US & World

World honors D-Day's fallen, 70 years on

People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014. Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
Thibault Camus/AP
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
From left, World War II veterans of the U.S. 29th Infantry Division, Hal Baumgarten, 90 from Pennsylvania, Steve Melnikoff, 94, from Maryland, Don McCarthy, 90 from Rhode Island, and Morley Piper, 90, from Massachusetts, attend a D-Day commemoration, on Omaha Beach, western France , Friday June 6, 2014. Veterans and Normandy residents are paying tribute to the thousands who gave their lives in the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France 70 years ago. World leaders and dignitaries including President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II will gather to honor the more than 150,000 American, British, Canadian and other Allied D-Day troops who risked and gave their lives to defeat Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.
Thibault Camus/AP
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, U.S. paratroopers fix their static lines before a jump before dawn over Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944, in France. The decision to launch the airborne attack in darkness instead of waiting for first light was probably one of the few Allied missteps on June 6, and there was much to criticize both in the training and equipment given to paratroopers and glider-borne troops of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions. Improvements were called for after the invasion; the hard-won knowledge would be used to advantage later.
Anonymous/AP
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
Men of the American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming a coastal area code-named Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of the Normandy, wait by the chalk cliffs at Collville-sur-Mer for evacuation to a field hospital for further treatment, June 6, 1944.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, left, reviews American troops at a base in England on the eve of D-Day, June 1944, during World War II. The initials AAAO on the steel helmets with a line across the As stands for "Anywhere, Anytime, Anyhow, Bar Nothing." The identification shoulder patches of the G.I.s are blotted out by the censor.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, and French President Francois Hollande, left, participate in the 70th French-American commemoration D-Day ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France on Friday, June 6, 2014. World leaders and veterans gathered by the beaches of Normandy on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two's D-Day landings.
Pascal Rossignol/AP
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
British World War II veteran Frederick Glover poses for a photograph as soldiers parachute down during a D-Day commemoration paratroopers launch event in Ranville, western France, Thursday, June 5, 2014, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy. D-Day ceremonies on June 6 this year mark the 70th anniversary of the launch of 'Operation Overlord', a vast military operation by Allied forces in Normandy, which turned the tide of World War II, eventually leading to the liberation of occupied France and the end of the war against Nazi Germany.
Thomas Bregardis/AP
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
U.S. soldiers from the 82nd airborn company from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, walk on the beach of Saint Laurent sur Mer, also called Omaha Beach, after collecting sand as token to take back home, as part of the commemoration of the 70th D-Day anniversary, Wednesday June 4, 2014. World leaders and veterans prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion this week in Normandy. Visible at foreground is The Brave monument.
Remy de la Mauviniere/AP
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
Members of an American armored unit at a Marshalling are “somewhere in England” on June 6, 1944, are briefed by their commanding officer prior to receiving their “D-Day” assignments.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France , Friday June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
A section of the mighty Armada of landing craft with their protective balloons make a grand sight as it ploughs towards the French coast, on June 8, 1944.
ASSOCIATED PRESS


Local commemoration events »

Gone are the screaming shells, seasick soldiers and bloodied waters of 1944. On Friday, a sun-splattered Normandy celebrated peace, with silent salutes, tears and international friendship marking 70 years since the D-Day invasion helped change the course of World War II and modern history.

Not many of the 150,000 Allied soldiers who slogged onto storm-torn beaches or parachuted into Normandy remain alive to pass on the legacy of that "longest day." Some survivors stood, somber-faced and proud, alongside President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande as they paid tribute to history's biggest amphibious invasion.

The veterans' hands, which once wrested France from Nazi occupation, saluted wizened faces. Some rose to their feet with difficulty. Thousands of onlookers applauded.

"France will never forget what it owes these soldiers, what it owes the United States," Hollande said at the Normandy American Cemetery on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach.

"Vive l'Amerique! Vive la France! And long live the memory of those who fell here for our liberty."

Taking the stand at a site he called "democracy's beachhead," Obama said: "America's claim — our commitment to liberty, to equality, to freedom, to the inherent dignity of every human being — that claim is written in blood on these beaches, and it will endure for eternity."

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.

At 6:30 a.m., the moment on June 6, 1944, when Allied troops first waded ashore, a U.S. military band played taps. D-Dayveterans from the 29th Infantry Division and serving soldiers stood at attention.

"Twenty-nine, let's go!" they shouted, then downed shots of Calvados, Normandy's apple brandy.

Hundreds of Normandy residents and other onlookers applauded, then formed a human chain on the beach.

The glorious sun that rose as they arrived shone through the day on a land where paratroopers' corpses once hung from trees and medics dragged wounded soldiers from blood-swirled waves.

But the peace and stability that its wartime history brought continues to be challenged, as bloodshed in Ukraine poses new threats to European security and East-West relations.

Hollande sought to use Friday's gathering to reconcile Russia with the West and Ukraine, and invited Ukraine's president-elect as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin met with Petro Poroshenko and Obama on the sidelines of the event.

"It is because France itself experienced the barbarity (of war) that it feels a duty to preserve peace everywhere, at the frontiers of Europe as in Africa," Hollande said.

He was hosting the world leaders at a chateau in Benouville used as a hospital during the war, and in Ouistreham, a small port that was the site of a strategic battle on D-Day.

The secretly planned Operation Overlord included landings on five Normandy beaches, code-named Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword and Utah.

The D-Day invasion was a turning point in World War II, cracking Hitler's western front as Soviet troops made advances in the east. At least 4,400 Allied troops were killed the first day, and many thousands more in the ensuing three-month Battle of Normandy, before the Allies could march to Paris to liberate the French capital from Nazi occupation.

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. Ceremonies large and small were taking place across Normandy and around the world.

A ceremony with Prince Charles at the Cathedral of Bayeux, just south of the beaches, left British veteran Richard England deeply shaken.

"It brought it all back, I'm afraid — all the boys I lost, my brother-in-law who was killed almost at the end, and the lovely chaps that fought with me who were older than me and are no longer with us," said England, of the 8th Durham Infantry Battalion. "They weren't here, unfortunately."

Several thousand veterans, family members and others gathered at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, with its 9,387 white marble tombstones on a bluff overlooking the site of the battle's bloodiest fighting at Omaha Beach, the emotional centerpiece of American pilgrimages to honor the men killed in Normandy.

Serving soldiers of the 173rd Airborne brigade, the ceremony organizers, served as ushers, wearing maroon berets. For the ceremony, small U.S. and French flags were placed in the ground at each grave.

In addition to the fallen troops, Allied bombardments killed an estimated 20,000 French civilians, and Hollande paid tribute to them Friday in Caen, which like many cities of Normandy was largely destroyed in the bombings.

France has only tentatively come to grips with the invasion's toll on civilians. The Allied bombings — especially the deadly onslaught in Normandy during the invasion launched on D-Day — were used as a propaganda tool by the Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis. Historians now believe that nearly as many French civilians died in Allied air raids as Britons during the German Blitz.

"This battle was also a battle of civilians," Hollande said. He said Normandy's residents "helped the victory happen. They opened their doors to the liberators."

Friday's commemorations also honored soldiers in today's conflicts.

Jeffrey McIllwain, professor at the San Diego State University school of public affairs, will lay a wreath on behalf of educators who have lost students to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — himself included.

He wants to keep the memory of D-Day alive as the number of survivors dwindles, and brought 12 students to Normandy for a course on the lessons of D-Day.

"I make them promise to bring their grandchildren," he said, "to serve as a bridge to the next generation."

Echoing that message, children accompanied world leaders as they walked down a red carpet to enormous viewing stands for the main international ceremony Friday.

Veteran Jack Schlegel, 91, of Albany, New York, came to Normandy for the 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries of D-Day, and says he's honored to be here for the 70th.

"The president of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) told me he wants to see me at the 75th but I don't know," said Schlegel, who was a paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne division. "My head's still here but I'm not sure about my body."

Local events

D-Day 70th Anniversary Commemoration

Organizer: The U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans of World War II

Date: June 7, 2014, open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Berth 49 parking area in San Pedro next to the SS Lane Victory

Event info: There will  be a special tent ceremony for invited guests including World War II Allied veterans who served in France and other dignitaries. The ceremony will start at 1 p.m., but guests should arrive by 12:30 p.m. A number of exhibits will be available to view, including classic automobiles, military vehicles and hardware. A flyby of vintage aircraft is also planned.

70th Anniversary D-Day Los Angeles

Organizer: The Heritage League of the Second Air Division (USAAF) & Jane & Bert Boeckmann of Galpin Ford

Date: June 6, 2014, 10 a.m. reception, 11 a.m. program starts

Location: 94th Aero Squadron, 16320 Raymer St.,Van Nuys, CA 91406

Event info: Master of ceremonies is Bill A Jones. Special guest speakers include Axel Cruau, Consul General of France; Sabrina Yoong, Consul for the Consulate General of Canada; Marthe Cohn, WWII Jewish French spy and author of "Behind Enemy Lines." Ticket costs $60.

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