Normandy commemorates D-Day with small crowds, but a big heart
COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) – As the sun rises over Omaha Beach, revealing vast expanses of wet sand stretching towards distant cliffs, one begins to grasp the immensity of the task at hand for the soldiers allies on June 6, 1944, landing on the Normandy coast occupied by the Nazis.
Several ceremonies are scheduled for Sunday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and Western Europe from Nazi control, and to honor those who fell.
On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied soldiers landed on beaches codenamed Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. This year, on June 6, the beaches were vast and empty by sunrise, exactly 77 years after the dawn invasion.
For the second year in a row, anniversary commemorations are marked by virus-related travel restrictions that have barred veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada and other allied countries to go to France. Only a few officials were allowed to make exceptions.
Most public events have been canceled and official ceremonies are limited to a small number of selected guests and dignitaries.
Denis van den Brink, a WWII expert working for the town of Carentan, the site of a strategic battle near Utah Beach, acknowledged the “great loss, the great absence, it’s all the veterans who don’t. could not travel “.
“It really hurts us really bad because they’re all about 95, 100 years old, and we hope they’re going to last forever. But, you know … “he said.
“At least we stay in a spirit of remembrance, which is most important,” he told The Associated Press.
During the anniversary weekend, many residents came to visit the monuments marking the key moments of the combat and to show their gratitude to the soldiers. Dozens of French people with a history of WWII, and a few travelers from neighboring European countries, could also be seen in jeeps and military vehicles on the back roads of Normandy.
Some reenactors came to Omaha Beach in the early hours of the day to pay their respects to those who fell that day, bringing flowers and American flags.
On D-Day, 4,414 Allied soldiers were killed, including 2,501 Americans. More than 5,000 were injured. On the German side, several thousand were killed or injured.
A few kilometers from Omaha Beach, the British Normandy Memorial is to be inaugurated on Sunday in front of the village of Ver-sur-Mer. Visitors are amazed by the solemnity and serenity of the place offering a spectacular view of Gold Beach and the English Channel.
The monument, built as part of a project launched in 2016, pays tribute to people under British command who died on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy. The names of more than 22,000 men and women, mostly British soldiers, are inscribed on its stone columns.
Later Sunday, another ceremony will take place at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach. Charles Shay, 96, a Native American from Penobscot who now lives in Normandy, is expected to be the only veteran present in person.
Other veterans and families of soldiers will be able to watch the show on social media.
The cemetery contains 9,380 graves, most of them for servicemen who lost their lives in the D-Day landings and subsequent operations. 1,557 other names are inscribed on the walls of the missing.
Normandy has more than 20 military cemeteries containing mostly American, German, French, British, Canadian and Polish troops who took part in the historic battle.
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