The Normandy landing operation has a small crowd but a big heart

Colleville-sur-Mer, France — Allied forces landed in the Nazis on June 6, 1944, when the sun rose to Omaha Beach and revealed the vast expanse of moist sand spreading towards distant cliffs. Begin to understand the vastness of the missions faced by soldiers-Occupy the Normandy coast.

Several ceremonies were held on Sunday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of D-Day, a decisive attack to free France and Western Europe from Nazi rule and honor those who died in the war.

“These are the ones who allowed freedom to regain their foothold on the European continent, and in the days and weeks that followed, those who released the shackles of oppression and the hedges of Normandy’s hedges every bloody mile. “Sir Edward Lewellin, the British ambassador to France, said at the opening ceremony of the new British monument in honor of the D-Day hero.

Reproducer of World War II at Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer
World War II reenactment actors paying homage to soldiers at dawn on the shores of Omaha Beach in Saint Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, June 6, 2021. (David Vincent / AP Photo)

On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied forces landed on the beaches codenamed Omaha, Utah, Junho, Sword, and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. On June 6th of this year, just 77 years after the invasion of dawn, when the sun rose, the beach was vast and almost empty.

For the second consecutive year, the anniversary celebration is characterized by travel restrictions by a virus that bans families of veterans or dead soldiers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other Allied countries from traveling to France. .. Only a small number of staff were allowed as exceptions.

At the new Normandy Memorial in England near the village of Ver-sur-Mer, bagpipes played commemorative songs, fighters squeezed overhead and followed red, white and blue smoke. Participants at a social distance were in awe of the site’s solemnity and tranquility, and were able to enjoy spectacular and inspirational views of Gold Beach and the English Channel.

The new monument pays homage to those under British command who died in the battle between D-Day and Normandy.

The inscription on the wall says, “They died for the freedom of Europe.”

Supporting veterans at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, England
Assisting veterans in the official opening of the Normandy Memorial in France via live feed at a ceremony held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, England, on June 6, 2021 (Jacob) King / PA via AP)

Visitors stood in honor of more than 22,000 men and women. Most of them are British soldiers, whose names are engraved on stone pillars. The giant screen showed D-Day veterans gathering at the National Memorial Botanical Garden in the United Kingdom at the same time to watch the Normandy landing operation remotely. Prince Charles expressed his regret that he was unable to attend directly through the video link.

“At the center of the fog that covered the Normandy coast … there was a lightning bolt of freedom,” France’s Defense Minister Florence Parli said at a ceremony on June 6, 1944. “I will never forget France. France will be grateful forever.”

Charles Shay, a Penobscot Native American who landed as a U.S. military medic on June 6, 1944 and now calls Normandy his home, was the only surviving D-Day veteran at the Ver-sur-Mermer ceremony. did.

Another veteran of the Normandy landing operation, Colonel David Milklist of the United Kingdom, was also present. He landed in Normandy with the team on June 12, 1944, replacing an officer who died in the first few days of the battle.

Shay then attended a commemorative ceremony at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, in front of officials from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, and other allies.

There are 9,380 tombs in the cemetery, most of which are for military personnel who lost their lives in the D-Day landing operation and subsequent operations. The missing wall is engraved with an additional 1,557 names.

Veterans singing at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, England
A veteran singing live at the official opening of the Normandy Memorial in France at a ceremony held at the National Arboretum in Alrewas, England, on June 6, 2021. (Jacob King / PA via AP)

Most public events were canceled and the official ceremony was limited to a small number of selected guests and senior officials.

World War II expert Dennis Phan den Brink, who works in the town of Carentan, a strategic battlefield near Utah Beach, said, “A big loss.

“They’re all around 95 or 100, so we’re very hurt, and I hope they’ll last forever, but …” he said.

“At least we have the most important commemorative spirit,” he told The Associated Press.

On the anniversary weekend, many locals visit the monument to commemorate the important moments of the battle and thank the soldiers. World War II history enthusiasts in France and travelers from neighboring European countries could also be seen riding jeeps and military vehicles on the small roads of Normandy.

Some re-performers came to Omaha Beach early in the day and brought flowers and the American flag in honor of those who fell on the day.

World War II reenactment actor standing in the ocean on Omaha Beach
World War II reenactment actors standing on the waters of Omaha Beach in Saint Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, June 6, 2021. (David Vincent / AP Photo)

On D-Day, 4,414 Allied troops were killed, of which 2,501 were Americans. More than 5,000 people were injured. On the German side, thousands were killed or injured.

Normandy has more than 20 military cemeteries that primarily house Americans, Germans, French, British, Canadians, and Poles who participated in historic battles.

High-ranking government officials emphasized the importance of preserving the D-Day heritage for future generations.

“We should act together and show unity so that peace and freedom will continue in the face of today’s threats,” Parley said.

Sylvie Corvette

Nicolas Garriga contributed this report from Ver-sur-Mer.

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