in Normandy, a tribute to the final veterans of the D-Day landings | EUROtoday

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From our particular correspondent in Caen – Thousands of individuals got here to pay tribute, Thursday June 6, to the 156,000 troopers who landed on the seashores of Normandy, 80 years in the past to the day. A second charged with emotion for a lot of, within the presence of the final witnesses of this episode in History. Reporting.

A giant blue sky, springtime softness and the ocean breeze. On June 6, the seashores of Normandy appear like a postcard setting. A climate far faraway from the mist which enveloped these locations, 80 years in the past to the day, when within the coronary heart of the Second World War, 156,000 troopers arrived for the good operation of the Allied forces: the Landings.

Of twelve completely different nationalities, however primarily American, British and Canadian, they landed by sea and by air on 5 seashores alongside the Normandy coast. In whole, 10,300 troopers died on D-Day alone and practically 70,000 within the ensuing Battle of Normandy.

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9,387 American soldiers rest at the American cemetery of Colleville-sur-mer, in Normandy.
9,387 American troopers relaxation on the American cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, in Normandy. © Cyrielle Cabot, France 24

“It’s a chance to be here”

A couple of meters from these seashores, on the Colleville-sur-Mer cemetery the place 9,387 American troopers relaxation, the gang arrived early Thursday. Braving extreme visitors restrictions, residents of the area, Americans, officers and odd residents alike paid tribute to those troopers on the event of the American ceremony organized for the eightieth anniversary of the D-Day landings. For many, it was additionally, and above all, a chance to honor the final veterans but in addition to cross on their story to the brand new technology.

Under brilliant sunshine, after crossing the aisles of white crosses that they know by coronary heart to affix the ranks of the ceremony, Emmanuelle doesn’t disguise her emotion. “I come to every major commemoration. It’s magical, it’s a chance to be there,” explains this girl from the area. “This is certainly the last time that we have such a big ceremony where the veterans are still there. Afterwards we will certainly continue to pay tribute to them, but it will no longer be the same.”

Today she got here along with her 10 yr outdated daughter. In her navy blue jacket, Méline is impatient. “We live next to the cemetery, we often come when we have friends visiting. It is part of our daily life. So it was important to bring this moment to my daughter,” she says. Next to her, Méline, in her navy blue jacket, stamps her ft with impatience.

Emmanuelle came to attend the ceremony with her daughter Méline.
Emmanuelle got here to attend the ceremony along with her daughter Méline. Cyrielle Cabot, France 24

A couple of rows in entrance, it’s this identical motivation to cross on that pushed Ashley to journey along with her three youngsters aged one, six and eleven, from New York, within the United States. “My grandfather took part in the Landings but my children did not have the chance to know him. We wanted them to see these last veterans. It is History that comes to life before their eyes,” says -She. “That was really the most important thing for us: that they saw these heroes and that this day changed the course of history.”

At the identical time, two troopers give one another a pleasant hug. One is in a khaki – American uniform, the opposite in a navy blue – French uniform. An ocean and thirty years separate these two males. “We have been allies for 80 years and today we can meet. It’s always moving,” they clarify collectively, with an enormous, proud smile.

At 29, James Landson, initially from Virginia, joined the military about ten years in the past. “It is a really enriching expertise to set foot on the bottom the place troopers from my division [29 division d’infanterie, NDLR] died 80 years in the past, but in addition to see the tribute paid by the French public. This reveals me that I need to honor them by taking up,” he testifies. To his proper, the lieutenant-corporal nods: “Well said!”, he exclaims.

James Landson, 29, from Virginia, United States, greets a French lieutenant colonel, June 6, 2024, in Colleville-sur-mer, Normandy.
James Landson, 29, from Virginia (United States), greets a French lieutenant colonel on June 6, 2024 in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy. © Cyrielle Cabot, France 24

“A bond of blood shed for freedom”

At 11:30 a.m., when, one after the other, round fifty veterans who insisted on making their journey regardless of their age – most of them are centenarians – enter the stage – the gang of round 12,000 folks stands up and the time appears suspended. For greater than 30 very solemn minutes, the applause rang out. A couple of tears circulation.

Around 1 p.m., the official ceremony begins to the sound of the French after which American anthems within the presence of Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden. “These humble white tombs, which are right there, within reach behind you, are one of the most moving places in France. We feel history vibrating there, the heroism of the dead and that of the living,” declares the president French on the opening of a brief speech, highlighting the “links” between France and the United States, “a bond of blood shed for freedom”.

Between musical interludes and video extracts of photos of the D-Day landings, Emmanuel Macron then, alongside his American counterpart, presents the Legion of Honor to eleven American veterans. Among them, for instance, Richard Stewart, 100 years outdated, landed in July 1944 on Omaha Beach and even Ray Tweedel, arrived on the seashores of Normandy on June 8, 1944.

The conflict in Ukraine in our minds

But from one conflict to a different, the battle in Ukraine has additionally turn into a part of the D-Day commemorations. In his lengthy speech, the tenant of the White House didn’t hesitate to attract a historic parallel, with out mincing his phrases.

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“Freedom, democracy, the United States and the world will always be worth dying to defend. In this place, we prove that the forces of freedom are stronger than the forces that want to conquer. And this place proves also the unbreakable bond of the Allies,” he said. “Ukraine has been invaded by a tyrant obsessive about domination. The United States, NATO and a coalition of over 50 years stand firmly behind Ukraine. We won’t go away. Submit to bullies, bowing to dictators is just unthinkable,” he continued.

It is with this information in thoughts that Robert “Bob” Allen, 78, got here to the American ceremony from San Diego. Tomorrow, he and several other volunteers will go away for Ukraine to convey round forty ambulances there. “One of my cousins ​​took part in the Landings. I lived with him for 14 years and yet I only found out about it when he died. I keep learning more about my family's role in war and that's what motivated me to come here today and leave for Ukraine tomorrow,” he says, with out hiding his emotion.

Robert 'Bob' Allen, originally from San Diego, will leave tomorrow after the D-Day commemorations for Ukraine to donate ambulances.
Robert 'Bob' Allen, initially from San Diego, will go away tomorrow after the D-Day commemorations for Ukraine to donate ambulances. © Lara Bullens, France 24

Two hours later, Ukrainian information additionally got here to ask itself into the good diplomatic ballet of the worldwide ceremony, on Omaha Beach, the place round ten heads of state have been invited – when, to thunderous applause , Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky entered alongside Emmanuel Macron.

After a protracted ceremony marked by the studying of letters from troopers of all nationalities, interpretations of a number of songs and music such because the “Song of the Partisans” or “Blood on the Risers”, the French president completed his speech “by thanking the Ukrainian people, their bravery and their taste for freedom.

“So yes, when anesthesia and amnesia lie in wait, when consciences fall asleep, it is this intact momentum that carries us away without fear,” he finished. “This is why we are here today. We know that freedom is a fight every morning.”

“I will come until the end of my days”

But in the audience, listening to the ceremony, with the sea and “Bloody Omaha” as a backdrop – right here where the toll of the Landing was the heaviest with, among the 34,250 men landed, 1,000 dead and 2,000 injured or missing – we are looking to the past on June 6.

“My father was a soldier in the United States Navy. I spent my childhood hearing about military strategy and my adult life interpreting for English-speaking veterans at these commemorations,” says Jacqueline Frost. “Today, I’m retired however I need to be there for them. They have been the 'Great Generation'. We don't have sufficient phrases to outline their braveness and tenacity. I’ll proceed to return so long as attainable and to honor them perpetually.”