World leaders gather in Normandy to commemorate 75 years since D-Day landings

World leaders including President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron will attend ceremonies Thursday on the beaches of Normandy, where 75 years ago Allied troops landed to push Nazi forces out of France.

World leaders gather in Normandy to commemorate 75 years since D-Day landings
World leaders gathered for an event to commemorate 75 years since the Normandy landings in Portsmouth on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
At a time of increasing international discord, the leaders will seek to show that transatlantic harmony remains intact as they meet for a second day to salute the heroism of the soldiers who surged onto the Normandy sands on June 6, 1944.
On an occasion that will mix high politics with poignant historical remembrance, Macron will first meet British Prime Minister Theresa May to launch the construction of a British memorial at Ver-sur-Mer.
Macron and Trump will then hold private talks followed by a working lunch after a ceremony at the US military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. 
The site overlooking Omaha Beach holds 9,400 graves — just 40 percent of the American forces killed during the weeks of fighting that followed the D-Day landings.
Photo: AFP
Both leaders will give speeches, while the French president will also bestow the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour, on five American veterans.
D-Day is seen by many as one of the great symbols of transatlantic cooperation, as young American servicemen sacrificed their lives in the struggle to end the Third Reich's grip on Europe.
Tens of thousands of French and foreign visitors have converged on the Normandy coast for this year's commemorations to honour the dwindling number of firsthand witnesses to the fighting.
But the Atlantic alliance has been tested by Trump's prickly relations with Europe, as the two sides feud on issues ranging from Iran and Russia to global trade and climate change.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend a ceremony at Juno Beach, where Canadian forces were in charge of the assault.
'Shared values'
Trump arrives in France from a three-day state visit to Britain, where he attended a ceremony in Portsmouth to mark D-Day alongside Queen Elizabeth II and over a dozen other world leaders.
In a joint proclamation, the 16 nations present at Portsmouth affirmed their shared responsibility to ensure that the horrors of World War II are never repeated.
They reaffirmed their commitment to “shared values” and vowed to work together to defend freedoms “whenever they are threatened”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who attended the Portsmouth ceremony, will not be present in Normandy.
President Vladimir Putin, who was invited in 2004 on the 60th anniversary of the invasion, did not receive an invitation to either ceremony, a snub indicative of the West's strained relations with Russia.
A photo exhibition at Saint-Lazare station dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings. Photo: SNCF   
Russia's foreign ministry said Wednesday that the Allied invasion on D-Day did not determine the course of World War II and its importance should not be 
Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists that it was the efforts of the Soviet Union, which entered the war in 1941, that secured victory.
On June 6, 1944, now known as the “longest day”, 156,000 troops landed on the beaches chosen for the D-Day invasion, most of them American, British and 
It remains the largest amphibious assault in history, claiming the lives of an estimated 4,400 troops in the first day alone.
“All these guys are my heroes, they're the guys who trained the guys who trained me,” Terry Murphy, who spent 21 years as a US Army paratrooper, told AFP on Wednesday at a ceremony in Sannerville to honour Britain's D-Day paratroopers.
“They're really the greatest generation,” he said.
Every major D-Day anniversary sees fewer and fewer surviving veterans.
But at the ceremony in Portsmouth, the British Queen said her wartime generation had proved “resilient”, noting that some had thought the 60th-anniversary ceremony might be their last.

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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.