CARENTAN-LES-MARAIS, France (NEWSnet/AP) — Parachutists jumping from World War II-era planes hurled themselves Sunday into the Normandy sky where war once raged.

It heralds a week of ceremonies for the generation of Allied troops who fought from D-Day beaches 80 years ago to help free Europe of Adolf Hitler’s tyranny.

All along the Normandy coastline, France officials, Normandy survivors and other admirers are saying “merci,” but also goodbye.

The dwindling number of veterans, in their late 90s and older, are returning to remember fallen friends and their history-changing efforts.

On Sunday, three C-47 transport planes, a workhorse of the war, dropped three long strings of jumpers, their round chutes mushrooming open, to whoops from the crowd that was regaled by tunes of Glenn Miller and Edith Piaf.

Dozens of World War II veterans are converging on France to revisit old memories, make new ones, and send a message that survivors of D-Day, Battle of Normandy and of other war theaters, have repeated time and time again: War is hell.

“Seven thousand of my marine buddies were killed," said Don Graves, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iwo Jima in the Pacific theater. "Twenty thousand shot up, wounded, put on ships, buried at sea.” 

The youngest veteran in the group is 96, the most senior 107, according to American Airlines, their carrier from Dallas.

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