Biden Meets US WWII Veterans As He And Allies Mark 80th Anniversary Of D-Day In France

President Biden and key U.S. allies were in Normandy Thursday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the U.S.-led allied forces' D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

Thursday, June 6th 2024, 9:59 pm

By: News 9, Alex Cameron


President Joe Biden joined French President Emmanuel Macron and other allied leaders in Normandy Thursday to honor the heroes -- those who survived and those who perished -- who charged across the English Channel, gained a foothold in Nazi-occupied France, and turned the tide of World War Two on this day 80 years ago.

 A day filled with stirring ceremonies started with re-enactors recreating the dawn landing of U.S. troops on Utah Beach, one of five landing areas where allied soldiers stormed ashore under withering fire from the German-occupied high ground.

 "In memory of those who fought here, who died here, literally saved the world here," said President Biden, "let us be worthy of their sacrifice."

 Eleven American survivors of the 'Longest Day' were in attendance and were awarded the French Legion of Honor, France's highest military commendation.

 In a speech, President Biden recounted the build-up to D-Day, which culminated in a fraught decision by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, to take advantage of what he was told by weather forecasters, was a small window of opportunity to launch the great counter-offensive.

"General Eisenhower drove to the English town of Newbury to visit paratroopers of the 101st Airborne," said Biden, noting that paratroopers knew their chances of survival were slim. "But they were brave, they were resolute, and they were ready."

One of those 101st Airborne 'Screaming Eagles' was Ponca City Sgt. James 'Jake' McNiece. McNiece's courage and leadership have been well-documented, as have his general disdain for certain military conventions and hygiene practices.

"We never washed a piece of clothing, we never shined any shoes or boots, and we didn't salute officers," McNiece said in a 2007 interview at his home in Ponca City. "We didn't go for any of that malarkey."

McNiece and his men called themselves the 'Filthy Thirteen' and their exploits later inspired the 1965 novel and 1967 movie "The Dirty Dozen."

Still, McNiece was all in when it came to laying it all on the line for his country and for the allied cause. In 2012, McNiece received French Legion of Honor at the Oklahoma state Capitol and he recalled the overwhelming odds paratroopers faced on June 6, 1944.

"I jumped into Normandy on D-Day with 20 men," McNiece said, and in three hours I was down to 17 killed or captured -- only three of us left."

McNiece went on to make three more jumps, including into besieged Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He passed away in 2013 but is among the thousands whose valor leaders continue to honor today.

"The Greatest Generation gave so much to defend the freedoms we hold dear," said Senator Markwayne Mullin in a statement, " and we must never forget the sacrifices they made to keep our nation free."

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World War II veterans visiting the beaches of Normandy, France

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