97-year-old WWII paratrooper commemorates D-Day with 75th anniversary jump


With the number of veterans of World War II dwindling, the guests of honor at an global ceremony in Portsmouth were several hundred men, now in their 90s, who served in the conflict - and the 93-year-old British monarch, also a member of what has been called the "greatest generation".

Planning to attend are presidents, prime ministers and other representatives of the countries that fought alongside Britain in Normandy: the United States, Canada, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.

He said: "We were looking out of the window all the mist was coming in".

The jumpers were honoring the airborne soldiers who descended into gunfire and death ahead of the June 6, 1944, seaborne invasion.

By the time of the Normandy landings, Soviet forces had been fighting Germany in the east for nearly three years and Kremlin chief Josef Stalin had urged British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to open a second front as far back as August 1942.

The event kicks off two days of D-Day anniversary commemorations, which will continue in Normandy on Thursday. The largest landing operation in military history was crucial for the further course of the Second world war.

Shortly after midnight, thousands of paratroopers were dropped.

"Obviously I will think of all my mates that didn't come back", he said.

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". Survivors say the sea was red with blood and the air boiling with the thunder of explosions. Events are being held to commemorate the assault on both sides of the Channel.

The jump was part of the wider commemoration of the landings on five beaches codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. "We will work together as allies and friends to defend these freedoms whenever they are threatened". In France, it is inspiring a growing number of annual commemorations. "We re-commit today to those shared values because they support the stability and prosperity of our nations and our people".

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It will tell the story of D-Day through musical performance, testimonial readings and military displays, including a fly-past of 25 modern and historical aircraft.

Consequently, the beaches were less heavily defended and the Allies had nearly total air superiority once they launched D-Day 24 hours later than originally planned because of bad weather.

Events in France began early on Wednesday morning with US Army Rangers climbing the jagged cliffs of Normandy's Pointe du Hoc to honour the men who scaled them under fire 75 years ago.

On June 6 1944, some 156,000 British, American and Canadian troops arrived on French soil from sea and air in an effort to free Europe from the Nazis.

A USA war veteran who parachuted into France during D-Day in 1944 has relived his courageous jump today (Wednesday 5 June) as part of celebrations marking the famous landings.

A large crowd gathered outside the security perimeter cheered the 93-year-old queen, herself a WWII veteran - she served as a truck mechanic.

He also called for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to spend more on defence, saying they had no choice but to meet Nato's target of at least 2 per cent of GDP.

Like many other veterans, he said he remains troubled by the war.

Britain is one of the few North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members that does meet the target and Mrs May said the D-Day events should serve as an important marker for unity for the future.

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