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Latest updates: 70th anniversary of D-Day

Today is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. We have the latest updates from events and commemorations in Europe and the U.S.

President Barack Obama (3rd R) and French President Francois Hollande (2nd L) participate in the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony in Colleville-sur-Mer France on June 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

President Barack Obama (3rd R) and French President Francois Hollande (2nd L) participate in the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony in Colleville-sur-Mer France on June 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Round up of D-Day commemorations

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 6, 2014:  American World War II veteran Henry Mendoza (seated) of Rancho Cucamonga, California, is helped by National Park Service historian John McCaskill while participating in a wreath laying at the National World War II Memorial to commemorate the 70 years since 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. (Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post )

World War II veteran Henry Mendoza (seated) is helped by a National Park Service historian while participating in a wreath laying at the National World War II Memorial to commemorate the 70 years since 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. (Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post )

Here are the headlines from Friday’s commemoration ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Europe and the U.S.

- Under clear, sunny skies on the bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach, Obama addressed D-Day veterans, as well as veterans of other wars, Zachary A. Goldfarb reported.

- How the Washington Post covered D-Day in 1944.

- WATCH: President Obama’s full remarks at Omaha Beach. And READ the full transcript here.

- D-Day by the numbers, via the BBC.

- The iconic image of Eisenhower on the eve of Normandy landings.

- Swati Sharma reported on the last letter home from one U.S. soldier who died at Normandy.

- A Virginia hero and Medal of Honor recipient was honored at the D-Day commemoration in France. Read more about his incredible heroism here.

- Ian Shapira reported that hundreds gathered at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. today.

- Putin, Obama and world leaders pictured together at the D-Day ceremonies, despite tensions over Ukraine. Zachary A. Goldfarb has the story.

- Don Lipman spoke to the author of a book about the most important weather forecast in history.

- NBC News released archival footage of their 1944 D-Day coverage.

- The world is getting closer to a time when there are no more World War II veterans, Emily Badger reported.

- A French organization dropped 1 one million rose petals on the Statue of Liberty to commemorate D-Day.

One million rose petals dropped on the Statue of Liberty

Three helicopters showered 1 million rosepetals on the Statue during a event organized by the organization "The French Will Never Forget" to mark the 70th anniversary of World War II D-Day landings. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Three helicopters showered 1 million rose petals on the Statue of Liberty during a event organized by the organization “The French Will Never Forget” to mark the 70th anniversary of World War II D-Day landings at Normandy. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

One million rose petals fell on the Statue of Liberty Friday, a token of thanks from the French for helping to end Adolf Hitler’s grip on Europe.

The French Will Never Forget organization dropped the petals with the help of two helicopters midday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Flags in New York are being flown at half staff to mark the day. And in addition to the petals, 130 school children from France and the United States unfurled the two country’s flags and sang the national anthems. A 21-gun salute honored World War II veterans, according to My Fox NY.

The Statue of Liberty, of course, is a gift from France that was initially suppose to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Rosepetals dropped by helicopters float on the water below the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor June 6, 2014. The boat was part of an event organized by the organization "The French Will Never Forget" to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two's D-Day landings. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Rosepetals dropped by the helicopters float on the water below the Statue of Liberty. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Rosepetals fall from the air next to a fire boat spraying colored water below the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor June 6, 2014. The boat was part of an event organized by the organization "The French Will Never Forget" to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two's D-Day landings. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Rose petals fall from the air next to a fire boat spraying colored water below the Statue of Liberty. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

'Hitler had no idea who he was up against'

Karen Cucurullo, the deputy superintendent of operations at the Mall and a daughter of a World War II veteran, told the crowd gathered at the World War II memorial in Washington Friday, “Hitler had no idea who he was up against,” as she spoke of the gallantry of the men — many who were just in their late teens — who “knew they’d face certain death.”

Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, read her patriarch’s D-Day message.

She also read from remarks he made when he visited the American cemetery near Normandy, 20 years after D-Day, when he noted that his grandchildren would grow up in freedom while so many other parents would not get the chance to even have grandchildren.

Elliott “Toby” Roosevelt III, the great-grandson of former president Franklin D. Roosevelt, said it is easy for people in younger generations to forget the freedoms won on D-Day. “When we were born, those were simply handed to us.”

In the front row, Al Wheeler, a technical sergeant in the Army who landed nine days after D-Day at Normandy, said he was “lucky to be alive” — about 20 from his battalion did not survive combat. “If the bomb hadn’t been dropped, there’s be a lot less of us today, “ said Wheeler, from Kansas City, Mo., who turns 89 on Saturday.

Read more here.

– Ian Shapira

A world without World War II veterans

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 06:  American World War II veterans from Rhode Island participate in the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration at the WWII Memorial on the National Mall June 6, 2014 in Washington, DC. Dozens of WWII veterans participated in the ceremony commemorating the invasion of Normandy by allied troops that turned the tide of the war.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

World War II veterans from Rhode Island participate in the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration at the WWII Memorial on June 6, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As Bruce Drake points out over at the Pew Research Center, only 1 million World War II veterans are still alive to witness the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy that precipitated the end of the war. That’s a fraction of the 10.7 million who marked the anniversary in 1984. And it’s a solemn reminder that their ranks will soon disappear. As The Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb notes, few veterans are expected to live to see the 75th anniversary.

“By the next decennial anniversary,” Drake writes, “the VA estimates that their numbers will be down to 81,117.”

That VA data gathered by the National World War II Museum suggests that America is losing 555 World War II veterans a day. By 2027, that number will be down to 35 a day. By 2034, it will be down to two per day.

Read more about the full projections for America’s veterans here.

– Emily Badger

This is how NBC News covered the 1944 Normandy invasion

NBC News pulled its coverage of the invasion at Normandy from the vaults. Take a look:

The most important weather forecast in history

In his new book, The Forecast for D-day: And the Weatherman behind Ike’s Greatest Gamble (Lyons Press, April, 2014), John Ross does a masterful job of telling a story long overdue.

It’s a story describing how James Martin Stagg, technically not even a meteorologist, provided the final forecast that caused Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Allied Expeditionary Force to decide to “embark on the great crusade” on June 6, 1944. Previously, the only weather forecasts Stagg had prepared were in Iraq, a very sore point with some of his colleagues. Stagg died in 1975.

With its timely publication leading up to the 70th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion, the book tells a compelling tale of the furious behind-the-scenes debate that raged within Allied Command: Should the greatest land, sea, and air invasion of all-time be launched on the originally scheduled date of June 5, 1944–or should it be the next day? It all depended on whose weather forecast was to be believed, because the relatively calm, pleasant weather during the month of May was about to change.

One team of meteorologists, led by Irving P. Krick, one of the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) forecasters, relied heavily on analog forecasts from the past, but it was Stagg, the strong-willed Scotsman, whose forecast would be used and would carry the day. For many years afterward, however, Krick tried to take the credit.

Interwoven with all of the drama associated with Stagg’s forecast, the book includes a fascinating series of what-ifs. Ross speculates about some of the draconian results that might have ensued if there were a catastrophic failure of, or delay in, the invasion, code-named Operation Overlord.

More of my interview with Mr. Ross about his decision to write The Forecast here: http://wapo.st/1jZUtA0

– Don Lipman

Putin, Obama and world leaders gather for D-Day ceremonies

Vladimir Putin arrives for a group photo past President Obama and Queen Elizabeth during a group photo of world leaders attending the D-Day 70th Anniversary ceremonies at Chateau de Benouville in Benouville, France. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Vladimir Putin arrives for a group photo past President Obama and Queen Elizabeth during a group photo of world leaders attending the D-Day 70th Anniversary ceremonies at Chateau de Benouville in Benouville, France. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

To view more images of the commemoration, click here.

Hundreds gather at the World War II Memorial to commemorate D-Day

An honor guard prepares to participate in the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration at the WWII Memorial on the National Mall June 6, 2014 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

An honor guard prepares to participate in the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration at the WWII Memorial on the National Mall June 6, 2014 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Hundreds of people gathered at the National World War II Memorial on Friday morning to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-day, when Allied troops landed at Normandy to liberate German-occupied France.

Several World War II veterans in wheelchairs sat in the front row, facing the running fountains and clear skies, the sun on their backs.

Craig Symonds, a professor emeritus at the U.S. Naval Academy and the event’s master of ceremonies, opened the proceedings saying that “our purpose this ironing is to remember…and salute and honor” both the veteran and those who have supported the establishment of the memorial.

Other speakers slated to speak include Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.

– Ian R. Shapira

Infographic: D-Day by the numbers

The BBC published a remarkable infographic showing the sheer might of the Allied invasion of Normandy 70 years ago. Thousands of vehicles, tanks, troop carrier warships, bombers, air transport planes, and other resources went into the massive effort:

Virginia hero and Medal of Honor recipient honored at D-Day 70th anniversary

This morning, French President François Hollande mentioned by name a handful of the thousands of Americans who gave their lives in the battle of Normandy 70 years ago.

One of those men was Tech Sgt. Frank Peregory, a Charllotesville, Va. native, and Medal of Honor recipient.

Hollande said:

Another one is Sgt. Frank Peregory who single handedly captured a post defended by 43 Germans. He died four days later in the Norman countryside. …

Mr. President I will reiterate the oath of my predecessors: We will never forget. We will never forget the sacrifice of the American servicemen.  We are the children and grandchildren of this great generation.

(translation courtesy of simultaneous translator)

Peregory is buried in an American cemetery in Normandy with a gold star adorning his gravestone to denote his receipt of the highest military award. A member of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, Peregory was the only Virginian in that division to receive a Medal of Honor.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, on June 8, 1944, Peregory took the initiative to advance, under fire, on an encampment of German machine gunners were firing on the 3rd Battalion of the 116th Infantry. Armed with grenades and bayonet, Peregory leapt into the trench, killed eight, and forced three to surrender. As he advanced, he forced the surrender of 32 more riflemen and captured the machine gunners, making it possible for his battalion to advance.

Top secret file 'Neptune' had files, documents for D-Day

A top-secret map. (Courtesy of The National WWII Museum)

A top-secret map. (Courtesy of The National WWII Museum)

See more photos here.

Tricking Hitler to help win the war

D-Day is one of the most celebrated military operations ever. Less known, however, is the secrecy and trickery the Allied forces used to improve the invasion’s chances of succeeding.

It was no minor thing: Operation Bodyguard, as it was known, even included pulling legendary Gen. George Patton from the battlefield in Italy to take charge of a fake army — with fake tanks and all — according to the Patton Museum Foundation. Eisenhower did so in an effort to get Hitler worrying about a possible Allied invasion of Pas de Calais, an area of northern France that was much closer to Allied strongholds across the English Channel in Great Britain.

scholarly paper written in 1997 by an Air Force officer, Jon S. Wendell, breaks things down nicely.

Read more about the lies Bodyguard needed to trick Hitler into believing here.

–Dan Lamothe

A portrait of resilience, at Normandy once again

Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg has been to Omaha Beach before.

In 2009, he was chosen to reenact the invasion at Normandy, as part of the 65th anniversary celebration of D-Day. He met President Obama for the first time then.

Five years later, Remsburg is different. Scarred by the war in Afghanistan, he is partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. His body was irreparably damaged from the blast of an improvised explosive device. But his spirit is unbroken.

Obama has time and time again cited Remsburg’s story–during his 2014 State of the Union Address, and again today at the 70th anniversary of D-Day:

Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg has served 10. And I’ve told Cory’s incredible story before, most recently when he sat with my wife, Michelle, at the State of the Union address. It was here, at Omaha Beach, on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, where I first met Cory and his fellow Army Rangers, right after they made their own jump into Normandy.

The next time I saw him, he was in the hospital, unable to speak or walk after an IED nearly killed him in Afghanistan. But over the past five years, Cory has grown stronger, learning to speak again and stand again and walk again, and earlier this year, he jumped out of a plane again. And the first words Cory said to me after his accident echoed those words first shouted all those years ago on this beach: “Rangers lead the way.”

Cory Remsburg has come back today, along with Melvin and Jannise and Brian and many of their fellow active-duty servicemembers. We thank them for their service. They are a reminder that the tradition represented by these gentlemen continues.

Always a fighter, Remsberg, in an emotional moment, stood from his wheelchair for the National Anthem:

Letter: A U.S. soldier’s last one home before he died on D-Day

(Courtesy of The National WWII Museum)

(Courtesy of The National WWII Museum)

Dear Ma,

Just a few lines tonight to let you know that I’m fine and hope everybody at home is in the best of health. I just finished playing baseball and took a nice shower and now I feel very nice. Hope every thing is going alright at home and don’t forget if you ever need money you could cash my war bonds anything you want to. This afternoon I went to church and I received Holy Communion again today. Getting holy, ain’t I? Well Ma, thats all I got to say to-night so I’ll close with my love to all and hope to hear from you very soon. Take care of yourself.

One of your loving sons, Harry

Read the full post here.

Eisenhower on the eve of the Normandy landings

 (Courtesy of The National WWII Museum)

(Courtesy of The National WWII Museum)

General Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke with Lt. Wallace C. Strobel at Greenham Common airfield on the evening of June 5, 1944. Shortly after Eisenhower’s visit, the troops departed for Normandy. See more images and photos here.

Full Transcript: President Obama's remarks at the 70th anniversary of D-Day

President Obama delivered the following remarks at the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on June 6, 2014.

OBAMA: If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world. Captains paced their decks. Pilots tapped their gauges. Commanders pored over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong — the winds, the tides, the element of surprise — and, above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.

Read the rest of his full remarks here: http://wapo.st/Uh6FYz

Infographic: D-Day by the numbers

The BBC published a remarkable infographic showing the sheer might of the Allied invasion of Omaha Beach 70 years ago. Thousands of vehicles, tanks, troop carrier warships, bombers, air transport planes, and other resources went into the massive effort:

Watch: President Obama commemorates the fallen at Omaha Beach

“Whenever the world makes you cynical, stop and think of these men,” Obama said. Watch his full remarks here:

How the Washington Post covered D-Day in 1944

"Allies land in France, wipe out big air bases," was the headline on the Washington Post's homepage on June 6, 1944.

“Allies land in France, wipe out big air bases,” was the headline on the Washington Post’s homepage on June 6, 1944.

View the PDF here: D-Day Front Page

On June 6, 1944, the Washington Post front page featured five stories about the massive invasion. We’ve compiled more image galleries and videos from D-Day here. http://wapo.st/1lb0uyw

Honoring those who died in the battle of Normandy

More than 150,000 Allied troops fought on D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history, and many lost their lives. Reporting from Colleville-sur-mer, France, on the 70th anniversary, on a clear, sunny day, the Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb captured poignant images that show where some of them were laid to rest:

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