The alliance forged between the United States and Europe during World War II is strong "and is still needed today," U.S. President George W. Bush told veterans commemorating the 1944 D-Day landings.
"America would do it again for our friends," he said of the key role played by the United States in helping to free France from Nazi occupation.
Bush opened a stirring D-Day commemoration address Sunday by paying homage to former U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, who died Saturday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
"He was a courageous man himself, and a gallant leader in the cause of freedom and today we honor the memory of Ronald Reagan," Bush told thousands of veterans at the American military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer on the northern French coast:
Bush told those who had fought to liberate Europe on June 6, 1944: "You will be honored forever and always by the country you served and the nations you freed."
Bush and French counterpart President Jacques Chirac stood side by side at the vast American war cemetery to start a day of somber reflection over the heroism and loss of life during the D-Day landings in Normandy 60 years ago.
Later world leaders gave a standing ovation to D-Day veterans Sunday at a moving ceremony overlooking the invasion beaches of June 6, 1944 at Arromanches.
Chirac, the host of the commemorations, said modern leaders had a duty to honor the values the soldiers died for by defending the cause of freedom and democracy together.
"France will never forget what it owes America, its steadfast friend and ally," Chirac told a ceremony attended by about 20 heads of state and government at the coastal village, which was the scene of heavy fighting on June 6, 1944.