June 16, 2024

Biden meets U.S. WWII veterans in France

President Biden and key U.S. allies have met in Normandy Thursday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the U.S.-led allied forces’ D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France. The brazen air and sea invasion would mark the beginning of the end of World War II, leading to the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi German forces in Europe less than a year later. 

Mr. Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were together to mark the most significant victory of the Western allies in the war, as well as the largest seaborne invasion in history. Mr. Biden is in France through the weekend for D-Day anniversary commemorations, planning to meet with key allies during his visit. 

“73,000 brave Americans landed at Utah and Omaha beaches in Normandy on June 6, 1944 and the president will greet American veterans and their family members while in France to honor their sacrifice,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in announcing the president’s trip. 

Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden met WWII veterans one by one ahead of a memorial ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery on Thursday, presenting each one with coins made to commemorate the D-Day anniversary. He chatted and joked with some of the men, asking about their hometowns, thanking them for their service and calling them the greatest generation ever.

The president was expected to deliver remarks later Thursday at a commemoration ceremony, which was also being attended by members of Congress from both parties, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and speaker emerita Nancy Pelosi. 

The June 6, 1944 D-Day operation, given the codename OVERLORD, sent five naval assault divisions to the beaches of Normandy, France. The invasion included 7,000 ships and landing craft run by more than 195,000 naval personnel. More than 130,000 troops from the U.S., Great Britain and their allies landed on the shores. Many more soldiers followed, and their efforts helped lead to the defeat of German Nazi forces. 

The president planned to give a speech on Friday at Normandy’s Point du Hoc cliffs that will highlight the men who scaled those cliffs 80 years ago, democracy and the “dangers of isolationism,” said national security adviser Jake Sullivan. In his speech, the president will draw a line from World War II to the formation of NATO to today, as war again haunts Europe, Sullivan said. 

On Saturday, the festivities will continue as Mr. Biden participates in a parade procession to the Elysee Palace. And on Sunday, Mr. Biden will lay a wreath at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where World War I veterans are buried.  

Among the allies Mr. Biden will meet with in France is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as Ukraine continues to suffer from Russia’s onslaught. 

The president is expected to have an “extended discussion” with Macron on a range of issues, including the Middle East, Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific, technology and clean energy, Sullivan said. Macron and Mr. Biden are scheduled to make a joint press appearance on Saturday, and Macron is hosting a state dinner for the president and first lady Jill Biden on Saturday. 

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump opted out of the trip to Normandy to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day while in Paris, citing bad weather, a move that drew intense criticism.

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