Tuesday marks the 79th anniversary of D-Day, when 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, to fight Nazi Germany during World War II.
According to the Pentagon, 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, but their efforts put cracks in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi army.
A number of top U.S. officials were at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, on Tuesday to remember the day. The cemetery is home to the gravesites of over 9,300 U.S. troops.
“Seventy-nine years ago, General Eisenhower told the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines of the Allied Expeditionary Force, ‘The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you,’” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. “The eyes of the world are still upon the heroes of D-Day. They are upon us as well.”
The U.S. was not alone in storming the Normandy beaches. Canada and the United Kingdom joined in the efforts.
The U.S. was responsible for taking Omaha and Utah Beaches, while the U.K. and smaller forces stormed Gold and Sword Beaches. Canadian troops took Juno Beach.
Last week, 45 veterans from the D-Day invasion returned to France for a commemoration. The Pentagon notedthat most of the veterans were over or approaching 100 years of age.
“You are selfless heroes,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater. “You marched in storied formations, served aboard formidable vessels and piloted legendary aircraft saving countless lives and restoring peace in the region. You are rightfully coined the greatest generation and I am honored to be here in support of you today.”
Among the event’s speakers was Former Sgt. Anthony Negra Jr. The 99-year-old served with the 128th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 6th Armored Division, during the Normandy campaign. He recounted how French citizens welcomed U.S. troops following the invasion.
“For every little town that we went through, they were out there in the streets, waving at us, giving us wine, giving us eggs, giving us anything they had,” Negra said. “And we thank them to no end. We thank you with all our hearts.”
The National World War II Museum noted that the number of U.S. World War II veterans is expected to drop below 100,000 in the next year out a total of 16 million.
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