Small Town, Big Sacrifice

D-Day Ivy Lynn Hardy
It was one of the greatest military operations ever mounted: D-Day. June 6, 1944.

And the cost in human life was high. As many as 6,000 of the troops sent to drive Hitler from the continent died on the first day.

And one small town, tucked into the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, paid the highest price. Bedford suffered the largest percentage of D-Day fatalities of any community in the nation. CBS News Correspondent Eric Engberg reports for Eye on America.

"We didn't hardly know how to speak to each other because we didn't know who was hurt. We didn't know who was dead." A young schoolteacher in 1944, Ivy Lynn Hardy had been married to John Schenk for less than a year when word came that he was dead. A total of 19 Bedford boys in a single unit had been killed -- 19 from one town in one day.

Recalls Hardy, "We would just meet each other and love each other a little."

Bedford, in 1944, was a farm town of 3,200. It had a National Guard unit, chosen to be in the vanguard of the D-Day invasion.

The 30 or so Bedford boys who made the landing trained in England with the rest of the 29th Division for a solid year.

Their target was sector Dog Green of Omaha Beach. Lt. Ray Nance was wounded soon after reaching the beach.

Recalls Nance, "My hands were all bleeding and they were oily from the boats being blown, and I got across, and I dug a hole in the sand with my hands, my bare hands."

Roy Stevens and his twin brother, Ray, were in separate landing craft. Roy almost drowned when his sank short of the beach. Plucked from the water and sent back to England, he did not reach Normandy for four days.

Says Roy Stevens, "I noticed there was working in a cemetery over there, and I see those little white crosses they started putting up… The first grave I came to, the first cross, was my brother's. They had his dog tags up on the cross and a little piece of mud on it, and I kicked it off."

Back in Bedford, weeks went by before loved ones got the sad news by War Department telegram.

Lucille Boggess had two brothers in Company A, Bedford and Raymond. Both were killed.

"It seemed like just a dark cloud hung over the community for a long time," she recalls. "It was just so traumatic, I guess, for the whole family. I remember hearing the fathers of the other men who died saying, 'I not only lost my son, but I lost my wife that day,' because a lot of women had a hard time coping with the loss."

The next 6th of June, a memorial honoring the heroes of D-Day will be dedicated. Large in scope to match the courage of that day, it will be dedicated, appropriately, in Bedford, the little town which gave so much.

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