The D-Day Invasion was the largest ever assembled, before or since. Allied forces landed 156,000 troops by sea and air on five beachheads in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.

If a trip to Normandy, France isn’t in the budget this year, there are still ways to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings.

There will be numerous parades and many U.S. Army museums around the country are pulling out all the stops. However, to take in this significant military and WWII milestone there are two stateside museums that simply can’t be overlooked.

D-Day in the Heartland

For those in the heartland there is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, which today is housed in a specially built facility that encompasses more than 19 acres on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). It is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world and has more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display.

The museum is home to such notable planes as the B-17 “Memphis Belle” and the B-29 “Bockscar” – the latter being the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Also in the collection are aircraft from the WWI to the modern day, but this summer is the time to visit the museum to really understand the importance and complexity of D-Day.

Here are some of the artifacts now on the display the National Museum of the USAF:


Maj. Gen. Matthew Ridgway’s Jacket

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is able to focus on the role that the individual played, and in its collection is the jacket worn by Major General Matthew Ridgway, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. He had previously planned and led the airborne invasion of Sicily. In the Korean War, he succeeded Gen.Douglas MacArthur in commanding United Nations forces before becoming U.S. Army Chief of Staff.

Waco CG-4A Glider

The Waco CG-4A—sometimes known as the “flying coffin”—was a glider able to carry 13 troops and equipment, but it could also carry a Jeep or 75mm howitzer. This is all the more impressive given that the CG-4A was constructed of fabric-covered wood with a metal frame. Nearly 14,000 of these were produced for use during World War II.

C-47 and CG-4A Gliders

The C-47 and CG-4A were both instrumental for the airborne operations on D-Day. More than 17,000 men were transported from England to Normandy in the early hours of June 6, 1944 by aircraft such as these. The C-47 in the museum’s collection was the last in routine use by the United States Air Force.

Paratrooper Display

A side view of the museum’s “Paratrooper” display. This shows the gear that members of the 82nd Airborne were outfitted with when they “jumped” into action on D-Day.
a d-day trooper and equipment at the usaf museum
The front view of the D-Day paratrooper with his equipment; in addition to the usual gear this exhibit features the AN/PPN-2 “Eureka Beacon.” The plan was to have pathfinders drop with these ahead of the main landings to help direct the C-47s to the drop zones. However, weather delayed the pathfinders and as a result many gliders and paratroopers landed in the wrong locations. Peter Suciu

Chaplain Maj. George Wood’s Uniform

It wasn’t just combat men that took part in Operation Neptune (the assault operation of Operation Overlord). This museum has the original uniform of Chaplain Major George Wood of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Glider Fabric from D-Day

A piece of D-Day glider fabric from the Operation Neptune landings.

A “Virtual” D-Day at the National Museum of the United States Air Force

For those who can’t get to Normandy really do only need to go as far as Dayton to experience the D-Day invasion in another unique way. The National Museum of the USAF is working with the French company Histovery to create an augmented reality (AR) program. Histovery currently provides AR solutions for several French castles, palaces and museums including the Popes’ Palace in Avignon, the Pic Du Midi Observatory, and the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy.

HistoPad at the USAF museum
From the HistoPad users can get into the cockpit of a C-47 transport on the night of June 5. Peter Suciu

Visitors are provided with a Samsung tablet dubbed a “HistoPad,” which utilizes an interactive and immersing software where users get a 360 degree view of the pre-drop training facilities, the experience of being on a C-47 and then dropping into combat on June 6. Users can collect relics and are then rewarded for what they find.

The “D-Day: Freedom from Above” Exhibit is running now until the end of the year.


“D-Day: Freedom from Above”

The “D-Day: Freedom from Above” Exhibit provides an AR experience that allows users see all the equipment that paratroopers had to carry when they jumped into action on June 6.

D-Day in the Big Easy

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is the other must visit attraction – and as its name suggests it is truly about all things World War II. However, when it opened on June 6, 2000, its focus was on D-Day – it was originally the National D-Day Museum.

The choice of New Orleans was notable in that the city’s other tourism sites and attractions are not usually associated with the 20th century or World War II. The Big Easy, known for its food, music and nightlife does have a connection to history, but yet most would probably think of it as the site of the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812, and as the first major occupied southern city during the American Civil War.

However, New Orleans has strong link to the Second World War and notably the Normandy invasion. The Higgins Boats, which were vital to the D-Day operations, were designed, built and tested in New Orleans by Higgins Industries and this was the crucial piece in determining a home for the project. Moreover, New Orleans was the home of noted historian Stephen Ambrose, who had spearheaded efforts to see the building of the museum.

With such ties, and the fact that the United States had no official World War II Museum, New Orleans seemed an ideal spot. As a result there is no better place to get the full on D-Day experience without having to go to France.

Here are some of the artifacts now on the display theNational World War II Museum in New Orleans:


Higgins Boat

The landing craft, vehicle, personnel (LCVP) or Higgins Boat was a landing craft used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower praised the Higgins Boat and said it had been crucial to the Allied victory. If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach.
usaf museum dday tour
Scale models of the other boats that were crucial on D-Day. Peter Suciu

Complete German WWII Uniform

This is the enemy! In the collection of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans is a complete German World War II uniform display with the equipment the average German soldier might have carried on June 6, 1944.
usaf museum tour paratrooper uniform
The side view of the gear that each soldier carried into action on D-Day. Peter Suciu

Small Arms

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans features an exhibit devoted to the small arms used by the U.S. military during the D-Day landings. These include the M3 “Grease Gun” (top left), M1 Carbine, Browning Automatic Rifle and Thompson M1A1.

Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Display

A display at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans devoted to General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. – the highest ranking U.S. Army soldier to land by sea with the first wave of troops. Gen. Roosevelt was the son of President Teddy Roosevelt, and the general had to argue the reasons he should be landing with the troops. He was also the oldest man in the invasion at age 56 – and the only one whose son also landed that day. While Captain Quentin Roosevelt II landed at Omaha Beach, General Roosevelt landed at Utah Beach as Deputy Division Commander of the 4th Infantry Division. When he was informed the first wave of men landed a mile off course, he made the famous statement, “we’ll start the war from right here.”

National Museum of the United States Air Force Info

Admission to the museum is free. There is a charge for the Air Force Museum Theatre and flight simulators.

Address: 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45431
Hours: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Phone: (937) 253-4629

National World War II Museum in New Orleans

Museum admission is $28 for adults; $24 for seniors ages 65-80; $18 for students with ID and military with ID; World War II veterans are admitted free.

Address: 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Hours: 9 a.m. –5 p.m. seven days a week. Closed Mardi Gras Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
Phone: (504) 528-1944