Marines plan to land in Normandy to mark D-Day anniversary

Marines plan to land in Normandy to mark D-Day anniversary


About 100 U.S. Marines are set to land in Normandy, France, next month to pay tribute to Allied soldiers who landed 80 years ago in one of the most decisive battles of World War II.

On June 6, 1944, the United States and other Western Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from the Nazis. German resistance was particularly fierce at Omaha Beach, where 3,600 Americans were killed, including 770 killed. But the Allies managed to gain a foothold on the continent and eventually broke out from there and reached mainland Germany.

The landings are one of the most revered in U.S. military history. To mark the 80th anniversary of the landings, U.S. Marines and French troops are scheduled to land in Omaha next week after the French government asked the Marines to join in commemorations of the landings. The U.S. Army, which made up the majority of U.S. forces in the 1944 Normandy landings, is sending airborne forces to France to take part in other ceremonies, including parachute drops.

Lt. Col. Anthony Andrias, a spokesman for Marine Corps Europe Africa, said Marines and French forces will conduct landings on Omaha Beach and Utah Beach on June 4 and Sword Beach on June 5.

Andrias said the French military will stage a static display near Omaha Beach on June 6 that will include a drone, six rotorcraft, a landing craft and a French ground platoon.

The Marines and sailors coming ashore in Normandy will come from the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill, which currently houses the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said Capt. Clayton Doss, a spokesman for Naval Forces in Europe and Africa. They will come ashore in landing craft and utility craft.

Doss told Task & Purpose that more than 300 crew members from the cruiser USS Normandy will also be taking part in the ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

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“U.S. Navy Sailors and Marines look forward to joining their French colleagues next week in commemorating the 80th anniversary of Operation Overlord (D-Day),” Doss said. “The Omaha Beach landings continue the legacy of D-Day 80 years later and demonstrate that Allied and partner forces can be deployed anywhere, anytime to promote peace and security.”

D-Day
American soldiers walk to the shore at Omaha Beach on D-Day, 1944. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Doss said around 100 French soldiers taking part in the landing would come from the French amphibious assault ship Mistral.

A total of 1,200 U.S. troops from units in Europe and 15 historic units based in the continental U.S. will participate in the ceremony, according to U.S. Army Europe-Africa (USAREUR-AF) spokesman Terry Welch.

This year’s commemoration of the Normandy landings is an opportunity to showcase some of the U.S. military forces currently deployed in Europe to defend every inch of NATO territory, said Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Eurasian Air Forces.

“The bond between the United States and Europe is a testament to the enduring strength of our alliance,” USAREUR-AF commander Gen. Daryl A. Williams said in a statement. “Eighty years after the Normandy landings, our collective resolve remains unwavering, strengthened by decades of steadfast defense. We will continue to move forward, transforming along the way while simultaneously strengthening our deterrence and defense posture, and standing united and resolute against any threats that seek to jeopardize our hard-won peace and security on our continent and beyond.”

As they land on the beaches, U.S. soldiers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions will pay tribute to the role airborne forces played on D-Day. Prior to the landings, thousands of U.S. soldiers dropped by parachute and glider into France when a massive invasion fleet crossed the English Channel in 1944, paving the way for the massive amphibious assault.

“On June 6, 1944, our division parachuted into Normandy, paving the way for the invasion of Western Europe and entering the world stage as the beginning of the Allied offensive against Nazi Germany,” said Lt. Col. Tony Hofler, spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division (Assault Airborne). “Now, 80 years later, the 101st Airborne Division has evolved into the Assault Airborne Division and continues to help secure peace in Europe.”

On June 2, paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team (commonly known as Rakkasan) will be conducting an air assault demonstration in Carentan, France, Hofler told Task & Purpose. The unit is currently deployed in Eastern Europe.

“This air assault demonstration is intended to highlight the division’s ability to transport one brigade combat team up to 500 nautical miles under cover of darkness, at a place and time selected by the combatant commander,” Hoefler said. “The demonstration will be watched by a worldwide audience as it converges on Normandy, France, in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.”

As part of this year’s closing ceremonies, about 130 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division will take part in a parachute drop to honor Allied paratroopers who dropped into France ahead of the landings, said Lt. Col. Cesar Santiago, a division spokesman.

“By June 1944, France had been under Nazi occupation for four years,” Santiago told Task & Purpose magazine. “Eighty years later, we commemorate the 23,000 Allied paratroopers who breached the Atlantic Wall on D-Day to support Allied assault forces in the Normandy landings. The forefathers of our paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division exemplified a standard of incredible courage and conviction that inspires paratroopers today.”

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