The Latest: Queen gives personal thanks to D-Day veterans
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on commemorations of the 75th anniversary of D-Day (all times local):
Queen Elizabeth II has given an unusually personal thank you to veterans for their sacrifice during the D-Day invasion.
“When I attended the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, some thought it might be the last such event. But the wartime generation —my generation— is resilient, and I am delighted to be with you in Portsmouth today,” the 93-year-old monarch said in a brief address during a ceremony attended by world leaders Wednesday.
She praised the “hundreds of thousands of young soldiers, sailors and airmen (who) left these shores in the cause of freedom.”
In closing, the queen said: “Many of them would never return, and the heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten. It is with humility and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country —indeed the whole free world— that I say to you all, thank you.”
Leaders of World War II allies have been reading first-hand testimonies from participants in the conflict during a ceremony in England to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
British Prime Minister Theresa May read from a letter written by Capt. Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps to his wife, Gladys, on June 3, 1944, a few days before the invasion. He was killed the day after D-Day.
He wrote: “Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do.”
French president Emmanuel Macron read from a letter sent by a young resistance fighter, Henri Fertet, before he was executed at the age of 16. The letter said: “I am going to die for my country. I want France to be free and the French to be happy.”
Before he began Macron said: “First, let me thank you sincerely, on behalf of my nation” — drawing cheers from spectators gathered in Portsmouth.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau read from the Victoria Cross citation of Lt. Col. Cecil Merritt, the first Canadian to be awarded the medal for gallantry for his leadership during the raid on Dieppe in 1942.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, President Donald Trump has read a prayer that President Franklin Roosevelt delivered in a radio address June 6, 1944.
Roosevelt gave the prayer as U.S. and allied forces were crossing the English Channel to land on the beaches of Normandy, France. Trump read from the prayer on the stage before veterans and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II, gathered to commemorate the anniversary in Portsmouth, England.
Reading from the prayer, Trump said: “Almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation, this day, have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.”
A service of commemoration has begun in southern England to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Queen Elizabeth II, U.S. President Donald Trump, other leaders of the wartime Allies — as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel — joined some 300 World War II veterans at the seaside ceremony in Portsmouth Wednesday.
Silence descended as the presentation began. Trump and the other dignitaries stood and applauded as a small cadre of the elderly veterans took the center of the stage.
The ceremony kicked off with the recollections of those who took part in the landings, broadcast from a giant screen, setting the tone for a ceremony meant to focus on veterans’ sacrifices.
Troops began to embark from Portsmouth on June 5, 1944, landing in Normandy the next morning.
A large crowd gathered outside the security perimeter cheered the 93-year-old queen, herself a World War II veteran — she served as a truck mechanic.
D-Day veteran Les Hammond, 94, says he’s thrilled to be taking part in Wednesday’s remembrance events — and not bothered in the slightest that the presence of President Donald Trump and the other world leaders might be taking some of the focus away from veterans like him.
Hammond, who landed at Juno Beach with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers 75 years ago, was chatting with reporters from around the world to cover the festivities in Portsmouth, southern England. Queen Elizabeth II, Trump and other leaders are due to attend a ceremony.
He said the prospect of being here, as a representative of a dwindling group, makes him pause. He strains to hold back the tears.
“What happened to me is not important. I’m not a hero. I served with men who were. I’m very lucky I’m a survivor,” he said.
The skies are bright and the weather favorable for jumps by close to 200 parachutists over one of the battle sites of the D-Day landings.
Parachutists will be jumping from C-47 transporters in World War II colors and other aircraft, aiming for fields of wild flowers on the outskirts of the town of Carentan. It was one of the early objectives for Allied troops who invaded from the air and sea on June 6, 1944, launching the campaign to free Europe from Nazi occupation.
Among the jumpers Wednesday will be American D-Day veteran Tom Rice, 97. He jumped into Normandy with thousands of other parachutists in 1944, and recalls it as “the worse jump I ever had.”
Rice is jumping in tandem with another parachutist and has been training for six months.
Other parachute jumps are planned involving British veterans at Sannerville. They’re among multiple events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
U.S. Army Rangers are climbing the jagged cliffs of Normandy’s Pointe du Hoc to honor the men who scaled them 75 years ago in a valiant D-Day assault.
Elderly veterans looked on Wednesday as members of the 75th Ranger Regiment started mounting the limestone promontory at dawn, pulling themselves up on ropes one by one, seagulls swooping above them.
They’re recreating a journey taken by the U.S. Army’s 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions to destroy Nazi guns atop the cliffs. The operation helped prepare the way for Allied troops landing on beaches a few kilometers (miles) up the coast to break Hitler’s stranglehold on France.
Of the 235 men who took on the cliffs in 1944, only 90 were fit for battle two days later.
Wednesday’s event was part of extensive ceremonies in France and Britain marking the 75th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion.
Queen Elizabeth II is set to join British Prime Minister Theresa May and other world leaders for a ceremony on the southern coast of England that will start two days of commemorations for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
More than 300 World War II veterans plan to be at Wednesday’s ceremony in Portsmouth to mark the dangerous operation that took Allied troops across the English Channel to land on beaches in German-occupied France.
Also expected are presidents, prime ministers and other representatives of the countries that fought alongside Britain: the U.S., Canada, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also was invited to honor the invasion.
Follow all the AP’s coverage of D-Day at https://apnews.com/WorldWarII
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