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Commemorate 78th Anniversary of D-Day with Local, Interactive Exhibit


June 6, 2022, marks 78 years since the deadly battle of Normandy took place. For many, seeing Utah Beach on the anniversary of D-Day is a bucket list item. If you can’t make it to France this year, come and experience the next best thing at the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum. The interactive “D-Day: Freedom from Above” exhibit allows visitors to experience the Normandy invasion through the eyes of 82nd and 101st Airborne Division soldiers by using “HistoPad,” a tablet with innovative software technology.

“HistoPad” provides immersive, interactive augmented reality of the events surrounding D-Day by allowing visitors to manipulate a series of 3D virtual relics, view unpublished photos and extracts of exceptional archival films, interact with animated maps, and learn the incredible destinies of some of our nation’s heroes. The pads have touchscreen dots of light that, when pressed, produce videos, descriptions and information about the people who fought and served during D-Day. For example, the exhibit includes a virtual jump from a C-47 into Sainte-Mère-Église on the night of the assault, among many other scenarios.

Additionally, among the interactive elements of the exhibit, visitors will also find artifacts that once belonged to local veterans. These pieces were carefully chosen by ASOM curator Jimmie Hallis through a specific selection process. To be displayed in the exhibit, each artifact had to be related to D-Day and also had to have a connection with the 82d or 101st Airborne Divisions.

Hallis said, “I like artifacts to connect to a story, especially when that story hits close to home … If I can tie it to the local community, it makes it interesting.”
One local veteran featured in the exhibit is Pvt. Robert W. Ryals, who was a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. A North Carolina native born in Fayetteville, Ryals lived in Southern Pines until his death on Feb. 7, 2011. He survived combat in Normandy, Holland and the Battle of the Bulge, later retiring as a command sergeant major. Visitors to the “D-Day: Freedom from Above” exhibit can view Ryals’ parachutist coat and garrison cap (pictured below) that he wore during the Normandy invasion.

Visitors can learn more local stories by touring the “D-Day: Freedom from Above” exhibit, which is on display at the ASOM through June 18. Admission is free, and there is a $5 rental fee for the “HistoPad.” To learn more, visit: https://www.asomf.org/d-day-freedom-from-above-exhibit/

D-Day: Freedom from Above