The National D-Day Memorial stands in remembrance of the bravery, determination, and unrelenting stamina of the men who fought and perished during this pivotal invasion that altered the course of human history.
When I visited the National D-Day Memorial, I knew only the basic minimum about D-Day. But standing there and walking around viewing the incredible monuments and statues depicting the fallen heroes, I was moved to tears with a sadness and gratitude that I can scarcely put into words.
When I came away from the tour, I not only had a lot more knowledge about this part of history, but a true sense of the enormous sacrifices that were made for future generations, including mine.
A visit here is a fantastic way for you and your family to immerse yourself in history in a way that’s simply impossible just from reading books or watching documentaries.
The National D-Day Memorial is actually a memorial park that spreads over 50 acres. It consists of three different “plazas,’ which represent different stages of the invasion. When you go, you’ll want to tour the plazas in order, because they are based on the timeline of how it came about.
Start in Plaza One, called Reynolds Garden. This plaza shows and teaches about all the pre-planning that went into the invasion, which was extensive. The plaza is shaped in the same way as the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force combat patch, which is very cool.
Next, move on to Plaza Two, the Gray Plaza. This stage represents the landing and fighting stage. There’s a conceptual water area, with sculptures of fighting GIs and a model of the Higgins Craft that was used to transport the soldiers. There are even sporadic spurts of water that represent the shots of gunfire from shore that our veterans endured.
In Estes Plaza, the victory of the invasion is represented with the awe-inspiring, 44-foot tall Overlord Arch, named for the actual name of the operation. You’ll see 12 flags flying, which represent the 12 Allied nations from the Allied Expeditionary Force.
Whether or not you have any direct connection with the GIs who fought this battle, the National D-Day Memorial is a must-see destination for you and your family. The experience will stay with you for a lifetime.
How To get To The National D-Day Memorial
Getting to the National D-Day Memorial is a cinch from Smith Mountain Lake, VA. It will take you about an hour by car, and you’re going to be heading northeast.
Just hop onto 40 W for about 12 miles and then take a right onto SR 834 for Brooks Mill Road. Follow that until you see signs for VA-122 North, and then keep going for about 20 or so miles. You’ll reach the Bedford Area Welcome Center, where you can get your tickets and brochures for the Memorial Plazas.
The official address is 3 Overlord Circle, Bedford, VA, so if you put that into your GPS, you should be all set.
National D-Day Memorial: The History
June 6, 1944 carries important significance in the battle against the Nazis during World War II. The date is known around the world as D-Day, when allied forces from three different nations converged on the fortified beaches of Normandy. There were heavy casualties, but by the end of August 1944, northern France had been liberated from Nazi German forces.
The National D-Day Memorial took over seven years to plan and build, with funding that exceeded $25 million. Interestingly, a large donation of a million dollars was provided by cartoonist Charles Schultz, who created the famous “Peanuts” cartoon series.
The actual location of the National D-Day Memorial is significant, too. A total of 34 Virginia National Guardsmen were from Bedford and participated in D-Day. Known as the Bedford Boys, they were in Company A, which was hit hard and completely decimated in the first hour of the Normandy Beach invasion. Nineteen Bedford Boys perished on that first day. Four more men from Bedford died in the following days of the invasion. Proportionately, the little town of Bedford suffered the greatest loss of any town in America. This is why the National D-Day Memorial was constructed here.
This is just one of the many stories that you and your family will learn when you come here.
National D-Day Memorial Tours & Admission Info
Admission for the National D-Day Memorial is $10 for adults and $6 for children over age six. However, these prices are only if you purchase ahead of time online, in person it is a couple dollars more. Veterans get a $2 discount off ticket prices and children under six get in for free.
There’s ample room to navigate a stroller, and the grounds are huge, so you’ll definitely want to bring the buggy for youngsters. The site has plenty of ramps and is fully handicapped accessible, too.
Opening hours: The Memorial is open seven days a week, from 10 AM to 5PM. They’re closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day. Also, they close from December through February, likely because of winter weather conditions.
You can buy tickets with credit cards or cash at the Bedford Welcome Center, which is at the foot of the Memorial. Your admission ticket includes a walking tour that you can join anytime between 10AM and 4 PM. The guided tour lasts just under an hour, and I highly recommend it.
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- Includes a walking tour that you can join anytime between 10AM and 4 PM
- The site has plenty of ramps and is fully handicapped accessible.
- The guided tour lasts just under an hour.
- You can buy tickets with credit cards or cash at the Bedford Welcome Center
- Purchase your ticket online to save money.