Homage to D-Day troops 60 years on
(CNN) -- More than 1,000 British and U.S. troops parachuted into northwestern France Saturday in the most dramatic of an array of tributes marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
At the western end of the coast where the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation began, U.S. troops staged a spectacular reenactment of the capture by the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division of the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise -- the first military act in the move to liberate Europe.
Hundreds of British paratroopers landed at Ranville.
In a string of ceremonies remembering the 2,500 who gave their lives on D-Day to liberate Europe, Britain's Prince Charles laid wreaths while thousands of poppies were dropped into the sea from a plane.
As thousands of veterans set sail from Portsmouth, England, to relive the event Sunday, the prince paid tribute to the men of the Allied nations -- including the U.S. and Canada -- who took part in the greatest amphibious invasion in military history.
On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 American, British, Canadian, French and other Allied troops arriving in 5,000 ships and 11,000 planes to storm Normandy's beaches. (How D-Day unfurled)
In the subsequent battles in northern France, around 250,000 were killed.
As the a huge flotilla prepared to set sail from Portsmouth carrying veterans to Normandy, a Lancaster bomber and two Spitfires staged a flypast.
A massive security operation was in place in northern France with some 17,000 French military personnel and police out in force.
Prince Charles laid a wreath early Saturday for the fallen men of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards in the small village of Creully in Normandy.
The prince next paid a visit to a Canadian cemetery where more than 2,000 men from the 3rd Canadian Division were laid to rest.
Canada was the third largest allied force that took part in the landings after the U.S. and the UK. But veterans who landed at Juno Beach have often spoken of how they were the campaign's forgotten soldiers.
Prince Charles was fulfilling a packed day of tributes. At lunchtime he unveiled a replica of the Horsa glider used by British troops in their daring raid on Pegasus Bridge -- the first assault of the D-Day invasion.
He also witnessed a mass parachute jump including 500 serving members of Britain's 1 Para at nearby Ranville -- the scene of the original first drop into occupied France on June 6, 1944.
The drop by the 6th Airborne Division was a success with the troops taking all their objectives and securing the Allies eastern flank while invasion troops established a bridgehead on the beaches.
Veterans arriving in Ouistreham port near Sword Beach on board the Brittany Ferries' vessel Normandie were amazed to be greeted at the quayside by the Royal Navy's most senior officer, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West.
As 200 veterans touched Normandy soil, they passed through two lines of serving Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines standing to attention as a guard of honor to the sound of a military band.
Prince Charles honors Canadian soldiers Saturday at the Canadian cemetery in Normandy.
Each veteran's hand was shaken by Admiral West and the French Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Jean-Louis Battet, who was born eight days after D-Day just a few miles from the landing beaches.
Many of the ex-servicemen making Saturday's trip -- young men in their late teens and early twenties in 1944 -- are now in their 80s. This year's commemoration is expected to be the last in which they can appear in numbers, giving events an extra poignancy.
Meanwhile, military vehicle enthusiasts were adding some 1940s atmosphere --khaki green World War II army trucks and lorries carrying people dressed in 1940s garb were among those making their way to the former battle zone.
German flags were flying in the town of Bayeux with German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder being invited to celebrate the anniversary this time around -- a move generally welcomed but causing some controversy among some British veterans and opposition politicians in Germany. (Schroeder defends D-Day schedule)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is set to join more than a dozen world leaders including French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. President George W. Bush and UK PM Tony Blair for an international tribute on Sunday.
60 years ago: American troops wade ashore under German gunfire.
On Saturday, members of the Normandy Veterans Association paid tribute to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, commander of ground troops for Operation Overlord, at Colleville-Montgomery, the French village renamed in his honor.
The army's highest-ranking officer, General Sir Mike Jackson was with Prince Charles when he unveiled a statue of Brig. James Hill -- at 93, D-Day's oldest surviving senior officer.
Brig. Hill was there for the event at Le Mesnil.
Early Saturday, Charles inaugurated a British Garden of Remembrance in Caen, capital of the Calvados region in which most of the D-Day beaches are sited, in tribute to the 15 UK divisions which fought in the 80-day battle for Normandy.
Saturday's events were due to conclude with a march-past by veterans of the UK's Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry at Pegasus Bridge.
A celebration was being held at the bridge at 00.16 Sunday -- 60 years to the minute of the arrival of the first Allied troops in occupied France.