Alexandria History

The 80th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy

WW II Reenactors at the 2022 D-Day celebration. (Photos courtesy the Alexandria-Caen Sister Cities Committee)

Alexandria, VA – This year marks the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings and invasion of Normandy during World War II. Alexandria’s 14th D-Day Commemoration is planned for Sunday, June 2, from 1- 4 pm on Market Square. The event is planned and executed each year by the Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee.

Caen was the center of some of the heaviest fighting after the Allies landed on nearby beaches marking the beginning of the end of World War II. The City of Alexandria has shared a Sister City relationship with the city of Caen since 1991. As part of Alexandria’s participation in Sister Cities International, the Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee promotes educational and cultural exchanges between Alexandria and Caen, France.

The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps performs at the 2022 De-Day ceremony.

The Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee, now chaired by Angelique Moss, was started in 1990. Former chair and current committee member Jennifer Reading is overseeing the organization of this year’s D-Day commemoration. The program will include live period swing music by Modern Swing Collective, WWII reenactors, swing dancers, history displays, community tables, and performances by the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and the Alexandria Citizens Band. The commemoration also includes a short formal ceremony with the mayor and city officials, military representatives, and embassy delegates for Allied nations.

Caen is known for Pierre de Caen (Caen stone), a light creamy-yellow Jurassic limestone quarried in northwestern France near Caen. Particularly suitable for carving, Pierre de Caen is probably most famous for its use in Westminster Cathedral. Château de Caen, built by William of Normandy in 1060, also features the famed stone. Six years after its completion, William conquered England and became known as William the Conqueror.

Today, the castle houses three museums and a garden devoted to cultivating plants grown in the Middle Ages. Caen also hosts the Church of Saint Pierre, the site of Henry IV’s conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1593, ending the French religious wars.

Historians of 20th-century history will find the Caen Memorial Museum, which focuses on World War II history and the Cold War more to their liking.

On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops invaded Normandy, France, gaining a significant foothold in continental Europe. The Battle for Caen raged from June 6 to August 6, 1944. When the dust settled, 80 percent of the city was destroyed. Rebuilding the city took 18 years. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded during the initial invasion. Their sacrifice directly led to the Allied victory over Hitler and the Axis Powers.

Concessions will include French crêpes by Crêpes by C and Lost Boy Cider. The event is made possible through the generous support of Alexandria Toyota, Mr. and Mrs. Doug John, Alexandria Radio Club, Your Hobby Place, Kona Ice, and Wegmans.

A second D-Day program will take place at the Lyceum on Thursday, June 6 at 7 pm, the actual 80th anniversary of D-Day. U.S. Army Historian Dr. Kim Bernard Holien will present “How Patton’s Ghost Army Beat Hitler.” In 2024, more than 80 years after their mission, soldiers of the Ghost Army received the United States’ highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, for their clever tactics in outwitting the enemy in the most unlikely ways.

Positioning a dummy tank from the Ghost Army’s Operation Fortitude in 1944. (Courtesy of The Daily Mining Gazette, April 22, 2024).

The Ghost Army’s tactics included inflatable convoys, sound effects, fake radio shows, and misinformation. Learn how the Allies weaved the web that held the German 15th Army at Calais, ensuring victory in Normandy. Tickets are $10 and are available at shop.alexandriava.gov. A wine and dessert reception follows the lecture.

We hope you can join us in celebrating Caen, Alexandria’s Sister City, as we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy!

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