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A black-and-white photo of soldiers wearing helmets and backpacks crammed into a landing craft as it sails through the sea toward Normandy.
"French Coast dead ahead--helmeted Yankee soldiers crouch, tightly packed, behind bulwarks of a Coast Guard landing barge in the historic sweep across the English Channel to the shores of Normandy." Photograph by US Coast Guard. [1944].

Commemorating the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

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In the wee morning hours of June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy, France. Given the code name OVERLORD, the operation was the largest amphibious assault in history, and would go on to be known simply as “D-Day.”

Today, eighty years later, the Veterans History Project has captured and preserved more than 1,600 of these veterans’ stories. Their collections take the form of video and audio oral histories, original photographs, letters and diaries, and even artwork—all of which illuminate the personal, individual stories of ordinary soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and nurses who participated in one of the most extraordinary events of World War II.

Among our D-Day collections is the story of Captain Robert Barnes Ware. A doctor from Virginia, he served as Battalion Surgeon for the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division. On the morning of June 6th, he elected to take part in one of the first waves of the invasion, preferring to stay with his comrades rather than wait until the beach had been secured. He was killed by enemy fire while attempting to disembark from his landing craft in the Dog Green sector of Omaha Beach.

Ware’s story has always resonated deeply with me, since I came across it while preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014. During a personal trip to Normandy in 2017, I was honored to visit his grave at Normandy American Cemetery. To commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, I talked a little about the meaning of Ware’s story as part of a collaborative post on the Library’s 4 Corners of the World blog. Taking the form of an interview with myself and Erika Hope Spencer, a Reference Specialist in the Library’s Latin American, Caribbean and European Division, the blog post offers additional resources and reflections relating to D-Day.

This June 6th, we invite you to dive into the 4 Corners of the World blog post as well as VHP’s other D-Day holdings. Through our online exhibit Serving: Our Voices, we have compiled a curated selection of collections relating to veterans who served on the beach, beyond the beach, and in the days following the invasion. The online exhibit also includes a link to our Story Map, an immersive multi-media interactive map that chronicles the journeys of four D-Day veterans, and an associated series of blog posts.

Today, I’m thinking of Dr. Robert Ware, a veteran whose collection has become inextricable with my understanding of D-Day. I hope his story—and all of the other D-Day collections within the Veterans History Project archive—strikes a chord with you, too.




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