little over a year ago, the
10th annual USS Rich Survivor's Association Reunion was held in
Lynchburg, Virginia from June 5th through June 8th, 2004. On June 6th,
2004, the Survivor's and their families and friends attended a special
D-Day ceremony held at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia,
commemorating the 60th anniversary of the invasion of France by Allied
forces during World War II. In a moving ceremony attended by nearly
6,000 people, those who fought and those who died liberating France on
June 6th, 1944 were honored and remembered.
View from south of the English Garden
For many of us in our group, this was our first visit to the D-Day
Memorial. One is immediately taken by the beauty of the Memorial,
erected on top of a hill overlooking Bedford, a small, lovely town
seemingly untouched by the hands of time with the breath-taking Blue
Ridge Mountains in the distance. With it's impeccably landscaped grounds
and strikingly effective statuary and architecture, the D-Day Memorial
stands in solemn tribute to all who served during the invasion of
But the mission of the D-Day Memorial is not only to honor those who
fought and died on D-Day. It's mission is to educate those who
visit the Memorial. Narrative plaques are placed at locations all around
the Memorial describing the contributions of various allied units and
ships, from the planning stage, to the invasion, to post-invasion
operations. On the west wall of the bunkers representing the German
fortifications built into the Atlantic wall, United
States Navy and Coast Guard forces are honored.
West wall featuring naval plaques in
At the time of our visit, only three naval plaques were in place on the
west wall with space available for ten. While reading the currently
mounted Navy plaques, one honoring the contribution of the USS Nevada
(BB-36), the battleship the USS Rich ran cover for during Operation
Neptune, an idea was born that would allow us (the families and friends
of the crew) to honor the D-Day role of the USS Rich DE-695, the
surviving members of the crew, and the
memory of the ninety-two men who made the supreme sacrifice while
serving aboard her on June 8th, 1944.
The following day, June 7th, 2004,
we contacted the D-Day
Memorial Foundation and were put in touch with Mr. Joe Banner who is an
Associate of Special Projects. Mr.
Banner invited us back to the Memorial on June 8th where he
gave several of us a private tour of the grounds and explained to us
how we could underwrite a plaque to hang at the Memorial in honor of the
USS Rich. Between the time of our phone conversation on the 7th and our meeting the
next day, Mr. Banner had performed considerable research about the USS Rich,
an aspect of the D-Day assault with which he was not previously
familiar. He was quite pleased and excited about the prospect of having
a plaque hang at the Memorial in tribute to the Rich.
The town of Bedford viewed from D-Day
After returning home from the reunion, we set ourselves to the task of
raising the required funds to accomplish our goal. Mr. Banner set up the
infrastructure at the D-Day Memorial to handle larger donations sent
directly to them on behalf of the USS Rich, and we incorporated a
non-profit educational organization called the “USS Rich DE695 Memorial”
and opened a bank account in the corporation’s name to accept smaller
donations via mail. We then drafted a
letter to all family and friends of the USS Rich seeking donations to
our cause. In March of 2005, we reached our goal of $15,000, thanks to the
generosity of the families and friends of the USS Rich.
Knowing full well that members of the crew would want to contribute financially to the
project, the idea of underwriting the memorial plaque was kept secret
from them. They had already made far greater contributions with
their service aboard the Rich and we wanted this to be a gift from us,
their families and friends.
Immediately after we had secured the required funds,
Memorial Foundation began work on our plaque.
To say that we are pleased with their efforts would be an understatement.
The good folks at the D-Day Memorial, Mr. Joe Banner and Dr. William
McIntosh in particular, did a wonderful job on the design of the plaque and
the textual representation of the USS Rich's role during the Normandy
invasion. In just a few paragraphs, they have accurately and vividly
portrayed the life and death of the USS Rich and the courage and
fidelity of her crew.
Top portion of the USS rich plaque
On a beautiful Memorial Day, May 30th, 2005, at the National D-Day Memorial in
Bedford, Virginia, the USS Rich plaque was dedicated during a moving
ceremony. The USS Rich was well represented as a number of shipmates,
family members, and friends were in attendance. Those present were:
USS Rich crew, families and friends
gathered prior to ceremony
Roland and Bertie Freeman
M. H. and Marie Green
Jim and Doty Gwaltney (USS Bunch)
Roy and Jane Hudson
Roy Hudson, Jr.
Stan and Judy McMillan (USS Bates)
During the ceremony, Dr. William A.
McIntosh, retired Army colonel and president of the National D-Day
Memorial Foundation, dedicated the USS Rich plaque along with a
number of other narrative plaques recently installed at the
Memorial. The dedicatory prayer was offered by the Hon. Robert W. Goodlatte, United States House of Representatives. In perhaps the
most emotional moment of the ceremony, a memorial wreath was placed
beneath the Victory Arch honoring all of our fallen service men and
women while Brian Farrell of Forest Middle School piped "Amazing
Grace" on the bagpipes.
Dr. McIntosh dedicates the narrative
USS Rich shipmates interviewed for local
Following the dedication, Roy Hudson, Sr. and a number of USS Rich
shipmates were interviewed and filmed by the local NBC news
affiliate, News Channel 7, for a segment about the USS Rich and the
narrative plaque. The excellent piece aired during that evening's
In closing, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our project. We are
genuinely grateful for your support and humbled by your generosity. Thanks to you, the legacy of the USS Rich
DE-695 and the sacrifices of her crew will be remembered for generations
I would also like to thank Mr. Joe Banner, Dr. William McIntosh, and all
of the wonderful people at the
National D-Day Memorial Foundation
for providing us with the opportunity to honor the crew of the USS Rich
DE-695 in such a wonderful manner, and for the steadfast work they do to
honor all who served during the Normandy invasion.
George M. Fryberger
to see a picture of the USS Rich plaque.
Click here to see the USS
Rich plaque's placement amongst the other Naval plaques.
complete gallery of photographs taken at the dedication,
follow this link.