News / Europe

On the Scene: D-Day Re-enactments in France

D-Day Visitors Re-Enact WWII Events Across Normandyi
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June 06, 2014 9:41 PM
As VIPs gathered for ceremonies in Normandy Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, thousands of visitors from across the world have also traveled to the region. Many have come in World War II vehicles and period dress. Henry Ridgwell reports from Normandy on the celebrations that are happening alongside the remembrance services.
Henry Ridgwell
— Old wartime songs ring out across Carentan town square as visitors enjoy the early summer sunshine.

Today Carentan is a peaceful corner of France. Seventy years ago it saw some of the most ferocious fighting of the Battle for Normandy.

Parachutists with the U.S. 101st Airborne Division landed nearby and fought house-to-house with Nazi troops giving the Allies a continuous front joining the Utah and Omaha landing beaches.

This week, Carentan has held some of the most colorful anniversary events.

Crammed into an original U.S. Army jeep and trailer, sporting World War II military fatigues, boots and accessories, Frank Ducros and his friends have traveled 1,400 kilometers to get here from the south of France.

Speaking French, Ducros says it has been his dream to come to these D-Day celebrations, explaining that he's been collecting this kind of memorabilia — the clothing, shoes, replica guns... and of course the jeep — for a decade now.

In Carentan's harbor, original WWII amphibious vehicles, including a landing craft  used on the D-Day beaches, staged a re-enactment of the Allied advance.

Further west lies Pegasus Bridge — a strategic crossing over the Caen canal, which saw one of the most iconic events of the invasion.

In the first hours of D-Day, members of the British 6th Airborne Division landed nearby in gliders and managed to hold the crossing to prevent an effective German counter-attack further west on the landing beaches.

Several British naval vessels have visited Pegasus Bridge this week. On board, crew stood at attention as they passed D-Day veterans watching from the shoreline.

Among them was Les Reeves, who was in the Royal Armored Corps and drove a tank onto Juno Beach on D-Day morning.

"When we landed, we were waterproofed up to the turret," he recalls. "So my periscope, the little periscope that was on the Churchill tank, all you could see was the water!"

Local resident Catherine Mayou brought her grandson along to meet the veterans.

"We want teach our grandson the importance of it, because we must not forget," she says.

Across Normandy, army-style camps have sprung up on farms and village squares to cater to visitors, and the anniversary has attracted a modern day invasion of period military hardware, along with thousands of visitors in wartime dress.

Local residents have given them a warm welcome. The bonds of friendship between nations sealed 70 years ago in battle remain strong.
 
  • While under heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers maneuver off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft during the Allied landing operations at Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.
  • A Coast Guard LCI, listing to port, pulls alongside a transport ship to evacuate the troops and wounded just before the craft capsized and sank during the invasion of Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. 
  • Allied troops crouch behind the bulwarks of a landing craft as it nears Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.
  • Members of an American unit reach Utah Beach on a life raft after their landing craft was hit and sunk by German coastal defenses. Here soldiers help their exhausted comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. 
  • British troops wait for the signal to move forward during the early Allied landing operations in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. 
  • Assault vehicles storm the beach as Allied landing craft invade the shore of Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. 
  • American paratroopers fly over the English Channel enroute to a 100-mile front during the invasion of the Normandy coast, France, June 6, 1944.
  • Special British commandos move inland from the beaches at Normandy under enemy shell, mortar and sniper fire, France, June 6, 1944.
  • American troops move to the interior of northern France, June 6, 1944. 
  • Soldiers of the 2nd Canadian Flotilla at Juno Beach, near Bernieres-sur-mer, during the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.
  • German prisoners of war are led away by Allied forces during landing operations at Utah Beach, Normandy coast, France, June 6, 1944.
  • Landing craft loaded with American troops are guarded overhead by barrage balloons, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.
  • Allied forces using amphibious trucks follow foot troops ashore during the early invasion of the Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. 
  • British commandos pass through the streets of a town near Caen, France, June 6, 1944.
  • Following the first Allied landings on the French coast troops began to move inland, passing through villages where they were given a warm welcome, June 6, 1944.

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