News

D-Day anniversary events may be last big gathering of WWII vets

D-Day anniversary events may be last big gathering of WWII vets

D-DAY:Gen. Dwight Eisenhower gives the order of the day "Full victory - Nothing else" to paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division at the Royal Air Force base in Greenham Common, England, on June 5, 1944, just hours before the men board their planes to participate in the first assault wave of the invasion of the continent of Europe. Photo: Associated Press

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A dwindling band of U.S. veterans is set this week to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in nationwide events aimed at bringing home to Americans the importance of the Allied invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France that helped lead to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

With the youngest survivors of the June 6, 1944, landings on the French coastline now in their late 80s, ceremonies recalling the largest sea-borne invasion in history carry special weight, organizers say.

“I think the 70th anniversary is particularly important because it’s probably the last large gathering of our D-Day veterans. We are expecting several hundred D-Day veterans to be in attendance,” said April Cheek-Messier, president of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation in Bedford, Virginia.

Cheek-Messier said D-Day was “the watershed moment of World War II, I’d argue the most significant event of the last century.”

LISTEN: Hear Gen. Eisenhower’s message to the troops before D-Day | WATCH: 70 years later, veterans reflect on D-Day | LOOK BACK: D-Day remembered | WWII propaganda posters | EXTRA: At D-Day event, Obama to connect WWII, 9/11 veterans

About 160,000 U.S., British and Canadian troops took part in the D-Day landings. As of last September, there were about 1.25 million U.S. World War II veterans still alive, and 413 die a day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The U.S. commemorations are taking place this week at the same time as ceremonies in Normandy attended by President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and about 350 U.S. veterans.

The biggest U.S. commemoration will be in Bedford, a town in the Blue Ridge Mountains that is home to the National D-Day Memorial as well as the holder of a grim World War II distinction.

Nineteen of the 37 Bedford men who took part in D-Day were killed when they landed on Omaha Beach in the face of German fire. The deaths marked the largest per capita D-Day loss by any U.S. community.

The last of the group known as the Bedford Boys died in 2009. This year’s D-Day ceremony is scheduled to include the unveiling of a statue honoring them.

About 10,000 people, including a 100-year-old former soldier, are expected to attend the statue unveiling and other events on Friday and Saturday, organizers said.

In Washington, D.C., a wreath-laying ceremony and speeches are on tap at the National World War II Memorial.

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is set to hold an “H-Hour” ceremony at 6:30 a.m local time marking the moment the invasion began. The museum also has scheduled lectures, re-enactors, films and the awarding of the French Legion of Honor to veterans.

In Abilene, Kansas, the boyhood home of Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Presidential Library has scheduled a remembrance ceremony and a concert.

On Saturday, the Eisenhower National Historic Site at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, will host a living history encampment, talks and a tour of the graves of about 1,600 World War II soldiers buried at Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson, editing by Jill Serjeant and Will Dunham)

Recent Headlines

in Local

DeWitt Co. Settlement OK’d in Dispute to Put Toxic Waste Over Aquifer

water

DeWitt county has approved a settlement with a landfill company.

in Local

Kankakee Co. Sheriff Describes Security Lapses that led to Inmate Escape

inmate_exiting_kamron_taylor

Sheriff Tim Bukowski says investigators found no inmate count had been done.

in Local

House Approves Springfield High Speed Rail Oversight Act

high speed rail

An attempt to make sure fair hiring practices are implemented on Springfield's high speed rail 10th street consolidation project is moving forward.

in Local

Rauner Admin. Plans $106 Million in Medicaid Cuts

medicaid

Cuts to Medicaid will make up about one-third of the $300 million in spending reductions by Gov. Bruce Rauner's office

in Local

Butler: Future of $26M in Social Service Funding Unknown

Budget Cuts

State Representative Tim Butler says who knows if that $26 million Governor Bruce Rauner is holding from a number of state social service programs will be restored or not.