Deauville, France - Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert joined Chief of Staff of the French navy, Admiral Bernard Rogel, military veterans and senior leaders from the United States, France and other countries to commemorate the 70th anniversaries of D-Day and Battle of Normandy this week.
"Those that came before us made an amazing sacrifice," said Greenert. "They were bold [veterans fighting in World War II], they stood up and allowed us to be free and who we are today," said Greenert after laying a wreath at the U.S. Navy memorial that overlooks Utah Beach.
Rogel welcomed Greenert to France today with a with a full-honors ceremony followed by visits to the Cherbourg Naval Shipbuilding Facility and the Maritime Prefecture Residence. Then at the end of the day Greenert and Rogel attended a commemorative ceremony at Utah Beach on the eve of the anniversary.
While at Utah, in a special naval tribute before the main ceremony, Greenert laid a wreath in honor of D-Day at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Ste Marie due Mont. Greenert was joined by Sailors from USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) at the ceremony whose crew are on hand to participate in demonstrations supporting the anniversary events. The memorial, a 12-foot bronze statue atop Utah Beach is the only permanent memorial commemorating the valor of U.S. Navy personnel in Normandy.
"I'm so honored that Oscar Austin is here in support of this year's D-Day commemorations," said Quartermaster 2nd Class (SW) Alexandra G. Wood, aboard USS Oscar Austin. "To be here at Utah Beach is one of the most humbling experiences I've had so far in my naval career."
Greenert was also emotional about the significance of D-Day events and drew parallels to what the Navy is doing today.
"We're standing here today in what could be a very different situation, here and around the world," said Greenert. "It was the scared young men that stood up when the time came just like our shipmates are doing today, that are standing the watch. We need to remember that, for it is our legacy."
D-Day and the subsequent liberation of Europe, relied heavily on the part played by the U.S. Navy, whose vast logistical operation landed thousands of troops and hundreds of thousands of tons of vehicles and equipment on Omaha and Utah beaches in June 1944.
Greenert attributed the successful landings to teamwork, synchronization, practice and the power of a strong coalition.
Following the wreath laying, Greenert joined Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Ordierno and other senior U.S. and French military leaders at a ceremony at Utah Beach. During the ceremony approximately 10 Legion of Honor medals were awarded to veterans.
Utah Beach was the code name for the westernmost of the Allied landing beaches during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as part of Operation Overlord June 6, 1944.
Tomorrow Greenert will join 18 heads of state to include the presidents of the United States and France, along with many senior military leaders, veterans and thousands of supporters at the American Cemetery in Colleville sur Mer to honor the first day of Operation Overload, or D-Day.
The naval component of the operation, code named Operation Neptune, comprised large numbers of warships, auxiliaries and landing craft. In all, Britain, Canada, and the United States, as well as the navies-in-exile of France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Greece, supplied 1,213 warships for the invasion. Their main task was to provide shore bombardment firepower for the troops going ashore, to guard the transports, and to conduct minesweeping and antisubmarine patrols on the flanks of the invasion corridor.