(Associated Press) – World War II veterans are joining heads of state and others on the beaches of Normandy to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

The Allied invasion, which began on June 6, 1944, led to the defeat of the Nazis and the end of the war.

The assault began with Allied aircraft bombing German defenses in Normandy, followed by around 1,200 aircraft that carried airborne troops.

As dawn broke, Allied forces started bombing German coastal defenses and shortly after that vessels began putting troops ashore on five codenamed beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

By the end of the day, nearly 160,000 Allied troops had landed in Normandy.

There were thousands of casualties.

Few witnesses to history’s biggest amphibious invasion remain alive today.

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