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UPDATE: 06/05/2024; Sea conditions stop Marines from amphibious landings at Normandy to mark D-Day

About 100 U.S. Marines will come ashore at Normandy, France next month as a tribute to the Allied troops who landed there 80 years ago in one of the most decisive battles of World War II.

The United States and other Western Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 to begin the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. German resistance was especially fierce at Omaha Beach, where U.S. troops suffered 3,600 casualties, including 770 killed. But the Allies were able to establish a toehold on the continent from which they would eventually break out and reach Germany itself.

The landings are among the most revered operations in U.S. military history. In commemoration of their 80th anniversary, U.S. Marines and French troops will land on Omaha next week after the French government extended an invitation for the Marines to help commemorate the invasion. The U.S. Army, whose troops made up the bulk of U.S. forces at Normandy in 1944, is sending paratroopers to France to participate in other ceremonies, including a parachute drop. 

The Marines and French troops will conduct the amphibious landings at Omaha and Utah beaches on June 4 and Sword Beach on June 5, said Lt. Col. Antony Andrious, a spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe and Africa.

On June 6, the French Armed Forces will provide a static display near Omaha Beach that includes an unmanned aerial vehicle, 6 rotary wing aircraft, a landing craft, and a ground platoon of French troops, Andrious said.

The Marines and sailors landing at Normandy will come from the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill, on which the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is currently embarked, said Capt. Clayton Doss, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe – Africa. They will come ashore on Landing Craft, Utility boats.

More than 300 sailors from the cruiser USS Normandy are also participating in ceremonies to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Doss told Task & Purpose.

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“U.S. Navy Sailors and Marines are looking forward to commemorating the 80th Anniversary of Operation Overlord (D-Day) alongside their French counterparts next week,” Doss said. “The Omaha Beach landing carries forward the D-Day legacy eighty years later and demonstrates that Allied and partner forces can deploy anytime, anywhere to promote peace and security.”

D-Day
US soldiers wade toward shore on Omaha beach on D-Day, 1944. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The roughly 100 French troops who will take part in the amphibious landings will come from the French   amphibious assault ship Mistral, Doss said.

A total of 1,200 U.S. service members from units based in Europe and 15 historic-lineage units based in the continental United States are taking part in the ceremonies,  said Terry Welch, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe and Africa, or USAREUR-AF.

This year’s commemorations of the Normandy landings provide an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the U.S. units that are currently deployed to Europe to help defend every inch of NATO territory, said Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a USAREUR-AF spokesman.

“The bond between the United States and Europe stands as a testament to the enduring strength of our Alliance,” Gen. Darryl A. Williams, commander of USAREUR-AF, said in a statement. “Eighty years since D-Day, our collective resolve remains unwavering, fortified by decades of steadfast defense. As we continue to march forward, transforming along the way, while at the same time enhancing our deterrence and defensive posture, let us stand united and firm in opposition to any threat that dares to jeopardize the hard-won peace and security here on the continent and beyond.”

Along with the beach landings, U.S. soldiers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions will pay tribute to the role paratroopers played on D-Day. As the massive invasion fleet crossed the English Channel in 1944, thousands of U.S. troops were dropped by parachute and gliders into France ahead of the landings to help pave the way for the massive amphibious assault.

“It was June 6, 1944, when our division came onto the world stage parachuting into Normandy clearing the way for the invasion of Western Europe and marking the beginning of the Allies assault on Nazi Germany,” said Lt. Col. Tony Hoefler, spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). “Now, 80 years later, the 101st has transformed into an air assault division and still helping to secure the peace in Europe. 

On June 2, soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team — known as the Rakkasans — , 101st Airborne Division will conduct an air assault demonstration in Carentan, France, Hoefler told Task & Purpose. The unit is currently deployed to Eastern Europe.

“The air assault demonstration is meant to highlight the division’s ability to deliver one brigade combat team up to 500 nautical miles in one period of darkness at the place and time of the combatant commander’s choosing,” Hoefler said. “The demonstration will be viewed by spectators throughout the world who have converged on Normandy, France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Europe on D-Day.”

As part of this year’s closing ceremonies, about 130 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division will take part in a parachute drop to honor the Allied paratroopers who jumped into France ahead of the landings, said Lt. Col. César Santiago, a spokesman for the division.

“By June of 1944, France had been under Nazi occupation for four years,” Santiago told Task & Purpose. “Eighty years later, we commemorate the 23,000 Allied Paratroopers who pierced the Atlantic Wall on D-Day to assist the Allied assault forces on the Normandy beachheads.  Our Paratrooping ancestors of the 82d Airborne Division set a remarkable standard of courage and conviction for our Paratroopers today.”  

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