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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Our D-Day Fallen: Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta

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, the 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 11, 2015 at 6pm we will open the gates of the National D-Day Memorial for free admission to begin our weekend luminary event.  Like every year, we are lighting 4,413 luminaries – one to represent each of the soldiers who were killed in action on June 6, 1944.

Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta
These luminaries will be lit in honor of servicemen, like Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1915. Although there is not much about his early years, it seems as if he moved to Washington D.C. to live with the Rabil family in 1940, just before the U.S. became involved in the war.

He was the Captain of Company B of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division of the U.S. Army during World War II. His company loaded from Weymouth-Portland to head towards Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 on his transport, the Empire Javelin.

“When we left the Empire Javelin and boarded the landing craft, Captain Zappacosta was the first man at the front. I was behind him, being his radio operator. He was very quiet going in. He was not a talkative man anyways, but he was very, very quiet on the trip in…. “ – Pvt. Bob Sales, Zappacosta’s Radio Operator, in an interview in 1999

“When the ramp dropped, Zappacosta was first off. He was immediately hit. Medic Thomas Kenser saw him bleeding from the hip and shoulder. Kenser, still on the ramp, shouted, "Try to make it in! I'm coming." But the captain was already dead. Before Kenser could jump off the boat he was shot dead. Every man on the boat save one (Pvt. Robert Sales) was either killed or wounded before reaching the beach.” -Stephen Ambrose, in his book, D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II

Not only did Zappacosta valiantly lead his men into battle in the wake of the devastation on Omaha Beach with Company A, his ultimate sacrifice led to freedom for France, Europe, and the rest of the world. Zappacosta is buried in Yeadon, Pennsylvania at Holy Cross Cemetery. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

D-Day Fallen: John Schenk

Hello Friends!

As I am sure you have noticed, fall does not necessarily mean that the National D-Day Memorial is not busy with events and school groups. However, we are starting to slow down a bit and are getting excited for one of our favorite events of the year, Flames of Memory and Christmas in Wartime Presentation.

National D-Day Memorial's Flames of Memory and
Christmas in Wartime Presentation
During this event, thousands of luminaries are arranged throughout the Memorial and shine in recognition of Overlord’s fallen and in tribute to the ultimate sacrifice each one of them made to relight the lamp of freedom. This event is not only beautiful, but is such a vivid reminder of the sacrifice of the men on the beaches of Normandy. As twilight deepens and obscures the Blue Ridge, the Memorial will honor the 4,413 men killed on D-Day the nights of December 11-13, 2015 from 6PM-9PM. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Luminaries are sold throughout the year and can be purchased in honor of or in memory of a loved one that has served or who is currently serving. Each luminary costs $20, or six for $100, and they can be purchased in honor or memory of anyone who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, D-Day veteran or not. All proceeds benefit the Memorial and are tax-deductible. Also, group sales are available. If you are interested in purchasing a luminary, visit and click on “GIVING” or  call (540) 586-3329 for more information.

We would also like to extend a very special thanks to the Virginia Moose Association for supporting this worthy endeavor.

One thing we like to do each year leading up to Flames of Memory is to recognize a few of our D-Day fallen in our blog posts.  Today, I want to recognize one of our own from Bedford.

John Burwell Schenk was born in September 1916 in Bedford. He was a student in Business Administration at Virginia Tech and joined the Virginia National Guard on February 3, 1941.

One of my favorite things about John was his relationship with Ivylyn. In 1941, John was set up by a friend on a blind date with Ivylyn Jordan that lasted late into the night. They continued to date after the war began and eventually were married when he was on leave from Camp Blanding, Florida. After he deployed to England to prepare for D-Day, John and Ivylyn wrote letters to each other every day when Schenk was in England.

Just before the Normandy invasion, Ivylyn wrote a letter to John on May 21, 1944. Below is a portion of that letter:

“Although I haven’t written [recently] my heart has been filled with thoughts for and about you. Your letters are so full of hope and brightness for the future. Several have come this week written May 7, 8, 10, and 11th. They have been like sunbeams on long winter days…”

In their letters, not only did they discuss their love for one another, they talked about the daily events of their lives. After over twenty months of being apart due to the war, the war did not allow them to make it to their two year wedding anniversary.

As a part of the 29th Division, 116th Regiment, Company A, Ssgt. John Schenk landed in the first wave of the assault on Omaha Beach with other young soldiers from Bedford, Virginia. Their objective was to get up to the high-water mark and off the beach. However, many did not make it. John was one of those men who died due to heavy fire as they reached the shore.

On July 17, 1944, his parents received news from the War Department that John was killed in action in France on June 6, 1944. Although the news was not what Ivylyn expected, she lived her life like John would’ve liked for her to as she carried on his memory even though she remarried. He is buried at the American Cemetery at Normandy.

Until Next Time,


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Veterans Day

Hello Friends!

Here at the National D-Day Memorial we honor those who participated in and pay tribute to those who did not return from the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 in Normandy, France. While D-Day and World War II are the main focus of our mission, we also strive throughout the year to honor all who have served—past and current—in  the U.S. Armed Forces.   

Roger Neighborgall during WWII
Our annual Veterans Day ceremony will take place on Wednesday, November 11th at 11AM. We will
take time to honor all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces during this special event. The program will include special music, guest speakers, and recognition of all veterans. Admission is free 10AM – 12PM. 

 Our keynote speaker for this event is World War II Veteran, Roger Neighborgall. Neighborgall was assigned to the U.S. Army 5th Ranger Battalion in 1944. He took part in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe campaigns and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Combat Infantry Badge.

This year, we are also excited to have Alex Kershaw again as a special guest speaker—twice in one year, too! He recently released a new book, Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris, which is about the untold story of a brave doctor who risked everything to defy Hitler. He has also written several other books about WWII, including The Bedford Boys and The Longest Winter.

Annie J. Bronson Veterans Memorial Walk in the Spring
The latest installment of veteran bricks in the Annie J. Bronson Veterans Memorial Walk, Blue Star Garden, and Gold Star Garden will also be dedicated at this ceremony. These inscribed bricks are a permanent tribute to men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States. These lasting tributes are not limited to service in World War II and can encompass any service period. The placement of each brick is not only an investment in the legacy of a loved one, but also an investment in the future of the Memorial. At a cost of $250 each, the bricks are an affordable way to give permanent veteran recognition at the National D-Day Memorial. Visit  for more information if you are interested in purchasing a brick. The next dedication of bricks will take place Memorial Day 2016 and will include orders placed now through February 1, 2016.

Special thanks to our generous sponsors for the Veterans Day ceremony, Cintas and Fostek Corporation. 

I hope to see you at the Veterans Day Ceremony if you can make it! 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

History Explorers: Developing an Interest in History for Today’s Youth

Hello, Friends!

One of the things I love to do is to help students and the general public develop a deeper understanding and love for history. While I get to do this regularly with field trips and giving tours of the Memorial, I only have around one hour to cover the history of D-Day in the context of World War II. While I have been able to inspire most with the personal stories of D-Day veterans and their families, most of our youth like to learn with their hands and through interactions which is difficult to do with large groups in such a short period of time.

One of our History Explorers watching
rain form from the cloud.
This is why I love our partnership with a local elementary school in the county through the 21st Century Grant program. Through this partnership, students travel up to the Memorial once a week for eight weeks for an hour each visit. In this time, we get to explore and interact with the history of D-Day. This is what we have done for the past few weeks:

On the third week of the program, we talked about preparing and planning for the D-Day invasion. We talked about, and even tested each other on, requirements to be a part of the military, analyzed the invasion map and created our own, and finally discussed how weather impacted the invasion and did an experiment on how rain forms with shaving cream and food coloring.
On the fifth week, we talked about the naval and air operations of the D-Day invasion. We created our own Higgins boats (LCVPs) and tested them to see how much weight they could hold. We also made our own P-51 Mustang paper airplanes.

Our History Explorers shopping for a meal with only
10 ration points and $5. 
Last week, we interacted with artifacts from the homefront and tried our hand at shopping with ration points in the Memorial’s “Piggly Wiggly.” And today, we will be talking about the importance of victory in WWII and how we can honor veterans today. We will be making V-Pins and creating this fun craft as a card to hand out to veterans at the Memorial’s Veterans Day ceremony on November 11th.

Not only can history be relevant to us today, but we have to remember that it can be fun, as well. That is why I love working with our History Explorers. Instead of learning history through a lecture or PowerPoint in a classroom, we can get our hands dirty and tangible interact with the past in a way that they will remember for years to come.

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

World War II Ration Era Recipe: Squash Biscuits

Besides the changing leaves and being able to wear boots again, I love fall because winter squash is in season at the market. Winter squash is typically harvested in September or October and consists of butternut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash and many other variants. During the 1940’s in an effort to reduce waste during World War II, leftover winter squash was used to make tasty biscuits.

Recipe from “Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked” by Joanne Lamb Hayes

·         2 cups of unsifted all-purpose flour
·         3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
·         3 teaspoons of baking powder
·         ¼ teaspoon of salt
·         ¼ cup of shortening
·         ½ cup of milk
·         ½ cup of pureed winter squash puree

·         Preheat oven to 375oF. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
·         Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture forms coarse crumbles
·         Combine milk and squash puree. Add to flour mixture and stir together just until all flour mixture has been moistened. Spoon out onto greased baking sheet to make 12 biscuits.
·         Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
·         Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to serving basket and serve warm.

Honestly, this was a fairly simple recipe and easy to make. The most frustrating part of the recipe was
making the puree since I did not buy frozen butternut squash, but even that wasn’t difficult.  It felt even more like a true “ration-era” recipe since I pulled all of the ingredients from my pantry, except for the squash.

As they were cooling, I was prepared for these not to taste the best as most ration recipes tend to taste bland. But, they surprised me in the most pleasant way. They sort of reminded me of Red Lobster’s biscuits. I plan on making them again this fall, but probably with more salt and adding cheddar cheese.

I hope that you take some time to try out this recipe and possibly incorporate it into one of your fall dinners!

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Meet the Truman's: Eisenhower's 125th Birthday Event

Will and Sue Wills, performance duo depicting Mr. and Mrs. Truman.
Join us in celebration of Gen. Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower’s birthday at the Memorial’s annual fall fundraiser. This event features a catered luncheon, a fabulous silent auction, and a very special tribute performance. Audience members will be entertained with the enduring tale of Harry Truman and beloved bride, Bess.

“Presidents and Their First Ladies, dramatically speaking” is the creation of the veteran acting and writing duo, William and Sue Wills. Together, they will narrate the touching love story of the Truman’s through humor, rocky times, human frailties, and enduring affection. Through Mr. and Mrs. Wills fantastic program, they hope to share the personal side of our famous first couples, transforming them into more than just another page in the history books.

This special event will be held at the National D-Day Memorial, October 11, 1 PM - 4 PM. Tickets are on sale now; $35 per person or $60 per couple for performance and lunch. Performance only tickets are $15 per person.

33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman
Truman Fun Facts

Harry S. Truman

1.  Born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri and moved to Independence, Missouri only six years later.
2.  Poor eyesight kept Harry from joining sports teams, but allowed him to cultivate his true passions;
reading and music.
3.  He read every book in the Independence Public Library and was a talented pianist.
4. Despite being an excellent student, Truman’s parents could not afford a proper college education and his eye impediments kept him from attending West Point, his dream college.
5. Truman worked a multitude of jobs once graduating from high school in 1901, including farming, oil drilling, and banking.
6.  Harry joined the army in 1917 and served in France during World War I. He left the Army in 1919 as a captain and married Bess soon after.
7. The S. in Harry S. Truman stands for nothing except S. His parents were honoring both his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young.
8.  Harry ran for county judge in Jackson County, MO in 1924. Launching his political career.
9. In 1934, Harry ran for U.S. Senate and won.
10.   Headed the Truman Commission during World War II investigating fraud in defense contracts, saving the government millions of dollars.
11.   Handpicked by President Roosevelt to be his running mate during the 1944 election.
12.   Less than three months after the election, Harry S. Truman was sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States of America.
13.   Biggest decision as President was to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, thus ending the 2nd World War and changing American foreign policy.
14.   Truman also faced tough decisions regarding the beginning of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Council.
15.   Expanded the GI Bill, created numerous proposals regarding health care and issued four civil rights executive orders during his time in office.
16.   Today, Truman is thought to be one of the best Presidents in U.S. history, ranking 5th behind Lincoln, FDR, Washington, and Theodore Roosevelt.
17.   President Truman passed away on December 26, 1972 in Kansas City, MO at the age of 88.

Truman family spending quality time together.
Famous Quotes:

“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
“I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”

Bess Truman
Elizabeth Truman

 1. First Lady of President Harry Truman, Wife.
 2.  Birth name, Elizabeth “Bess” Virginia Wallace. Born on February 13, 1885 in Independence, Missouri.
 3.  Married Harry S. Truman on June 28, 1919.
 4. Together they had one child named “Mary” Margaret Truman (1924-2008)     
 5.  Bess supported numerous charities including the Red Cross, Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy, and Girl Scouts.
 6.  Bess and Harry met while attending Sunday school in Missouri; she was only 5 years old.
 7.  Bess was described as an intelligent, religious woman, more comfortable at home, and introverted. Preferred to quietly support her husband, even during his time in the White House.
 8.  Truman became President when Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away in April, 1945, thus thrusting the both of them into extremely public political life.
 9.   The post war American public admired her for the homely lifestyle within the White House.
10. Bess is the longest living first lady thus far, passing away at 97 years old. She died October 18, 1982 in her place of birth.

Famous Quote:
“We are not any of us happy to be where we are but there’s nothing to be done about it except to do our best – and forget about the sacrifices and many unpleasant things that pop up.”

“I am not the one who is elected. I have nothing to say to the public.”

Truman family sharing a few laughs.
I hope you all will join us for this splendid fall event!

Take Care,

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Changes at the Memorial and New Artifacts

Hello, Friends!

So in the past few weeks, the National D-Day Memorial has gone through quite a few staff changes.  Felicia recently accepted a position at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation as an Education Officer. She has the amazing opportunity to be a part of opening the brand new American Revolution Museum in Spring 2017, and we know Felicia has an incredible future ahead of her! Also, Liz is getting married in just a few weeks so her last day at the Memorial is this week as she gets ready to move to the Tidewater region of Virginia. Both Felicia and Liz mean so much to us at the National D-Day Memorial and we appreciate all they have contributed to the success of the Memorial, and this blog in particular!
Ches, Felicia, and Maggie
on Felicia's last day at the Memorial
Well now that the sad part of the blog is over, I want to introduce myself and another staff member who will be collaborating with me on the blog. My name is Maggie and I have been with the National D-Day Memorial since May 2013 as an Education Intern until January 2015 when I was hired on staff to assist Felicia with field trips and the planning of education events. I have loved my time so far at the Memorial being able to meet incredible D-Day veterans while getting to tell their stories to students and the general public! I am excited to take on this blog and look forward to this “sentimental journey” we are about to embark upon.

Today, I am including a post from Ches, the Memorial’s newest hire. She started as an Education Intern  in January 2015 and was recently hired to assist with visitors to the Memorial and our downtown offices. I am so excited that she will still be able to have a hand in Education by contributing to this blog. See her post below:

As an intern and a volunteer, I have been mostly focused on Education and Curation. In my time here at the Memorial, I have had the wonderful privilege of working with some incredible artifacts as they have come into the Foundation’s collection. I’d like to talk to you about a new group of artifacts that we recently received and that I have been going through.

At first glance, the box full of random papers and bits of fabric didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. After all, most of the artifacts that we get that are papers are usually discharge certificates and enlistment forms and identification cards. It isn’t that these items aren’t important or even exciting- they are! It’s just that these are among the most common artifacts donated to the Foundation since they keep track of individual soldiers and are easy for families to keep. So when I opened the box and took a peek inside, I was amazed at how wrong I was. Here was an assortment of items kept by a Lt. Leonard Childers from Appomattox, Virginia in the war, from his introduction to the war in France to his capture by the Germans and the time he spent as a Prisoner Of War (POW) in one of their camps. He had kept letters he had written home, the comic books he had gotten from the Red Cross, his German identification card, and so much more. He even had a piece of an SS officer’s uniform! These pieces are all in excellent condition for being as old as they are.

We are working diligently here at the Foundation to ensure that these pieces of history can be preserved for generations to come. After all, history is a precious and valuable thing, and having artifacts such as these help to bring that history to life. They shape our understanding of the past and give us a better appreciation for what our forefathers endured for us to be here. With the POW/MIA Awareness Day only a few days behind us, on September 19, I think it’s important to remember this soldier and his sacrifice. I want to thank him and his family for their incredibly generous donation of these artifacts, so that all can remember and experience the history of a POW, even after he has passed on.  Without these artifacts, it would be much harder for some to know the valor, the fidelity, and the sacrifice that these soldiers had while being held as POWs.  

These artifacts were generously donated by Marilen Childers King and can be found in the NDDMF Collection under the collection number 2015.0026.