PARIS — Wreaths, parades, parachute-landings and fireworks.
Friday was a nice sunny day, on this very day, world leaders and veterans flocked to Normandy beaches in northern France to commemorate the D-Day landings that helped defeat Nazi forces in World War II seven decades ago.
Paying tribute to the sacrifices of civilians, soldiers and the unity of Allies, French President Francois Hollande said June 6, 1944 was the start of “one of the fiercest battles in the history of France” that left 110,000 people dead, including more than 20,000 civilians.
Addressing hundreds of veterans and participants in Caen, Hollande noted “this ceremony reminds us of our duties to rescue the suffering humanity.”
Earlier, at the Normandy American Cemetery, joined by his American counterpart Barack Obama, Hollande stressed France “would never forget the solidarity between our two nations, solidarity based on a shared ideal, an aspiration, a passion for freedom.”
“More than 20,000 Americans lost their lives here in Normandy with 11,000 of them buried at Omaha Beach. France will never forget them. France will never forget what it owes to the United States,” Hollande recalled.
Obama said “Omaha — Normandy — this was democracy’s beachhead,” adding the June 6, 1944 “… decided not just a century, but shaped the security and well-being of all posterity.”
At a high-profile gathering, 19 heads of state and government including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian President Stephen Harper participated in a series of ceremonies to honor the sacrifice of French servicemen and 160,000 U.S., British and Canadian troops that helped defeat Nazi forces in World War II.