D-Day Anniversary event for the second consecutive year affected by pandemic restrictions

When the sun rose above Omaha Beach, exposing large swaths of wet sand that stretched to the distant cliffs, people began to realize the difficult task faced by Allied soldiers when they landed on the Nazi-occupied Normandy coast on June 6, 1944.

Sunday was the 77th anniversary of the landing in Normandy, and various events were held to commemorate the decisive offensive that led to the liberation of France and Western Europe from Nazi control, and to commemorate those who fell.

Lord Edward, the British Ambassador to France, said: “These people have regained freedom on the European continent. In the days and weeks that followed, they lifted the shackles of tyranny. The fence by the Normandy fence, mile after mile. Bloody.” Llewellyn said at the inauguration of the monument to the heroes of the landing in Normandy, England.

On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied soldiers landed on the beaches codenamed Omaha, Utah, Juneau, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 ships. On June 6th of this year, when the sun rose, the beach was vast and almost empty, 77 years from the dawn invasion.

For the second year in a row, the anniversary event was marked by COVID-19 travel restrictions that prevented veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada, and other allies from going to France. Only a few officials are allowed to be exempted.

The British ambassador to France, Lord Edward Llewellyn, delivered a speech at the Normandy Memorial in the UK on Sunday. (Stéphane Mahé/AFP via Getty Images)

At the newly built British Normandy Memorial near the village of Ver-sur-Mer, bagpipes played commemorative tunes, and warplanes zipped overhead, trailing red, white and blue smoke. Participants who keep their physical distance are in awe of the solemnity and tranquility of the venue, which provides a spectacular and poignant view of the golden beach and the English Channel.

The new monument pays tribute to the British soldiers who died in the Battle of Normandy under British command.

There is a text engraved on the wall: “Europe can be free only if they die.”

Visitors stood up to pay tribute to more than 22,000 men and women, most of whom were British soldiers, whose names were carved on stone pillars. The huge screen showed that the veterans who had landed in Normandy gathered at the National Memorial Botanic Garden in the United Kingdom at the same time to watch the Normandy incident remotely. Prince Charles spoke via a video link and expressed regret that he could not attend in person.

On June 6, 1944, “in the center of the fog that enveloped the Normandy coast… is the lightning of freedom,” the French Defense Minister Florence Parly said at the ceremony. “France will never forget. France will never be grateful.”

On Sunday, 96-year-old American veteran Charles Shay looked around at the Normandy Memorial in England. (Kiran Ridley/Getty Images of the Normandy Memorial Trust)

Charles Shay is a native of Penobscot. He landed on June 6, 1944 as a medic of the US Army. He is now home in Normandy and is Ver-sur-Mer. The only surviving D-Day veteran at the ceremony.

Another veteran of the Battle of Normandy, British Captain David Melcrest also attended the meeting. On June 12, 1944, he and his team landed in Normandy to replace the officer who died on the first day of the battle.

Later that day, Shay attended a commemorative event held at the American Cemetery in Colville on the Sea, on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach in the presence of officials from the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, and other allied nations.

The cemetery contains 9,380 graves, most of which are for soldiers who lost their lives in the Normandy landings and subsequent operations. Another 1,557 names were inscribed on the “Wall of the Missing”.

Limited ceremony

Most public events have been cancelled, and the official ceremony is limited to a few selected guests and VIPs.

Denis van den Brink, a World War II expert who worked in the town of Carentan, the site of a strategic battle near Utah Beach, admitted that “a huge loss, all veterans who could not travel were absent.” .

“It really makes us very miserable, because they are about 95 or 100 years old, and we hope they will exist forever. But, you know…” he said.

On Sunday, tourists visited the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy. (David Vincent/Associated Press)

“At least we maintain a certain spirit of remembrance, which is the most important,” he told the Associated Press.

During the anniversary weekend, many local residents came out to visit the monument commemorating the critical moment of the battle and expressed their gratitude to the soldiers. On the small roads of Normandy, you can also see French enthusiasts of World War II history and some travelers from neighboring European countries riding in jeeps and military vehicles.

Some repeaters came to Omaha Beach in the early morning of the same day to pay tribute to those who fell that day, bringing flowers and American flags.

On Sunday, reenacters of World War II gathered at Omaha Beach. (David Vincent/Associated Press)

On D-Day, 4,414 Allied soldiers were killed and more than 5,000 were injured. On the German side, thousands of people were killed or injured.

There are more than 20 military cemeteries in Normandy, most of which are Americans, Germans, French, British, Canadians and Poles who participated in this historic battle.

The dignitaries emphasized the importance of preserving the D-Day legacy for future generations.

“In the face of today’s threats, we should act together and unite as one,” Parley said. “Only in this way can peace and freedom last.”

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