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The French elite acrobatic flying group “Patrouille de France” (PAF) flies during a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II D-Day Normandy landings. , on June 6.
Thousands gathered on the beaches of Normandy on Tuesday to remember those who died fighting for freedom in World War II, with speakers including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pointing to parallels with ceremonies that renewed meaning. Ukraine war Against Russia.
Seventy-nine years ago, D-Day kicked off the liberation of Europe, led by the Allied sea and air landings in Normandy, France.
The first step toward victory—and peace—in Europe came at a heavy cost to American and Allied soldiers, some 10,000 of whom would be killed, wounded, or missing on that first, fateful day on French soil.
Parallels to the war in Ukraine have come up again and again in speeches and comments about D-Day commemorations. Many have pointed to the same struggle for freedom against occupation that motivated both the liberation of Europe and Kevin’s struggle against Russian invasion.
As Ukraine anxiously awaits the outcome of its counteroffensive, comparisons to the Normandy landings are stark.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin shakes hands with World War II veterans at a memorial ceremony on June 6.
At the American War Cemetery in Omaha Beach, Austin spoke of the war in Ukraine — as it was in Normandy 79 years ago — and seeking a world where “those who speak of tyranny and genocide are banished.”
“If the troops of the democracies of the world can risk their lives for freedom, surely the citizens of the democracies of the world can now risk our comfort for freedom,” he said.
Visiting Normandy to commemorate American and Allied sacrifices, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose uncle fought on D-Day, repeatedly pointed to the death toll among French civilians alongside the liberating troops.
Many French citizens of the World War II generation — caught in the middle of fighting through their homes, streets and gardens — gave up more than they could afford.
A toll that will once again be borne by innocent people in Europe as war rages on the other side of the continent in Ukraine.
A painful reminder came from Ukraine on Tuesday The Nova Kakoa Dam was destroyed. Flooding threatens towns and villages far from the front lines of Russia’s illegal invasion.
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The destruction of the dam “puts thousands of citizens at risk,” the country’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Tuesday, calling it a “heinous crime.”
As Ukraine prepares for an expected counterattack, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been clear about how to protect his countrymen.
The destruction of the dam “stabilizes the entire world [Russia] To be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land. Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terrorism,” Zelensky said.
CNN cannot independently verify who is responsible for the dam’s destruction.
Gil Nadeau, a World War II veteran of the Pacific campaign who traveled to Normandy this year to pay tribute to all those who died fighting in the conflict, told CNN that nearly eight decades on the French are still grateful.
“In America, they look at our hats and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ And that’s lip service. Here, it came from their hearts because they were occupied,” he said. When we come, they thank us and they mean it. That means something.”
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Roses placed on Omaha Beach ahead of D-Day commemorations are claimed by the incoming tide on June 4 in Colville-sur-Mer, France.
Milley recounted to CNN that during a recent visit to Normandy, he met a senior paratrooper and asked him what the lesson was for the four-star general. Expecting a tactical claw, he was surprised when the man’s eyes began to water as he spoke.
“Don’t let that happen again,” the man told Millie. “Don’t let that happen again.”
At the American War Cemetery, Austin addressed dozens of American World War II veterans who had traveled to Normandy for the memorial service.
“We salute you, veterans of World War II,” he said, backed by the sound of waves on Omaha Beach.
“You saved the world. We have to protect it.”