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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a Hero: Captain Bill Overstreet

There is one aspect of my job that I love above everything else – meeting the men and women who valiantly served our country.  It is a great pleasure to get to speak with veterans of WWII and D-Day, and an even greater pleasure to work with local veterans at events throughout the year.  From Family Day this year where veterans lined the tent to share their personal history of World War II to those days when it would be one-on-one conversations, I value every minute I spend on site with these heroes.  

While this aspect of working is my favorite, it also lends itself to times of great sadness.  On December 29th, we said goodbye to a dear friend, P-51 fighter pilot Captain William (Bill) Overstreet.  Born in Clifton Forge, VA on 10 April 1921, Bill Overstreet was a long time resident of SW Virginia.  When WWII broke out, he applied and was accepted to flight school.  Bill trained at a flight school in California, which he where he met Chuck Yeager, Bud Anderson, and Obee O’Brien, future members of his fighter group.  These men were all part of the 357th Fighter Group, which was noted as having more kills during the war than almost any other squadron.  June 6, 1944 found Bill flying 20,000 feet above the ground as one of 11,000 aircraft used during the invasion.  He spent 8 hours over Normandy before returning to England to refuel. 

Berlin Express Flying Under the Eiffel Tower
You can read more about Bill’s incredible career at the sites below, but right now I want to take a minute just to share a few of my personal experiences will Bill on-site.  The first time I met Bill was in February 2013 during our lunchbox lecture.  He was one of four panelists who shared their experiences with a standing-room only audience.  Now Bill always had a smile and his eyes were the brightest blue you had ever seen, and his heroics during the war are no secret (flying under the Eiffel tower during a dog-fight, flying over 100 European missions, being shot down twice, escaping his captors, receiving the French Legion of Honor, etc).  He would talk about his flight under the Eiffel tower, because he knew that is what people wanted to hear; however, he would always talk about the men who did not make it back.  Men like Eddie Simpson, a fellow pilot who was killed-in-action when he and members of the French Resistance grabbed a machine gun off a truck and set-up in the middle of the street to fire at a German convey that was following their own convoy.  Their action allowed the other Resistance members and Bill to escape.  Bill used his status to bring to light the men whose heroics paid the ultimate sacrifice during the war. 
The second time I was able to spend time with Bill was one-on-one.  Labor Day 2013, I was working in the gift store and Bill had come up to spend the afternoon at the site talking to visitors.  We had some downtime between chats were we were able to just sit and talk to one another.  He would tell me about growing up in Virginia, his time in the war, his buddies during the war, and anything else he wanted to discuss.  We had a wonderful time that afternoon, and some of the other volunteers and I were joking around, mostly at my expense.  At the end of the day, he handed me a photograph of himself from the war and his plane, the Berlin Express, signed with the simple message of “Good Luck.”  This is a moment that I will treasure forever.  We all at the Memorial have special moments with Bill and he will be greatly missed.  

You can visit the following sites to learn more about Bill Overstreet: 


Monday, December 30, 2013

Ration-Era Recipes: Spicy Apple Coffee Cake

To celebrate the New Year, I thought it would be the perfect time to go back to one of our ration-era recipes.  I had just returned to work from holiday with my family, my youngest sister was with me and I had a bag of apples that I needed to use quickly.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good coffee cake.  With dessert on the brain, I turned to my trusty Victory Cookbook, published in 1943, and glanced through the dessert pages.  

Eventually my sister and I landed on the spicy apple coffee cake.  Remember, desserts would have been a treat as ingredients such as sugar is still heavily rationed.  This recipe has been modified and only has 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.  That is it!  Plus, you probably already have all the ingredients in your kitchen. 

We had a great time with the recipe.  It is really simple and fun to make!  The most time consuming part of the entire recipe was peeling and slicing the apples.  It is a quick clean-up and does not leave a lot of mess.  You only need a small area with flour on which to knead the dough. 

Once again, my wonderful co-workers served as guinea pigs and this recipe received thumbs up all around.  The sweetness comes from the apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar.  I did not have it with coffee, but I see how this would be the perfect dessert to serve during a dinner party.

I hope you enjoy!  Happy New Year! 

Until next time,

Spicy Apple Coffee Cake

2 cups sifted flour
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 or 3 apples
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons shortening 
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated nippy cheese (Omit cheese if preferred - I did not use any cheese)

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.  Cut in shortening and cheese.  Add milk to make a soft dough.  Turn out on lightly floured board and knead 1/2 minute.  Part out dough in ungreased 9-inch layer-cake pan.  Pare apples, core and slice thin.  Arrange apples in petal design over top.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon and dot with butter.  Bake in hot oven (425ยบF) 25 minutes.  Makes 1 (9-inch) coffee cake. 
You could also use an oblong pan and arrange apples in rows on top of dough. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas in World War II

We at the National D-Day Memorial wish everyone a happy holiday season and wish you all a wonderful new year!  As we look toward to 2014, we wanted to bring you a little information about how people celebrated the season during World War II.  I want to say thank you to our wonderful education intern, Elizabeth, as she has prepared the following post for you.  We look forward to seeing you all at the Memorial next year for all our events, especially the 70th Anniversary!  As always thank you for your support of the National D-Day Memorial!

Until next time, 


Happy Holidays D-Day Memorial followers! ‘Tis the season to rejoice in family and holiday cheer! Now more than ever, the American people know what it feels to be without some of their dearest family members during the holiday season. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters serving in our military make the ultimate sacrifice when they chose to serve. Unfortunately, this means they miss their families during the holidays; likewise, the people they have left behind feel the pain of separation just as much. The same was said for people during World War II, even more so since they did not have the luxury of advanced communication technology. The home front was a different place than what we know today. Not only were the lack of communication hard on families, but also the lack of supplies and closely monitored rationing made it hard for people to celebrate the season the way they had for so many years. Here are some yuletide facts about Christmas on the home front during World War II.


-Like most other items, Christmas trees were in short supply during the war. Not because the trees were being massed produced into something useable, but because there were not enough workers available to cut the trees down. Also, there was a shortage of available railroad space to ship the trees across the country. Thus, the beginnings of artificial Christmas trees (American-made Visca trees of course).

- Just before American involvement in the war (1941), a family could buy a 5-foot Christmas tree for just 75 cents. Today, depending on the area, a 5-foot tree could set you back as much as $35. The cost of about 46 trees in 1941!

Christmas 1941 - A Virginia boy plays with his B-25
- We often do not think of this while decorating our trees, but many ornaments, especially at the time, were made with aluminum and tin, a highly rationed item. As a result, many families opted to make their own ornaments. Magazines would provide ideas and patterns especially designed for non-priority war materials, such as paper, string, and things found in your own backyard.

- Another interesting fact about ornaments at the time, many popular ornaments like hand-blown German-made ornaments, as well as exotic looking Japanese-made ornaments, were thrown away with the outbreak of the war in support of their soldiers. The Corning Glass Company, out of New York, started to make ornaments themselves in response to this occurrence.  Not only did the population feel better about using American-made decorations, but also Corning could make more ornaments in a minute than it would take a German glass blower in one day.

- The electric bubble lights were also designed in the 1940s and are still used today.

- Some people wanted a snowy look on their trees so their solution was to mix Lux soap powder with water and brush the branches with the concoction.

-  Another bit of information we tend to forget is who will dress up as Santa Claus if most of the men are off at war? Women stepped up to the plate, dressing as Santa Claus in department stores, like Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City.

- “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas” were both written in the 1940s for the soldiers and quickly became popular as popular as they are today.

- People were limited on their travel plans because of rationing of tires and gasoline. Instead, families would save their ration stamps to have a nicer meal for the holidays.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

National D-Day Memorial: Thank You to Our Volunteers

Hello everyone!  Here we are again at the end of another year, and what a year it has been!  At the National D-Day Memorial, we have had quite a year. Even as we reflect on all the amazing events of 2013, we are in full swing planning mode for the events of 2014.   All the events, school programs, and tours would not be possible without our wonderful volunteers.  In the blazing hot of summer to the freezing cold of winter to all the rainy days, the volunteers of the National D-Day memorial are always there to make sure our visitors have the most meaningful experience during their visit.  
 As we end the year, I just want to take a minute to say a giant THANK YOU to all our volunteers and the dedication they show to the Memorial.  From daily visitor interaction to concerts, ceremonies, schools visits, family day events, and luminaries, our volunteers are always there, helping out in any way they can.  

We look forward to seeing you next year! 

Until next time,

If you would like to join our wonderful team of volunteers, please visit our website.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Memorial Event: Flames of Memory

Friday night begins one of my favorite events at the National D-Day Memorial - Flames of Memory.  We will be lighting 4,413 luminaries from Friday, December 13th until Sunday, December 15th.  This is one light for each and every Allied soldier, sailor, and airmen killed in action on June 6, 1944 as the Allied forces launched the largest amphibious operation in history.  Luminaries will line the path from the Memorial’s entrance all the way to the Memorial’s wall of names in the main plaza.  The Memorial is encouraging visitors to come see this stunning display of luminaries.  Admission will be free but donations are appreciated on the night of the event.  All proceeds benefit the National D-Day Memorial.

The public is invited to join us on site each night from 6PM to 10PM, free admission.  Visitors are invited to walk through the site to experience this moving experience.  In addition to the luminaries, visitors will hear the sounds of Christmas music through the site, and visit a special Christmas in wartime display with living historians in a 1940s encampment. 

We at the National D-Day Memorial Foundation are very pleased to announce that we have been accepted as a "Wreaths Across America" location.  A wonderful complement to our luminary event, the mission of "Wreaths Across America" is to "Remember, Honor, and Teach" others about the sacrifices made by those who have served and continue to serve in our Armed Forces.  This is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies on Saturday, December 14 at Arlington, as well as veterans' cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states.

On December 14th at noon there will be a wreath laying ceremony to remember those who fell in the service of our country as well as to honor our veterans and active duty military personnel deployed worldwide.  A total of eleven wreaths will be laid as part of the ceremony.  The seven ceremonial wreaths are donated by Morrill Worcester of Worcester Wreath Company and have a red bow and an American flag accompanied by a service flag. The ceremonial wreaths consist of one wreath each for the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and one for POW/MIA.  Four additional sponsorship wreaths will be laid as part of the ceremony. The sponsorship wreaths are sponsored by Ray and Barbara Antunes and American Legion Post #8 of Cherryfield, Maine.

National D-Day Memorial Foundation President April Cheek-Messier noted “We are delighted to become a part of the Wreaths Across America initiative.  The wreath laying ceremony will be an excellent complement to our luminary display.  Bringing awareness to the sacrifices made by those who have served our country is important every day of the year and even more important during the holidays.”  The Memorial will open its doors free of charge from 11am to 1pm to accommodate those who wish to attend the wreath laying ceremony.  

We hope to see you at the National D-Day Memorial this weekend for Flames of Memory.

Until next time, 


Monday, December 2, 2013

Our D-Day Fallen: George Albert Kelly

As we come into the beginning of the holiday season, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by our service men and women every day.  For soldiers of today and yesterday, holidays were a reminder of their loved ones back home and the traditions they have here on the homefront.  It is also during this season that we remember all the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country.  On December 13, 2014 at 6pm we will be opening the gates for free admission to begin our weekend luminary event.  This year we will be lighting 4,413 luminaries – one to represent each of the soldiers who were killed in action on June 6, 1944.

1930s Postcard of Madisonville High School
Service men like George Albert Kelly.  Kelly was born in Madisonville, Kentucky on October 18, 1920 to Dan and Bessie Kelly.  He had three siblings: Christine, Charles, and Mary.  According to the 1930 census, Dan Kelly worked as a Ford Dealer before opening his own garage (seen on the 1940 census).  Kelly grew up working in his father’s garage and this is where his love of mechanics grew. 

In addition to working in the garage, Kelly also played sports, attended church and played the trumpet for his high school.  He was also one of the few teenagers who during the Great Depression owned his own car, something which made him extremely popular.  After graduating from high school, Kelly started working in his father’s garage.  When the 1940 census was taken, Kelly had worked 68 hours the prior week. 
LCI(L) 237; this is similar to the ship Kelly would have been stationed on

In July 1942, Kelly joined the Navy.  Shortly after his enlistment, Kelly reported to Chicago for training on diesel engines.  After graduation, he continued his education by taking a class in Class A Group 3 diesel engines.  By November 1942, he had finished his training and was transferred to the amphibious forces at Norfolk, Virginia.  Here he was assigned to his one and only ship, USS Landing Craft Infantry Large (LCI(L)) 232.  He steadily rose in rank from fireman first class to Chief Motor Machinist Mate on June 1, 1944. 

Plan for attack on Utah Beach
Prior to D-Day, Kelly was involved in the landings during Operation Torch and Operation Husky.  He also participated in landings at Salerno and Anzio.  In March 1944, LCI(L) 232 was moved to England to prepare for Operation Overlord.  As part of Operation Neptune, Kelly and LCI(L) 232 offloaded a compliment of soldiers on Utah Beach in the early hours of D-Day.  On their way back out to retrieve more soldiers, LCI(L) 232 was struck by an enemy shell and hit an undersea mine about a mile and a half off of the beach.  Kelly, as the Chief Motor Machinist Mate, would have been in the engine room with no chance of survival.  Reports noted that LCI(L) 232 sank quickly. 

His parents received the following letter from the USS LCI(L) 232 Commanding Officer after the death of their son:

"I fully realize the inadequacy of anything I can say to you to
lighten the burden of grief and anxiety which must be yours at this time. I hope you may receive some comfort and courage in the knowledge of yours son’s brave devotion and splendid service.

Your son was a fine sailor who was respected for his professional abilities, his conscientious performance of duty according to the highest standards of our naval traditions and his qualities of fellowship and leadership which made him a fine ship-mate. He was well liked by all the officers and men aboard the ship.  I profoundly hope that you may find solace in the thought that he lies buried with honor in the sea he served so well. The memory of your son will remain a constant inspiration to all who knew him and who must now carry on the struggles to preserve the ideals for which he so devotedly gave his life. He was a credit to his home and country and you may justly be very proud.”

Kelly listed on the Tablet of Missing
(National Archives and Records Administration, Military Personnel Records, St. Louis, MO)

Kelly was listed as missing-in-action until March 30, 1945 when the Navy officially declared him killed-in-action.  Kelly was posthumously awarded the WWII Victory Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Area Service Ribbon with five stars, the American Area Campaign Medal, and the Purple Heart.  His name is listed on the Tablet of Missing in the American Cemetery in Normandy. 

We invite you to join us December 13-15 for our luminary event.  Click here if you would like to help us keep their memories and sacrifices alive.    

Until next time, 


**Special thanks goes to Albert Small, a student who participated in the Normandy Institute with National History Day.  It was through his website dedicated to George Kelly that I discovered Kelly's story and could bring it to you.  His work, in addition to census records, description of USS LCI 232 movements, and research into the town of Madisonville, Kentucky has culmanated in the post you just read.  

**Information on LCI 232 can be found here: