Commemorations

Notable D-Day Anniversaries

Each year a unique confluence of events combine to make the anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy Campaign an incredible experience. Thousands of people travel from across Europe and around the world to pay homage, and take part in the commemorations. We cannot say for sure, but we consider the intense interest and passion from people of all ages to be unique in terms of remembering a military action. Perhaps it is that Overlord was such a vast undertaking involving many hundreds of thousands of Allied servicemen that it has literally touched the lives or sparked an interest in so many people.

As much as is written about the veterans and the people who travel to Normandy to experience the annual commemorations, we should never overlook the residents of the region itself. After all, it is they and their parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles who suffered under the German occupation. It is they and their relatives and ancestors who fought with the Free French forces and in the resistance. And it was the French who suffered terribly - not only at the hands of the Germans - but beneath the bombs and artillery of the Allies who needed to diminish the capability of the occupying forces before the landings could even take place.

During the events in Normandy in 2014 I overheard a British Army officer talking to a few of his men. He said to the young soldiers that the "Walter Mittys" as he called them would be back, but that this would be the last year the veterans would make the journey. With the dissolution of the Normandy Veterans Association in November 2014, he may be right that no more official tours for groups of veterans will be organised.

However, it was his other comment that really annoyed me. The "Walter Mitty" types as he called them - the re-enactors, vehicle enthusiasts and other individuals who dress in period costume - are a key element in the fabric of the annual Normandy commemorations. The veterans themselves and the people like us at D-Day.Center along with the "Walter Mittys", understand that 6th June occurs every 12 months and not just every five years as the media and politicians seem to think. We will return each year and do our best to keep future generations interested and informed about our history.

First Anniversary of D-Day, 1945

1st Anniversary - 1945

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On 6th June 1945, victory in Europe was barely a month old, whilst the war in the Pacific still raged as the Battle of Okinawa neared its climax.

Remembrance of the Normandy landings which had taken place just twelve months earlier was localised and low-key. General Eisenhower announced that 6th June would be a holiday for Allied forces, and stated that "formal ceremonies would be avoided".

10th Anniversary of D-Day, 1954

10th Anniversary - 1954

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A decade after the Battle of Normandy, General Eisenhower had now become the 34th President of the United States. Just the year before he had concluded another major conflict, this time in Korea. A statement was released by the President in recognition of the anniversary. It began "This day is the tenth anniversary of the landing of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Normandy...

20th Anniversary of D-Day, 1964

20th Anniversary - 1964

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In 1964, Dwight Eisenhower returned to Normandy for the first time since the war. In the intervening years he had served two terms as President of the United States.

Veteran broadcaster Walter Cronkite travelled with him and together they filmed a television documentary for CBS entitled "D-Day Plus 20 Years".

30th Anniversary of D-Day, 1974

30th Anniversary - 1974

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In 1974, General Omar Bradley, known as "The Soldier's General", who commanded the US First Army on D-Day attended a commemoration ceremony in Normandy. He was America's last surviving General of the Army (five-star general), having attained that rank while serving as the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1950.

40th Anniversary of D-Day, 1984

40th Anniversary - 1984

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Ronald Reagan was the first sitting President of the United States to return to Normandy on the anniversary of D-Day. In 1984 he gave a speech at Pointe du Hoc in front of Ranger veterans who took part in the assault. "These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war."

Open Imagination

50th Anniversary - 1994

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Fiftieth anniversaries by their very nature are always something a little special and extraordinary. The build-up to the events of June 1994 were marked by both excitement and a little criticism. Some veterans groups complained that the UK's planned events contained a little too much celebration and not enough commemoration. However, they needn't have worried.

Open Imagination

60th Anniversary - 2004

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For the 60th Anniversary, to cope with the anticipated influx of visitors, significant investment was made to improving roads and other amenities in parts of Calvados and Manche. At Point-du-Hoc for example, the tracks between the craters and casemates were replaced by smooth, wide paths suitable for wheelchairs and motorised 'golf cart' style vehicles, whilst sturdy metal platforms accessible by steps were mounted above several of the gun emplacements.

Open Imagination

70th Anniversary - 2014

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In 2014 world leaders and royalty headed to Normandy to pay tribute to veterans of the D-Day Landings. British Prime Minister David Cameron attended a service of remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral, while the Queen laid a wreath at the Commonwealth War Cemetery. American President Barack Obama lead a standing ovation for veterans at the US cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, followed by a 21-gun salute and fly-past.