LONDON (AP) – The Latest on commemorations of the 75th anniversary of D-Day (all times local):
D-Day veteran Les Hammond, 94, says he’s thrilled to be taking part in Wednesday’s remembrance events – and not bothered in the slightest that the presence of President Donald Trump and the other world leaders might be taking some of the focus away from veterans like him.
Hammond, who landed at Juno Beach with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers 75 years ago, was chatting with reporters from around the world to cover the festivities in Portsmouth, southern England. Queen Elizabeth II, Trump and other leaders are due to attend a ceremony.
He said the prospect of being here, as a representative of a dwindling group, makes him pause. He strains to hold back the tears.
“What happened to me is not important. I’m not a hero. I served with men who were. I’m very lucky I’m a survivor,” he said.
The skies are bright and the weather favorable for jumps by close to 200 parachutists over one of the battle sites of the D-Day landings.
Parachutists will be jumping from C-47 transporters in World War II colors and other aircraft, aiming for fields of wild flowers on the outskirts of the town of Carentan. It was one of the early objectives for Allied troops who invaded from the air and sea on June 6, 1944, launching the campaign to free Europe from Nazi occupation.
Among the jumpers Wednesday will be American D-Day veteran Tom Rice, 97. He jumped into Normandy with thousands of other parachutists in 1944, and recalls it as “the worse jump I ever had.”
Rice is jumping in tandem with another parachutist and has been training for six months.
Other parachute jumps are planned involving British veterans at Sannerville. They’re among multiple events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
U.S. Army Rangers are climbing the jagged cliffs of Normandy’s Pointe du Hoc to honor the men who scaled them 75 years ago in a valiant D-Day assault.
Elderly veterans looked on Wednesday as members of the 75th Ranger Regiment started mounting the limestone promontory at dawn, pulling themselves up on ropes one by one, seagulls swooping above them.
They’re recreating a journey taken by the U.S. Army’s 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions to destroy Nazi guns atop the cliffs. The operation helped prepare the way for Allied troops landing on beaches a few kilometers (miles) up the coast to break Hitler’s stranglehold on France.
Of the 235 men who took on the cliffs in 1944, only 90 were fit for battle two days later.
Wednesday’s event was part of extensive ceremonies in France and Britain marking the 75th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion.
Queen Elizabeth II is set to join British Prime Minister Theresa May and other world leaders for a ceremony on the southern coast of England that will start two days of commemorations for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
More than 300 World War II veterans plan to be at Wednesday’s ceremony in Portsmouth to mark the dangerous operation that took Allied troops across the English Channel to land on beaches in German-occupied France.
Also expected are presidents, prime ministers and other representatives of the countries that fought alongside Britain: the U.S., Canada, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also was invited to honor the invasion.