World War II veterans take off for France for 80th anniversary of D-Day

DALLAS (AP) — More than 60 veterans of World War II took off Friday from Dallas to France, where they will take part in ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

The group ranges from 96 to 107 years old, according to American Airlines, which is flying them first to Paris. The flight is one of several that are taking veterans to France for the commemoration.

The group will take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Suresnes American Cemetery, visit the Eiffel Tower and join in a daily ceremony known as le Ravivage de la Flamme, which honors fallen French service members at the Arc de triomphe.

They then head to the Normandy region for events that include wreath-laying ceremonies on Omaha and Utah Beaches, two of the landing sites for the Allied forces.

Almost 160,000 Allied troops, 73,000 from the United States, landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, in a massive amphibious operation designed to break through heavily fortified German defenses and begin the liberation of Western Europe.

A total of 4,414 Allied troops were killed on D-Day itself, including 2,501 Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded.

The group traveling from Dallas includes six Medal of Honor recipients from wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam who wish to honor the World War II veterans.

There are also two Rosie the Riveters, representing women who worked in factories and shipyards during the war.

Hundreds of thousands of military women from Allied nations also worked in crucial noncombat roles such as codebreakers, ship plotters, radar operators and cartographers.

There are various ceremonies to commemorate the day in France and to thank veterans, some of whom will make the long trans-Atlantic journey despite advanced age, fatigue and physical difficulties.

“We will never forget. And we have to tell them,” Philippe Étienne, chairman of commemoration organizer Liberation Mission, told The Associated Press.