Friday is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings of Allied troops in Normandy, the largest amphibious invasion in history and a turning point in World War II. Here are some of the events planned around the United States and in France:
DIGNITARIES TAKE TO NORMANDY
Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest seaborne invasion ever mounted.
World leaders and dignitaries including President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II will gather Friday at Sword Beach to honor the more than 150,000 U.S., British, Canadian and other Allied D-Day veterans who risked and gave their lives to defeat Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
German chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin were also scheduled to attend.
ROSE PETALS OVER LADY LIBERTY
France is set to say thank you to the United States for its help in World War II.
A pair of helicopters will shower 1 million rose petals on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on Friday. The statue was a gift from France.
Also, 130 French and American children will unfurl flags and sing the countries’ national anthems.
A 21-gun salute will honor veterans of the war and commemorate the invasion that led to the liberation of France from Nazi Germany.
WREATH LAYING AT WWII MEMORIAL
The National Park Service and the Friends of the World War II Memorial will commemorate the anniversary Friday with a ceremony and wreath laying at the World War II Memorial in Washington.
D-Day veterans, along with representatives from the Allied Nations that participated in the Normandy Campaign, will take part in laying wreaths along the Memorial’s Freedom Wall.
Participants also include Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Elliot “Toby” Roosevelt III, great-grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
WWII MUSEUM MARKS D-DAY
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, which opened June 6, 2000, as The National D-Day Museum, scheduled two days of activities starting with a ceremony at 6:30 a.m. Friday to mark the hour at which Allied troops began slogging through waist-high surf toward Normandy beaches.
The ceremony will include presentation of the French Legion of Honor to veterans who served in France. The French government decided several years ago that all U.S. World War II veterans who fought there or contributed to its liberation are eligible for the medal.
A war game Saturday, with dice deciding success or failure of the players’ tactics, will take place on a diorama of Normandy’s beaches. The diorama will be displayed for the full weekend.
PARACHUTE JUMP AT FORT BRAGG
Fort Bragg is marking the 70th anniversary of the largest airborne assault in history with a parachute jump. More than 300 paratroopers take to the North Carolina skies on Friday to remember the soldiers who jumped into Nazi-occupied northern France on June 6, 1944. Paratroopers from Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division were among the first soldiers to fight in Normandy.
The Fort Bragg soldiers on Friday will receive a history presentation about the D-Day operation and watch a video before donning their parachutes and jumping onto the post’s Normandy Drop Zone.
FINDING ROOM FOR D-DAY MEMORIAL TOURISTS
Organizers are expecting up to 10,000 visitors to National D-Day Memorial events in Bedford, Virginia. Bedford has only two hotels, and Nicole Johnson with the National D-Day Memorial Foundation tells The Roanoke Times that event organizers are working with tourism groups to ensure visitors have a place to stay.
The Sheraton Roanoke Hotel and Conference Center is expecting 400 people to attend its annual dinner for the D-Day anniversary. Sales associate Heather Massey says guests are flying in from as far as France, Ireland and England.
HISTORIC WARSHIP SALUTES ANNIVERSARY
The nation’s oldest commissioned warship and the Massachusetts National Guard are teaming up to salute the anniversary.
The USS Constitution, whose service dates back to 1797, will leave its berth in Charlestown Navy Yard on Friday morning and sail to Castle Island to fire a cannon salute to the historic Fort Independence fortification on Boston Harbor. The National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment will fire its ceremonial cannons in return.
The custom dates to 1797, when the new USS Constitution saluted the fort, which had transferred that year from the state to U.S. government service.
U.S. FLAG SELLS FOR $350,000
A U.S. flag from one of the thousands of Allied ships that delivered troops to the Normandy beaches sold Thursday for $350,000 at a New York City auction of hundreds of D-Day and other World War II artifacts.
An unnamed online buyer won the spirited bidding at Bonhams in Manhattan for the flag that flew aboard the U.S.-built LST 493. The flag went for far more than the pre-sale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.
The auction also featured rare printouts of the original series of hourly Dow Jones news bulletins with some of the first reports of the fighting on France’s north coast. They fetched $10,000. The flag and documents were owned by military collector and historian Rodney Hilton Brown.
The auction also included battlefield souvenirs, innovative wartime technology, rare documents and photographs from the war’s European and Pacific theaters.