Courtesy U.S. Navy

World leaders honor D-Day heroes in France on 80th anniversary

Courtesy U.S. Navy
Author: Alexander Smith (NBC News)

BÉNOUVILLE, France (NBC News/CNN) – Thursday marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the largest military invasion by sea in history.

D-Day is known as the beginning of the end of World War II. On June 6, 1944, CNN reports about 150,000 allied troops stormed the beach of Normandy in Nazi-occupied France.

The anniversary of D-Day is celebrated annually with solemn ceremonies and grand re-enactments. But this year – the hugely symbolic 80th anniversary since that day of days – it may be the last major milestone for many veterans to recount in their own words the sheer brutality of that pivotal battle.

As NBC News reports, around 200 veterans attended this year’s event, the youngest in their 90s and some over 100. And an unavoidable truth, mostly unspoken this week across Normandy, is that the next five-year anniversary will almost certainly look very different.

Relatively soon, there won’t be so many stories like that of Richard “Dick” Rung, now 99, of Carol Stream, Illinois, who served that day as a motor machinist mate second class. His landing craft ferried troops to Omaha Beach, its hull soon soaked with the bloodied bodies of those scythed down by the German machine guns, mortars, and artillery. It was Rung’s job to wash off the blood with a firehose.

“It was raining death,” he told NBC News at a ceremony Wednesday honoring veterans at Pegasus Bridge, a site captured by the Allies early on in the epic air, sea, and land attack that helped turn the tide of World War II and defeat Nazi Germany. “I heard someone saying over the radio, ‘We are being slaughtered like hogs’ – and it’s true, we were.”

The troops, from the United States, the UK, France, Canada, and other countries, took on about 50,000 German forces in the amphibious operation.

However, the offensive was a turning point in the war that ultimately led to the liberation of Western Europe from Germany less than a year later.

In his speech at the American Cemetery in Normandy on Thursday, President Joe Biden referenced the years soon to come, when the story of D-Day will be told by recorded testimony rather than the living words of its survivors. “We cannot let what happened here be lost in the silence of the years to come. We must remember it, must honor it and live it,” he said. “We must remember: The fact that they were heroes here that day does not absolve us of what we have to do today.”

Drawing direct parallels with Ukraine’s fight against Russia and a contrast with his domestic rival, former President Donald Trump, he added: “Democracy is never guaranteed. Every generation must preserve it, defend it and fight for it.”

“Let us be worthy of their sacrifice.”

Biden gave his speech alongside his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, at the cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. Afterward the pair joined Germany’s Olaf Scholz, Britain’s Prince William and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who were among some 25 world leaders and heads of state at the international ceremony on Omaha Beach to commemorate the 150,000 plus troops who fought on D-Day.

Read the original article here.

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