D-Day 80th anniversary: Survivors, leaders meet in Normandy

The surviving veterans of D-Day, most in wheelchairs, were again in Normandy on Thursday, as they remembered the day 80 years ago when they stormed French beaches to claw back the European continent and defeat Hitler and his Nazi forces.

The reading of ‘The Watch’

Update 8:25 a.m. EDT June 6: The ceremony ended with the reading of “The Watch,” something that is read at U.S. Naval retirement ceremonies.

Biden: ‘There were things worth fighting and dying for’

Update 8:04 a.m. EDT June 6: President Biden is speaking now.

“Here on the coast of Normandy, the battle between freedom and tyranny would be joined,” Biden says as he begins his remarks.

Biden calls out some of the veterans who are at the ceremony, a man who landed on Utah Beach, a medic with the 82nd Airborne.

“Every soldier who stormed the beach, who dropped by parachute or landed by glider. Every sailor who manned the thousands of ships and landing craft. Every aviator who destroyed German-controlled airfields, bridges, and railroads. All, all were backed by other brave Americans, including hundreds of thousands of people of color and women who courageously served despite unjust limitations on what they could do for their nation,” Biden said.

He mentions the “Red Ball Express,” a company made up mostly of Black truck drivers who moved supplied Allied forces moving through Europe after breaking out from the D-Day beaches.

Of the veterans, Biden says, “They knew that there were things worth fighting and dying for. Freedom is worth it,” Biden said. “Real alliances make us stronger,” Biden says, adding he hopes Americans remember that. He references the NATO alliance, saying it is “more ready than ever to keep the peace.” He mentions the war in Ukraine saying the Ukrainians have never backed down.

“We will not bow down, we will not forget. We will not back down to tyrants.”

Lloyd Austin: ‘Our resolve must never fail’

Update 7:55 a.m. EDT June 6: US Sec. of Defense Lloyd Austin is speaking. As he thanks the veterans, he says we must rally again to fight for freedom.

“I am honored to stand again at this hallowed place. ... I am here to give thanks, inadequate as that word may be.”

“You laid the foundation for a more just, free and decent world. Let us again thank the heroes of D-Day who kept freedom alive for us all.”

“You saved the world and we must only defend it. Gentlemen, we salute you.”

Macron: ‘We will never forget’

Update 7:40 a.m. EDT June 6: After his address to the crowd, French President Macron awards each American D-Day survivor there the Legion of Honor.

“We are linked by the grandeur of a people ready to die on a land that is not their own, but a cause that is theirs,” Macron said.

“You left everything, crossed the ocean and landed on the coast of France eight decades ago ... you left everything and risked everything for our independence, for our freedom. That we will never forget.”

Charles K. Djou: D-Day is the ‘hinge of history’

Update 7:31 a.m. EDT June 6: Charles K. Djou, Secretary and CEO, American Battle Monuments Commission, addresses the crowd, stressing the importance of D-Day.

“D-Day is the hinge of history,” Djou says. He said D-Day reflected “the very best of America’s values.”

Biden, Macron arrive at the ceremony

Update 7:20 a.m. EDT June 6: French President Emmanuel Macron and President Joe Biden have arrived at the ceremony.

The national anthems of France and the U.S. are being played and a prayer offered.

Original story

U.S. President Joe Biden, along with leaders from countries around the world, greeted the men who, on June 6, 1944, landed on stretches of the German-occupied French coast marking the tortuous initial push inland that would end World War II.

Fewer than 200 WWII vets have traveled to France, supported by aides, to take it all in one final time.

The invasion, known as D-Day, began as Operation Neptune, part of Operation Overlord, the code name for the Allied invasion of northwest Europe during World War II. It remains the largest amphibious invasion in history.

Twenty heads of state, including England’s King Charles III and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, met with the veterans in various ceremonies in Normandy on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.

William the Prince of Wales, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid a wreath on Normandy Beach.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not among world leaders at the ceremonies. In April, organizers said Putin would not be invited to the events, but that some Russian representatives would be welcome in recognition of the country’s war-time sacrifice, Reuters reported.

In May, French President Emmanuel Macron ruled that no Russian representatives would be invited, building on an earlier decision to allow Moscow to send some representatives – just not higher officials — given Russia’s historic role in defeating Nazi Germany.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden met with veterans at a ceremony at Omaha Beach, a place where US forces suffered substantial losses. Biden shook hands and took photos with veterans, many of whom wore their military metals, CNN reported.

Director Steve Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks also attended the ceremony.

Biden will make remarks at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, where 9,388 members of the American military are buried, The New York Times is reporting.

“Today, in 2024, 80 years later, we see dictators once again attempting to challenge the order, attempting to march in Europe,” said Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser. He told reporters that Biden would make the case that “freedom-loving nations need to rally to stand against that as we have.”

French President Emmanuel Macron speaking at an earlier ceremony told the D-Day veterans ‘’France will never forget’' their battle to liberate Europe from the Nazis.

The operation began at 12:15 a.m. on June 6, 1944, when Americans from the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions began to parachute behind German lines.

About three hours later, Allied bombers began to hit the German lines near the 50-mile strip along the Normandy coast.

The bombing was relentless at times. According to historians, 7 million pounds of bombs would be dropped by the end of the day.

Two hours later, at 5 a.m., seven battleships, 18 cruisers and 43 destroyers began a naval bombardment of the coast. The attack lasted nearly 90 minutes, leading up to the troop landings which began at 6:31 a.m.

Allied troops — made up of American, Canadian and British forces — headed ashore on 50 miles of coastline that had been divided into five landing zones — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

U.S. troops took Utah and Omaha, Canadians landed at Juno and British troops took Gold and Sword. It’s estimated that 4,500 Allied forces died in the invasion. More than 2,000 Americans were killed at Omaha Beach, alone.

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