In his final speech at D-Day celebrations, French president Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the French soldiers involved in the Normandy landings who fought for “France’s honor.”
A total of 177 French soldiers known as the Kieffer Commando unit stormed the heavily defended beaches of Nazi-occupied northern France on June 6, 1944.
Their leader, Captain Philippe Kieffer, worked closely with General Charles De Gaulle to create the elite unit that trained with British special forces.
“They were just a handful, but a handful of braves,” Macron said at the ceremony in Colleville-Montgomery, which was attended by 96-year-old Leon Gautier, one of three commandos in the unit who’s still alive. “They were almost a symbol, but what a powerful symbol for France’s honor.”
Hundreds of people have packed the seaside square in the Normandy town of Arromanches to applaud British troops who landed on nearby beaches 75 years ago.
A piper played as veterans of the Battle of Normandy, medals gleaming on their chests and some in wheelchairs, led a wreath-laying for the fallen outside the town’s D-Day Museum.
The band of the Royal Air Force Regiment serenaded veterans and supporters with the rousing “Dambusters March” and poignant wartime hit “We’ll Meet Again,” before a fly-past of vintage wartime RAF aircraft.
Arromanches played a key role in the Battle of Normandy as the site of an artificial harbor built soon after D-Day by the Allies to bring heavy equipment and hundreds of thousands of troops ashore to join the fight against Nazi occupiers.
Andrew Parker, a 33-year-old sax player from Orange County, California, filled up a plastic bottle with Omaha Beach sand, just as his grandfather did when he landed as an army scout shortly after D-Day in June 1944.
Edward Parker, who died at age 94 in 2006, packed his sand 75 years ago into a jar of Smucker’s jam.
His grandson, who came to Normandy for Thursday’s anniversary to play with the Concordia Wind Orchestra band, said his sand will take pride of place on display next to his grandfather’s once he gets home.
Edward Parker was involved in the Market Garden battle in Holland, but other than that didn’t talk about his war, like many who lived through it.
Other people also filled bottles and flacons with sand.
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