Monuments to be unveiled in Normandy, Bastogne
September 15, 2008
Later this month, officials in France and Belgium will unveil World War II monuments honoring the U.S. Navy’s contributions on D-Day and the resolve and heroism of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
There is no monument in Normandy, France, specifically dedicated to the overall efforts of the Navy on June 6, 1944, the day of the massive invasion. Veterans of the invasion, German as well as Allied, have long spoken of the vast naval armada assembled in the English Channel that day.
"We were stunned when we heard that," retired Navy Capt. Greg Streeter said of the omission.
After a four-year campaign to get a monument designed, funded and built, an effort Streeter helped lead, French and U.S. officials will hold a dedication ceremony Sept. 27. The bronze statue, which depicts a Navy captain and two sailors, is destined for a wind-swept bluff overlooking Utah Beach.
The day before, 400 miles to the southeast, the city of Bastogne, Belgium, will lift the veil on a memorial to the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division. Paratroops from Fort Campbell, Ky., are expected to participate in the ceremony.
Around Bastogne, residents hold the 101st Airborne Division in the highest regard. In mid-December 1944, as German forces moved westward as part of their counteroffensive, members of the 101st managed to reach Bastogne just before it was completely encircled. Soldiers held onto the city, near a key roadway junction, for several days until reinforcements arrived.
The Sept. 26 ceremony at the Mardasson will start at 10 a.m. and last about an hour. A reception at city hall follows.
That dedication probably won’t draw as much attention as the following day’s ceremony in Normandy, where at least several hundred people are expected to attend, according to Navy Capt. Reggie Carpenter, the naval attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
As many as 11 U.S. veterans are scheduled to attend the two-hour event, which will include appearances by the U.S. European Command color guard and a U.S. Navy band from Naples, Italy.
Organized by the Naval Order of the United States, the effort to get a monument built to commemorate the Navy’s efforts on D-Day got delayed a bit for lack of funding. In fact, the monument didn’t reach the shores of northern France until last weekend.
"It was a close call," Streeter said last week after the last major hurdle was cleared.