US President Obama leads D-Day commemorations with spirited speech

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US President Barack Obama has given a rousing speech to pay tribute to the thousands who died during the Battle of Normandy.

Obama, speaking during commemorations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, honoured the veterans of the conflict.

He said: “Whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you doubt that courage and goodness is possible, stop and think of these men – Wilson, Harry and Rock – they are here today, and although I know we already gave them a rousing round of applause along with all our veterans at D-Day, if you can, stand, if not please raise your hand, let us recognise your service once more.

“These men waged war so that we might know peace, they sacrificed so that we might be free, they fought in hopes of a day when we no longer need to fight.”

At least 4,400 Allied troops were killed in the first 24 hours of D-Day and many thousands more in the ensuing three-month Battle of Normandy, which brought the Allies to Paris to liberate the French capital from Nazi occupation.

French President Francois Hollande, speaking after laying a wreath in Caen, was keen to pay hommage to the 20,000 citizens who helped Allied troops.

He said: “I want to emphasise the solidarity of the Normandy people during this event.

“Everyone did something.

“The farmer who opened his barn to the unfortunate who sought shelter.

“The trader who opened his shop to provide what remained of his food.

“The contractor that opened his workshop until the downpour had passed.

“The priest who opened his church for protection, which sometimes can be a curse when a shell hit.”

US veterans had got D-Day commemorations underway with a poignant sunrise service on a Normandy beach.

It was around this time, 6.30am, that the landings had begun 70 years ago.

For many veterans, it’s likely to be the last significant anniversary they will see.

Some later met Queen Elizabeth after she had laid a wreath at Bayeux’s Commonwealth war memorial.

The town, the first in mainlaind France to be liberated, had earlier hosted a Royal British Legion service, which was attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince Charles.

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