Saturday, June 7, 2014
Cantigny Park will commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day and honor surviving World War II veterans on Saturday, June 7. Activities at the First Division Museum, Robert R. McCormick Museum and Cantigny Visitors Center are scheduled from 10 am to 5 pm and suitable for all ages. Participation is free with paid parking ($5).
- A meet and greet with World War II (WWII) veterans who took part in D-Day. Visitors can talk with the veterans and hear their first-person accounts of the Invasion of Normandy, France. There are more than 1 million surviving WWII vets nationwide; 36,496 in Illinois alone. Of the Illinois veterans only 85 who participated in D-Day are still alive. An estimated 500 WWII veterans pass away every day.
- A brief ceremony at 11:15 am with WWII veterans in attendance placing sand from Omaha Beach in the ground of First Division Museum to symbolize the permanent connection between France and Cantigny Park. Several WWII veterans will also be presented with the French Legion of Honor by the French Consul General.
- A re-enactment demonstrating the training and tactics used to prepare the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division for its assault on Omaha Beach.
- A performance by The Legacy Girls, an Andrew Sisters musical revue, singing music from the 1940s. Special guests will be attending a 1940-era themed lunch at Cantigny Park’s restaurant, Le Jardin.
- A rare WWII landing craft (also known as a “Higgins boat” or LCVP) will be on display June 3-8. It is the earliest known surviving artifact of its kind and was likely used in the Allied invasion. On D-Day this type of landing craft carried soldiers of the Army’s “Big Red One” (the 1st Infantry Division) to Omaha Beach.
- Dr. Cecilia Gowdy-Wygant, a history professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, will discuss the history of Victory Gardens. Her presentation begins at 10 am in the Visitors Center Theater.
Other Attractions & Activities:
- Vehicles from the museum’s collection of running historic military vehicles from World War II will be on display.
- Young visitors can make their own WWII landing craft and conduct an assault in the stream in front of the museum. By simulating their own airborne landing with gliders and green army men, kids can learn about the paratroopers that participated in D-Day.
- Remote controlled historic model tanks will demonstrate how Sherman tanks were used during the battles in Normandy.
- The DuPage Amateur Radio Club will share how soldiers communicated with the ships supporting them during the landing. Historic radios will be on display and visitors will have the chance to communicate on a vintage radio set.
- Visitors to the museum will see a World War II-era “dog tag” machine in action. Personalized tags are available for $6 each or two for $10.
- Visitors will see artifacts from Jack Thompson, a Chicago Tribune reporter who landed with the 1st Infantry Division on D-Day. A living history actor will portray Thompson and kids will have an opportunity to talk to him and be a “Reporter for a Day.” Guided tours of the Robert R. McCormick Museum will highlight what was happening during WWII and Colonel McCormick’s thoughts about the war.
The 1st Infantry Division led the landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Omaha was one of five beaches the Allied forces assaulted that day and where they faced the strongest resistance from Hitler’s “Fortress Europe.” The German troops were defeated but thousands of American soldiers died in the battle.