Vets Museum DDay

by: Chrystal Blair, Ozarks First

A significant part of D-Day history resides in the Ozarks.

Just outside of the Veterans Memorial Museum on the Branson Strip, stands the 15-ton bronze, 50-Man-Statue.

“It represents a heroism, valor and courage it took to storm the beaches during D-Day,” said Geoff Gardisky, Project Manager for the museum.

The 50-Man-Statue is themed “Storming the Beach” — a commemoration of the western allies of World War II, launching what’s been called the largest amphibious invasion in history on the beaches of Normandy, June 6,1944 — in Nazi occupied France.

“That was a very significant battle because it drove the Germans back — and we were able to win that war,” Gardisky said…”They were headed into a situation that they had no idea what they were going to see or do when the ramp dropped up front.”

The sculpter and owner of the museum, Fred Hoppe Jr, created the statue in honor of his father, Fred Hoppe Sr…a World War II veteran who survived two beach landings.

“So, his son depicted him on the lead here..and 50 other individuals that were from each state in the country..representing what happened on D-Day,” said Gardisky.

On the inside of the museum, an 80-foot-tall room with 12-foot walls.

“This room represents almost 407-thousand killed in action during World War II, that were Americans,” Gardisky said.

For many who come to this museum, they’re looking for the name of their loved one, who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We got a picture and some belongings of an individual who was killed in World War II, it was a Second Lieutenant — and when I saw that I just had to come out here — and I found that name on the wall — and now I had a picture to hold up next to it — and it became very real,” said Gardisky.

For more information about the Veterans Memorial Museum, click here.