ALL NEWS

On sad anniversary, few to mourn the D-Day dead in Normandy

Jun 5, 2020, 5:29 AM

FILE - In this Wednesday, June 5, 2019 file photo, a WWII enthusiast watches French and British par...

FILE - In this Wednesday, June 5, 2019 file photo, a WWII enthusiast watches French and British parachutists jumping during a commemorative parachute jump over Sannerville, Normandy, France. In sharp contrast to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, this year's 76th will be one of the loneliest remembrances ever, as the coronavirus pandemic is keeping nearly everyone from traveling. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

(AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) — At least the dead will always be there.

All too many have been, for 76 years since that fateful June 6 on France’s Normandy beaches, when allied troops in 1944 turned the course of World War II and went on to defeat fascism in Europe in one of the most remarkable feats in military history.

Forgotten they will never be. Revered, yes. But Saturday’s anniversary will be one of the loneliest remembrances ever, as the coronavirus pandemic is keeping almost everyone away — from government leaders to frail veterans who might not get another chance for a final farewell to their unlucky comrades.

Rain and wind are also forecast, after weeks of warm, sunny weather.

“The sadness is almost too much, because there is no one,” said local guide Adeline James. “Plus you have their stories. The history is sad and it’s even more overwhelming now between the weather, the (virus) situation and, and, and.”

The locals in this northwestern part of France have come out year after year to show their gratitude for the soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada and other countries who liberated them from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces.

Despite the lack of international crowds, David Pottier still went out to raise American flags in the Calvados village of Mosles, population 356, which was liberated by allied troops the day after the landing on five Normandy beachheads.

In a forlorn scene, a gardener tended to the parched grass around the small monument for the war dead, while Pottier, the local mayor, was getting the French tricolor to flutter next to the Stars and Stripes.

“We have to recognize that they came to die in a foreign land,” Pottier said. “We miss the GIs,” he said of the U.S. soldiers.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world, infecting 6.6 million people, killing over 391,000 and devastating economies. It poses a particular threat to the elderly — like the surviving D-Day veterans who are in their late nineties or older.

It has also affected the younger generations who turn out every year to mark the occasion. Most have been barred from traveling to the windswept coasts of Normandy.

Some 160,000 soldiers made the perilous crossing from England that day in atrocious conditions, storming dunes which they knew were heavily defended by German troops determined to hold their positions.

Somehow, they succeeded. Yet they left a trail of thousands of casualties who have been mourned for generations since.

Last year stood out, with U.S. President Donald Trump joining his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. A smattering of veterans were honored with the highest accolades. All across the beaches of Normandy tens of thousands came from across the globe to pay their respects to the dead and laud the surviving soldiers.

The acrid smell of wartime-era jeep exhaust fumes and the rumble of old tanks filled the air as parades of vintages vehicles went from village to village. The tiny roads between the dunes, hedges and apple orchards were clogged for hours, if not days.

Heading into the D-Day remembrance weekend this year, only the salty brine coming off the ocean on Omaha Beach hits the nostrils, the shrieks of seagulls pierce the ears and a sense of desolation hangs across the region’s country roads.

“Last year this place was full with jeeps, trucks, people dressed up as soldiers,” said Eric Angely, who sat on a seawall, dressed in a World War II uniform after taking his restored U.S. Army jeep out for a ride.

“This year, there is nothing. It’s just me now, my dog and my jeep,” the local Frenchman said.

Three quarters of a century and the horrific wartime slaughter of D-Day help put things in perspective. Someday the COVID-19 pandemic, too, will pass, and people will turn out to remember both events that shook the world.

“We don’t have a short memory around here,” Pottier said with a wistful smile.

___

Virginia Mayo contributed.

___

Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Big names and local bands will be sharing the festival stage at Love Letters -- Salt Lake City's ne...

Emma Everett Johnson, KSL.com

New Salt Lake indie music festival announces lineup for September shows

Love Letters festival is Salt Lake City's newest indie gathering.

3 hours ago

Governor Spencer Cox poses with first lady Abby Cox, former child Natalie Clark, and Utah Foster Ca...

Eric Cabrera

Gov. Cox, Utah Foster Care calls on Utah to step up and become foster parents

Utah is facing its lowest number of foster families in 25 years. So Gov. Cox issued a call to action.

4 hours ago

The Utah Youth Soccer Association said racist comments have come from other players as well as pare...

Aimee Cobabe, KSL NewsRadio, Jessica Lowell, KSL NewsRadio, Shelby Lofton, KSL TV

After 25 cases of racist comments, Utah Youth Soccer is making changes

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Youth Soccer Association (UYSA) is working to improve how it responds to racist comments on the soccer pitch. This Association reports 25 cases of racist comments in this past season. They include many player-to-player comments. But also many comments by parents from the stands.   Of the 25 total […]

6 hours ago

One person is in police custody after a fatal shooting in an industrial neighborhood at 3200 West D...

Simone Seikaly

One person dead after shooting in SLC

One person is in police custody after a fatal shooting around 3200 West Decade Drive on Tuesday afternoon.

7 hours ago

Human remains found in the Duck Creek Ridge area of Kane County are believed to be those of Courtne...

Simone Seikaly

Investigators say remains found of missing woman Courtney Townsend

An ATV rider told officials he found clothing near a road in the Duck Creek Ridge area. He was reportedly familiar with the Courtney Townsend case.

8 hours ago

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to court for his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal ...

Simone Seikaly

LISTEN: Closing arguments begin in Trump hush money trial

Former President Donald Trump faces felony charges related to a hush money payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, in 2016. 

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

On sad anniversary, few to mourn the D-Day dead in Normandy