June 16, 2024

Biden calls for solidarity with Ukraine at D-Day anniversary in Normandy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky joined world leaders in France on Thursday to commemorate the D-Day invasion and seek more Western aid to combat Russia’s invasion.

Zelensky and his wife, Olena, attended the 80th anniversary events in Normandy with US President Joe Biden and European leaders who have supported Kyiv’s efforts in the war. He will meet with French officials in Paris on Friday.

Ukraine is fighting to hold back a recent Russian push in eastern areas, including the border regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk. The offensive seeks to exploit Kyiv’s shortages of ammunition and troops along the roughly 1,000-kilometer front line.

President Joe Biden marked the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday by pledging “we will not walk away” from the defense of Ukraine and allow Russia to threaten more of Europe.

“To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable,” he said during a ceremony at the American cemetery in Normandy. “If we were to do that, it means we’d be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches.”

D-Day was the largest amphibious assault in history, and Biden called it a “powerful illustration of how alliances, real alliances make us stronger.” He said that was “a lesson that I pray we Americans never forget.”

French President Emmanuel Macron awarded the Legion of Honour to 14 US veterans and a British female veteran. Among the Americans was Edward Berthold, a pilot who carried out his three missions over France in May 1944, before taking part in an operation in Saint-Lo, in Normandy, on D-Day. He flew 35 combat missions in all during World War II.

“You came here because the free world needed each and every one of you, and you answered the call,” Macron said. “You came here to make France a free nation. You’re back here today at home, if I may say.”

Berthold later read aloud a letter he’d written home the next day, showing that even as a young man he was aware of D-Day’s importance.

“Wednesday night, June 7th, 1944. Dear Mom, just a few lines to tell you we are all ok. We flew mission number 10 on D-Day,” he wrote. “It certainly was a terrific show, what we could see. This is what everyone has been waiting for.”

Macron also bestowed the Legion of Honour on 103-year-old Christian Lamb, the daughter of a Royal Navy admiral who was studying in Normandy in 1939 when her father called her back to London. There, Lamb created detailed maps that guided the crews of landing craft on D-Day.

The French president bent down to Lamb in a wheelchair, pin the medal and kiss her on both cheeks, describing her as one of the “heroes in the shadows.”

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