World leaders joined military veterans in northwest France on Saturday to pay respects to those who lost their lives 65 years ago in the D-Day landings of World War II.
U.S. President Barack Obama, French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Canadian PM Stephen Harper and Britain’s Prince Charles were among those to attend a ceremony in a coastal cemetery that is the final resting place of many who lost their lives in the decisive operation. More than 150,000 allied troops, about half of them Americans, took part in D-Day, a massive offensive on June 6, 1944 that overwhelmed German forces on the beaches of Normandy and proved a turning point in driving back Nazi forces in occupied France. Allied forces secured the beaches at a cost of about 10,000 casualties in what was the first step in a campaign that would, in a matter of weeks, liberate Paris, which had been under Nazi occupation for more than four years. Obama, who has been touring Egypt and Europe on a trip focused on modern conflicts in the Middle East, is to make a speech at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking one of the main D-Day landing points for U.S. troops.
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Earlier in the day, the U.S. president and his French counterpart gave a news conference making comments on efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East and halt Iran’s apparent nuclear ambitions. Among Veterans attending Saturday’s remembrance ceremonies will be 86-year-old former British soldier Jim Tuckwell, who told CNN the events will help those present to remember fallen comrades lost in the heat of battle. Read Tuckwell’s story “There was no time to mourn, you didn’t have time to mourn,” he said, recalling the events of 1944. “And the worst thing about later battles was that when you lost people, you normally had to bury them yourself. You couldn’t leave the bodies on the ground, there was nowhere else to put them.”