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Obama honors World War II and 9/11 generations at Normandy

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France--Seventy years after Allied troops stormed the beaches at Normandy, U.S. President Barack Obama returned Friday to this hallowed battleground in what he called a “powerful manifestation of America's commitment to human freedom” that lives on in a new generation.

“Our commitment to liberty, our claim to equality, our claim to freedom and to the inherent dignity of every human being — that claim is written in the blood on these beaches, and it will endure for eternity,” Obama said on a morning that dawned glorious and bright over the sacred site he called “democracy's beachhead.”

Obama spoke from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where nearly 10,000 white marble tombstones sit on a bluff overlooking the site of the June 6, 1944, battle's most violent fighting at Omaha Beach. He described D-Day's violent scene in vivid terms, recalling that “by daybreak, blood soaked the water” and “thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand.”

Veterans of that fierce battle traveled long distances to the remote historic site and removed their hats as the audience delivered a long-standing ovation when Obama recognized them.

“These men waged war so that we might know peace,” Obama said. “They sacrificed so that we might be free. They fought in hopes of a day when we'd no longer need to fight. We are grateful to them.”

The anniversary commemoration is putting fractures in the World War II alliance on display, with Russian President Vladimir Putin attending events along with leaders who are standing against his aggressive moves into Ukraine. Putin posed with the leaders for a photo outside a lunch at the Chateau de Benouville, then filed inside directly in front of Obama. He and Putin appeared to be deliberately trying to avoid each other. Obama chatted with Queen Elizabeth II and did not acknowledge Putin in front of the assembled media before the group went inside for the private meal.

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U.S. President Barack Obama, center, and French President Francois Hollande, left, stand with veterans during taps, at the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach as he participates in the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, Friday, June 6.

(AP)

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