SAINTE-MARIE-DU-MONT, France — With World War II-era military planes darting overhead and Normandy's Utah Beach visible in the distance, a bronze statue emerged from beneath a camouflage parachute, in tribute to a man whose quiet leadership was chronicled in the book and television series "Band of Brothers."
The unveiling of the Colorado-made statue of Pennsylvania native Maj. Dick Winters was one of many events marking Wednesday's 68th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied operation that paved the way for the end of the war.
The 12-foot (3.6-meter) tall bronze statue in the Normandy village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont shows Winters with his weapon at the ready. But Winters — a native of Ephrata, Pennsylvania who died last year aged 92 — only accepted serving as the statue's likeness after monument planners agreed to dedicate it to the memory of all junior U.S. military officers who served that day.
"There were many Dick Winters in this war, and all deserve the bronze and glory of a statue," said former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, present as the bronze statue, draped in a camouflage parachute, was unveiled.
Also attending were four or five D-Day vets, including two who served in Winters' "Easy Company," Al Mampre and Herb Suerth Jr.
The statue was made near Boulder, Colorado and transported here, to a roadside between the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and Utah Beach, distant but visible behind the statue.
It was here that Winters and his small band of men dropped out of the sky soon after midnight on June 6, 1944, on a death-defying mission to destroy four German 105mm artillery guns that threatened the Allied invasion force.
Winters "was a humble, simple person thrust into a position of leadership in which he excelled," said Herb Suerth Jr., a D-Day veteran who heads the association of former Easy Company vets, only 19 of whom survive.
During the ceremony various WWII-era military aircraft flew overhead, including a U.S. artillery spotting plane just like those that would have darted through the skies on D-Day.
French President Francois Hollande was among dignitaries paying tribute Wednesday to the soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada, France and other allied forces who took part in the D-Day invasion.