Obama honors D-Day and World War II veterans

  • US President Barack Obama speaks during a joint French-American D-Day commemoration ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2014, marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy.
  • People wearing WWII style clothes look toward the sea, on the beach of Arromanches, western France,  June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
  • World War II veterans look towards U.S. President Barack Obama, at the Normandy American Cemetery at Omaha Beach as he participates in the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Colleville sur Mer, in Normandy, France.
  • Members of the Danish Royal Navy Band stand at ready at a joint French-Danish D-Day commemoration ceremony in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, on June 6, 2014, marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy.
  • US President Barack Obama (C) stands next to French President Francois Hollande (L) and a World War II veteran (R) as the US flag is held during the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings on D-Day, in Colleville, France on June 6, 2014.
  • People wearing WWII military uniforms of Czechoslovakia take a snapshot of British landing craft, on the beach of Arromanches, western France, June 6, 2014. Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama (L) smiles at a veteran while during the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer June 6, 2014.
  • Canadian WWII veteran Richard Brown waits prior to the start of the international D-Day commemoration ceremony on the beach of Ouistreham, Normandy, on June 6, 2014.
  • Queen Elizabeth II lays a wreath at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice in the centre of Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery during a service of remembrance on June 6, 2014 in Bayeux, France.
  • People wearing WWII style civil clothes stand on the beach of Arromanches, western France,  June 6, 2014.  Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted.
  • US President Barack Obama, right, greets veterans and other participants during the 70th French-American commemoration D-Day ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France on June 6, 2014.
  • US President Barack Obama (L) and French President Francois Hollande (R) look out over Omaha Beach during a joint French-US D-Day commemoration ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2014, marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy.
  • From left, World War II veterans of the U.S. 29th Infantry Division, Hal Baumgarten, 90 from Pennsylvania, Steve Melnikoff, 94, from Maryland, Don McCarthy, 90 from Rhode Island, and Morley Piper, 90, from Massachusetts, attend a D-Day commemoration, on Omaha Beach, western France on June 6, 2014.
  • An American flag is placed in the sand of Omaha Beach, western France, on June 6, 2014.

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President Barack Obama spoke in honor of the thousands of Allied Forces that died or went missing on D-Day in 1944, when thousands of troops stormed the beaches of Normandy as the Allies began to retake Europe from German forces.

“Here, we don’t just commemorate victory, as proud of that victory as we are; we don’t just honor sacrifice, as grateful as the world is; we come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril,” Obama said on Friday morning.

Diplomats, world leaders, veterans and American politicians joined the president in Normandy to honor the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings – best known as D-Day. 

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces landed at Normandy with more than 150,000 troops – 73,000 of them Americans. Casualties for that single day topped 10,000, including 6,603 Americans. In the weeks following D-Day, the Allies pressed the Germans back, turning the tide of the war: On August 15, Allied forces broke out of Normandy, liberating Paris ten days later and forcing German forces to retreat across the Seine river. The next spring, Germany would surrender.

The number of Americans laid to rest at the Normandy American Cemetery is staggering: 9,387, according to the White House, most of them men who died as part of the invasion, code-named Operation Neptune. The names of 1,557 soldiers are inscribed in the Garden of the Missing. The men buried and commemorated at the cemetery came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Another 14,000 originally buried there were returned home at the request of their families. One father and son are buried side by side; 33 different sets of brothers are laid to rest side-by side.

“Just look at those numbers. More Americans died on that day than in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. It’s just staggering,” NBC News Chuck Todd said on Friday’s Morning Joe. (Roughly 5,500 American troops died in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade.)

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