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June 9, 2014

D-Day veterans return to Normandy 70 years later


American veterans, who fought the Nazis on the shores of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, returned for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that turned the tide of World War II in favor of Allied forces.

More than 150,000 Allied troops—Americans, British, Canadians and Free French — fought their way into France by way of five Normandy beaches. More than 20,000 Americans died, nearly half of whom lie in the cemetery next to Omaha Beach.

Codenamed Operation Neptune, the Normandy landings led to the Liberation of Paris and restoration of the French republic.

“America’s claim, our commitment to liberty, our claim to equality, our claim to freedom and to the inherent dignity of every human being, that claim is written in the blood on these beaches, and it will endure for eternity. Normandy, this was democracy’s beachhead,” President Barack Obama said as he paid tribute to all the veterans.

“France will never forget what she owes to these soldiers, what she owes to the United States,” French President Francois Hollande said during a memorial service held in France.

Reenactments of the event took place along the five famous beaches. There were special parachute jumps, including one by 93-year-old veteran Jim Martin.

At the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., veterans laid garlands amidst the gold stars that represent all the Americans who died in the war.

Of the 16 million American World War II veterans, only a little over one million are still alive. Mr. Obama said it’s important their stories are passed on.

Warm up questions
  1. What is the difference between the word “commemorate” and “celebrate”? Give examples where it would be appropriate to use each one.
  2. Which war was fought 70 years ago? What role did the United States play in this conflict?
  3. What are some of the major locations in which World War II was fought?
Discussion questions
  1. Is it important to commemorate battles that are of historic importance? Why or why not? Should there be a time limit? For example, should a battle still be commemorated 100, 200 or 20 years later? Explain your answer.
  2. How was the invasion of D-Day celebrated/commemorated in the United States, the United Kingdom and France?
Writing prompt

George Santayana, a famous 20th century historian, famously once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  1. First, is this the only reason to learn history? Are there other important reasons to learn history? What are they? Next, does history truly repeat itself? Give examples to support your answer.
  2. Is it important to know the history of other countries or cultures? History is mostly written by victors, but is it important to learn the perspective from both the “winners” and “losers”? Explain your answer.
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