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France: report on D-day commemorations at Normandy.

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Monday 7 June 2004

France: report on D-day commemorations at Normandy


TONY EASTLEY: The commemoration of D-Day is all about the sacrifice and courage shown by servicemen a nd women during World War II. The allied landing led to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany. 


But even as the tributes were made along the shore of the Normandy coast there was a sense that Iraq wasn't too far from the minds of many of the leaders gathered there. John Howard appeared to draw a parallel with current events and the US President echoed the sentiments saying sacrifices had to be borne in the defence of freedoms. 


It was an emotional commemoration of the 60th anniversary as thousands of veterans made the trip to France to remember, to mourn and to celebrate. 


Europe Correspondent Frank Kelly reports from the beaches of Normandy.  


(Sound of singing: "Onward Christian soldiers marching off the war...") 


TONY BLAIR: Sixty years ago today, the largest armada in history launched an assault on the Normandy beaches. There are some veterans in this service and the many other services taking place over this weekend who remember because they cannot forget.  


Their lives were shattered by their experiences. There were others not at this service, their bodies and minds shattered by war. We dare not forget. 


VETERAN 1: As we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. 


(Sound of 'The Last Post') 


FRAN KELLY: In services across the beaches of Normandy, those who participated in ther D-Day campaign were being remembered and remembering. 


VETERAN 2: I'm proud, very proud, because there weren't that many Aussies here really. Later on, I'll be a bit sad because after I left my ship, it was sunk up in the Channel and not too many survived on that.  


FRAN KELLY: But while the Allies celebrate a great victory, the shadow of Iraq was faintly present, even here in Normandy. French President Jacques Chirac, an opponent of the Iraq war, repeated his nation's respect for the law, on freedom, justice and democracy, as symbolised today by the United Nations. 


President Bush gave a gentle reminder to his French counterpart that the alliance is still needed today. 


GEORGE BUSH: The nation's at battle across the continent would become trusted partners in the cause of peace and our great alliance is strong and it is still needed today. 


FRAN KELLY: Also honouring the D-Day victory was another opponent of the Iraq war, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Germany's first inclusion in D-Day commemorations, he acknowledged the responsibility his country had for unleashing the heinous war that cost so many lives 60 years ago. 


But he too had a message for George Bush, saying that when military intervention is necessary these days, Germany does not shirk its responsibility to safeguard peace and protect human rights. 


At a ceremony in a small village called Noyers-Bocage, Australian and New Zealand airmen in the D-Day campaign were honoured, Prime Minister John Howard paying tribute, his words too though, had contemporary overtones. 


JOHN HOWARD: It was an undertaking made necessary because for too long too many in the world had ignored a gathering threat and that recognition of history is something that should always remain with us. 


Australians and New Zealanders were part of that undertaking. We have never been people reluctant to play our part and to fight alongside others in pursuit of a just cause. And if ever there was a just cause, it was the liberation of Europe from the yoke of Nazi Germany. 


FRAN KELLY: It was a moving day, in memory of a magnificent victory 60 years ago, the overwhelming sentiment one of respect and gratitude for those who fought so bravely and for the values they sought to defend. 


TONY EASTLEY: Correspondent Fran Kelly in Normandy.