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Allies and Veterans Commemorate 80th Anniversary of D-Day

Royal Marines of 47 Commando re-enact their forebearers' historic landing on Gold Beach, 80 years ago Thursday (Royal Marines)
Royal Marines of 47 Commando re-enact their forebearers' historic landing on Gold Beach, 80 years ago Thursday (Royal Marines)

Published Jun 6, 2024 10:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Thursday, France, the UK, the United States and their allies honored the heroes of D-Day, who came ashore in Normandy 80 years ago today and turned the tide against Nazi Germany. Since the youngest veterans of the operation are now 98 years old, this may be the last major anniversary to include many of the 160,000 men who were there that day - making this year's recognition that much more important. 

"It’s really important to remember what those people did for us 80 years ago. We want to commemorate what they did and respect the sacrifices that were made for not only this part of France but Europe," said Colonel Will Norcott, commanding officer of 47 Commando. "It’s also really important we educate our younger people coming through about what happened."  

The celebration of the Allied victory began last weekend and culminated Thursday in a series of ceremonies, both in France and abroad. On Gold Beach, Royal Marines of 47 Commando came ashore in a landing craft, much like their forebearers 80 years ago. They held a brief wreath-laying ceremony, then undertook a march overland to Port-en-Bessin, a seaport that their unit seized in the days after the landings in June 1944. Americans made up the majority of the landing force - and the casualties - but 17,600 Royal Marines participated in the assault. 

French forces staged a similar amphibious landing commemoration at Omaha Beach, with two landing craft and a force of armed marines disembarking to take up positions on the shore. 

At the Normandy American Cemetery, where 9,000 U.S. servicemembers from WWII were laid to rest, U.S. President Joe Biden delivered a commemorative address to mark the 80th anniversary of the landings, to thank the men and women who made victory possible - and to warn of rising threats to democracy in the West.  He drew a direct correlation between Nazi aggression in the 1940s and Russia's current ambitions in Ukraine, and he warned of the resurgence of isolationism.

"We know the dark forces that these heroes fought against 80 years ago.  They never fade. Aggression and greed, the desire to dominate and control, to change borders by force — these are perennial.  And the struggle between a dictatorship and freedom is unending," said Biden. "History tells us freedom is not free. If you want to know the price of freedom, come here to Normandy."

WWII veterans at Thursday's commemorative ceremony (White House)