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Normandy landings anniversary marked on Omaha beach despite coronavirus pandemic

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World War II D-Day veteran Charles Norman Shay from Maine, USA, overlooking Omaha Beach prior to a ceremony in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, Friday, June 5, 2020.
World War II D-Day veteran Charles Norman Shay from Maine, USA, overlooking Omaha Beach prior to a ceremony in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, Friday, June 5, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Virginia Mayo
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A small ceremony was held on Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer on Saturday morning (June 6) to honour the sacrifice of those who died in the D-Day landings in 1944.

Compared to 12 months ago, when many tens of thousands came to the northern French beaches of Normandy to cheer the dwindling number of veterans on the 75th anniversary, the coronavirus lockdown turned this year's remembrance into one of the eeriest ever.

When the sun rose the other side over the English Channel there was no customary rumble of columns of vintage military vehicles and cheers to be heard.

Still, the French would not let this day slip by unnoticed, such is their attachment to some 160,000 soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada and others who spilled their blood to free foreign beaches and fight on to finally defeat the Nazis almost one year later.

"Whatever happens, on June 6th in Normandy, we can't forget," said Philippe Laillier, the mayor of Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, where he led the ceremony around the Omaha Beach monument.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world, infecting 6.6 million people, killing over 391,000 and devastating economies.

It poses a particular threat to the elderly - like the surviving D-Day veterans, most of whom are now in their late nineties or older.