By Kyle Ziemnick/WORLD
NORMANDY, France (BP) — Leaders and veterans from around the world assembled on the beaches of Normandy, France, on Thursday (June 6) to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron delivered addresses at the Normandy American Cemetery, where more than 9,000 U.S. soldiers are buried. The ceremony honored the American veterans who landed in France as the guests of honor.
Trump said the vets were “among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. … You are the pride of our nation, you are the glory of our republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart.”
Macron gave five U.S. veterans the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award.
“On behalf of my nation I just want to say, ‘Thank you,'” he told them.
On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in the largest-ever amphibious assault, code-named Operation Overlord. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the soldiers, who stormed the German defenses in chaotic conditions and under withering gunfire.
About 2,500 American troops died on the first day.
“The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory,” Eisenhower said in his order.
The beachhead on D-Day was the first step in the liberation of France and the steady Allied march toward Germany, which surrendered on May 8, 1945. That final victory would not have come without thousands of soldiers giving the last full measure of devotion.
“I have all kinds of friends buried,” said 98-year-old veteran William Tymchuk said, who served with the 4th Canadian Armored Division on D-Day. “They were young. They got killed. They couldn’t come home,” He said as he began to cry.
“They couldn’t even know what life is all about.”
Kyle Ziemnick writes for WORLD Digital, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.wng.org) based in Asheville, N.C.