RANVILLE, France ( Associated Press) – More than 20 World War II veterans gathered on Sunday near the Pegasus Bridge in northwestern France, one of the first sites liberated by Allied forces from Nazi Germany, Britain, US About 160,000 soldiers of the U.S. gathered for the commemoration. Canada and other nations that landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944.
The veteran, his family and French and international visitors battled rainy weather this weekend and on Monday to attend a series of events for the 78th anniversary of D-Day.
This year’s D-Day anniversary comes after two consecutive years of the COVID-19 pandemic restricted or disrupted visitors. Many felt that celebrations paying tribute to those who brought peace and freedom to the continent had special meaning this year as war in Europe resumed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. on 24 February.
Dozens of American veterans also took part in events in the area ahead of Monday’s ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where the graves of 9,386 people died in fighting and subsequent operations on D-Day. .
Peter Smoothie, 97, served in the British Royal Navy and landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
He told the Associated Press, “The first thing I remember is the poor boys who didn’t come back … a long time ago now, almost 80 years … and here we are still living.” “We’re thinking about all those poor boys who didn’t leave the beach that day was their last, but they’re always on our minds.”
Welcoming the sound of bagpipes at the Pegasus Memorial in the French city of Ranville, British veterans took part in a ceremony commemorating an important operation in the first minutes of the Allied invasion of Normandy, when troops were able to control the strategically important bridge. Had to do.
Bill Gladden, 98, took part in British Airborne Operations D-Day and was later shot while defending the bridge.
“I landed on D-Day and got injured on June 18th… so I was in the hospital for three years,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the British side of the Channel, then 17-year-old Mary Scott was working at the communications center in Portsmouth, listening for coded messages coming from the front row and passing them as part of operations on Utah, Omaha. Was being , Gold, Juno and Sword Beach.
“The war was in my ears,” he recalled, describing the radio machine operated by means of a lever.
“When they (the communications officers) had to respond to my messages and lifted their levers, you heard all the sounds of men on the beaches: bombs, machine guns, men screaming, screaming.”
Scott, who will soon turn 96, said she got very “emotional” when she arrived in Normandy on Saturday on a trip organized by the taxi charity for Military Veterans. Tears welled up in his eyes seeing the D-Day beaches.
“Suddenly I thought maybe some of the young men I talked to … that they were dead,” she said.
Across the channel, the emblem is even stronger as Queen Elizabeth IIServing as an army driver and mechanic in World War II, is celebrating her 70 years on the throne.
“Women were involved,” Scott insisted. “I mean, I’m very proud to be a minute part of Operation Overlord.”
Scott’s face turned to sadness when he mentioned the war in Ukraine.
“Why can’t we learn from past experiences? Why can’t we do this? What’s wrong with us?” he asked. “War should teach us something but it doesn’t enter very long.”
This year many visitors came to see the monuments marking the important moments of the battle and to express their gratitude to the soldiers. World War II history enthusiasts dressed in wartime uniforms were seen in jeeps and military vehicles on the narrow streets of Normandy.
Greg Jensen, 51, came from Dallas with his 20-year-old daughter. On Saturday, he visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, overlooking Omaha Beach.
“I took a moment to hold the sand and you think, Lord, the blood that was shed to give me that moment and the freedom to hold that sand,” he said. “That was emotional for me.”
“I hope a lot of this younger generation is watching because we can’t forget what happened 78 years ago,” Jensen said, thinking particularly of the fighting in Ukraine.
Retired police officer Andy Hamilton, 57, had come from Shropshire, England, on leave with his family, including his two 8-year-old grandchildren.
“Now we’re here to show respect for the sites and for the grandchildren to understand what World War II was like … and the amount of people who have sacrificed for the freedom of all,” he said.
On D-Day, Allied forces landed on beaches named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword, and Gold, which were transported by 7,000 boats. In that one day, 4,414 Allied soldiers lost their lives, of whom 2,501 were Americans. More than 5,000 were injured. On the German side, several thousand were killed or wounded.