D-Day relics: Inside the vaults that are home to history - KMSP-TV

D-Day relics: Inside the vaults that are home to history

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Artifacts from the D-Day invasion, kept inside the U.S. Army's Center for Military History in Ft. Belvoir, Va. (photo: Tom Fitzgerald/FOX 5 DC) Artifacts from the D-Day invasion, kept inside the U.S. Army's Center for Military History in Ft. Belvoir, Va. (photo: Tom Fitzgerald/FOX 5 DC)
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FORT BELVOIR, Va. - It's one thing to hear about how much equipment a D-Day paratrooper had to carry, but it's quite another to actually hold it in your hands.  The U.S. Army agreed to open its vaults to give FOX 5 a first-hand look at the actual artifacts used during the D-Day invasion-- which have been under lock and key since 1944.

D-Day may be history, but inside the space where Alan Bogan works, it's all around.  It's his job to preserve, protect and defend relics of the largest sea and air invasion in human history-- from paratrooper boots to hand grenades to helmets.  

Seventy years later, some of those D-Day relics reside at the U.S. Army's Center for Military History at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.  Chris Semansick is chief curator for the U.S. Army's 62 museums across the nation.  Each D-Day uniform, walkie-talkie, or parachute has its own story to tell.  

And then there are the weapons.  Dieter Stenger is the Army's curator of arms-- from Thompson machine guns to the M1 rifle, which soldiers had to protect from sand and surf.  They're the weapons American soldiers used on D-Day to change history.  

But in the brutality of war, there was artistry as well.  Rare sketches are the only drawings of the final training missions for D-Day.  To curator Sarah Forgrey, the drawings by Olen Dowes are unseen history.  Dowes was there watching what was happening and sketching it out.  

The items are kept safe and preserved for future generations.  As the years go by, the soldiers who fought on D-Day are passed into history.  Because of the sacrifices made by those soldiers, Army historians work to insure their belongings remain to tell the story of D-Day.

The curators say right now is one of the most critical periods for collecting D-Day related historical items.  That's because the families of D-Day veterans who have passed away are contacting the U.S. Army's Center for Military History with donations.  One of those recent calls uncovered a one-of-a-kind radio that was used to fool the Germans and help the Allies invade Luxembourg. 

The U.S. Army Camp Carlisle also shared the following documents with FOX 5:

Original copy of the memorandum of record discussing the invasion, dated June 5, 1944. Signed by Major General H. R. Bull, the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (Operations), this document captured the final decision for Operation OVERLORD.




A memorandum dated February 9, 1944, establishing the "'Y' Day" as a fixed date to eliminate confusion in referring to "D-Day" or a "target date," which could change.




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