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The leaders of France and Britain paid tribute to the sacrifice of D-Day veterans on Thursday (June 6), the 75th anniversary of the largest ever seaborne invasion that opened the way for western Europe’s liberation from Nazi Germany.
Inaugurating a memorial to the 22,000 soldiers under British command who were killed on June 6, 1944, and in the ensuing battle for Normandy, British Prime Minister Theresa May saluted the bravery of the soldiers, many of whom were still boys when they waded ashore under German fire.
“It’s almost impossible to grasp the raw courage it must have taken that day to leap from landing craft and into the surf despite the fury of battle,” May told a small gathering that included Macron and veterans, their uniforms laden with medals.
The Normandy landings were months in the planning and kept secret from Nazi Germany despite a huge trans-Atlantic mobilization of industry and manpower.
Under the cover of darkness, thousands of Allied paratroopers jumped behind Germany’s coastal defenses. Then, as day broke, warships pounded German positions before hundreds of landing craft disgorged the infantry troops under a barrage of machine-gun fire and artillery.
The devastation wrought by two world wars in the first half of the 20th century fostered a decades-long era of cooperation between European capitals determined to protect their hard-fought peace, giving rise to what is now the European Union.
But even as Britain now tries to sever its ties with the bloc, Macron said some ties between France and Britain were indestructible.