Summary of the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings in 2019

Arromanches 2019

Collector vehicles on the beach of Arromanches June 6, 2019
Photo: Kathryn Whitaker

June 10, 2019: summary of the 75th anniversary of the landing of Normandy
Author: Marc Laurenceau

While the first commemorations of the Battle of Normandy have begun, it is time to take stock of these different days of remembrance marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Announced for more than a year as one of the last major memorial meetings attended by several hundred veterans, this 75th anniversary was marked by an extraordinary popular enthusiasm, even more consequent than previous commemorations. as well as an unprecedented international media coverage.

  • Veterans

About 500 veterans were present in Normandy on June 6, 2019. With an average age of 97, their enthusiasm and joie de vivre has not decreased over the years. A large majority of the nations present on D-Day were represented again this time, with the participation of veterans American, British, Canadian, Polish, Belgian, French … Léon Gautier, at this moment one of the last three veterans of the commando Kieffer still alive, received the honors of the French nation at Colleville-Montgomery. Yesterday’s enemies were also represented: the German veteran Paul Golz also took part in these commemorative days, hosted at the Utah Beach Museum in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont to tell his story.

Among the highlights of these ceremonies are the parachute jumps of several veterans on June 5, 2019: Thomas “Tom” Rice of the 101st Airborne Division, dropped in the area of ​​Carentan-les-Marais, and Harry Read and Jock Hutton, two British veterans.

Also noteworthy is the reunion of two 93-year-old British veterans of the 12th Para Battalion (6th Airborne Division) in Ranville on June 6, 2019: Billy Ness and Fred Duffield. The two brothers-in-arms had lost sight of each other for some years and did not expect to meet again one day. This beautiful story is told by the french newspaper France 3: sitting side by side to attend the ceremony and discovering themselves, they exclaimed “You made it” – “I thought you were dead!”.

Vibrant tributes were given to them all over Normandy and the veterans were welcomed as true cinema celebrities. The new generation was able to meet these survivors, to the delight of the nonagenarians. Some veterans announced that they would not return to Normandy, the age no longer allowing them to participate in such important trips. They nevertheless returned home with the satisfaction that the sacrifices of their comrades are not forgotten along the Channel coast, 75 after the longest day.

World War II veterans will return next year to Normandy for the smaller 76th anniversary of D-Day. More than 500 of them disappear every day around the world.

  • Official representatives

The official representatives of the Allied nations who participated in the Normandy landings also gathered in Normandy all day on June 6, 2019. These official visits caused heavy security constraints, with road blockages and filtering at the entrances to the binational ceremonies. international. Each head of state and government imposing its own security rules (especially US President Donald Trump), the French authorities have composed with these multiple requirements. Unlike previous editions of the major D-Day ceremonies, the selection of the location selected to host the international ceremony was announced only belatedly, just one month before June 6th. As a result, the prefectures of Calvados and Manche had only a few days to organize the distribution of stickers allowing residents and tourists to circulate in Normandy.

Security constraints, imposed late due to the presence of official authorities, have had a particularly serious impact on residents and history lovers from all over Europe attending ceremonies: some tour operators accompanying veterans (especially from Canada), decided to cancel their participation due to the difficulties of planning and movement of people on June 6, 2019. During ceremonies, especially in Colleville-sur-Mer, veterans waited for long minutes the time that the authorities leave the premises, although all the staff of the cemetery can not do enough for them.

However, the media coverage of the presence of heads of state and government will have put Normandy in the spotlight throughout the day of commemoration, and to recall the historical significance of this key day in the history of the Second World War.

  • Outstanding media

The mediatization of these ceremonies at the international level was exceptional in 2019. Broadcast live on many channels of information in continuous, these events are added to a dense program of television broadcasts, unpublished or rebroadcast, several days before and after June 6th. The “classic” movies on D-Day, namely “The Longest Day” and “Save Private Ryan”, were also broadcast on French public service channels. There is no doubt that this legibility of Normandy on the international scene will be particularly beneficial for Norman tourism in the coming months, especially the so-called memory tourisme.

The media has expanded the daily columns on the subject, recalling the preparations, the course and the consequences of Operation Overlord, at prime time.

  • A popular success despite a capricious weather

The total number of people who went to the departments of Calvados and Manche for the commemoration of the D-Day is difficult to quantify, but it surpasses the million visitors unsurprisingly. The region thus largely doubled its own population on June 6, 2019. D-Day enthusiasts moved from many European and extra-European countries (overseas, overseas, Oceania), for the biggest pleasure of tourism agents in Normandy. Some hotels were already full at this time since June 2017! Some accommodation offers have risen at prices that are not clear: the average price increase has reached 150%.

If the weather held up well until the anniversary of D-Day, the storm “Miguel” did not manage to spoil the party so far. Several events were nevertheless canceled because of the weather (which was reminiscent of a certain June 5, 1944 …), like parachuting, flights of aircraft C-47 “Daks over Normandy” in Carpiquet, balls and concerts in the department of La Manche as well as a performance of the sound and light show of the battery of Merville on the evening of June 7, 2019. On June 9, the traditional parachuting of La Fiere was a franc popular success, bringing together several thousand spectators.

  • Military vehicles and reenactors: the veterans of tomorrow?

The success of the re-enactment camps, where vintage vehicles, period equipment and extras in 1944 dress mingle, are gaining importance each year. New gatherings are created every year throughout the landing beaches. The Normandy roads are loaded like every year with Jeeps, GMC and Dodge trucks and Sherman tanks or Panther. With the gradual disappearance of veterans, collectors groups offer more than ever the opportunity to testify the material used during the war, and participate fully in the transmission of the memory of the Battle of Normandy.

The guns that participated in the Battle of Normandy are, in their own way, true veterans of Operation Overlord. For example, three Douglas C-47 airplanes participating in the June 6, 1944 parachute drop were present in Normandy: they were engaged in other aircraft on a commemorative flight from Duxford, England to Normandy, participating in a commemorative jump with nearly 350 paratroopers in period dress on June 5, 2019 over Sannerville.

  • The summary of the main official ceremonies of June 6, 2019

The day of June 6, 2019 began with the Franco-British ceremony in Ver-sur-Mer in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron and English Prime Minister Theresa May, to lay the foundation stone of the British memorial in Normandy. The French head of state then went to the American cemetery Colleville-sur-Mer to participate in the Franco-American binational ceremony. President Donald Trump, standing in front of the veterans and facing 12,000 guests, told in his speech the testimony of several of these D-Day heroes, who were warmly applauded. The French population, heavily affected by the fighting, has not been forgotten.

The Franco-Canadian binational ceremony, followed by the international landing ceremony, took place in Courseulles-sur-Mer, with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe representing France. The choice of Courseulles to host an international ceremony on June 6th was a great first. 38 Canadian veterans and 6,000 guests participated in the ceremony.

Late afternoon, the ceremony in honor of the French soldiers of Kieffer commando was held in Colleville-Montgomery in the presence of veteran Léon Gautier and Emmanuel Macron. On this occasion, the presentation of green berets to the marines was organized on the beach, which was joined by the veteran and the French president.

  • D-Day 75th anniversary facts and figures
  • 500 veterans attended the ceremonies in Normandy;
  • 200 commemorative ceremonies held from 4 to 9 June 2019 in Normandy;
  • 1,000 paratroopers dropped on June 9, 2019 at La Fiere;
  • 5,700 french law enforcement personnel deployed;
  • More than one million visitors in the departments of Calvados and Manche from 5 to 6 June 2019.

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