Friday is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings of Allied troops in Normandy, the largest amphibious invasion in history and a turning point in World War II. Here are some of the events held or planned around the United States and in France:
OBAMA HONORS WWII GENERATION AT NORMANDY
President Barack Obama visited the beaches at Normandy in what he called a "powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom" that lives on in a new generation. He spoke from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where nearly 10,000 white marble tombstones sit on a bluff overlooking the site of the battle’s most violent fighting at Omaha Beach. He described D-Day’s devastating scene in vivid terms, recalling that "by daybreak, blood soaked the water" and "thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand." His speech came after he met privately with some of the dwindling number of surviving troops who fought Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, along with those who have served since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
DIGNITARIES, VETERANS TAKE TO NORMANDY
Several men who stormed Normandy’s shore 70 years ago joined world leaders in paying tribute to the 150,000 Allied troops who risked and lost their lives. "France will never forget what it owes these soldiers, what it owes the United States," French President Francois Hollande said at the Normandy American Cemetery. "Vive l’Amerique! Vive la France! And long live the memory of those who fell here for our liberty." In all, 19 world leaders, more than 1,000 veterans and many others gathered to honor the troops and civilians who fell in mighty battles that helped bring Europe peace and unity. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a few German veterans also took part in Friday’s ceremony, as a gesture of the European unity that the Allied victory brought.
US D-DAY VETS HONOR FALLEN COMRADES
The seven returning vets from the U.S. 29th Infantry Division and their family members raised a toast to those who died in the invasion. At 6:30 a.m., the precise hour that the first waves of infantry began wading ashore under a hailstorm of German machine gun and mortar fire, the men, most now in their 90s, raised glasses of bracing Calvados apple brandy to the memory of friends killed that day. Hundreds of onlookers crowded the beach, including many re-enactors in period army uniforms. Some drove vintage jeeps and armored vehicles like those that would have been seen 70 years ago. A military band of serving 29th division members played taps and "Amazing Grace" before the seven vets walked off the beach to the applause of hundreds of onlookers.
ROSE PETALS OVER LADY LIBERTY
France is saying "thank you" to the United States for its help in World War II. A pair of helicopters was showering a million rose petals on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The statue was a gift from France. Also, 130 French and American children will unfurl flags and sing the countries’ national anthems. A 21-gun salute will honor veterans of the war and commemorate the invasion that led to the liberation of France from Nazi Germany.
WREATH LAYING AT WWII MEMORIAL
The National Park Service and the Friends of the World War II Memorial will commemorate the anniversary with a ceremony and wreath laying at the World War II Memorial in Washington. D-Day veterans, along with representatives from the Allied Nations that participated in the Normandy Campaign, will take part in laying wreaths along the Memorial’s Freedom Wall. Participants also include Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Elliot "Toby" Roosevelt III, great-grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
AT THE WWII MUSEUM IN NEW ORLEANS
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, which opened June 6, 2000, as The National D-Day Museum, planned two days of activities starting with a ceremony at 6:30 a.m. marking the hour at which Allied troops began slogging through waist-high surf. The ceremony included presentation of the French Legion of Honor to veterans who served in France. The French government decided several years ago that all U.S. World War II veterans who fought there or contributed to its liberation are eligible for the medal. A war game Saturday, with dice deciding success or failure of the players’ tactics, will take place on a diorama of Normandy’s beaches.
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