OMAHA BEACH, France – Seventy nine years after the largest combined air, land, and sea military operation in history, World War II veteran Marie Scott recounts the horror she experienced on D-Day. On Tuesday, many reenactors arrived at dawn on Omaha Beach with flowers and American flags to mark the anniversary. Scott, who was only 17 years old and serving as a communication operator in Portsmouth, Britain, during D-Day, recalls hearing gunfire, bombing aircraft, and men’s screams. However, as a non-combatant, she had a job to do, and so she continued transmitting messages between the ground and General Dwight D. Eisenhower and senior officers who were overseeing the operation.
D-Day was a pivotal moment in Scott’s life, and she says that, as a non-combatant, she realized the enormity of war and the deaths happening in the moment. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley joined World War II veterans at a ceremony at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach, where 9,386 United States soldiers are buried, the majority of whom lost their lives in D-Day and the consequent operations. The Walls of the Missing has 1,557 inscribed names, some of whom have since been recovered and identified.
Later in the day, an international ceremony took place at the nearby British Normandy Memorial, where officials from Germany and the nine principal Allied nations, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Poland, Norway, and the United States, attended. The ceremony was also attended by French Minister of Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
Many visitors paid tribute to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the D-Day invasion by visiting the American Cemetery ahead of the ceremony. Visitors paid their respects by walking among the countless lines of white crosses at the cemetery. Among them, Jean-Philippe Bertrand, a visitor from Marseille, France, said, “It’s unimaginable to do such a sacrifice for my freedom, for my son’s liberty.” Meanwhile, German professor Andreas Fuchs brought students aged 10 to 12 to Normandy via an exchange program, believing that it is important for children to remember and appreciate the liberation of Europe and the peace that has lasted for 80 years.