News

At D-Day event, Obama to connect WWII, 9/11 veterans

At D-Day event, Obama to connect WWII, 9/11 veterans

D-DAY:This April 25 photo shows a visitor touring the U.S cemetery, in Colleville sur Mer, western France. Local officials estimate that several hundred thousand tourists will flock to Normandy this summer, attracted by the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The commemorations culminate on June 6 in the port of Ouistreham, where U.S. President Barack Obama, French president Francois Hollande and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will gather to remember the more than 9,000 Allied soldiers killed or wounded that day. /David Vincent

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will draw a connection between the “Greatest Generation” that fought in World War II to the “9/11 generation” that emerged after the Sept. 11 attacks when he marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion this week.

“There’s a continuum of patriotism and sacrifice that you see in this generation and that you saw in the ‘Greatest Generation,’” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

The president is expected to use his speech to stress the importance of the U.S-European alliance and underscore his government’s commitment to caring for U.S. veterans in the wake of a healthcare scandal at the Veterans Administration.

PHOTOS: WWII propaganda posters | LISTEN: Hear Gen. Eisenhower’s message to the troops before D-Day

At the Omaha Beach landing site in Normandy, Obama will take part on Friday in a D-Day ritual that for years after World War II largely took a back seat to remembrances of the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, that drew America into the war.

That changed in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan at the 40th anniversary delivered what is considered “one of the defining speeches of the Reagan presidency,” said Ken Duberstein, a former Reagan White House chief of staff.

Historian Douglas Brinkley, who wrote a book about the Reagan speech, said Reagan helped rekindle interest in World War Two among Americans that continues to this day.

“Now, going to Normandy has become like going to Gettysburg was for another generation,” he said of the pivotal 1863 Civil War battle.

Reagan’s widely praised speech on the bravery of the Army Rangers who scaled the Pointe du Hoc cliffs has presented a challenge for his successors who have marked the occasion at Normandy.

“The challenge is to adequately capture not just the events and their meaning but the men and their legacy,” said speechwriter John McConnell, who helped write George W. Bush’s speech on the 60th anniversary in 2004.

Presidents not only hail heroism during the D-Day anniversary but adjust their speeches at the D-Day event to send a message about U.S. resolve during contemporary events.

Bill Clinton said at the 50th anniversary in 1994 just after the Cold War, that “as freedom rings from Prague to Kiev, the liberation of this continent is nearly complete.”

Bush, who formed a strong alliance to respond to the 9/11 attacks only to see part of it splinter with his 2003 invasion of Iraq, declared in 2004 that the U.S.-European alliance “is still needed today.”

This year has a different kind of poignancy as there will be fewer D-Day veterans in attendance than ever before. They are believed to number only in the thousands and most at their youngest would be in their late 80s.

Those who go will be joined by some veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, part of what is known as the “9/11 generation” because many volunteered for duty to fight against those who brought down the World Trade Center towers.

“The legacy lives on,” Rhodes said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; editing by Andrew Hay)

Recent Headlines

in Music

CHART TOPPERS: This week’s top rock tracks

godsmack

LISTEN: This week's top rock tracks, according to the latest Billboard charts.

in Music

Robert Plant urges Jimmy Page to give up Led Zeppelin reunion

2012 Kennedy Center Honorees and members of the band Led Zeppelin, from left, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant chat on the red carpet after arriving at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors Performance and Gala Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 at the State Department in Washington.

Robert Plant has urged his former Led Zeppelin bandmate Jimmy Page to end his war of words with the singer and concentrate on recording new music.

in Weird

Groom turns canceled wedding into charity benefit

Groom

A Pittsburgh man whose wedding was called off is making the best of the situation. Instead of getting married he's raising thousands for charity.

in Weird

From Texas, where everything is bigger, the 99-pack of beer

99beers

Invite the whole neighborhood to your cookout, because you're going to have plenty of beer.

in Weird

Australian farmers could have world’s woolliest sheep

Six-year-old Shaun the merino sheep may be the world's woolliest sheep. He had likely never been shorn in his life, but was due to have a date with the clippers in the next few days, farmers said.

Shaun the sheep was found wandering the Australian countryside with what is estimated to be a 55 lb coat.