'Isolation is not the answer', Joe Biden warns, as world leaders gather to mark 80th anniversary of D-Day

6 June 2024, 18:27 | Updated: 6 June 2024, 18:28

Joe Biden has warned of isolationism on the 80th anniversary of D-Day
Joe Biden has warned of isolationism on the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Joe Biden has declared that "isolation is not the answer" to the world's problems as he and other world leaders including the Prince of Wales gathered to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

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The US president compared the Normandy landings to the war in Ukraine, as he addressed veterans, as well as leaders such as French president Emmanuel Macron, and Canada's Justin Trudeau at Omaha Beach in northern France.

William was standing in for his father King Charles, who gave a speech at a separate ceremony at the British Normandy Memorial.

Several other events were held in the UK to mark the anniversary of the landings, which may be the last for many veterans.

Speaking at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Mr Biden said: "Isolationism was not the answer 80 years ago, and is not the answer today.

He warned that "the autocrats of the world are watching closely to see what happens in Ukraine."

Read more: 'Our gratitude is unfailing': King Charles pays tribute to 'remarkable war-time generation' in D-Day 80 memorial speech

Read more: Today on D-Day’s 80th anniversary I remember my uncle Hamish who died bravely during WWII, writes Andrew Marr

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery. Picture: Getty

He added of the D-Day veterans: “The men who fought here became heroes, not because they were the strongest, toughest or fiercest, although they were, but because they were given an audacious mission,” he said.

“They knew that things are worth fighting and dying for…here we proved the forces of liberty are stronger than the forces of conquest."

He added: "Make no mistake - autocrats in the world are watching closely to see what happens in Ukraine to see if we let this illegal aggression go unchecked. We cannot let that to happen, to surrender to bullies. Bowing down to dictators is simply unthinkable.

"We will not forget. Let me end with this, History tells us freedom is not free. You want to know the price of freedom come here to Normandy, go to the other cemeteries in Europe. Where our fallen heroes rest.

We’re living at a time when democracy is more at risk across the world than any point since the end of World War Two.

U.S. President Joe Biden (2nd R) and (L-R) Brigitte Macron, French President Emmanuel Macron, and U.S. first lady Jill Biden arrive
U.S. President Joe Biden (2nd R) and (L-R) Brigitte Macron, French President Emmanuel Macron, and U.S. first lady Jill Biden arrive. Picture: Getty

"We must remember the fact that they were heroes that day does not absolve us from all we have to do today. Democracy is not guaranteed. Every generation must preserve, defend it and fight for the success of the ages. memory of those who fought here, die here literally saved the world here.

"Let us be the generation when history is written about our time. Ten, 20, 30, 50, 80 years from now, it will be said when the call came, we met the moment. We stood strong, our allies made stronger. We saved democracy in our times."

In his speech, Mr Macron thanked the veterans and said that they were "back home" in France.

"You teach us how to be great, how to fight for peace".

French first Lady Brigitte Macron, Prince William and French President Emmanuel Macron
French first Lady Brigitte Macron, Prince William and French President Emmanuel Macron. Picture: Alamy

Speaking at the Canadian commemorative ceremony at Juno Beach, William thanked veterans for their brave service and the efforts they gave "for our freedom".

"All of you demonstrated heroism, and determination, that ensured fascism was conquered," he said.

King Charles III and Emmanuel Macron
King Charles III and Emmanuel Macron. Picture: Alamy

Arriving for the British ceremony in Ver-sur-Mer, Charles and Camilla were greeted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, among other officials.

It came after the last surviving war heroes received a standing ovation as they arrived ahead of the emotional ceremony.

Some veterans were helped from their wheelchairs to stand when the King and Queen arrived, with Charles seen nodding and smiling at the veterans as he passed.

The Queen was seen wiping her eye as the memories of a D-Day veteran were read out, with the audience hearing the experiences of Joe Mines, 99, from Hornchurch in London.

Charles and Camilla then joined a standing ovation for veteran Arthur Oborne after he spoke.

King Charles III lays a wreath during the UK national commemorative
King Charles III lays a wreath during the UK national commemorative. Picture: Alamy

The King paid tribute to the "remarkable war-time generation" as he gave a speech at the event.

"Eighty years ago on D-Day, the 6th of June 1944, our nation - and those which stood alongside it - faced what my grandfather, King George VI, described as the supreme test," Charles said.

"How fortunate we were, and the entire free world, that a generation of men and women in the United Kingdom and other allied nations did not flinch when the moment came to face that test.

"On the beaches of Normandy, on the seas beyond and in the skies overhead, our armed forces carried out their duty with a humbling sense of resolve and determination - qualities so characteristic of that remarkable war-time generation."

He said the achievements of the D-Day veterans "can never diminish".

Charles and Camilla arriving
Charles and Camilla arriving. Picture: Alamy

Charles concluded by sharing his "unfailing" gratitude to those who lost their lives on D-Day.

"This vital start to the liberation of Europe was a vast Allied effort," he said.

"American, British, Canadian, French and Polish formations fought here in Normandy.

"Among the names inscribed on the walls and pillars of this memorial are men and women from more than 30 different nations and many faiths."

Read more: World War II veteran, 102, dies on his way to D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in France

Read more: Moment British paras are made to show their passports to French officials after D-Day jump into Normandy

He continued: "As we stand alongside their remaining friends and comrades on this hallowed ground, let us affirm that we will strive to live by their example, let us pray such sacrifice need never be made again and let us commit to carrying forward their resounding message of courage and resilience in the pursuit of freedom, tempered by the duty of responsibilities to others for the benefits of younger generations and those yet unborn.

"Our gratitude is unfailing and our admiration eternal."

King and Queen arrive for commemorations in Normandy on D-Day 80th anniversary

The King proceeded to then lay a wreath, along with other officials in attendance.

Veterans were seen holding on to the flowers given to them by children and many smiled and thanked the young people paying tribute.

Nine Red Arrows also flew overhead in formation as the UK's national anthem was sung.

Military piper begins commemorations in Normandy on 80th anniversary of D-Day

Meanwhile, Prince William attended the Canadian commemorative ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer.

The first stage of the ceremony saw William receive a royal salute from a guard of honour formed by troops from the Canadian armed forces.

As a prince of Canada, William inspected the servicemen and invited Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and the French prime minister to join him.

William meeting veterans
William meeting veterans. Picture: Alamy
Prince William, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Prime Minister of France Gabriel Attal stand during the ceremony
Prince William, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Prime Minister of France Gabriel Attal stand during the ceremony. Picture: Alamy

Speaking at the event, he praised the "bravery and sacrifice of the Canadian troops, who gave so much 80 years ago".

"The assault on D-Day remains the most ambitious military operation in history," he said.

"The events of that windy, grey day, ultimately led to the liberation of Europe, but it came at heavy cost.

"We continue to honour every Canadian, who gave so much. Every Canadian family who lost a loved one.

"Every Canadian who lived with the scars of battle, both physical and mental."

He went on to thank the Canadian veterans for their "extraordinary acts of bravery and sacrifice" and spoke of the continued bond between Canada and the UK.

He concluded saying in both French and English: "Thank you for our freedom, and thank you for your service."

Prince of Wales speaks during the Government of Canada ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day
Prince of Wales speaks during the Government of Canada ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Getty

William, who was recently made Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps, wore his Army Air Corps tie, a red poppy, his three Jubilee medals, his Coronation medal and his Great Master of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath neck order.

During the ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer, William, other dignitaries and members of the audience stood as one to applaud the veterans.

The elderly men, many in wheelchairs and wearing their medals, military uniforms or regimental berets, looked out over the sand dunes to the beach where 80 years ago to the day, the liberation of Europe began.

Read more: Eight poignant epitaphs remembering brave soldiers who died in the D-Day landings 80 years on
Read more:
Lest we forget: Military piper pays tribute to fallen soldiers to mark beginning of 80th anniversary of D-Day landings

A military piper comes into shore on a DUKW amphibious vehicle ahead of playing a dawn lament on Gold Beach
A military piper comes into shore on a DUKW amphibious vehicle ahead of playing a dawn lament on Gold Beach. Picture: Alamy
Pipe Major Trevor Macey-Lillie of the Scots Royal Artillery plays a lament as he arrives on Gold Beach
Pipe Major Trevor Macey-Lillie of the Scots Royal Artillery plays a lament as he arrives on Gold Beach. Picture: Getty

It came after a lone military piper paid tribute to fallen D-Day soldiers in the early hours of Thursday, playing a lament at sea at the exact moment the beach invasion began on June 6, 1944.

Major Trevor Macey-Lillie continuously played Highland Laddie as he came ashore at Gold Beach in Arromanches, paying tribute to fallen comrades and veterans who led the biggest seaborne invasion in military history.

It also remembers a lone piper who played in the D-Day Normandy landings 80 years ago - but was never shot at.

Major Macey-Lillie began in a landing craft utility before being driven up the beach in a DUKW amphibious vehicle.

Charles speaking to Macron
Charles speaking to Macron. Picture: Alamy

The beach was cleared for the piper's lament, having earlier been filled with crowds of re-enactors with their wartime vehicles and visitors.

As the sun rose, people were seen writing in the sand and wandering the beach, cupping hot drinks in their hands as they looked out to sea.

Among them was Nigel Farage, who was spotted coming down to Gold Beach.

Following the tribute, a French church service was held and military planes flew over head.

Camilla meeting veterans
Camilla meeting veterans. Picture: Alamy

An international event with Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy will take part later on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday marks the second day of commemoration. On Wednesday, a group of 31 British former servicemen made the crossing to France from Portsmouth and took part in a service with Princess Anne at Bayeux War Cemetery.

Among several other events on Wednesday, King Charles gave a speech honouring the heroes of D-Day at a ceremony in Portsmouth.

Read more: Fighting back tears: King and Queen overcome with emotion as war hero recounts how his ‘dear friend' died on D-Day

Read more: Princess Anne smiles and laughs with D-Day veterans in emotional return to Normandy ahead of 80th anniversary

King Charles makes emotional speech at D-Day service

Coinciding with the anniversary, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer also set out a raft of measures they would introduce for veterans ahead of the general election.

The Conservatives said they would bring in a new Veterans Bill, that would include measures to ensure military qualifications had an equal standing with civilian qualifications in law for the first time.

The Tories are also promising to reduce the price of the Veterans Railcard from £30 per year to £21, bringing it in line with the price serving personnel pay for the HM Forces Railcard.

The existing national insurance holiday for employers who hire ex-military members will be extended, the party said.

A Labour spokesperson said: "We will improve the everyday lives of our veterans by putting the Armed Forces Covenant fully into law, protect and improve the Office of Veterans' Affairs, and scrap visa fees for non-UK veterans who have served four years and their dependants."

Princess Anne arrives to attend the Commonwealth War Grave Commission's Great Vigil at Bayeux War Cemetery
Princess Anne arrives to attend the Commonwealth War Grave Commission's Great Vigil at Bayeux War Cemetery. Picture: Getty

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer said that D-Day is "a moment for us to reflect on the historic bravery of those men who fought for us 80 years ago", adding that "their spirit lives on in the millions of veterans who continue their legacy today."

Mr Mercer said: "I am hugely proud of the progress we’ve made in ensuring the UK is the best place in the world to be a veteran and I am dedicated to making sure we go even further with this clear plan to support vets.

"And we will go further by passing a law to enshrine veterans’ rights in law so that all veterans can have the peace of mind that their dedication will be recognised and rewarded throughout their lifetimes."

Princess Anne speaks to D-Day veterans

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