We will always remember and never forget the sacrifices and valor exhibited by our armed forces on that infamous day, June 6, 1944. Every 5 years many heads of state and Veterans of the battle return to Normandy, France to commemorate D-Day but event organizers and government officials concede that this year’s event could be the last to involve living veterans, whose stories of the horrors of war bring a poignant reminder to the human cost of freedom. On this 80th anniversary, various countries putting together the event are now planning what is expected to be the most extensive D-Day commemoration in history – both in terms of size and, crucially for elderly veterans, logistics.

Approximately 150 American veterans are expected to travel to Normandy – about two dozen of whom actually fought on D-Day – said Charles Djou, the secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), the independent agency responsible for managing US military cemeteries and monuments overseas. The youngest is 96.

What we commemorate: On D-Day Allied Forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France.  The invasion is significant in history for the role it played in World War II.  During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control.

Code named Operation Overlord, the battle began when 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and 156,000 American, British, and Canadian servicemen landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead.  Yet somehow, due to planning and preparation, and due to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces, Fortress Europe had been breached.

The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning. Prior to D-Day, the Allies conducted a large-scale deception campaign designed to mislead the Germans about the intended invasion target. By late August 1944, all northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring the Allies had defeated the Germans. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.