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    Veterans, families mark 74 years since Allied D-Day landings

    Matthew Conway of Burlington, Conn., put a flower on the grave of his uncle, John J. Ketter, at the Colleville American military cemetery in western France Wednesday.
    David Vincent/Associated Press
    Matthew Conway of Burlington, Conn., put a flower on the grave of his uncle, John J. Ketter, at the Colleville American military cemetery in western France Wednesday.

    COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) — Families of fallen soldiers and dwindling numbers of veterans of the D-Day invasion gathered on the Normandy shore Wednesday to mark 74 years since the massive military operation that helped change the course of World War II.

    Powerful gusts of wind blew through a heavy mist as relatives and others paid respects at the American military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, above the sandy expanse known as Omaha Beach.

    Ceremonies have been held this week at memorial sites along the cliffs and sandy expanse where Allied forces landed in Nazi-occupied France.

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    Thousands of U.S., British, Canadian and French troops launched a combined naval, air and land assault as dawn was breaking on June 6, 1944. The invasion weakened the Nazis’ hold on Western Europe after they suffered a punishing defeat in Stalingrad in the east.

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    American tourists and Dutch military history enthusiasts were among those visiting the memorial sites Wednesday, mingling with families of victims of the Battle of Normandy buried in cemeteries sprinkled around the region.

    This year’s commemorations were relatively low-key, while bigger events are planned for the 75th anniversary next year.

    The tombs at the Colleville American military cemetery in western France.
    David Vincent/Associated Press
    The tombs at the Colleville American military cemetery in western France.
    The words "Never Forget" were written in the sand of Omaha beach Wendesday.
    David Vincent/Associated Press
    The words "Never Forget" were written in the sand of Omaha beach Wendesday.

    WWII enthusiasts from France wore 101st Airborne uniforms attended a ceremony near Omaha beach and the Colleville American military cemetery.
    David Vincent/Associated Press
    WWII enthusiasts from France wore 101st Airborne uniforms attended a ceremony near Omaha beach and the Colleville American military cemetery.

    Normandy veterans attended an official service of remembrance at Bayeux Cemetery during anniversary commemorations in Bayeux, France.
    Matt Cardy/Getty Images
    Normandy veterans attended an official service of remembrance at Bayeux Cemetery during anniversary commemorations in Bayeux, France.