’s a powerful reminder that, to secure victory, America and its allies had to pay a steep price.

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