5 things to know about D-Day’s 80th anniversary

5 things to know about D-Day’s 80th anniversary

Veterans and world leaders are gathered in Normandy, France, for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, marking the invasion that helped turn the tide of World War II.

President Biden is among the leaders who will commemorate the landing of more than 150,000 Allied troops on June 6, 1944, the largest amphibious invasion in history. They will honor the thousands who died during the assault, alongside the surviving veterans — many of them now more than 100 years old.

The anniversary comes against the backdrop of Ukraine’s war against Russia’s invasion; Biden and allies are also expected to reaffirm their partnerships and ongoing support for the country.

When is D-Day? Answers to your questions on the WWII invasion

Here are five things to know about this year’s D-Day anniversary.

Events in Normandy

There was a mass parachute jump to kick off the week and firework shows over the Normandy beaches.

The official celebration will take place Thursday.

Veterans will participate in other events, like parades and visits with world leaders, including Biden and first lady Jill Biden later this week.

There are more than 100 events for the veterans linked to D-Day, according to the Department of Defense, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is also set to speak as part of the celebrations.

<em>A boy and his father attend a multinational parachute drop as some 400 British, Belgian, Canadian and US paratroopers jump to commemorate the contribution of airborne forces on D-Day. as part of the 80th anniversary of D-Day, in Sannerville, Normandy, France, Wednesday, June 5, 2024. Veterans and world dignitaries gather in Normandy to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the landings. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)</em>

Possibly last major D-Day anniversary for WWII vets

Many World War II veterans are in their 100s, and the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings could be their last major anniversary to commemorate their time in the war.

“In order to have participated in the D-Day landings, you would now have to be, at the very minimum, almost a centenarian,” said Alan Allport, a professor and historian at Syracuse University. “There are, thankfully, still a few veterans who were able to make the trip, but there are going to be a lot fewer than [there] were at the 75th commemorations … it seems highly unlikely that any of them are going to make it to the 90th, let alone the 100th anniversaries.”

That means the collective world is now reaching the point “where it’s kind of the twilight of lived experience, where from this point onwards, D-Day is going to be just a historical event that nobody who participates in commemorations had any personal memory of,” Allport told The Hill.

It’s not fully known how many veterans are still alive, but about 150 Americans who took part in the Battle of Normandy, including 24 D-Day veterans, are expected to travel to France this year, NBC News reported.

Forty-eight of those U.S. veterans arrived in Normandy on Monday and were greeted by French first lady Brigitte Macron and French schoolchildren who held up posters reading, “to our forever heroes: thank you,” The Associated Press reported.

Veterans took a special flight from Atlanta that was organized by Best Defense Foundation. When they arrived, French schoolchildren sang the U.S. and French national anthems.

<em>Normandy veteran Jack Hemmings visits the Bayeux cemetery on the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Bayeux, France, Wednesday, June 5, 2024.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)</em>
Normandy veteran Jack Hemmings visits the Bayeux cemetery on the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Bayeux, France, Wednesday, June 5, 2024.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Biden to speak in Normandy

Biden is set to give remarks from Normandy on Thursday, focusing on democracy and freedom and furthering his effort to draw a contrast in values and global leadership with former President Trump.

The president will highlight the significance of the U.S. supporting Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s invasion and the importance of global alliances, targeting Trump’s isolationist and “America First” global agenda, according to the White House.

“[He] will talk about — against the backdrop of war in Europe today — the sacrifices that those heroes and those veterans made 80 years ago and how it’s our obligation to continue their mission to fight for freedom,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

On Friday, Biden will visit Pointe du Hoc, the 100-foot cliff that Army Rangers scaled under gunfire, to give remarks “about the stakes of that moment, an existential fight between dictatorship and freedom. He’ll talk about the men who scaled those cliffs and how they … put the country ahead of themselves,” Sullivan said.

He will also “talk about the dangers of isolationism,” Sullivan added, and how the U.S. and the world will pay a price if we don’t stand up to dictators.

Members of Congress attending

Dozens of lawmakers left Washington on Wednesday to be in Europe for the 80th anniversary, including a Senate delegation of 18 to include Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Joe Manchin (I-W.Va.).

The group will join American and French leaders and veterans at a ceremony at the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer before meeting with World War II veterans and paying their respects at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Later in the day, members of the delegation will join heads of state representing Allied partners at an international ceremony at Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

While in France, the delegation also is set to meet with U.S. diplomatic and military leadership stationed in Europe.

On the House side, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who could not attend, organized a trip to France featuring roughly 50 lawmakers from both parties, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

As part of the commemoration, several House lawmakers who previously served in the military are planning to jump from planes to honor the D-Day veterans who fought at Normandy. The list includes Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.).

Global leaders gathering in Normandy

Biden will be joined in Normandy by various other leaders for a trip that the White House stressed is in part about strengthening global alliances.

Biden is set to sit down Thursday in Normandy with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a discussion about U.S. support for Ukraine. He is also set to have an official state visit with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris later in the week.

Other leaders in Normandy for the anniversary include British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Prince William, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The United Kingdom and Canada are expected to hold their own ceremonies and events with veterans to commemorate British and Canadian troops, respectively, and then the leaders will all take part in the official celebration.

Mike Lillis contributed to this report.

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