Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)
Normandy remembers the heroes who liberated France, west Europe
When the Sun rises over Omaha Beach, revealing vast stretches of wet sand extending towards distant cliffs, one starts to grasp the immensity of the task faced by Allied soldiers on June 6, 1944, landing on the Nazi-occupied Normandy shore.
Several ceremonies were rolled out on Sunday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and western Europe from Nazi control, and honour those who fell. On D-day, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. This year on June 6, the beaches stood vast and empty as the sun rose, exactly 77 years since the dawn invasion.
For the second year in a row, anniversary commemorations were marked by virus travel restrictions that have prevented veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the US, Britain, Canada and other Allied countries making the trip to France. Only a few officials were allowed exceptions.
Most public events were cancelled, and the official ceremonies were limited to a small number of selected guests and dignitaries.
Denis van den Brink, a WWII expert working for the town of Carentan, site of a strategic battle near Utah Beach, acknowledged the “big loss, the big absence is all the veterans who couldn’t travel.” “That really hurts us very much because they are all around 95, 100 years old, and we hope they’re going to last forever. But, you know...” he said.
On D-day, 4,414 Allied troops lost their lives, 2,501 of them Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded. On the German side, several thousand were killed or wounded.
A few kilometres away from Omaha Beach, the British Normandy Memorial was inaugurated on Sunday outside the village of Ver-sur-mer. Visitors stand in awe at the solemnity and serenity of the place providing a spectacular view over Gold Beach and the English Channel.
The monument, built under a project launched in 2016, pays tribute to those under British command who died on D-day and during the Battle of Normandy.
The names of more than 22,000 men and women, mostly British soldiers, are written on its stone columns.