We welcome you to an episode dedicated to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, and the inspiring story of the ‘Bedford Boys’ who served in World War II.
The 34 Virginia National Guard soldiers from Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, based in the rural town of Bedford, suffered a tremendous loss on D-Day, with 20 of them losing their lives. This tragic event sparked a lasting impact on this small community, which later built the National D-Day Memorial to honor them. The episode delves deep into the memorial’s significant features, the fluid motion monument, the Overlord Arch, and more. Without any federal funding, this nationally recognized memorial captures the story of the lives, sacrifices, and courage of the Bedford Boys and serves as a poignant reminder of the impact of the everyday man on World War II.
01:57 Bedford, Virginia
07:37 Allied Nations at D-Day
08:54 The Memorial
13:09 Operation Overlord and the D-Day Events
14:45 The Bedford Boys
18:53 National but not government-funded
22:05 Dwight D Eisenhower section
27:30 Thank you
85 Bedford Boys
[00:00:00] Jenn: It’s from Bedford. Really? Yeah, Lawrence Chambers. Wow. I know, isn’t that neat? First African, yeah, from Bedford, first African American to command a U. S. Navy aircraft carrier and the first African American graduate of the Naval Academy to reach flag rank.
[00:00:16] Scott: Man, what’s in the water in Bedford, Virginia? I know, right?
[00:00:31] Welcome to Talk with History. I am your host Scott, here with my wife and historian Jen. Hello! On this podcast we give you insights to our history inspired world travels YouTube channel journey and examine history through deeper conversations with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers out there.
[00:01:02] Today we journey back to the momentous chapter of history that is World War II. The year is 1944 and the world is ensnared in the throes of war. The U. S. military industrial complex is operating at never before seen levels and the size of our Army and Navy is at historic highs. The Normandy beaches are about to witness one of the most significant military operations in history, and from the small town of Bedford, Virginia, a group of young soldiers is thrust into the epicenter of a colossal event that the world will finally learn the name of.
[00:01:41] D Day. Join us as we delve into the inspiring story of how the bravery and sacrifice of the Bedford boys ignited a community’s determination to memorialize not just their sacrifice. But that of all who stormed the beaches on that fateful day. So Jen, this is, we, we went to Bedford, Virginia. And for just kind of give people some context, you know, if you kind of know where the Norfolk DC area is from Norfolk, if you kind of go about four hours due West, yes, that is where Bedford Virginia is.
[00:02:19] There’s not much there. No, it’s a rural community. It’s a very rural community. Like three hours due West is Appomattox. Keep going for another hour. Eventually you’ll hit Bedford. Yes. Very rural community. And the reason that we went there was actually The two star admiral that I work for brought it up because he’s from Bedford, Virginia.
[00:02:40] He’s like, Hey, I’m going out there to do this like memorial thing at a, at a D Day at the National D Day Memorial. And that kind of stuck in my brain because I was like, Oh, that’s great. It’s kind of in our radius that we can make it out to. So I can’t remember coming home and telling you like, Hey, we need to check this out.
[00:02:57] So we had gone and done some kind of Western Virginia. Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky. Um. History. History. And on the way back, we swung through Bedford, Virginia. So, so what is significant about Bedford, Virginia, and why is the National D Day Memorial there? And it’s not just a D Day Memorial.
[00:03:20] It’s the National D Day Memorial. So
[00:03:23] Jenn: let’s caveat that that you and I did not expect what we found. Not at all. We thought your admiral had mentioned it to you. So we thought, oh, we’ll hit that up. That’ll be a good little history thing to talk about. Maybe we’ll do a reel for Instagram. We thought it might be just a little plaque or monument in the middle of town, the town square or something like that.
[00:03:44] And we were blown away. by what we found. And we made an entire video for Veterans Day. It’s on YouTube right now, if you would like to see it. Bedford, Virginia. Today, 6, 500 people. 1944, 3, 200. It’s a small, rural community. But the men that stormed the beaches of Normandy that day, there were over 150, 000 allied troops on a 50 mile stretch of beach, 44 of them were from Bedford, Virginia, and 20 would die.
[00:04:28] So per capita. It was the largest loss of life in any United States of America city. And that is why the National Monument for D Day is in this small rural town. And it is an impressive, fluid motion. Monument and it takes up the space of probably the size of the World War two Memorial on the mall if not
[00:04:58] Scott: bigger.
[00:04:59] It’s so it’s probably bigger. I mean Eventually, I kind of, once we, you, you drive up to it, and you don’t expect it to be so big. We drove up to it, and we’re like, oh my gosh, this is bigger than we thought. Then we got there, we’re like, we started walking around, holy
[00:05:12] Jenn: cow. It’s sunken down, so you can’t really see it until you walk upon it, and then you look down, and it’s a recreation of what that must have looked like that day.
[00:05:25] From the Higgins boats, and those are the boats that have the drop down drawbridge. that come off of the, uh, assault ships to getting onto the beach. They have statues of men getting onto the beach to falling on the beach and maybe, you know, getting injured or even killed on the beach and then to overcoming an obstacle, climbing up it together.
[00:05:51] And it’s just one fluid motion and they have the hedgehogs. Kind of in this water feature. And those hedgehogs are like those middle, those metal kind of like they look spike balls. Yeah. Like a spike ball that they lined along the beaches to keep them from ships
[00:06:07] Scott: coming up. Yeah. Pictured saving private Ryan.
[00:06:08] Yes. Right. And everybody’s
[00:06:10] Jenn: seen that. So they have recreations of those. As you drive up this actually a hedgehog and. told you, Hey, let’s stop and film that. That’s neat to have it. Not knowing that there was going to be two recreated in this water feature to kind of show you what that must have looked like.
[00:06:25] And again, it’s not 50 miles of beach, so it’s not like going to Normandy, but it’s a recreation of a sculpture. honoring what those men did and There’s another feature in the water that kind of shoots off sprays of water
[00:06:41] Scott: Yeah throughout the kind of water area. It looks like bullets looks like bullets are hitting the water It’s it’s really neat.
[00:06:48] So they kind of recreate the feel. Yes of that scene.
[00:06:52] Jenn: Yes And so you get like I said, it’s like a fluid monument. It’s it’s really powerful and impressive the Sculptures of the men are very detailed So you see their faces and there’s some of the men who are like outstretched, holding on, reaching for somebody else, kind of yelling, showing you that these men were basically pushed to their limits that day.
[00:07:18] And some of them gave all that day. Out of 150, 000, over 10, 000 will And so they show kind of the five beaches that kind of have it spread around in a circle of the five beaches, and they’re labeled Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juneau, and Sword. And then around those five beaches, kind of in a circle that encompasses the monument are all these flags to the allied nations, because of those 10, 000 men that died that day, they came from all different nations, allied nations.
[00:07:50] And there’s a. about 4, 000, 4, 400 Americans who died that day, 10, 000 total allied troops. So we talk about the flags of all those nations. There was like 50, even more. So many, you forget all these countries that came together with, I mean, you think of the United States, you think of Britain, you think of Russia eventually.
[00:08:14] But it really was all these other allied nations that sent troops and helped support. Yeah. And
[00:08:21] Scott: it had been, I think, January, earlier that same year in 1944, when the UN had basically said, Hey, we are the allied nations. And they had kind of made this proclamation and signed some sort of official document, you know, again, not a historian.
[00:08:34] So it, it, when they sit, we say the allied allied nations, I believe there was 26. Yeah. Now I don’t know if there was 26 at D Day, but there were 26 allied nations at that point in time.
[00:08:46] Jenn: That’s amazing. Well, like I said, it looked like a lot of flags.
[00:08:54] The area is 50 acres, believe it or not. Of the monument? Of
[00:08:57] Scott: the monument. It’s, it, the, the cool part is, is it, it really does kind of, It, it gradually gets just feeling bigger and bigger and bigger, right? If you kind of walk from the beginning, right, there’s a flagpole with the, the statue. So there’s a
[00:09:13] Jenn: flagpole with a statue, and that statue is of the wing lady of victory.
[00:09:19] If you go to the Louvre, she has the wings, Nike, and she has her face blown off. And she’s wearing a helmet and her face is blown off. Uh, it’s from France, and it’s a gift from the French. And the significance of that statue, that kind of starts the whole thing. First of all, they’re storming the beaches of France.
[00:09:36] But that statue was from World War I. In one of those towns there in, along the beaches. Oh, really? And that is how it got blown apart during World War II. Oh, I didn’t know that. So that city casted it again with all of the trauma, damage, and sent it to Bedford, Virginia.
[00:09:59] Scott: That’s really neat. And I don’t think they really point that out as much as maybe they could have.
[00:10:03] I know. Even at the statue. Because one of the things I like that you pointed out, was it kind of felt like it was a representation of victory, but the sacrifice through through victory.
[00:10:13] Jenn: Yes, because her face is blown
[00:10:15] Scott: away. Her face is her face is blown away, but she’s still standing there with a sword and this strong pose of this person looks victorious.
[00:10:23] Yes, but at the same time, there is such sacrifice. Yeah, tremendous loss. You know, so that’s like. That, that’s the first thing you see, you know, that you see if you’re, if you’re kind of walking from the front, you know, over towards the overlord arch. And then, and then as you walk past this arch, this stone arch that says overlord on top of it, then you come and you, then you see kind of what is, I’ll call it like below a little cliff, right?
[00:10:47] Because the, the men, the, the statues that they’re, they made climbing an obstacle there, it looks like they’re climbing a waterfall. It’s about what, 20 feet? Yes. Yes. About 20 feet tall. So you walk through, you can, you could walk through this arch and then all of a sudden you see the rest of the memorial down below you, which is the beach scene with the circle of flags.
[00:11:09] And then even beyond that, there’s more that we’ll talk about in a little bit. Yes.
[00:11:13] Jenn: So you have to remember when these men stormed the beaches of Normandy, they had to, they Get to the nests where the Nazis were to disengage their machine guns So they have to climb these obstacles to even get there So basically it’s it’s not just hitting the beach getting across the beach where there is no There’s nothing to hide behind on the beach So you’re basically barren vulnerable along this beach until you get to where these Nazi nests were.
[00:11:42] And basically you can get close to them and then you have to climb them to, to get, you know, to overtake them. Before you get to that area, though, there is a sculpture of a man grabbing a man and
[00:11:56] Scott: pulling him along. Yeah, picking him up like this. This man has fallen and his friend is picking
[00:12:00] Jenn: him up. And yes, and it doesn’t look like that man has, man has died.
[00:12:04] It looks like he’s been injured and the other man is grabbing him and pulling him along. And I, I. It’s, again, it’s another one of those active fluid, very detailed. And I could see the wedding ring on his hand. And it’s interesting about the wedding ring on his hand is it’s almost rubbed down. So it looks gold.
[00:12:22] It’s not quite as bronze. Yeah. Bronze. The patina is different on it. And so I don’t know if that’s emphasized, but it struck me as something that you would notice to remind us that these men are. Average, normal men of America. They are husbands and fathers and sons and brothers who, who did this. They weren’t a typical career soldier.
[00:12:48] They were men who were drafted, who joined up, who learned how to do this. And they, they’re the ones who were storming the beaches of Normandy and then their brothers in arms. So they’re all on, they’re all in this together and they’re helping each other and, and help grabbing each other. And that, again, that’s.
[00:13:05] It’s one of the very first monuments before we get to the Overlord Arch and Overlord, just so everyone understands, is the operational codename for this operation. So it was Operation Overlord. When you hear D Day, it’s basically that’s the day, the day of the operation. No one knows when D Day is going to happen unless you’re like higher up.
[00:13:27] And so people will just call it D Day. And now we know it is June 6th, 1944. But, Before that, no one knew the date. And then Operation Neptune is part of D Day. Neptune is the whole water assault. It’s the ship assaults. It’s how the ships were, the movement of the ships to get the men and the crafts to the beaches.
[00:13:50] And then Overlord is the entire land operation. So together, They are the d day,
[00:13:56] Scott: you know, and it was fun too for the video. I had found some it’s you could find it on YouTube There’s a bunch of channels that that have it some colorized footage of a bunch of d day footage landing footage and that was neat to kind of work that in there and And this this move this video is a little bit more of a moving Yeah.
[00:14:16] With the music and everything like that. And so, it was neat to be able to show that and for us to be able to kind of show the viewer, you know, this National D Day Memorial that was absolutely incredible. I mean, we had talked, we had said, if you took this… Plop, you know took it out of Bedford and put it in Washington DC with the mall with all the other monuments It would be on class, you know world class just like the rest of those over there and it wouldn’t it would be fit right in
[00:14:43] Jenn: Yeah, it’s it’s so impressive.
[00:14:45] And so let’s talk a little bit about the Bedford boys Yes, and who they are and then we’ll talk more about the monument and I want to kind of stress It’s a national monument, but it’s not getting any state or federal funding and I want to talk about that yeah, and
[00:14:58] Scott: the the reason that the Bedford boys kind of became known was because of this loss that you mentioned earlier.
[00:15:04] Mm hmm. And it was the highest per capita in the country at the time. And they had become kind of this national symbol even then during World War Two.
[00:15:13] Jenn: So 34 Virginia National Guard soldiers from Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division were based in the town of Bedford before the war.
[00:15:24] And then Company A was decimated within hours at the landing. 19 men were killed during that. first day of invasion. Four more would die during the rest of the Normandy campaign. And because of that, Bedford suffered the highest per capita per capita of loss. I also want to stress that this inspired Saving Private Ryan.
[00:15:52] And people will ask me, well, I thought Saving Private Ryan was based on another story of another gentleman’s family, and that is true. There was a man in New York who his four brothers were killed, or they thought they were killed, and they sent for him to get him back to his mother. What inspired Saving Private Ryan?
[00:16:14] Is on July 17th, 1944, the telegraph machine in Bedford, Virginia, started going off with our nation is sorry to inform you and it wouldn’t stop. And the young girl sitting at the telegraph machine was writing. 20 of these telegraphs on July, July 17th. So you think this happened June 6th, a month and a half later, this is when, and that is what if you remember the beginning of Save a Private Ryan, when the lady is typing out all the telegrams and she’s seeing they’re all coming to the same family and then she brings it to her.
[00:16:55] Officer in charge and the office in charge calls. That is what inspires that moment in saving private Ryan is what happened in Bedford, Virginia. Yeah. When the telegraph operator got all 20 of these telegraphs at, it was like at a little deli, like she was working, like she worked the telegraph machine.
[00:17:14] That’s also at the little drugstore. And all of a sudden they start coming through and again, a town of 3, 200, everybody knows everybody. So she’s getting these telegrams knowing she probably went to school with all these boys. So that’s the part that Steven Spielberg, when he heard about this, It’s inspired that part of the movie and then he gave money to the memorial because at the time they were fundraising to build the whole auditorium in name of his family member who served in World
[00:17:46] Scott: War Two.
[00:17:46] Yeah. Yeah. And that was. Again, I think another thing that they kind of, maybe in a different part of the memorial would have been neat for them to point out. I don’t know. I mean, at a memorial like that, it’s always, it’s an interesting balance for what you show and what you emphasize.
[00:18:05] Jenn: Yes. And how much do you know going into it?
[00:18:08] Yeah. Right. And how much are you learning there? Of the Bedford boys, three sets were brothers. There were twins, Roy and Ray Stevens. Ray was killed during the landing. Roy survived. Clyde and Jack Powers. Jack was killed. Clyde was wounded, but survived. And, uh, Bedford and Raymond Hoback, who both were killed.
[00:18:29] So you’re also getting, that’s another thing that Spielberg, but the brothers connection where families were hearing about both of their. Boys also emphasize the story for Saving Private Ryan. Nine of the Bedford boys are buried in Bedford. Eleven of them are still in Normandy. So then that American cemetery, that’s in Normandy.
[00:18:49] Eleven of them are there in France. And the memorial gets 60, 000 visitors a year. Only half are from Virginia.
[00:19:00] Scott: Yeah, I believe it. I believe it. And, again, it was one of these memorials that wasn’t that… I had never really heard of it. Because who, who really, like, the average Joe, even the average history nerd, He probably isn’t going to be familiar with Bedford, Virginia and where the National D Day Memorial is.
[00:19:19] Everybody’s thinking Washington, D. C. and the World War II Memorial there, but I just got lucky that the two star admiral that I currently work for is from Bedford, Virginia. I know. And he brought it up during an all hands call. He’s saying, oh yeah, I’m going to be out next week because, you know, I’m traveling out to my hometown.
[00:19:40] where, you know, they want me to say something for, it was Memorial Day, you know, from my hometown where they have the National D Day Memorial. And in my head, I just kind of pulled out my phone and I kind of typed it in and that’s why I wanted to come and tell you about it. Because it’s one of those things, kind of like when we were talking about Pueblo, Colorado, and all the Medal of Honor recipients from there.
[00:19:58] What’s in the water in Bedford, Virginia? I know. It’s crazy.
[00:20:01] Jenn: It’s crazy. So, even though it has the term National D Day, uh, Memorial on it, it’s not funded by the federal government, and the federal government has never funded it, although they got permission from Clinton at the time he was president to put National on it.
[00:20:19] And then, In our video, you can see the, the quote from George Bush who will dedicate it 2001 when he’s president. Cause that’s when it opens. Yeah. But it’s fundraising took approximately seven years. It’s 25 million to complete. And one of the biggest donators was Charles Schultz. Really? Yeah. Of the peanuts.
[00:20:42] Oh my gosh. Yes. He donated over a million dollars. And then with his donated thing, he volunteered to head up a fundraising campaign as well.
[00:20:51] Scott: It was one of those ones that you and I were caught so completely flat footed when we showed up. And we were lucky, and you guys are going to hear about the other history stuff we were doing that week.
[00:21:03] You know, we were without the kids. So we were running around like crazy, cramming as much history, filming, and seeing. You know, all this stuff and then we, we drove over the hills of Virginia, kind of down into this little rural town or like, Oh, you know, what’s this? And there’s some fair going on that looks like it’s, it’s tiny in the middle of the town that we didn’t get a chance to go visit is at some pumpkin festival.
[00:21:27] It’s not something like that. Yes. It’s a Halloween, Halloween time, time frame. And we get, we pull up there like, Oh, this is bigger than I thought. And we start walking around and we were just absolutely flabbergasted. And then even again. We haven’t even gotten to the other part of the memorial yet.
[00:21:41] Jenn: No, if you see my face in the video, we are completely blown away.
[00:21:47] Because like I said, we were not expecting what it, what it is. So on the backside, behind the arch of the flags. There is a wall that of course has the message that Eisenhower sends out the night before. Uh, he, if you ever read Operation Overlord, um, Dwight D. Eisenhower the night before says, you know, the eyes of the world are upon you, and he closes with, you know, may God bless you.
[00:22:19] And then there’s a statue of Eisenhower and it looks almost like the replica of the statue of him from his burial place in Abilene, Kansas, which we stopped at. And so he’s standing there under a little portico and on the ceiling of the portico is a tile representation of Operation Neptune. It’s
[00:22:41] Scott: really beautiful.
[00:22:42] And we actually did a decent job of actually showing that in the video. So if you’re curious, because I was, I kind of wandered down there as you were filming up above and I, I came back and found you, I was like, Hey, you need to come see this. And so in the video, we actually dedicate a decent amount of time to showing that because it’s, it’s all tile.
[00:23:01] So they, they built the whole D Day landing scene and it’s basically from the coast of England to the coast of France, right, so you’re seeing kind of the, the ship passages and they show the lanes on the, the arch, kind of the arch ceiling of this, but they built it all out of tile and they did a great job.
[00:23:18] It’s beautiful. It’s, it was really neat and so it’s, It’s neat that that’s above Ike, you know, as he’s standing there and the statue is looking in the opposite direction. He’s kind of at one end of the memorial. So he’s looking towards the beaches and he’s looking towards the actual Operation Overlord arch.
[00:23:36] Yes. Again, because he was what? The Supreme Allied Commander? Yes. Of the Pacific Force. Of the Pacific Force. So he was in charge of those operations. Yeah. Operation
[00:23:44] Jenn: Overlord was his. Yeah. And I stress as well. Yeah. Yeah. that he liked to be called General Eisenhower, even after his presidency. He preferred to be called General Eisenhower instead of President Eisenhower.
[00:23:56] It was just an amazing experience. I recommend anybody who is interested in seeing something like this or, you know, paying tribute and honoring those veterans, uh, on D Day, the ones that were there. And it’s a tribute to those who did not return, and it basically honors those, everyone who participated in the invasion.
[00:24:17] And, you know, rarely has history been so greatly impacted by a single 24 hour period, and this does a very good job of honoring all of the men that did that, but mostly the loss that the small rural town of Virginia felt. And I think it’s a great representation of America and what America gave that day because it was the normal, average, everyday man and everyday family that won that war.
[00:24:46] Scott: And that was, you know, there’s another kind of off to the side, there’s another dedicated memorial to the Bedford boys. It’s a soldier kind of looking at that rifle stuck on the ground with a helmet on top, which is neat because you see all the names there. But I think even George Bush’s quote, um, you know, That when he was dedicating it that the quote that we put on there was this is I’m summarizing because I don’t remember word by word, but this is the correct place to have a moral like this It’s not in a large city, but in an average Rural, Virginia town.
[00:25:22] Yes, you know where People from everywhere, just like here, were sacrificing, you know, that day.
[00:25:29] Jenn: The weapon into the ground with the helmet and the dog tags is called a battlefield cross. And so I, I explained what that is on, on Instagram. Most people who serve alongside someone else who is killed will make a makeshift memorial to them.
[00:25:50] Because most of the times we can’t go back to funerals. We can’t honor them. We have to keep fighting. We’re there in theater. And so when you lose someone in arms, those are the memorials that we make back at either our headquarters, or where we’re stationed, or where we’re barracks. And it helps us have a way to honor.
[00:26:12] because again, they’re very rarely. Are you going to be able to make it back to a funeral when you lose somebody in combat? So it’s their weapon shoved into the ground, a muzzle first, and then you, you drape their dog tags over it and you put the helmet on top. And it’s called the battlefield cross.
[00:26:27] Scott: Yeah.
[00:26:28] Yeah. Again, if you want to visit this, there’s not too much around in that area. However, if you want to combine it, If you’re going out to see Appomattox Courthouse, you know, uh, the Appomattox Courthouse at Appomattox Courthouse, if you had listened to past episodes, we actually have a past podcast and past video about Appomattox Courthouse.
[00:26:49] In Virginia, it’s, it’s kind of along that same road. So again, an hour west of Appomattox Courthouse is where. essentially where Bedford is, the National D Day Memorial. Yes. So it’s, if you want to combine it with something else, we, I highly encourage you guys. Appomattox is, of course, super cool Civil War stuff.
[00:27:06] Yeah. And then you get out to somewhere for some World War II history. So what history fan is not going to enjoy that trip? It’s it’s incredible. It’s
[00:27:14] Jenn: exactly. Thank you. And we want to say happy Veterans Day. Yes.
[00:27:17] Scott: Happy Veterans Day This podcast is being released on Veterans Day So this is in honor of all those veterans that have served before us
[00:27:30] and that dear listeners Concludes our journey through the hallowed grounds of the National D Day Memorial and the remarkable tale of the Bedford boys As we wrap up this episode, let’s take a moment to reflect on the profound impact these young soldiers had on history. The National D Day Memorial stands not only as a symbol of sacrifice, but as a testament to the resilience of communities coming together to honor those who gave everything for the cause of freedom.
[00:27:58] The story of the Bedford Boys is etched into the very fabric of this monument, reminding us that behind every memorial, There is a tale of courage, camaraderie, and unwavering dedication. We hope this episode has allowed you to connect with the past to feel the echoes of history in the present. If you’ve enjoyed the exploration into the lives of the Bedford boys, please consider leaving us a review on your favorite podcast platform.
[00:28:26] As always, a huge thank you to our listeners for joining us on this journey through time. If you have suggestions for future episodes or you just want to share your thoughts, you can find us on social media at WalkWithHistory. Of course, we’re on YouTube and over on Instagram, we’re actually pretty active over there.
[00:28:40] So again, that’s WalkWithHistory on YouTube and Instagram. We rely on you, our community, to grow and we appreciate you all. Every day. We’ll talk to you next time. Thank you.