Biden Marks 80th Anniversary of D-Day, Honors World War II Veterans

‘Isolation was not the answer 80 years ago and is not the answer today,’ president says.
Biden Marks 80th Anniversary of D-Day, Honors World War II Veterans
U.S. President Joe Biden (2nd R) and First Lady Jill Biden (R) walk with France's President Emmanuel Macron (2nd L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (L) during the U.S. ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the World War II D-Day Allied landings in Normandy in northwestern France, on June 6, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Emel Akan
6/6/2024
Updated:
6/6/2024
0:00

OMAHA BEACH, France—President Joe Biden delivered remarks on June 6 at the Normandy American Cemetery in northwestern France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

“History tells us freedom is not free. If you want to know the price of freedom, come here to Normandy,” President Biden said during a nearly three-hour ceremony honoring those killed during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

“Democracy is never guaranteed. Every generation must preserve it, defend it, and fight for it. That’s the test of the ages,” President Biden said. “In memory of those who fought here, died here, and literally saved the world here, let us be worthy of their sacrifice.”

The president was accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden as well as French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron.

Actor Tom Hanks and filmmaker Steve Spielberg, who worked on iconic war films such as “Saving Private Ryan,” were among the guests at the U.S. ceremony in Normandy.

During his speech, President Biden drew a comparison between World War II and the war in Ukraine, calling Russian president Vladimir Putin a “tyrant.” He also underscored the value of strong alliances and partnerships, including NATO, calling it the greatest military alliance in the history of the world.

“Isolation was not the answer 80 years ago and is not the answer today,” he said.

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched a naval, air, and land assault on Nazi-occupied France during World War II. The massive operation brought Nazi Germany down, liberating not only France but also Europe.

On D-Day, the Allies landed more than 160,000 troops on five Normandy beaches, along a 50-mile stretch of coastline. As part of the D-Day operation, nearly 73,000 Americans landed at Utah and Omaha beaches.

Two months after D-Day, the Allied forces reached Paris and liberated the French capital from Nazi occupation. On May 7, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered in Reims, France.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Macron thanked Americans for taking every possible risk during the war to liberate France.

Following the U.S. ceremony, the president participated in an international ceremony joining nearly 15 world leaders, including Mr. Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Britain’s King Charles, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The president will deliver another speech on June 7 at Pointe du Hoc, France, underscoring the significance of safeguarding freedom and democracy.

He’s expected to use the D-Day commemorations as an opportunity to target former President Donald Trump during a contentious election year.

President Biden arrived in France on June 5, kicking off a five-day trip. Following the ceremonies in Normandy on June 6-7, the president will participate in a state visit hosted by Mr. Macron.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden speak with a U.S. World War II veteran as they attend the U.S. ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Allied landings in Normandy, France, on June 6, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden speak with a U.S. World War II veteran as they attend the U.S. ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Allied landings in Normandy, France, on June 6, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

World War II Veterans

Nearly 16.4 million Americans served in World War II, but only about 120,000 were alive as of September 2023, according to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

According to estimates, nearly 170 U.S. World War II veterans, ranging in age from 98 to 103, attended the ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery.

Among them is WWII veteran Casimer “Casey” Bukowski, who recently turned 100.

Mr. Bukowski joined the U.S. Army Air Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He was trained as a waist gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress, the most well-known American heavy bomber of WWII.

Mr. Bukowski was a member of the Eighth Air Force.

“Our crew was shot down over Germany on the 16th mission and only four of us survived,” he told The Epoch Times. “I spent 14 months in a German prison camp.”

Mr. Bukowski was forced to move from one prison camp to another, enduring a grueling 82-day forced march in the midst of one of the coldest winters in German history. The conditions were so severe that he dropped to less than 100 lbs.

Mr. Bukowski was liberated by Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in April 1945.

This was his second visit to Normandy, but the first to commemorate D-Day.

“I’m excited and honored that I was asked to participate in the ceremony this year. I’m very very humbled and proud that I can still do it. I love it.”

Given the importance of the 80th anniversary this year, numerous companies and organizations participated in this year’s commemoration.

United Airlines participated in the event by flying four U.S. WWII veterans, including Mr. Bukowski, to France.

“They are the greatest generation and we’re honored to be able to at least contribute by flying four of these American heroes over to Europe,” Scott Seeberger, Airbus captain at United Airlines, told The Epoch Times.

“It’s going to be a great trip, a memorable trip for both the veterans and their families.”

Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.
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