'Democracy's Beachhead': Vets, Leaders Honor D-Day

Obama in Normandy for 70th anniversary

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 6, 2014 6:28 AM CDT

(Newser) – World leaders joined thousands of veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago today to commemorate D-Day. At Omaha Beach, the site of the bloodiest fighting, a US military band played while veterans from the 29th Infantry Division stood at attention at 6:30am, the precise moment Allied troops first went ashore. "Twenty-nine, let's go!" they yelled, before taking shots of Normandy apple brandy, the AP reports. Elsewhere on Normandy's beaches, veterans looked out over an expanse of golden sand and recalled a different scene.

"It was mayhem," said Jim Kelly, 91. Of the seven soldiers in his party, "I was the only one standing," he tells the Guardian. "They hit the landing craft straight away. How they missed me, I don't know." Some 4,400 Allied troops died in the June 6, 1944, invasion, followed by the months-long Battle of Normandy. At the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, US and French flags were placed at each of the 9,387 marble tombstones to honor "the patriots who, through their courage and sacrifice, changed the course of an entire century," President Obama said. He referred to Normandy as "democracy's beachhead," reports USA Today.

President Obama and French President Francois Hollande look out at Omaha Beach at Normandy American Cemetery, Friday, June 6, 2014.
President Obama and French President Francois Hollande look out at Omaha Beach at Normandy American Cemetery, Friday, June 6, 2014.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Military enthusiasts walk on Omaha Beach Vierville sur Mer, western France, Friday June 6, 2014.
Military enthusiasts walk on Omaha Beach Vierville sur Mer, western France, Friday June 6, 2014.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
U.S WW II veterans look at a C130 Air Force plane, which flies above Sainte-Mere-Eglise, during a ceremony in homage to paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne, in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France.
U.S WW II veterans look at a C130 Air Force plane, which flies above Sainte-Mere-Eglise, during a ceremony in homage to paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne, in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France.   (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
In this file photo, allied troops crouch behind the bulwarks of a landing craft as it nears Omaha Beach during a landing in Normandy, France.
In this file photo, allied troops crouch behind the bulwarks of a landing craft as it nears Omaha Beach during a landing in Normandy, France.   (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, File)
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