A tribute to the ingenuity of a Nebraska native now sits on Utah Beach in Normandy, France.
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry has returned to the United States after participating in the dedication ceremonies for the Utah Beach Higgins Memorial.
The dedication took place during the 71st anniversary celebration of the D-Day invasion, which marked the turning point in World War II.
Andrew Jackson Higgins, a native of Columbus, designed the famous troop carrier and landing craft instrumental on June 6th of 1944 in getting more than 160,000 Allied troops to the 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline. More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion that allowed the Allies to gain a foothold on Continental Europe.
President Dwight Eisenhower, Allied Troop Commander at the time, once referred to Higgins as the man who won the war.
The Utah Beach Higgins Memorial was installed late last month next to the U.S. Naval Memorial in Europe in front of the Utah Beach Museum at in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France.
Fortenberry says Nebraskans worked for a year to copy the Utah Beach Higgins Memorial that stands at the entrance of Columbus for the dedication ceremonies.
“It is an exact replica of the Higgins boat as it looks in Columbus with the entry ramp launching three statues of men straight into battle,” Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “People are naturally drawn to it. It has been called the finest memorial in Normandy and I just couldn’t be prouder.”
A simple design, perhaps. A huge impact on World War II, no doubt.
“This was in honor of all those who fought and died that day, of all the veterans who are still with us,” Fortenberry says. “And it is a real tribute to the hard working, noble people of Columbus and the rest of Nebraska who helped get this done as a gift from America to the people of France in perpetual memory of that great battle that day where civilization actually hung in the balance.”