D-Day anniversary: How France will commemorate 75 years since Normandy landings

On June 6th, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied troops invaded the northern French coast, marking the start of France's liberation from Nazi occupiers. It is remembered as a defining moment of World War II. Here's how 'the longest day' will be commemorated in France this year.

D-Day anniversary: How France will commemorate 75 years since Normandy landings
A photo exhibition dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings will take place in train stations across France. Photo: SNCF
For decades, French presidents didn't officially commemorate the D-Day landings, when 150,000 Allied soldiers stormed France's Atlantic coast by sea and by air.
French Resistance hero and president Charles de Gaulle refused to honour the Allied operation in which he was relegated to a secondary role.
However since then things have changed, with commemorative events lasting several weeks taking place in the Normandy region to honour the brave actions of the soldiers who played a role in a pivotal moment of World War II. 
Donald Trump returns to France
Starting from Wednesday, US President Donald Trump will attend two days of memorials in Britain and France for the 75th anniversary of the world's biggest naval operation, which signalled the start of efforts to liberate western Europe.
On June 6th, Trump will visit Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings accompanied by French President Emmanuel Macron. 
Trump to return to France to commemorate 75th anniversary of Normandy landings Photo: AFP
However there are fears that the commemorations will not be the main focus of Trump's visit to Europe. 
European leaders and Trump are at odds on a number of issues, any one of which has the potential to become a public source of friction at this week's ceremonies.
“There's a high risk that Donald Trump uses the ceremonies to remind everyone about the dependence of Europe on the United States for its security and defence,” Francois Heisbourg, a former French diplomat and head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told AFP.
However a source in the French presidency said Macron was hoping to use the opportunity to bridge some of his differences with Washington.
The D-Day commemorations are a “good opportunity to celebrate this common victory and to explore some of the priority issues between us to try to bring our positions closer together,” an aide said on condition of anonymity.
World leaders aside, Normandy has been commemorating the landings with its D-Day festival since May 20th and will continue to do so right up to June 16th. 
This year marks the 13th edition of the festival since 2007 when it was introduced to Normandy, to commemorate the anniversary of the Allied Landings in Normandy during World War Two. You can see the full programme of events here.
A photo exhibition at Saint-Lazare station dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings. Photo: SNCF
It marks an important part of France's history and the festival includes film screenings, historical walks, reenactments and theatrical performances, making this one of the best times to visit Normandy for history lovers.
And over June 5th and 6th, there's no shortage of activities. 
Among the evens will be a reception for British veterans on Wednesday June 5th in the town of Bénouville in the Calvados department of Normandy.
In Caen in Calvados there will be a ceremony in the British Garden of the Caen Memorial, with veterans and British authorities present while in Carentan-les-Marais there will be fireworks at the harbour at 11:30 pm.
On Thursday, on top of the US president's visit to Normandy, there will be events across the region, including a mass in honour of those who fought, ceremonies dedicated to the part played by the British and Dutch, and more fireworks in Arromanches-les-Bains, as well as a British ceremony at Bayeux Cathedral. 
There will also be a photography exhibition dedicated to the anniversary at train stations across France, including Paris Saint-Lazare, Caen, Le Havre, Rouen, Nantes and Le Mans. 
“This exhibition will serve to remind us of something essential: the freedom that we know, that we enjoy in France, and across most of Europe today, was born here, on our beaches,” said Marc Lefèvre, a leading French politician in the La Manche department of Normandy. 

Member comments

  1. Speaking as an American it is too bad that Trump will be there. His very presence will desecrate that sacred ground. Maybe it will rain or his bone spurs will keep him from attending.

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Plans for ‘D-Day Land’ tourist attraction in northern France spark anger

Plans for a permanent tourist attraction to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings have sparked protest with some accusing the idea of being a 'theme park' that is disrespectful to the men who fought and fell.

Plans for 'D-Day Land' tourist attraction in northern France spark anger
Photo: AFP

Plans have been put forward by the head of the Normandy regional council, Hervé Morin, to create a permanent site in the region to mark the D-Day landings of 1944.

Every year around 5 million people visit Normandy for 'remembrance tourism' but there is no single museum that unites all aspects of the massive Allied military operation that ultimately lead to the Liberation of France and the end of the Second World War.

But despite the plans being at a very early stage – although the aim is to have it completed in time for the 80th anniversary of the landings in 2024 – they have already sparked controversy.

The description of the idea as a spectacle (show) has lead some to describe it as insulting to the thousands of men who lost their lives on the beaches of northern France during the landings.

Every year around 5 million people travel to Normandy to visit cemeteries and D-Day sites. Photo: AFP

Already a petition against the idea – which has been dubbed 'D-Day Land' by its detractors – is circulating.

Set up by the Groupe National de Recherche 1939-1945 (national group of 1939-45 researchers) the petition states: “The Normandy Region has announced a project to create a “D-Day Land” for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. This will seriously harm the ecology of the area but also lacks respect for the veterans and the people killed during the Normandy landings and the battle that followed.

“The Normandy landings is a page in the history of France that must be respected and not give way to a faction of local business that will only serve to destroy the work done for years by associations of memory but also to lovers of this page of history.”
Local officials in Normandy believe the attraction will be of benefit to the region and many of the sites already dedicated to parts of the D-Day landings, such as the Caen Memorial, have given a cautious welcome to the project.
Hervé Morin is talking about private investment to the tune of €100 million for the project, which its has been suggested could be a multimedia affair with film projections and light shows.
Olivier Paz, mayor of Merville-Franceville, told local paper Ouest France that the project must not be “allowed to become Disneyland”.
An artist's impression of the new memorial at Ver-sur-Mer. Photo: AFP
The idea is not the first time that D-Day remembrance has sparked controversy in the area.
A huge permanent memorial to the British soldiers who died that day – jointly inaugurated by French president Emmanuel Macron and former British Prime Minister Theresa May at the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019 – also caused a row.
Locals in the small village of Ver-sur-Mer where memorial is constructed feared that their protected agricultural land would be turfed over and destroyed, an some organised a march to protest at the plans.