Staged beach battles June 22 to commemorate 80th anniversary of D-Day

Lest we Forget

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Next month will mark the 80th anniversary of Project Neptune, the allied attack on the beaches of Normandy during World War II that has come to forever be known as D-Day.

On the morning of June 6, 1944, the largest seaborne invasion in history when allied forces attacked the German encampment on the French beach.  The battle is believed to be a major turning point in the war, and a major physical and psychological loss for the Nazis.

Now, 80 years later, the Lest We Forget organization will stage battles on the shores of Tiscornia Beach in St. Joseph on Saturday, June 22, 2024 in honor of the brave soldiers who fought that day, those who made it home, and those who didn't.

The free event will begin at 9 a.m. with music by the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, a parachute flag drop and an inspection of the grounds by 'German High Command'.

"As planes fly overhead, simulated bombs provided by Lance Hazen and his Great Lakes Effects Co. team will prepare the beach for the assault," organizers said. "Higgins Boats, Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT-2 Buffalos) and a DUKW will carry reenactors onto the beach. Military Historian Bill Sheets will interpret the action and provide historical facts throughout the day."

Lest we Forget is an organization dedicated to "brightening the future by illuminating the past." Previous productions have focused on World Wars I & II, Korea, Vietnam, the United States Navy, Women in Service and the Cold War. All of their events are funded through fundraisers, grants and donations.

While financial contributions from the public are gratefully accepted, WWII veterans and their families will have reserved VIP seating by RSVP to 269-429-2098.

Later in the afternoon, at 1 p.m., the Battle of Saipan from the Pacific theater will be reenacted.

"The Battle of Saipan was an amphibious assault launched by the United States against the Empire of Japan during the Pacific campaign of World War II between 15 June and 9 July 1944," officials said. "At 1 p.m. a reenactment of this battle will take place. During the time between these two battles there will be a Flamethrower demonstration by Katie Gromlovits and WWII stories. Food trucks will be on site."

Organizers say no vehicles will be allowed in the beach parking lot and that visitors should follow signs to area parking lots and ride one of the free shuttle buses.

Wheelchair handicap parking will be on Momany Drive. Motorcycles, bicycles and walk-ins can go directly to Tiscornia Beach.

At the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport, WWII C-47 HAIRLESS JOE rides are available June 22 and 23. Reserve your ride here. The American Huey 369 Vietnam helicopter and a Robinson R44 will also be giving rides for a fee.

There will be many family activities June 22-23 at the airport including a 32-foot climbing wall, 20th century military hands-on museum, obstacle course, displays, and reenactor camp sites are some of the attractions available to the public.

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