Landings Beaches’ candidate for UNESCO World Heritage List
Commemorations of 70th
anniversary of the Allied landings
Every year, hundreds of commemorations take place in Normandy to remember D-Day and its veterans. This year was quite special. Never have so many heads of state participated in the celebration. June 6, the same date as the landing took place, 18 Heads of State met to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings. 1000 WWII veterans from several countries were invited to the grand official celebration that took place at Ouistreham, on the beach with the code name Sword where British forces in 1944 fought ashore.
The celebration started one day earlier and will go on until August 21. This year’s anniversary will be a time of international contemplation and communion, and will likely be the last decennial anniversary to take place in the presence of witnesses to those momentous events.
The anniversary is an opportunity for transmission of memory and the sharing of those fundamental values for which so many young men were willing to make the supreme sacrifice: peace, freedom, brotherhood and the dignity of humankind.
The participating countries had their own ceremonies and celebrations along with the host country. Norway had markings in Villon-les-Buissons, Hermanville and in the small village Saint-Clément. King Harald V and Prime Minister Erna Solberg attended the first two. The ceremony in front of the small and old church in Saint-Clément became a rare beautiful and moving experience. In his introductory speech Captain (N) Torbjorn Eidal said:
– If we go back 70 years, at 5 o’clock in the morning, in a twilight filled with the roaring of propeller-aircraft, a Lancaster bomber came helplessly falling to the ground, barely missing this church and hitting the ground in the fields 300 yards from were we now are standing. The bomber had a few minutes prior - dropped their bombes on enemy positions at the Pointe du Hoc, some five miles away to our north. Immediately afterwards, this aircraft and that of the squadron commander were washed with bullets from an enemy fighter and were both lost, while the remainder 16 aircraft of the squadron returned safely. 97 squadron, and these aircraft were the very first to prepare the ground for the waves of soldiers who followed 90 minutes later – at 6.30 on June 6. 1944 – H-Hour on D-Day. The seven strong crew of this Lancaster all lost their lives, five Norwegian, one Canadian and one British. These men are the brave airmen we are honouring here today, by revealing a new memorial.
Present at the ceremony were three Norwegian spitfire pilots who flew over the beaches 70 years ago, the Norwegian Chief of Defence, Admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, head of the Norwegian Air Force and one officer from The British Royal Airforce. The Drill and Music squad from His Majesty the King's Guard of Norway also participated in the ceremony. The Bugle Call performed by Kings Guards was just fading, when suddenly everybody heard this very special sound from the Lancaster, a four engines WWII bomber, faint to start with, then increasing until it broke free from the buildings. And suddenly - low over the small group gathered in front of the old church came into view, the only Lancaster in the world that can still fly – honouring the memory of the seven men who 70 years ago lost their lives in the struggle for freedom. It was magic and no one present will never forget this moving experience.
Candidate for UNESCO World Heritage List
Basse-Normandie Region is calling for everyone to support the Landings Beaches’ candidacy for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List, via the website www.liberte-normandie.com. The Region hopes that 2014 will be an auspicious year for the candidacy. The inscription application will be submitted during this coming commemorative year. Over five million people a year visit D-Day’s five beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword and Juno.
They are emblematic sites for remembrance tourism, promoting the universal values of Peace, Freedom and Reconciliation. Everybody remembers Jacques Chirac shaking hands with Gerhard Schröder at the Mémorial de Caen museum on June 6th 2004.
Since then, D-Day’s beaches have been the scene of youth gatherings for peace and commemorations in aid of Franco-German reconciliation.
– Our candidacy speaks to the whole world because the whole world comes to these beaches. They bear the scars of the Second World War, it is true, but they are among the few places where the memory of conflict is appeased. They stand as an universal symbol acting for peace and reconciliation between former enemies, declared Laurent Beauvais, President of the Basse-Normandie Region.
The biggest seaborne invasion ever
The D-Day landing was the biggest seaborne invasion and the greatest military campaign the world has ever seen.
More than 150 000 allied troops landed in Normandy. (The Americans landed on Omaha & Utah beaches + airborne: 73 000, British forces landed on Gold & Sword beaches + airborne: 61 715 and 21 400 Canadian tropps landed on Juno Beach). Airborne troops (included in figures above) were 23 400.
11 590 aircraft was supporting the landings and the number of sorties flown by allied aircraft was almost 14 674. 127 aircraft was lost.
At sea almost 7 000 naval vessels was involved in Operation Neptune, 1 213
Naval combat ships, 4126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels. Almost 200 000 personnel was involved in the sea operation called Neptune.
By the end of 11 June (D + 5), 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches.
The five beaches was UTAH - Code name for most western beach between Pouppeville and La Madeleine, 3 miles long, assigned to the US 1st Army, 7th Corps. Casualties were the lightest of all the landings - out of 23,000 troops, only 197 men were killed or wounded. OMAHA - Code name for the beach between Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes and Vierville-sur-Mer, 6 miles long. The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties but 34,000 Allied troops had landed by nightfall. GOLD - Code name for beach from Longues-sur-Mer to La Riviere, 5 miles long and includes Arromanches where the Mulberry Harbour was established. By nightfall 25,000 British troops had landed here and there were just 400 British casualties. JUNO was code name for the beach spanning either side of the port of Courseulles-sur-Mer from La Riviere to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, 6 miles wide. 21,400 Canadian and British tropps landed on Juno, and there were 1,200 casualties. The last beach was SWORD - Code name for beach stretching 5 miles from Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to Ouistreham at the mouth of the River Orne. 29,000 British tropps together with French & British commandos landed here. The British suffered just 630 casualties.