France and US mark D-Day anniversary

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and his French counterpart were today marking the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day landings that turned the tide of the Second World War.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and his French counterpart were today marking the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day landings that turned the tide of the Second World War.

Mr Gates was to attend the anniversary ceremony and dedication of a visitor's centre at the Normandy American Cemetery, the burial ground for 9,387 war dead, most of whom lost their lives in the June 6, 1944 landings and subsequent operations.

Mr Gates was to be accompanied by the new French defence minister, Herve Morin. When Mr Gates arrived in Paris yesterday evening, he became the first US defence secretary to visit the French capital in nearly 10 years.

French-US relations were strained earlier this decade largely by the war in Iraq, though new French President Nicolas Sarkozy's stance toward Washington is expectedly to be somewhat more friendly than Jacques Chirac's.

The D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, changed the course of the Second World War, piercing Adolf Hitler's western defences.

In remarks prepared for delivery at the midday ceremony, Mr Gates said US and allied soldiers landed at Normandy to destroy entrenched forces of oppression "so that this nation, this continent and this world could one day know the tidings of peace".

He also tied the memory of Normandy to the challenge of today's war on terrorism.

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