The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, near the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia, commemorated the 66th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy on Sunday, June 6. Bedford was selected for the National D-Day memorial because the town suffered the greatest per capita loss of life of any U.S. town during the Normandy invasion during World War II.
The memorial includes statues of western Allied leaders, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman. Normally, a memorial honoring D-Day, when 66 years ago over 160,000 troops from the United States, Britain, France and Canada stormed the beaches of Normandy, would cause little consternation. However, the memorial also includes a new statue – a bust of dictator Joseph Stalin – a source of considerable controversy.
The non-profit memorial foundation maintains that Stalin is partly responsible for victories on the Western Front due to his involvement on the Eastern Front and that overall, the war was won with Russia’s help. “There are people who feel that he is being honored by having the bust there and that’s not the case whatsoever,” Marsha Melton, vice chairman of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, has been quoted as saying. “And, if you read the plaque that’s there, it explains his part in the planning of D-Day, but it also tells of the terrible things that he did as well.”
Numerous groups have spoken out against the Stalin bust. Karl Altau, of the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) has stated that “millions of Americans of Central and East European descent, including the Baltic-American communities, are certainly adamantly opposed to the bust of Stalin at the D-Day Memorial. We feel this not just elevates the Soviet dictator, but does a great disservice to the memories of those who landed at Normandy in June 66 years ago, including hundreds of Polish allies. It is embarrassing to have to explain to our friends and colleagues overseas why Stalin’s bust has suddenly appeared in OUR backyard when we have been applauding the removal of Stalinist icons elsewhere.” Mr. Altau has also been instrumental in correcting vast undercounts in press reports of the number of deaths caused by Stalin.
Dr. Lee Edwards, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation chairman, has stated “Since the fall of the Soviet Union, statues of Joseph Stalin have been torn down all over Europe and even in the former Soviet Union itself. The world is closer than ever before to a consensus on the evils of communism and Stalin’s primary role in the worst crimes of the last century. And yet a statue of Stalin is included in the National D-Day Memorial, to be dedicated in Bedford, Virginia, this Sunday, June 6.
Near the statue of Stalin, a plaque catalogues Stalin’s crimes against millions of people both in Russia and throughout Europe. But no mere plaque can justify the inclusion of the statue which dishonors the heroic individuals who sacrificed so much on D-Day and in the Cold War. A bust of Joseph Stalin has no place in a memorial whose purpose is to salute the brave soldiers who made D-Day a vital victory in the crusade for freedom. “
Others in the Bedford community and elsewhere have spoken out against the Stalin bust and written letters of protest to the D-Day Memorial Foundation. An informal poll produced results showing that only 5% of responders voted to keep the bust.
Efforts are underway to have the National Park Service assume responsibility for the memorial due to financial difficulties, as the 85,000 visitors per year do not provide enough income to sustain the memorial. Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb (D-VA) along with Rep. Tom Perriello (D – 5th District – VA) had all advocated for a feasibility study to be completed by the Department of the Interior for the inclusion of the memorial to the National Park System. Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who represents Bedford, sponsored a bill authorizing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to conduct such a study. But Perriello opposes the presence of the Stalin bust, according to his spokeswoman. He also believes the Park Service should remove the sculpture if the memorial is designated as a national park.
To contact the D-Day Memorial Foundation, write to: Col. William A. McIntosh, President, National D-Day Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 77, Bedford, VA 24523
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