75 years ago, Marguerite Cottrell’s mother received a Western Union telegram to their family farm. She remembers her mother reading it and weeping. Her brother John Reynolds was killed on D-Day the invasion of Normandy on the coast of France.
Cottrell who was 4 remembers, “I knew something bad had happened. Well, little Jack has gone to heaven. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
In her town of Bedford, Virginia families were receiving telegrams that entire summer, nine of them on one day.
Twenty men from Bedford and the surrounding town were killed on D-Day, June 6th, 1944 with nineteen trying to take Omaha Beach. They were all members of Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment.
Twenty men from Bedford or the surrounding area were killed on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Nineteen fell while trying to take Omaha Beach as members of Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment. The 20th man was in a different company.
World War II took a significant toll on Bedford which was a town of 4,000. Compared to any other community in America, proportionally, Bedford had the most losses.
They were all country boys who came of age during the Great Depression and joined the National Guard to earn a little extra income.
Some of the boys lost were Frank Draper and Elmere Wright who were local baseball stars, twins Ray and Roy Stevens who dreamed of owning a farm once the war ended, and Earl Park who was survived by a daughter he never met and left a young bride to fight for the war.
They died from among the first waves on Omaha Beach as they were killed by Nazi machine guns and mortars the second their landing craft landed on the sands.
Elisha Ray Nance is one of the few Bedford Boys who survived the Normandy attacks, he said “They were waiting for us, the minute the ramp went down, they opened up.”
Congress designed a plot of land next to Bedford as the site of the National D-Day Memorial. It was created in honor for the 4,000 troops who lost their lives in the battle.
At a 2001 ceremony dedicated to the memorial then-President George W. Bush said, “When people come here, it is important to see the town as the monument itself. This is the place they left behind.”
Amateur historians Ken Parker and his wife Linda have turned an old pharmacy into a tribute center in remembrance of the Bedford Boys. Green’s Drug Store used to be a spot some of the Bedford Boys hung out when they were high schoolers. It is now filled with pictures and war-era uniforms.