Cantigny unveils ‘Nothing But Victory’ D-Day exhibit

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A new outdoor exhibit titled “Nothing But Victory” has been installed at Wheaton’s Cantigny Park, to pay tribute to a day that helped change the course of World War II.

“This is a sculptural, experiential exhibit to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day. June 6, 1944, was the day that the Allies during World War II embarked on the largest amphibious assault on the coast of France in order to get the Germans pushed out of France,” said Cantigny Curator Jessica Waszak.

Cantigny honors those who stormed the beaches of Normandy

The outdoor installation stretches 300 yards across Cantigny, simulating the length Allied soldiers traveled before arriving at the 100-foot cliffs on Omaha Beach.

“We have the opportunity to use our park space as the exhibit, and give people that sense of movement, that pilgrimage, and recognition of what the soldiers went through.”

During her research, Waszak visited Normandy to get a better understanding of what the soldiers endured 80 years ago. To bring her ideas to life, Cantigny teamed up with Chicago-based design company Bridgewater Studio.

Interpretive panels are scattered throughout the exhibit trail to give visitors context regarding each structure.

“Starting with the First Infantry Division, they landed (and) many were hit while in the water,” said Waszak. “As the soldiers disembarked from the landing craft, they were on beaches that had a variety of mined defenses, including the hedgehogs that you can see here, they are larger than the hedgehogs that you would see on D-Day.”

D-Day exhibit trail continues up the hill

The replica trail at Cantigny then leads up a hill, mirroring the soldiers’ trek.

“They wound their way up these hillsides to the German pillboxes,” said Waszak. “And when you get there on our hill, it’s certainly not the same type of experience, but it is that representation of the struggle up that hill. You get to the top and you can see the American flag.”

Notable First Infantry soldiers are profiled around the exhibit.

“We have so many soldiers with the First Division who went beyond simple task completion, and were brave beyond measure,” said Waszak. “It is a part of the exhibit that people can both reflect on themselves and recognize the human aspect of service.”

The trail ends outside Cantigny’s First Division Museum with a scale model of the “Spirit of the American Youth,” a sculpture that resides in the Normandy cemetery.

There is also a cross gravestone with mirrors on both sides, representing the thousands of lives lost during the battle.

Other D-Day exhibits, events at Cantigny

Inside the First Division Museum building, the “Over Land, Over Sea, Overlord” exhibit details seven well-known personalities who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. They include David Niven, Yogi Berra, and others.

Cantigny has planned additional events about D-Day throughout the summer, including guided tours and lectures. Admission is included with paid parking at Cantigny.

‘Nothing But Victory’ will be open for the foreseeable future at Cantigny, and Waszak is excited for visitors to learn more about the important day in world history.

“I’m honored that people want to understand my vision, and see a different perspective of this anniversary,” said Waszak.

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