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The Bedford Boys

Joe Holley

In my September 5 obituary for Elliot Berlin, I mentioned that the Alexandria-based documentary filmmaker had recently completed work on "Bedford: The Town They Left Behind." I noted that the documentary explores "the impact of the D-Day invasion upon a small southwestern Virginia town that lost several of its young men in the first minutes of fighting."

In an e-mail, reader David Nelson took me to task for using the word "several." And rightly so.

As Berlin and his co-director Joe Fab recount in their documentary, 38 National Guardsmen from the close-knit community, members of Company A of the 116th Infantry, left home to serve when World War II broke out. On June 6, 1944, 19 were killed when they landed on Omaha Beach at the start of the D-Day invasion. Most of "the Bedford Boys" were killed within the first half hour.

Their deaths gave the Bedford community, whose population numbered about 3,200 during World War II, the sad distinction of reportedly losing more men per capita on D-Day than any other community in America. In 2001, Congress chose the town as the site of the National D-Day Memorial.

The last of "the Bedford Boys," retired postal worker Ray Nance, died in May of this year at age 94. The movie will soon be available on dvd.

By Joe Holley  |  September 8, 2009; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Joe Holley  
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