World leaders joined thousands of veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago today to commemorate D-Day. At Omaha Beach, the site of the bloodiest fighting, a US military band played while veterans from the 29th Infantry Division stood at attention at 6:30am, the precise moment Allied troops first went ashore. "Twenty-nine, let's go!" they yelled, before taking shots of Normandy apple brandy, the AP reports. Elsewhere on Normandy's beaches, veterans looked out over an expanse of golden sand and recalled a different scene.
"It was mayhem," said Jim Kelly, 91. Of the seven soldiers in his party, "I was the only one standing," he tells the Guardian. "They hit the landing craft straight away. How they missed me, I don't know." Some 4,400 Allied troops died in the June 6, 1944, invasion, followed by the months-long Battle of Normandy. At the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, US and French flags were placed at each of the 9,387 marble tombstones to honor "the patriots who, through their courage and sacrifice, changed the course of an entire century," President Obama said. He referred to Normandy as "democracy's beachhead," reports USA Today. (Read more veterans stories.)