Why The D-Day 70th Anniversary is Special
The 70TH is the last major anniversary commemoration that D-Day veterans are expected to be able to attend, due failing health and difficulties travelling. Nonetheless, those that can are making a special effort to attend 70th Commemorations in Normandy and elsewhere around the world.
Introduction to "The 70th"
In June 2014 it will be exactly 70 years since the largest invasion in history took place. On D-Day; the 6th of June 1944, in almost 7,000 ships the Allied armies transported over 160,000 young men to the beaches of Normandy in France, to fight to liberate Europe of Nazi occupation.
This seaborne invasion was preceded by the landing of 23,400 Allied airborne forces behind enemy lines. They parachuted from the famous Douglas C-47 Dakota - the workhorse of the Allied Air Forces - and landed in Horsa and Waco assault gliders. They raised havoc and suffered great losses to secure the flanks of the invasion beachhead and free the paths inland, enabling the liberators from the sea to fight the Battle of Normandy (6 Jun - 20 Aug 1944).
Today, twenty-seven war cemeteries hold the remains of over 110,000 of the fallen from both sides. Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were also lost their lives. Thousands more fled their homes to escape the fighting. The Liberations of Normandy in 1944 and of Europe in 1945 were achieved only at great sacrifice. Many of those who died were still very young, and died without seeing their twentieth birthday.
Why is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day special?
D-Day veterans gather every year in Normandy, France, and where they are around the world, to honour those who lost their lives amid the combat and the bloodshed that were the D Day landings; to servicemen who gave their lives in the battle that marked the beginning of the end of the War.
Now in their late eighties and nineties, though time has wearied them, they remain determined that those who died should continue to be remembered and revered. But for the 800 veterans who commemorated the 65th anniversary of D Day, this was perhaps their most poignant moment: they knew that by the 70th anniversary in 2014, their ranks would be sorely depleted.
And so "The 70th" is the last major D-Day Commemoration that D-Day veterans expect to be able to attend - health permitting, from the UK, Europe, America and beyond - to honour their brothers-in-arms. The 70th then will be an especially poignant and significant commemoration for the veterans.
For those of following generations, to whom the on-going call to remembrance falls, the 70th is a unique opportunity to honour them and demonstrate that we will continue to remember - and in turn teach those who will follow us.