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The guided missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin departs Naval Station Norfolk, Va., May 20, 2014, for a two-month deployment to the north Atlantic and the Baltic Sea for Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014.

The guided missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin departs Naval Station Norfolk, Va., May 20, 2014, for a two-month deployment to the north Atlantic and the Baltic Sea for Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014. ( Amber N. O'Donovan/U.S. Navy)

The guided missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin departs Naval Station Norfolk, Va., May 20, 2014, for a two-month deployment to the north Atlantic and the Baltic Sea for Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014.

The guided missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin departs Naval Station Norfolk, Va., May 20, 2014, for a two-month deployment to the north Atlantic and the Baltic Sea for Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014. ( Amber N. O'Donovan/U.S. Navy)

Sailors standby at the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy before Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, re-enlists a sailor during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014.

Sailors standby at the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy before Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, re-enlists a sailor during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, and Petty Officer 1st Class James Jansma stand next to the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy before Greenert re-enlists Jansma during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, and Petty Officer 1st Class James Jansma stand next to the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy before Greenert re-enlists Jansma during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, re-enlists Petty Officer 1st Class James Jansma at the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, re-enlists Petty Officer 1st Class James Jansma at the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, talks with sailors from the USS Oscar Austin at the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, talks with sailors from the USS Oscar Austin at the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, takes time to visit with sailors from the USS Oscar Austin at the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, takes time to visit with sailors from the USS Oscar Austin at the World War II Navy memorial at Utah Beach, Normandy during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Flowers left to honor fallen soldiers at Utah Beach, Normandy during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014.

Flowers left to honor fallen soldiers at Utah Beach, Normandy during the 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations, June 5, 2014. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

UTAH BEACH, France — A U.S. Navy warship on its way to support U.S. and NATO operations in the Baltics has stopped in Normandy to help commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day amid tension over Russia’s actions in eastern Europe.

Navy Chief of Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who visited the Navy’s memorial here Thursday to place a wreath and re-enlist a sailor from the USS Oscar Austin before taking part in a ceremony nearby, said remembrances of D-Day put focus on the importance of coalitions.

“Today, we call it the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” Greenert said in a brief interview.

“We’re standing here today; it could be a very different situation both in continental Europe and around the world,” Greenert said. “Those that went before us, that’s our legacy, our heritage, our history.”

Exactly 70 years ago Friday, U.S. and Allied forces landed on Normandy’s beaches in the largest amphibious assault the world has ever seen.

“Imagine as we look out here, 1,000 ships spread across the horizon and 4,000 landing craft,” Greenert said.

The landings were a success and put the U.S. and its allies on a path to defeating Nazi Germany 11 months later along with the Soviet Union, which battled Germany from the east.

Standing a few hundred meters from where the waters of the English Channel lapped the Normandy shore at Utah Beach, Petty Officer 1st Class James Jansma said the “thought is always there” that he might one day have his own D-Day.

Jansma, a 12-year veteran from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was re-enlisted by Greenert for six more years. He’s heading out with the crew of the Austin, a destroyer, and said the lessons of the men who fought at Normandy 70 years ago should not be forgotten.

“The courage it takes to stand up and say, ‘Evil cannot endure,’ has to be continued through all generations,” Jansma said.

millham.mathew@stripes.com Twitter: @mattmillham


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