World War II-era tanks that were key to the Allies'...

World War II-era tanks that were key to the Allies' invasion of Normandy on D-Day are part of the operational collection at the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage. Credit: Museum of American Armor

In preparation for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Old Bethpage’s Museum of American Armor is working with teachers, elected officials and business leaders on a June commemoration worthy of the watershed Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

Members of a club of historical re-enactors will wear period uniforms and join a World War II amphibious landing craft at a June 6 anniversary tribute at the museum, and an association of Long Island social studies teachers is developing lessons to teach the operation’s military and historic significance, the museum announced Monday.

Area elected officials, labor and business leaders have signed on, agreeing to participate in public events and do community outreach for the commemoration. Museum founder, Lawrence Kadish, is also underwriting an essay contest for high school seniors and college students that will send the winner and a parent or guardian to Normandy for an 11-day tour of battle sites.

“We cannot allow this anniversary date to go unnoticed or to be indifferent to what occurred there,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said in a museum news release Monday. 

Nick Casseus, a re-enactor and member of the Long Island Living History Association, used cemetery and military records to identify two Long Islanders killed in the invasion — Charles Thomas Byrnes, 18, of Elmont, and Sidney Gerhard Dudgeon, 27, of Farmingdale. Casseus and others planning the commemoration have tried — so far unsuccessfully — to reach the men’s descendants.

“We are hoping that, instead of us speaking for them, they could speak for their fallen family member,” said Casseus, an MTA engineer trainee from Amityville,

Gloria Sesso, president of the Long Island Council for Social Studies and a former teacher and supervisor at Half Hollow Hills and Patchogue-Medford schools, said her organization was developing lessons and teaching methods about the Normandy invasion. Members hope to assist in organizing a May field trip that will bring 1,200 high school students to the museum. They also are plannning a D-Day seminar for Long Island teachers led by a professional historian.

The typical high school social studies curriculum devotes five minutes to D-Day and 45 to 90 minutes to all of World War II, Sesso said.

“There’s an emphasis on the legacy and the causes of the war but the battles are very rarely discussed, and neither is the heroism of the soldiers involved.”

D-Day, considered to be the largest amphibious invasion in military history, included thousands of ships and landing craft that delivered 133,000 American, British and Canadian troops from England to France’s Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. Close to 10,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded, including 2,501 dead Americans. But the beachhead was established, and in the days that followed, the Allies delivered men, vehicles and weapons on a massive scale to the western front. Nazi Germany surrendered less than a year later on May 7, 1945.

Newsday devoted most of an extra edition to coverage of the operation on D-Day, starting with a front page dominated by the headline “Invaders Advance in France.” A full-page inside covered Long Island’s role in the operation, which was indirect but significant: hundreds of local factories churning out war materiel, some of which was used in the invasion or the Allies’ preparation.

P-47 Thunderbolt fighters from Farmingdale’s Republic Aviation had escorted Allied bombers in the “preinvasion leveling of Nazi aircraft centers,” Navy planes from Bethpage’s Grumman had decimated Hitler's North Atlantic submarine fleet, and highly accurate gyro compasses from Sperry Gyroscope in Lake Success — the existence of which were apparently classified until days before publication of Newsday’s reporting — guided Allied ships in the invasion.

Trump on trial … Westhampton Beach outdoor dining … Tulip festival Credit: Newsday

Updated 32 minutes ago Doctor facing sex abuse lawsuits ... Trump on trial ... LI Planned Parenthood workers unionize ... Mascot ban

Trump on trial … Westhampton Beach outdoor dining … Tulip festival Credit: Newsday

Updated 32 minutes ago Doctor facing sex abuse lawsuits ... Trump on trial ... LI Planned Parenthood workers unionize ... Mascot ban

Latest Videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME