Though Denison lies more than 4,000 miles away from the shores of Normandy, France, the city observed the 75th anniversary of D-Day this weekend. Celebrating its status as the birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower and his accomplishments as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, a formal ceremony was held Saturday at the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site.
The program included a presentation of colors by the local Knights of Columbus, a performance by the Sherman Police Regional Pipe Band and words from Denison Mayor Janet Gott and retired historian Kearby Lyde.
“The largest sea-born invasion in world history was commanded by a general from Denison, Texas,” said Eisenhower Birthplace Site Manager John Akers. “It was his decision to launch and he took on that level of leadership. I think people admire that.”
D-Day, or Operation Overlord, commenced on June 6, 1944 at the order of Eisenhower, then a five-star general of the U.S. Army. Allied forces, including 160,000 troops, 13,000 aircraft and 5,000 ships, moved across the English Channel and advanced on a 50-mile stretch of coastline in Nazi-occupied France. An estimated 10,000 allied troops, hailing from America, Canada and England were killed in the operation.
“Eisenhower knew the outcome of the invasion was not certain and that they were taking a lot of risk,” Akers said. “He knew he was sending men into harm’s way. He knew he was essentially sending some men to their death. But today, we accept that it worked, that this was the beginning of the end of WWII.”
Akers said the local connection to D-Day goes beyond the famed military general and 34th President of the United States. At a recent Memorial Day ceremony, Akers said he came across a military serviceman’s headstone at Fairview Cemetery with the death dated June 6, 1944.
“A lot of people have personal connections to the day,” Akers said. “People right here in Denison sacrificed just like Americans did across the country and in the theaters of WWII.”
Akers said he did not know when the Eisenhower Birthplace would hold it’s next formal D-Day ceremony, but felt honored to have surviving WWII veterans attend this anniversary event.
“D-Day is an event that’s fading from living memory,” Akers said. “It’s important for us to remember this and recognize its significance.”
Drew Smith is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.