World War II veterans honored at 79th D-Day anniversary

ON OMAHA BEACH, France (AP) — An overwhelming sound of gunfire and men’s screams. That’s how World War II veteran Marie Scott described D-Day, as Tuesday’s ceremonies got underway in honor of those who fought for freedom in the largest naval, air and land operation in history.

This year’s tribute to the young soldiers who died in Normandy also reminds veterans, officials and visitors what Ukraine faces today

2023 06 06T140222Z 1968303290 RC2LD1ALW85A RTRMADP 3 DDAY ANNIVERSARY FRANCE 1200x800 1 World War II veterans honored at 79th D-Day anniversary news
U.S. General Mark A. Milley talks to World War II veterans during a ceremony at the World War II Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial situated above Omaha Beach in Colleville-sur-Mer, on the Normandy coast to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the D-Day, France, June 6, 2023. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

On Tuesday, the whistling sound of the wind accompanied many reenactors who came to Omaha Beach at dawn to mark the 79th d-day anniversary of the assault that led to the liberation of France and Western Europe from Nazi control. Some brought bunches of flowers; others waved American flags.

Scott lived it all through her ears. She was just 17 when she was posted as a communication operator in Portsmouth, England. Her job was to pass on messages between men on the ground and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and senior officers who were supervising the operation.

“I was in the war. I could hear gunfire, machine guns, bombing aircraft, men screaming, shouting, men giving orders,” she recalled.

“After a few moments of horror, I realized what was happening … and I thought, well, you know, there’s no time for horror. You’ve got a job to do. So get on with it. Which is what I did.”

Now about to turn 97, Scott said D-Day was a “pivotal point” in her life.

“As a noncombatant, I was still in the war and I realized the enormity of war. People were dying in that moment.”

Scott said she was “disgusted” that another war was now raging on the European continent following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

“For me, war should only be undertaken if it’s absolutely (necessary), if there’s no other way of solving the problem. It’s an atrocity. That’s how I feel,” she said.

British veteran Mervyn Kersh, who landed on D-Day on Gold Beach, said Western allies should send maximum military aid to Ukraine: “The only way to stay free is to be strong.”

In advance of the 79th anniversary of the World War II invasion, here are some important D-Day facts

France’s OMAHA BEACH (AP) — The D-Day invasion was unprecedented in scope and boldness, and it contributed to altering the direction of World War II. Here are some specifics about what transpired as soldiers and dignitaries commemorate the 79th anniversary of the operation

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U.S. troops wade ashore from a Coast Guard landing craft at Omaha Beach during the Normandy D-Day landings near Vierville sur Mer, France, on June 6, 1944, in this handout photo provided by the US National Archives. On June 6, 1944. allied soldiers descended on the beaches of Normandy for D-Day – an operation that turned the tide of the Second World War against the Nazis, marking the beginning of the end of the conflict. Today, as many around the world prepare to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the landings, pictures of Normandy’s now-touristy beaches stand in stark contrast to images taken around the time of the invasion. But while the landscape has changed, the memory of the momentous event lives on. Reuters photographer Chris Helgren compiled a series of archive pictures taken during the 1944 invasion and then went back to the same places, to photograph them as they appear today. Picture taken June 6, 1944. REUTERS/Robert F. Sargent/US National Archives/Handout via Reuters (FRANCE – Tags: ANNIVERSARY MILITARY CONFLICT) ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION, OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 05 OF 34 FOR PACKAGE ‘WWII – THE D-DAY LANDINGS, 70 YEARS ON’ TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH ‘D-DAY HELGREN’ – GM1EA5S0QBI01

Who took part

Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States, 83,000 from Britain and Canada. Forces from several other countries were also involved, including French troops fighting with Gen. Charles de Gaulle against the Nazi occupation.

They faced around 50,000 German forces.

More than 2 million Allied soldiers, sailors, pilots, medics and other people from a dozen countries were involved in the overall Operation Overlord, the battle to wrest western France from Nazi control that started on D-Day.

Where and when D-day

The sea landings started at 6:30 a.m. local time, just after dawn, targeting five code-named beaches, one after the other: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword, Juno.

READ MORE: Slovaks condemn WWII deportations of Jews to Nazi death camps

The operation also included actions inland, including overnight parachute landings on strategic German sites and U.S. Army Rangers scaling cliffs to take out German gun positions.

Around 11,000 Allied aircraft, 7,000 ships and boats, and thousands of other vehicles were involved in the invasion.

All sides have suffered victims

A total of 4,414 Allied troops were killed on D-Day itself, including 2,501 Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded.

In the ensuing Battle of Normandy, 73,000 Allied forces were killed and 153,000 wounded. The battle — and especially Allied bombings of French villages and cities — killed around 20,000 French civilians.

The exact German casualties aren’t known, but historians estimate between 4,000 and 9,000 men were killed, wounded or missing during the D-Day invasion alone. About 22,000 German soldiers are among the many buried around Normandy.

Survivors

A few thousand D-Day veterans may be still alive; the youngest are in their late 90s. A few dozen are in Normandy for the 79th anniversary. Charity organizations and local French residents helped organize their trip back to the beaches of D-Day, including providing travel and housing to ensure they could make the journey.

Next year, world leaders are expected for major commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of the invasion.

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