Proud veterans in their 90s and families of fallen soldiers Monday are commemorating the D-Day invasion of Normandy 72 years ago that helped the Allies defeat Hitler in World War II. They're holding small ceremonies and moments of remembrance along the wide beaches and cliffs where thousands of U.S., British, Canadian and French troops landed as dawn was breaking June 6, 1944. It was a pivotal moment in the war.
"The allied army, more specifically, the American Army, they came to liberate, not to conquer," Denis van den Brink, communications officer of the city of Carentan, France, told DVIDS. "That says it all, for the very first time in the history of mankind, they came to fight, die, win, victory, and then go home," he added. "That's the one and only example in the history of mankind and we had all these foreign soldiers coming and dying and to fight for our land and then to free our land and then instead of staying they just went away." Henry Breton of Augusta, Maine, was among the shrinking number of survivors of the landings to come for Monday's anniversary. Speaking from the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, 91-year-old Breton recalled the fierce German counterattack and ensuing violence and valor he experienced at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. "It's all worth it," he said. "It brings back so many memories." Vincent Haag, a 2nd Ranger Battalion veteran who scaled the cliffs at Point du Hoc on D-Day and is in Normandy to speak about his experience, said his fellow soldiers were expecting a tough fight. "We all knew some of us were going to be wounded, we all knew some of us were going to be killed, but we knew it was a job that had to be done," Haag said, according to DVIDS. --The Associated Press contributed to this report.