SAINTE-MARIE-DU-MONT, France —
On June 6, 1944, more than 156,000 troops began the largest multinational amphibious landing and operational military airdrop in history.
And 74 years later, the eyes of the world still look upon them as U.S. service members, World War II veterans, NATO allies and partners participated in events and ceremonies throughout the Normandy region of France to honor the bravery, heroism, selfless service and sacrifices of the Greatest Generation.
Today marks the 74th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy, most commonly known as D-Day. An epic multinational amphibious and airborne operation, D-Day forged partnerships and reinforced trans-Atlantic bonds that remain strong to this day. U.S. service members from 20 units in Europe and the United States have commemorated the D-Day anniversary over the past week in almost 40 locations throughout the Normandy region.
Events such as the Carentan Battlefield Tour; wreath-laying ceremonies at the Airborne, General Eisenhower, Point du Hoc and Iron Mike monuments; and the addition of the 101st Airborne Division’s football “game that never happened” took place throughout the commemorative week.
Utah Beach Ceremony
Today, a wreath-laying ceremony at the Utah Beach Federal Monument here featured remarks by U.S. Ambassador to France Jaime McCourt and D-Day veteran Steve Melnikof.
Melnikof, 98, briefly recounted an event from the day his unit, the 29th Infantry Division, stormed Omaha Beach.
“That day alongside us were the French, English, Canadians and the British,” Melnikof said. “We had an assignment to get over this high bluff, and we did. We lost a lot of infantrymen that day, … but we will remember them all as combat infantrymen.”
Speaking in French, McCourt lauded the bravery, heroism, selfless service and sacrifice that Melnikof and other D-Day veterans gave for the freedoms enjoyed today.
A Generation’s Defining Moment
“The acts of the Allies on Utah Beach and the other beaches that morning in June were far more than heroic. … They were the defining moment of a whole generation,” she said. “They changed the course of world history.”
Switching to English, McCourt then addressed the World War II veterans in the audience.
“Proclamations are easily made,” she said. “Turning words into reality requires the effort and sacrifice of the truly great men and women like you. Thank you for being there then, and thank you for being here.”
Stories of bravery, heroism, selfless service and sacrifice will continue to be passed on from generation to generation as a way of honoring the past to secure the future.
“Ceremonies such as this are more than just commemorations,” the ambassador said. “They are the spirit of our story, which we pass on to the new generation. It is our children and the children of our children who will take responsibility for maintaining and consolidating this world of peace and freedom for tomorrow, as well as the bonds of friendship between our two nations.”