Tiny Bedford, Virginia, sent 30 boys across the English Channel on June 6, 1944—and 19 of them died the first day. Eventually, Bedford would suffer the highest per capita loss of any US town in the invasion. It’s the main reason the National D-Day Memorial, a private memorial dedicated to the Normandy invasion, ended up in this burg at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The memorial opened in 2001 but is off many Washingtonians’ radar, thanks in part to the four-hour drive. That’s too bad. Arranged around a massive arch bearing the word overlord—the Allies’ code name for the invasion—the site features a pool where jets of water simulate gunfire and statues depict some of the awful tableaux in Normandy.
There’s quite a bit to see beyond that, but be warned: While there’s a gift shop, the memorial lacks an indoor visitors’ center—a not-inconsiderable obstacle during a Virginia summer. Still, as this tribute does a very good job of reminding you, the men who landed in France 75 years ago went through a lot worse.
This month, in honor of D-Day’s 75th anniversary, the memorial and the town will host six days of events, including an air show of World War II fighter planes, concerts, a parade starring WWII veterans, and tours of the memorial, which sits on 88 acres.
Bedford has a handful of B&Bs and hotels. (For a list, see visitbedford.com.) Lynchburg, 30 miles to the east, features many lodging options, including the Virginian Hotel, part of Hilton’s Curio Collection (712 Church St.; 434-329-3200), and the Craddock Terry Hotel (1312 Commerce St.; 434-455-1500), housed in a renovated shoe factory.
Tickets to the memorial can be purchased online or at the Bedford Area Welcome Center (816 Burks Hill Rd., Bedford; 540-587-5681). Admission, which includes a one-hour guided tour, is normally $10 for adults, $8 for active-duty military or veterans, and $6 for students; ages five and under are free. On June 6, admission is free for everyone.
This article appears in the June 2019 issue of Washingtonian.