The World Commemorates D-Day

American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy, France on May 30, 2004. (Photo: Mychele Daniau/ AFP-Getty Images)

Manama Gulf Daily News (government-supported), June 7: World leaders paid tribute to the thousands of allied troops who fought and died in the D-Day landings in Normandy 60 years ago, and vowed to safeguard the transatlantic alliance they forged...Bush, standing beside Chirac at an earlier ceremony, said the United States and its European allies were bound together by the sacrifices that were made 60 years ago to help liberate Europe from the Nazis' stranglehold during the Second World War. "Our great alliance is strong and it is still needed today," Bush told a crowd of war veterans at the U.S. cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, a village near the beach codenamed Omaha where U.S. troops came ashore and suffered heavy losses...Many of the D-Day survivors, some in wheelchairs and many now in their 80's, embodied the spirit of reconciliation..."The German soldiers had a job to do, just as we had a job to do," said 81-year-old British veteran John Rockley. "I feel no animosity towards them, and after all it was 60 years ago." Bush and Chirac made their own pledges of reconciliation at talks in Paris on Saturday intended to mend ties strained by differences over the Iraq war, which France opposed.

Seoul The Chosun Ilbo (conservative), June 7: The theme of the day...was that modern leaders have the duty to honor what the troops who took part in D-Day died for, by standing together in the cause of freedom and democracy...This was the first time a German chancellor was invited to a D-Day ceremony, and Mr. Chirac said the presence of Gerhard Schroeder meant once-bitter enemies have put their past behind them. He said Franco-German reconciliation shows the world that hatred has no future and that a path to peace is always possible. A public opinion poll, taken in Normandy, shows that the people of the region overwhelmingly support Mr. Schroeder's presence at the D-Day commemorations. And although some allied war veterans continue to insist that Germany should be kept at arm's length, most appear to agree that the world has moved on and, while the bloodshed of World War II should not be forgotten, it is time for reconciliation.

Johannesburg Mail & Guardian (liberal), June 7: The French...have their own ambivalences toward D-Day. For a long time, they were uncertain how to mark the occasion: They felt relief to be free, of course, but also a touch of humiliation that deliverance had to come from across the sea...In the past...the untutored observer would have assumed it was French might which liberated France in 1944-with little help from abroad. Such matters amuse now rather than hurt. For the D-Day story is too big for diplomatic trifles. Six decades on, it still offers a remarkable glimpse of what human beings are capable of.

Toronto Toronto Star (liberal), June 5: They are old men now, with kids and grandkids and pensions. Bullet wounds, seared memories and pangs of regret for lost buddies mark them as veterans of one of the greatest battles of all time. Sixty years ago they turned the tide of war…On that fateful day, 15,000 Canadians invaded France by sea and air. The Royal Canadian Navy had 10,000 sailors manning 110 ships in the invasion armada. Overhead, Canadian airmen were in fighters and bombers, pummeling German defences and sweeping the skies clear of Luftwaffe fighters. This weekend, prime ministers, presidents and royalty will gather in Normandy to honour them all, the heroes who took part in the D-Day operation…While politicians make the news, it will be the dwindling ranks of veterans who will take the spotlight. Thousands are expected to attend, including 1,500 from Canada. But there's quiet acknowledgement that for many, this will be the last big anniversary. For the Canadians who stormed the beach that day…the journey back to Normandy is never easy…Rolph Jackson, of Toronto…plans to visit the cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer, where some 2,000 Canadians are buried. "Back in the left corner, it's pretty well the D-Day vets. My guys are all there. Two brothers were killed in the platoon: The Reed brothers, Gord and Doug, are buried about six feet apart. I know about 80 people in there by name, mostly by first name," Jackson said. "I'm going back to say good-bye for the last time."
— Bruce Campion-Smith

Singapore The Straits Times (pro-government), June 6: The ceremony at Omaha Beach started with a 21-gun salute directed by one of the veterans of the Normandy fighting. Mr. Bush and Mr. Chirac strode across the main memorial, and followed a red carpet down to their speaking places. "Against the swift passage of time, our presence together today is a reminder to younger generations of the true significance of a war that continues to shape our understanding of the world," Mr. Chirac said. "France will never forget." Casualty estimates for the Allied forces vary, but range from 2,500 to more than 5,000 dead on D-Day. But one thing is clear: the waves on Normandy shores ran red with blood.

Sydney The Sydney Morning Herald (centrist), June 5: The weekend's events will be the first time a current German chancellor has been invited to attend Normandy commemorations. In part, the presence of Gerhard Schroeder is testament to the closeness of his relationship with French President, Jacques Chirac, but is also indicates that time has healed any wounds between the former foes as together they drive even closer integration of the European Union. Ten years ago, at the 50th anniversary, Germany's chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was noticeable by his absence.

Tel Aviv Ha'aretz (liberal), June 6: The [American] cemetery [at Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy] has 9,387 graves, including 149 with a Star of David on them…The days preceding the official ceremonies commencing today belong to the war veterans. Separately, each looks like a kindly grandfather. Together they perpetuate the great ethos of war. This human bond is devoid of politics and the controversies between the states and their leaders...Europe's reconciliation with Germany and the death of the veterans over the next decade will ensure that commemoration of D-Day will not be the same when held again in 2014…Others come here to correct an historic injustice. Vladimir Putin is the first Russian president to be invited to the Normandy invasion celebrations. In the festivities 16 years ago, French President Francois Mitterand still said the war on Communism began on these shores. In the 50th celebrations, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was persona non grata. Putin sees the occasion as an opportunity to improve his image in the world.
— Lily Galili

London BBC News (international broadcaster), June 6: Queen Elizabeth II is in Normandy along with at least 16 other leaders who, for the first time, include a Russian head of state and a German chancellor. Events include memorial services and visits to graves of some of the 250,000 killed in the battle for Normandy…Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Caen - the first Russian, or Soviet, head of state to attend a D-Day commemoration. No invitation was issued for the 50th anniversary in 1994. The omission has caused deep bitterness in the ex-USSR, which inflicted by far the heaviest losses on Nazi forces while suffering vastly higher casualties in the years before the Western allies opened the "Second Front." Historians point out that the Cold War following the end of World War II clouded commemorations of the war for decades. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has described his own invitation to attend the ceremony as a sign that the shadow of war has been lifted from Germany. "The victory of the Allies was not a victory over Germany, but a victory for Germany," he told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag…BBC Royal correspondent Peter Hunt notes that the Arromanches parade by old soldiers, many of whom are in their eighties, is being referred to as the Normandy veterans' "farewell march-past." With the passage of time, nothing on this scale is likely to happen again.