Memorial Day weekend activities launch new D-Day exhibit at FDR site

American soldiers wade through the surf under heavy German fire at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

June 6 marks the 75th anniversary of what has been called “the Allies’ greatest military achievement” during World War II: the invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944. It was the beginning of the end of the Hitler regime. To mark this milestone, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum launches a special exhibition in the William J. vanden Heuvel Gallery this Saturday, “D-Day: FDR and Churchill’s ‘Mighty Endeavor’.” Up through January 6, 2020, the new exhibit focuses on the “special relationship” between the US and UK leaders.

Operation Overlord was a triumph of Allied cooperation and planning – and this exhibit takes visitors inside the rooms where it happened. Featuring four interactive installations, including a 65-inch touch-table showing the location and movement of the 1.2 million soldiers and sailors involved in the invasion, it provides opportunities to explore the actual maps and classified cables from FDR’s secret Map Room. There are 69 documents, many never seen in public before, and 39 artifacts including a rare ECM Mark II SIGABA cipher machine that was used to encode the most sensitive transmissions from FDR to Churchill. A wide range of historic photographs, films, newspapers and cartoons show the extraordinary scope of the operation. More details about exhibit-related programming are available at (800) 337-8474 or www.fdrlibrary.org. Admission is by the usual Library and Museum entrance fee of $10 general admission, $6 for seniors (62+) and free for active-duty military personnel.

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(Photo by Dion Ogust)

The FDR site will also be offering its usual Memorial Day weekend panoply of fun and educational commemorative activities from May 24 to 27, some of them themed this year to match the new exhibition. The 16th annual USO Show, patterned after the World War II-era shows put on to entertain American troops serving around the globe and featuring live Big Band music from the 1930s and ’40s, comedy and juggling and historic newsreels, kicks off the weekend events at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 24 in the Henry A. Wallace Center. Admission is free, but you must preregister at www.fdrlibrary.org.

On Saturday and Sunday, the FDR Library’s front lawn will be home to historic military displays and a World War II encampment, where visitors can interact with reenactors in battle dress, some of them displaying D-Day-related exhibits. Admission to the outdoor festivities is free. Indoors, Nigel Hamilton, author of War and Peace: FDR’s Final Odyssey: D-Day to Yalta, 1943-1945, will do a book talk and signing at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 25. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, Richard Aldous, Eliot Cohen and David Reynolds will hold this year’s Gordon Cohen Churchill Lecture and panel discussion, “D-Day: Leadership under Pressure.” Admission to either talk is free with preregistration at www.fdrlibary.org.

A Field of Honor flag display will be up all weekend at the Home of FDR, and Memorial Day itself, Monday, May 27, will cap the weekend’s activities with a 1:30 p.m. graveside memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony in the Rose Garden. Admission is free to both.

Memorial Day weekend at FDR site, Friday-Sunday, May 24-27, various times, $10/$6/free, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, 4079 Albany Post Rd. (Rte. 9), Hyde Park, (800) 337-8474, www.fdrlibrary.org.

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