Mass parachute jump over Normandy kicks off 80th D-Day commemorations

Volunteer parachutists jumped over France's north-west coast on Sunday, kicking off a week of ceremonies to mark 80 years since Allied troops launched their D-Day invasion of Normandy and drove out Nazi occupiers, helping turn the tide of World War II.

On 6 June 1944, soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada and other Allied nations waded ashore or landed from the air across the Normandy coastline, part of the largest ever sea, air and land armada.

Four days ahead of the 80th anniversary of those landings, three WWII-era transport planes dropped a new generation of civilian parachutists near the town of Carentan-les-Marais, to cheers from watching crowds.

The 70 jumpers, dressed in WWII uniforms, were from an international civilian team of parachutists, many of them former soldiers.

The planes took off from Duxford in southern England for the 90-minute flight to Carentan.

The Normandy town was at the heart of D-Day drop zones in 1944, when paratroopers jumped in darkness to secure roads, bridges and other strategic points inland of the invasion beaches.

"It's the same doorway and it's the same countryside from 80 years ago, and it's like, 'Oh my God, I’m so thankful I'm not doing this at midnight'," said Dawna Bennett, 61, the only female parachutist taking part.

"They keep saying it's the greatest generation and I truly believe that."

The re-enactment was the one of the first events in this year's commemorations, after a fireworks display on Sword Beach on Saturday night.

Veterans are also coming back to remember fallen friends – though, with the youngest survivors now in their 90s, the numbers dwindle every year.

(with AP)


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