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 planned around the United States and in France:
—OBAMA HONORS WWII GENERATION AT NORMANDY
President Barack Obama visited the beaches of Normandy and said “the tide was turned in that common struggle for freedom” on D-Day and now lives on in a new generation.
Obama 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 violent scene in vivid terms, recalling that “by daybreak, blood soaked the water” and “thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand.”
“We come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril,” Obama said. “And we come to tell the story of the men and women who did it, so that it remains seared into the memory of the future world.”
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 TAKE TO NORMANDY
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 in the D-Day landings in Nazi-occupied France.
As the sun rose over Omaha Beach, flags flew at half-staff. A U.S. military band played Taps, while D-Day veterans from the 29th Infantry Division and serving soldiers stood at attention at exactly 6:30 a.m., the moment on June 6, 1944, when Allied troops first waded ashore.
“Twenty-nine, let’s go!” they shouted, then downed shots of Calvados, Normandy apple brandy.
Hundreds of Normandy residents and other onlookers applauded the veterans, then began forming a human chain on the beach.
World leaders and dignitaries including President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II are converging on Normandy 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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also in attendance, invited by French President Francois Hollande in a gesture toward the 27 million Soviet citizens killed in World War II.
The D-Day commemorations are also offering a moment to try to reconcile Russia and Ukraine, and Russia and the West.
Putin is meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Deauville on the Normandy coast Friday morning, after meeting Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday night. Ukraine’s president-elect is also coming to Normandy, and there is hope he and Putin may meet, too.
—ROSE PETALS OVER LADY LIBERTY
France is set to say thank you to the United States for its help in World War II.
A pair of helicopters will shower 1 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.
—WWII MUSEUM MARKS D-DAY
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, which opened June 6, 2000, as The National D-Day Museum, scheduled two days of activities starting with a ceremony at 6:30 a.m. to mark the hour at which Allied troops began slogging through waist-high surf toward Normandy beaches.
The ceremony will include 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. The diorama will be displayed for the full weekend.
—PARACHUTE JUMP AT FORT BRAGG
Fort Bragg is marking the 70th anniversary of the largest airborne assault in history with a parachute jump. More than 300 paratroopers take to the North Carolina skies on Friday to remember the soldiers who jumped into Nazi-occupied northern France on June 6, 1944. Paratroopers from Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division were among the first soldiers to fight in Normandy.
The Fort Bragg soldiers on Friday will receive a history presentation about the D-Day operation and watch a video before donning their parachutes and jumping onto the post’s Normandy Drop Zone.
—FINDING ROOM FOR D-DAY MEMORIAL TOURISTS
Organizers are expecting up to 10,000 visitors to National D-Day Memorial events in Bedford, Virginia. Bedford has only two hotels, and Nicole Johnson with the National D-Day Memorial Foundation tells The Roanoke Times that event organizers are working with tourism groups to ensure visitors have a place to stay.
The Sheraton Roanoke Hotel and Conference Center is expecting 400 people to attend its annual dinner for the D-Day anniversary. Sales associate Heather Massey says guests are flying in from as far as France, Ireland and England.
—HISTORIC WARSHIP SALUTES ANNIVERSARY
The nation’s oldest commissioned warship and the Massachusetts National Guard are teaming up to salute the anniversary.
The USS Constitution, whose service dates back to 1797, will leave its berth in Charlestown Navy Yard on Friday morning and sail to Castle Island to fire a cannon salute to the historic Fort Independence fortification on Boston Harbor. The National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment will fire its ceremonial cannons in return.
The custom dates to 1797, when the new USS Constitution saluted the fort, which had transferred that year from the state to U.S. government service.
—U.S. FLAG SELLS FOR $350,000
A U.S. flag from one of the thousands of Allied ships that delivered troops to the Normandy beaches sold Thursday for $350,000 at a New York City auction of hundreds of D-Day and other World War II artifacts.
An unnamed online buyer won the spirited bidding at Bonhams in Manhattan for the flag that flew aboard the U.S.-built LST 493. The flag went for far more than the pre-sale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.
The auction also featured rare printouts of the original series of hourly Dow Jones news bulletins with some of the first reports of the fighting on France’s north coast. They fetched $10,000. The flag and documents were owned by military collector and historian Rodney Hilton Brown.
The auction also included battlefield souvenirs, innovative wartime technology, rare documents and photographs from the war’s European and Pacific theaters.
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