U.S. President Barack Obama joined leaders from across the Atlantic in
Normandy Saturday to mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day - the allied
invasion of Nazi-occupied France that changed the course of World War
II. They gathered at the American Cemetery overlooking the beaches
where history was made on June 6, 1944.
Perhaps no where on
earth are the ties that bind America and Europe more visible than here
- in this stretch of land near the sea filled with endless rows of
white grave markers.
They are the graves of young Americans who died in the Normandy invasion.
On this day, their surviving comrades in arms - now elderly and frail - joined presidents and prime ministers to remember.
President Obama said the soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy will never be forgotten.
we cannot forget - what we must not forget - is that D-Day was a time
and a place where the bravery and selflessness of a few was able to
change the course of an entire century. At an hour of maximum danger,
amid the bleakest of circumstances, men who thought themselves ordinary
found it within themselves to do the extraordinary," he said.
He said they launched the invasion against all odds, and faced rough seas and a fortified German presence.
sheer improbability of this victory is part of what makes D-Day so
memorable. It also arises from the clarity of purpose with which this
war was waged," he said.
With the leaders of France, Britain and
Canada standing nearby, the president said the war against Nazi Germany
was essential. Speaking one day after his visit to the Buchenwald
concentration camp, he said Nazi ideology sought to subjugate,
humiliate and exterminate.
"Citizens of all faiths and no faith
came to believe that we could not remain as bystanders to the savage
perpetration of death and destruction. And so we joined and sent our
sons to fight and often die so that men and women they never met might
know what it is to be free," he said.
The president told an
interviewer prior to his visit to Buchenwald that he hoped Iran's
leaders, who have questioned the Holocaust, would visit Buchenwald.
Iran was very much on his mind as he sat down for talks prior to the
D-Day commemoration with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
After the meeting, President Sarkozy urged Iran to engage in negotiations on its nuclear ambitions.
"We want peace, we want dialogue, but we do not want nuclear weapons to spread," he said.
President Obama was then asked about the nuclear threat from North Korea.
He said he prefers diplomacy, but indicated the world will only wait so long for a positive response from Pyongyang.
"Diplomacy has to involve the other side engaging in serious way, and we have not seen that reaction from North Korea," he said.
provided a fitting end to a presidential trip that was all about
remembering the victims of war … and unity in the cause of peace. The
commemoration began with a prayer, and concluded with a flyover of
allied planes, saluting the heroes of D-Day in perfect formation.