Veterans, Families Mark 74 Years Since Allied D-Day Landings

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) -
D-Day
American tourists at Omaha Beach, next to the Colleville American military cemetery, in Colleville sur Mer, France, Wednesday. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

Families of fallen soldiers and dwindling numbers of veterans of the D-Day invasion gathered on the Normandy shore Wednesday to mark 74 years since the massive military operation that helped change the course of World War II.

Powerful gusts of wind blew through a heavy mist as relatives and others paid respects at the American military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, above the sandy expanse stretch known as Omaha Beach.

D-Day
Men and assault vehicles storm the beach as Allied landing craft reach their destination during the initial Normandy landing operations in France, on June 6, 1944. (AP Photo)

Ceremonies have been held this week at memorial sites along the cliffs and sandy expanse where Allied forces landed in Nazi-occupied France.

Thousands of U.S., British, Canadian and French troops launched a combined naval, air and land assault as dawn was breaking on June 6, 1944. The invasion weakened the Nazis’ hold on Western Europe after they suffered a punishing defeat in Stalingrad in the east.

D-Day
A U.S. Coast Guard landing barge approaches the shore at Normandy. These barges rode back and forth across the English Channel, bringing wave after wave of reinforcement troops to the Allied beachheads. (AP Photo)

American tourists and Dutch military history enthusiasts were among those visiting the memorial sites Wednesday, mingling with families of victims of the Battle of Normandy buried in cemeteries sprinkled around the region.

This year’s commemorations were relatively low-key, while bigger events are planned for the 75th anniversary next year.

D-Day
Ducks (amphibious trucks) and a half-track follow foot troops ashore. (AP Photo)
D-Day
Sitting in the cover of their foxholes, American soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Force secure a beachhead during initial landing operations at Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. In the background, amphibious tanks and other equipment crowd the beach, while landing craft bring more troops and material ashore. (AP Photo/Weston Haynes)
D-Day
WWII veterans attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
D-Day
D-Day veteran Herman Zeitchik, 94, of Silver Spring, Maryland, at the ceremony Wednesday in Washington. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Updated Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 7:10 pm