Europe United

D-Day 70th Anniversary Celebrations: Queen, Obama, Merkel, Putin and Cameron in France

14:16 GMT: Obama speaks of a "tiny sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but rather the course of human history."

06.06.14 10:31 AM ET

It’s a big day for Europe today, with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day celebrations well underway on the beaches of Normandy.

VIERVILLE-SUR-MER, FRANCE - JUNE 06:  D-Day re-enactment enthusiasts dressed as World War II American soldiers are  reflected in a puddle during gathering on the Omaha Beach to commemorate the sacrifices of the soldiers on June 6, 2014 in Vierville-sur-Mer, France. Friday 6th June is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which saw 156,000 troops from the allied countries including the United Kingdom and the United States join forces to launch an audacious attack on the beaches of Normandy, these assaults are credited with the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. A series of events commemorating the 70th anniversary are planned for the week with many heads of state travelling to the famous beaches to pay their respects to those who lost their lives.  (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)

Matej Divizna/Getty

The scene on the beaches of Normandy this morning.

D-Day was the extraordinary day in 1944 when 156,000 allied forces—including 34,000 American troops—landed on the beaches of France, giving allied troops a key toehold on the continent, and hastening the end of the Second World War.

D-Day was the first successful opposed landing on French territory—the country was held by the Nazis—in over 800 years.

Obama and the Queen are there, as is Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande.

Flanked by stooped war veterans, some in wheelchairs, the U.S. president said the 50-mile (80 km) stretch of Normandy coastline—where Allied soldiers landed under fire on beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword, and Juno—was a “tiny sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but rather the course of human history.”

“Omaha—Normandy—this was democracy’s beachhead," said Obama. “And our victory in that war decided not just a century, but shaped the security and well-being of all posterity.”

David Cameron has been speaking to the Press Association in Bayeux, where he said he felt a mixture of “awe and gratitude” as he met veterans of the D-Day landings at the 70th anniversary commemorations.

Mr Cameron, perhaps out of respect to Mr Putin, with whom he had a face to face bilateral meeting in Paris last night, stressed the role played by Russia in liberating the continent from Nazi tyranny.

He said:

“Yes, of course we have our disagreements today with Russia, but we should never forget that Russia—the Soviet Union—was an ally of Britain and America, the Free French, Canadian and Australian forces, that liberated this continent from the tyranny of Nazism.”

The Queen paid tribute to the “immense and heroic endeavour” of the soldiers who took part in the Normandy landings on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, saying, “This immense and heroic endeavour brought the end of the Second World War within reach.”