by WorldTribune Staff, June 6, 2019
The world on Thursday honored the Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 on D-Day, the assault which precipitated the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich.
“You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live,” U.S. President Donald Trump said at the ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. “You’re the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
D-Day was history’s largest air and sea invasion, involving around 160,000 troops on that day itself and many more in the ensuing Battle of Normandy. Of those 73,000 were from the United States, while 83,000 were from Britain and Canada. Troops started landing overnight from the air, then were joined by a massive force by sea on the beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats.
Trump hailed the contributions of the Allied nations that took part in the invasion.
“There were the fighting Poles, the tough Norwegians, the intrepid Aussies. There were the gallant French commanders… ready to write a new chapter in the long history of French valor,” he said.
The president told the stories of several surviving veterans in his speech, and shook the hand of Army medic Ray Lambert, who was 23 on D-Day.
“At 98 years old, Ray is here with us today, with his fourth Purple Heart and his third Silver Star from Omaha,” Trump said. “Ray, the free world salutes you.”
The president also shook Lambert’s hand. Lambert then tipped his hat to Trump.
After describing the heroic actions of Pvt. Russell Pickett, a member of the fabled 29th Infantry Division that was among the first to land at the French beaches, he went over and gave him a hug.
“Today, believe it or not, he has returned to these shores to be with his comrades. Private Pickett, you honor us all with your presence,” the president said of the 94-year-old Pickett, who was 19 on D-Day
Trump also thanked the descendant of a French woman who had helped American soldiers on D-Day. The family, the father of which was a member of the French resistance, had originally owned some land near Omaha Beach, and Trump told the story of what happened to them on D-Day.
“His terrified wife waited out D-Day in a nearby house, holding tight to their little baby girl,” Trump said. “The next day, a soldier appeared. ‘I’m an American,’ he said. ‘I’m here to help.’ The French woman was overcome with emotion and cried. Days later, she laid flowers on fresh American graves.”
Trump explained that the couple’s granddaughter now works as a guide at the Normandy cemetery. There are 9,388 Americans buried at Normandy.
Toward the end of his address, Trump said: “To all our friends and partners, our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war and proven in the blessings of peace. Our bond is unbreakable.”
French President Emmanuel Macron expressed France’s debt to the United States for freeing his country from the reign of the Nazis. Macron awarded five American veterans with the Chevalier of Legion of Honor, France’s highest award.
“We know what we owe to you, veterans, our freedom,” he said, switching from French to English. “On behalf of my nation I just want to say ‘thank you.’ ”