More than three-dozen West Virginians lost their lives in the Normandy invasion 70 years ago, and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., hopes to honor them when he attends Friday’s ceremony in France marking the D-Day anniversary.
Ceremonies will be held on Sword Beach, one of the main landing areas for soldiers fighting against Nazi Germany and its allies in World War II.
Thousands of World War II veterans, including hundreds from the United States, are expected to attend the event. Manchin and nine other U.S. senators were to fly from Andrews Air Force Base, in Washington, D.C., to France Thursday night. Manchin said he was invited on the trip by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
“I am going to honor the 38 men we lost that day and to celebrate the liberation of the free world as we know it,” Manchin said by telephone before the flight.
Manchin said Normandy was a historic site he has been anxious to visit.
“All of the countries that were liberated and participated in D-Day will be represented. Our president is supposed to be there. The queen of England might be there,” he said. “It is something I have always wanted to do.
“I have always had a love of history — the history of our country and how we were able to protect and defend and liberate the whole world,” Manchin said. “On D-Day, our soldiers knew they were walking into a firing squad. With the high position the Nazis held, it was extremely dangerous for our troops. It was like them shooting ducks in a barrel.”
Manchin said knee problems kept him out of the military — “they wouldn’t take me with my knee all battered up” — but said several members of his family have served. His uncle, former secretary of state and state treasurer A. James Manchin, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he said. Another uncle, Joe Manchin Jr., served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and the senator’s father, John Manchin, served stateside in the U.S. Army.
“My grandfather was in World War I.” Joe Manchin said. “We’ve got a long lineage having the ability and opportunity to serve.
“To be able to represent West Virginia and all the veterans in the state is something I consider to be one of the greatest honors I have got. To be able to do it on the world stage is something pretty special.”
Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.