On the anniversary of the D-Day landings that took place in 1944, our Mercer Island community came together to honor and remember a local hero, Hu Riley. Hu, a brave and selfless individual, became the face of courage in one of the most iconic photographs of World War II, taken by the legendary photographer Robert Capa.
Amidst the danger and chaos, Robert Capa managed to encapsulate the essence of bravery in the face of adversity. That image features the face of a determined young soldier, eyes wide and jaw set. That soldier was none other than Mercer Island's Hu Riley.
The photograph, titled "The Face of Courage", also known as “Soldier on the Surf”, was captured during the infamous D-Day landings when the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy. The photo is part of a very rare archive called the “Magnificent Eleven” and graced the cover of LIFE magazine in a special 70th anniversary issue commemorating D-Day.These photos also served as inspiration to Stephen Spielberg when he filmed “Saving Private Ryan”.
With immense pride, the Mercer Island community gathered to honor and remember the heroism and sacrifice of Hu Riley. To commemorate his legacy and the impact he had on our small island community, we renamed Lincoln Landing to Riley's Cove. The dedication ceremony took place on June 6, 2023, at 4 pm at Lincoln Landing.
Mayor Salim Nice, Rob MacCauley, Councilwoman Wendy Weiker, Jane Meyer Brahm, and Erin Riley Borden gave well-deserved and special thanks to the many neighbors who showed their steadfast support in making this happen. Their dedication and efforts in working with the Washington and U.S. Boards of Geographic Names made the renaming of Lincoln Landing to Riley's Cove a reality. Also acknowledged was the Mercer Island History Society (http://mercerislandhistory.org/) for their valuable contributions to preserving and promoting our local history.
Here is an excerpt from the Letter from the U.S. Boards of Geographic Names
Getting the name Riley Cove approved was not easy. Jane and Rob put together a strong campaign with extensive documentation and support from neighbors, the Historical Society, the VFW, and the City. After many years of waiting, the first, but very important, hearing for the proposal was October 26th, 2021, when the state Committee on Geographic Names approved the proposal. The recommendation then went to the state Board of Natural Resources. That board approved the recommendation, and the name was added to the Washington Administrative Code and sent to the United States Board on Geographic Names for federal review.
On July 14, 2022, the US Board on Geographic Names approved the name. It is now officially Riley Cove!
The dedication ceremony at Riley's Cove was a heartfelt gathering, where we came together as a community to pay our respects and celebrate the legacy of our local hero, Hu Riley – “the face of courage” captured in LIFE magazine.
This was a day that Mercer Island honored the memory of Hu Riley and the countless others who fought bravely during the historic battle of D-Day. Our community will continue to share his story. A beautiful landmark will forever be known as Riley Cove and the iconic photograph of Hu Riley taken by Robert Capa will forever be a symbol of hope and courage for generations to come.
"Young PFC Huston Riley from Mercer Island was among the thousands of Americans who landed on June 6, 1944, part of Operation Overlord. Only one quarter of the soldiers in his unit survived. He is 'the soldier in the surf' immortalized in the June 19 issue of Life Magazine, in one of the most iconic photographs of the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach in Normandy." - Mercer Island Historical Society
"Hu Riley was a lifelong Island resident. After returning from the war, he and his wife Charlotte, raised their family in the same house on Mercer Way that his father built in 1905. He was very involved in the community including being an active member of the local VFW Post 5760 and serving on the board of the Historical Society.
Hu Riley died in 2011 at the age of 90." - Mercer Island Historical Society