President Obama marks the 70th anniversary of the pivotal invasion of Europe at a ceremony in Normandy, France, today to pay tribute to the 16 million Americans who served in World War II. The moment is a particularly special one, given the dwindling ranks of the “greatest generation” whose members fought in that costly battle.
Just over one million World War II veterans survive today, according to Veterans Administration figures collected by The National WWII Museum.
When Ronald Reagan made his presidential pilgrimage to the battle site of Pointe du Hoc in 1984 on the invasion’s 40th anniversary, paying tribute to the American Ranger team that took heavy casualties capturing a German-occupied cliff, there were still 10.7 million World War II veterans alive.
By the next decennial anniversary, the VA estimates that their numbers will be down to 81,117.