ABILENE, Kansas – If you ask any World War II veterans today if they thought they would be considered heroes for what they did decades ago, the answer would be the same.
“We didn’t realize it until basically it was all over,” said Edward Huelbig, “and I say, I didn’t realize how great it was until I read Brokaw’s book.”
Guy Stern, a WWII vet and Ritchie boy agrees, “There was no sense, and today, I would feel to call us heroes would be a misnomer.”
Still ceremonies like the one in Abilene took place all over the country Friday.
In Abilene, people were able to see relics in World War II and hear the “Order of the Day” given by General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“The tide has turned, the free men of the world are marching together to victory,” memorable words from the future president on what is now called D-Day. Troops stormed the shore of Normandy 70 years ago, helping change the course of history. Called the “greatest generation,” efforts at the ceremony were made to emphasize the great sacrifices made by so many men and women.
“They were great because of their love of country,” said Chaplain Louis Deltufo with the 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley. “They were great because they were willing to come to the aid of allies and neighbors, and they were great because they were willing to risk it all, even their lives, to secure a legacy for future generations.”
“We cannot forget that day,” said Major Martin O’Donnell, also with the 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, who portrayed Gen. Eisenhower. “The lives that were lost, what was at stake, why we went to war in the first place and the freedom certainly that that war created for Europe and for us here in the United States.”
More D-Day events will take place on Saturday. Here is a list belwo.
SATURDAY, JUNE 7
FILM: D-DAY PLUS 20 YEARS: EISENHOWER RETURNS TO NORMANDY
10 a.m. – Visitors Center Auditorium
Reported by Walter Cronkite, this CBS special program commemorated the 20th anniversary of D-Day. It opens with Cronkite and Eisenhower at Southwick House, Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Eisenhower recalls the strategy of the attack and discusses the choice of Normandy as the site. At the Royal Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Eisenhower re-enacts his journey on D-Day, and discusses Winston Churchill. At Normandy, Eisenhower reconstructs the attack on Pointe Du Hoc and Omaha Beach, and discusses the landings.
Military Re-enactors will be on the campus grounds both Friday and Saturday, throughout the day. Narrated weapons demonstrations will be held both days at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
EXHIBIT GALLERY TALKS
Gallery talks will be provided by the Eisenhower Curatorial Team at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 11:30 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday.
Be Ye Men of Valour: Allies of World War II
Library Second Floor Gallery
Library Main Floor Gallery
World War II Remembered: Leaders, Battles & Heroes
Museum First Gallery
World War II Remembered: Exhibit Supplements
Museum Second Gallery
TALK: “EISENHOWER’S ‘NOT SO FAMOUS’ LAST WORDS WHEN LAUNCHING D-DAY”
11:30 a.m. – Visitors Center Auditorium
Timothy Rives, Eisenhower Library Deputy Director, discusses General Eisenhower’s exact words when making the final decision to invade Normandy.
PANEL DISCUSSIONS: LIFE ON THE HOME FRONT and LIFE ON THE BATTLEFIELD
1:30 – 3:30 p.m. – Visitors Center Auditorium
Hear firsthand how World War II affected those at home and overseas. Women will share “Rosie the Riveter”-type experiences about entering the work force to support the war effort. Veterans will share accounts of landing on Omaha Beach and D-Day abroad. Veterans from the 16th Infantry Regiment, meeting at Fort Riley for a reunion, will be honored guests at the D-Day+70 events and have been invited to share their experiences.
TALK: “D-DAY: SEVENTY YEARS AGO”
4 p.m. – Visitors Center Auditorium
Nigel Hamilton, award-winning historian and biographer, will discuss this historic anniversary. His three-volume official biography of Field Marshal Montgomery won the 1981 Whitbread Award for Biography.
The C-47 was vital to the success of many Allied campaigns, in particular those at Guadalcanal and in the jungles of New Guinea and Burma, where the C-47 (and its naval version, the R4D) made it possible for Allied troops to counter the mobility of the light-traveling Japanese army. Additionally, C-47s were used to airlift supplies to the embattled American forces during the Battle of Bastogne. In Europe, the C-47 was used in vast numbers in the later stages of the war. More than 1,000 C-47s dropped paratroopers behind enemy lines as part of Operation Overlord.
CONCERT: SYMPHONY AT SUNSET ANNUAL D-DAY COMMEMORATIVE CONCERT
This special concert will feature patriotic classics and Big Band favorites.
7 p.m. – 1st Infantry Division Band – opening act
8:30 p.m. – Salina Symphony Orchestra – headliner