Museum answers D-Day 'call to action'

A rendering of the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center, a 1940s-themed hotel scheduled to open this year.
A rendering of the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center, a 1940s-themed hotel scheduled to open this year.

For the National WWII Museum, the upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day represents "a call to action," according to museum historian Robert Citino.

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces landed on the shores of Normandy, France — the opening salvo of an operation that would eventually liberate Europe from Axis occupation, at the cost of 20,000 lives.

"We know this is the last [milestone] anniversary in which there's going to be a significant cohort of veterans of World War II still alive," said Citino, adding that of the 16 million Americans to serve during the war, "less than 500,000 are still alive — about 3%. So this is the last time we can put our visitors in contact with a World War II veteran."

To that end, the museum is offering a slate of D-Day-related programming leading up to June 6, including cruises onboard the Seabourn Ovation and Regent Seven Seas Navigator on which passengers will travel with historians and veterans of the Normandy campaign (some of whom landed there on D-Day) from Amsterdam to Dover and Southampton, England, respectively.

"We're treasuring those veterans while we still have them," Citino said.

At the museum itself, a host of programming is scheduled for June 3 to 6, including film screenings, panel discussions, live performances and tours of the museum's "D-Day Invasion of Normandy" exhibit. 

Museum events on June 6 will kick off at 6:30 a.m. in honor of H-Hour, when the Allied forces began their airborne assault. Capping the day will be a performance by the museum's big band and a screening of the 1962 D-Day film "The Longest Day."

Programming related to D-Day will extend beyond June 6. 

Open through Oct. 20 is the exhibit "In Memory of What I Cannot Say: The Art of Guy de Montlaur." Montlaur served with the French Army during the war, suffering multiple wounds in combat. His war experiences would inform a series of abstract paintings, which the exhibit includes along with "interpretive text panels, profiles of men who served with Montlaur, archival photography, artifacts from his time in the service" and more, according to the museum's website.

During the remainder of the year, the museum is set to unveil a number of additions. 

Currently under construction and scheduled for completion in December is the Bollinger Canopy of Peace, a 148-foot-high sculpture above the museum's main campus "symbolizing the hope and promise unleashed by the end of WWII hostilities," according to the museum. 

Also due to open this year is the museum's Hall of Democracy, a three-floor facility that will house an education center, a gallery for special exhibits and more. 

Finally, the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center is also scheduled to open this year. The 230-room, 1940s-themed hotel will be part of Hilton's Curio Collection. Its facilities, including more than 18,000 square feet of meetings space, "will serve the museum's growing offerings of conferences, symposia and student and teacher residential programs" and cater to guests interested in multiday museum visits, according to officials.


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