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Interview with Europe Supreme Allied Commander and U.S. European Command Commander General Christopher Cavoli; Interview with D-Day Veteran Jake Larson; Interview with Actor and Filmmaker Tom Hanks; Interview with Historian and "Churchill's War Lab" Author Taylor Downing; Interview with "Les Braves" Sculptor Anilore Banon. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired June 06, 2024 - 13:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

Eighty years since D-Day, we reflect on the legacy of that turning point, and on the brave young soldiers who saved the world. First, with NATO's

supreme allied commander for Europe, General Christopher Cavoli, looking back on that day as war rages in Europe once again.

Then --


JAKE LARSON, D-DAY VETERAN: I don't think I was a hero. I was just like anybody else. We were all in this together.


AMANPOUR: -- personal recollections from a member of that greatest generation. 101-year-old D-Day veteran Jake Larson joined the program.

And --


TOM HANKS: If you've ever wondered what it was like, that's as close as somebody in Davenport, Iowa, or Oakland, California, or Minneapolis,

Minnesota was going to get today.


AMANPOUR: -- capturing the past, actor and producer Tom Hanks tells me how cinema creates a crucial bridge between today and yesterday.

Also, ahead, where the allies plan to turn the tide, my report from Churchill's war rooms.

Plus, "The Braves." How Sculptor Anilore Banon immortalizes the heroes of Normandy in art.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Normandy, where 80 years ago today, on June 6, 1944, just after sunrise, the Allied

forces landed on the Omaha Beach, breaking through the Nazi's Atlantic Wall. At huge cost, they turned the tide of World War II and began the

liberation of Europe, a moment in time forever immortalized as D-Day.


Americans, British, Canadians landed on a total of five beaches. Today, U.S. President Joe Biden and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, led the

80th anniversary commemorations and stood beside those world leaders. Were the soldiers past and present, including members of that greatest

generation who fought on the beaches here all those years ago.

President Biden paid tribute to those heroes. And in a powerful speech pointed to Russia's invasion of Ukraine saying today's leaders must pick up

the baton from veterans of the past by standing with Kyiv.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The allied forces of D-Day did their duty. Now the question for us is, in our hour of trial, will we do ours? We're living

in a time when democracy is more at risk across the world than any point since the end of World War II, since these beaches were stormed in 1944.

Now, we have to ask ourselves, will we stand against tyranny? Against evil? Against crushing brutality? Of the iron fist? Will we stand for freedom? We

defend democracy. We stand together. My answer is yes and it only can be yes.


AMANPOUR: And this commemoration comes at a painful moment for many as war in Europe rages once again after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And in an

exclusive interview, I spoke about this echo with NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Christopher Cavoli. Here's our conversation.


AMANPOUR: General Christopher Cavoli, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: 80 years since D-Day. Did you ever imagine that you would be the top general in Europe at a time of such peril? Maybe -- is it the worst

peril we've been in for 80 years?


CAVOLI: Well, you know, it's not surprising to be in peril. The world brings us perils on occasion, and they happen throughout our careers, of

course. I just think the surprising thing is to have ended up in the top spot in Europe, yes.

AMANPOUR: How do you evaluate, though, what's happening? I mean, you're overseeing and basically fighting, in certain ways, the first raging war in

Europe since World War II.

CAVOLI: So, it's a very serious situation, obviously, right? We've seen large-scale aggression, state on state, returned to the European continent.

It hasn't been here for decades. For 80 years, it hasn't been here, really because of the NATO alliance. And so, it's a very serious situation.

On the other hand, the NATO alliance has sprung to the case and has stepped up to the plate and more unified than I've ever experienced it inside NATO.

Stronger, bigger, of course, with Finland and Sweden's accession. So, it's a mixed bag. It's challenging times, but we have people and organizations

that are designed and intended for those challenging times.

AMANPOUR: Are you surprised by the amount of stress that NATO is getting?

CAVOLI: No, not at all.

AMANPOUR: I mean, obviously Ukraine is getting a lot of stress, and Ukrainians are dying, and Ukrainians are fighting. But you're trying to

provide the weapons and as much help as you can, and yet we see that there's -- Europe has not been able to produce enough quantity to be able

to give Ukraine what it needs, or even, they say, the defense secretaries, to actually defend Europe at the moment. Are you surprised by that


CAVOLI: Well, if I can start with your first question, you know, I'm actually surprised at the amount of stress NATO is getting? Not at all.

NATO's been there the whole time. NATO's been waiting --

AMANPOUR: But did you expect to be facing off against Russia?

CAVOLI: Well, no.

AMANPOUR: 80 years later?

CAVOLI: We didn't expect to do that. We thought we were going to be in a better place over the last 35 years. We hoped for the best. But the

alliance has always been ready for this. And the alliance is returning to its roots of collective defense, territorial defense, very firmly planted

on the eastern flank of NATO right now.

We have forces in place turned over to my command. We have air missions. We have ground troops. We have maritime groups constantly patrolling. We have

more forces under SACEUR's command than we've had in decades. And we have brand-new plans and we are transforming the alliance for the purpose of

collective defense.

AMANPOUR: So, there is something like 90,000 forces, right, that are undertaking exercises right now?

CAVOLI: Yes, we just finished an exercise called Steadfast Defender, in which we practiced a large-scale reinforcement of the eastern flank. About

90,000 troops in total, yes.

AMANPOUR: And what should an adversary, the current one, take away from that? Are they staying, those 90,000?

CAVOLI: No, the troops that did the exercising come back and they'll return to their nations, and they'll continue to prepare for future

exercises and prepare for conflict if necessary. That's the way we deter.

What do we practice during -- what would the adversary see? The adversary would see a large military force that's under a cohesive, unified command

that's able to move quickly across the continent to the point of need. And that's something they should take note of.

AMANPOUR: Do you feel, like many do who I talk to, that Europe, the United States, should be preparing for a great power war?

CAVOLI: Well, the military should always be preparing for war. That's the way we keep the peace.

AMANPOUR: It's more imminent than it's ever been?

CAVOLI: Well, I think you know, serious times, as we said a minute ago. But the alliance is reacting exactly as the alliance should, by focusing on

its readiness, by focusing on its plans, and being able to deter any conflict.

I mean, you know, the question of great power conflict in Europe is a crucial one, and it's really our job, my job, to make sure it doesn't


AMANPOUR: And, you've also -- I mean, NATO also talks about China, I know it's sort of outside theater of engagement, but it is on your radar, right?

It is a NATO issue as well?

CAVOLI: Sure, sure. China is a global issue.

AMANPOUR: Do you worry about that?

CAVOLI: China's a global issue. We do worry about China. We watch very closely where China makes their investments, and where they try to gain

influence inside the European theater. So, we watch that very closely. All the allies keep a very close eye on that, sure.

AMANPOUR: And do you think that the seven-month delay of American weapons to the front in Ukraine -- well, do you think the Ukrainians can recover

from that?

CAVOLI: Yes. Yes.


CAVOLI: They're recovering from it right now. First of all, we had things stacked up ready to ship. So, as soon as we got the authority to ship

things into Ukraine, we began to do that, again, within a couple of hours, literally.

And so, a vast quantity of stuff has been moved in in a very short amount of time, and it's making a difference on the battlefield, as you can see.

In addition to that, the Ukrainians understood. They're keen observers of U.S. politics and western politics in general, they understood what was

going on and they cleverly and strategically husbanded their resources and manage their operations accordingly.

So, it was a tough time for them, but I think they're going to be in a very good position as we come through this.


AMANPOUR: They definitely lost a lot of people, and they had a lot of people wounded, and they have trouble with the conscription and with

recruiting, unlike Russia, which doesn't have any trouble, and apparently no trouble producing weapons and ammunition either, because it's turned its

entire economy onto a military footing.

Do you think that -- are you not concerned about Kharkiv and the Russians coming over and making such inroads in the east there and in the north?

CAVOLI: Sure. But first, I have to point out, I do think the Russians have some challenges with recruiting. And they're coping with them, but there's

a finite amount of access they have to their population of potential soldiers. And they've got some big decisions coming up about mobilization

as well.

So, Kharkiv, sure, we're concerned about Kharkiv. We've helped the Ukrainians an awful lot to analyze the situation and to organize themselves

in that area. When I talked to Olek Sirsky, who's the commander of the Ukrainian military, he's confident that they'll hold in where they are and

they've got a good strong defense. We've taken a good look at that defense and we agree.

AMANPOUR: So, what is 2024 going to be for them? Holding?

CAVOLI: I think 2024 is a -- it's a force generating year. Generate forces in Ukraine and be prepared for future operations. Both armies are -- have

been fighting quite a while. And both armies, you know, have suffered the bruises and the bumps that you get from fighting. And our Ukrainian

colleagues -- and we are working together with all the countries, not just in the alliance, but throughout the contact group that Secretary Austin

runs, we're working to generate force with them.

AMANPOUR: And here we are, sitting here, so many fallen, so many -- so much remembrance, 80 years, what goes through your mind, your heart, when

you see this and when you come here?

CAVOLI: Well, I think that these cemeteries at Normandy are some of the most touching things a soldier can visit. So, I visited some of these

cemeteries throughout the world. They're immaculately kept, right? I mean, we have retired officers and NCOs who devote their lives, their second

careers to keeping these places like this.

Their source of great pride to me because America spends the time and effort to remember its own, even when they're buried on foreign soil. And

our -- the host nations, France, the French people adore this place. They love it. They care for it as if it's their very own. And in many ways, it

represents really the best of international cooperation and the relations between the United States and France in particular here, I could say the

same thing about Belgium, the Netherlands and on and on. So, it's truly touching for me to visit here.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because -- I'm going to paraphrase, but General Eisenhower said in his broadcast on June 6, 1944, you know, we are coming

to liberate you and also to prepare for the liberation of all occupied territories. And there's certain polls and surveys that suggest that

Europeans are not quite sure whether they can depend on America like they did 80 years ago, not just because of what we're seeing in Ukraine and the

troubles and the stresses on the military, but also because of isolationist politics, because of an America first, but harking back, you know, I mean,

Trump is merely a reincarnation of stuff that happened before the Second World War.

Do you -- how should people feel about America's commitment and ability and desire to keep defending them?

CAVOLI: You know, I think the fact that I'm sitting here in Eisenhower's seat -- by the way, no pressure, if --

AMANPOUR: Yes, no pressure.

CAVOLI: If you've got to follow somebody, try not to follow Dwight D. Eisenhower. Yes. So, the fact that the SACEUR, the Supreme Allied Commander

for Europe, is always an American is just one small representation of how committed we are to this cause.

The United States has always been here. It's always been a member of NATO. It always will be a member and we're right here. We have thousands of

soldiers that we deployed over here at the initiation of the war in Ukraine so that we could help our European allies to deter any further aggression.

And as our allies have generated force, we've been able to pull some of those guys back. But the fact is, when the U.S. is needed, the U.S. is


AMANPOUR: All right. General Cavoli, thank you very much indeed.

CAVOLI: Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: Appreciate it.


AMANPOUR: Fighting words and a clear challenge ahead. As we've mentioned, it was 80 years ago today, in 1944, that Allied forces stormed the beaches

here in Normandy to liberate Europe. Now, in 2024, veterans are returning to pay tribute to their fallen comrades and to ensure the world never

forgets that sacrifice.


As time marches on, the number of those from that greatest generation returning here grows fewer and fewer. But for those who are here, their

voices ring louder than ever. Among them, 100-year-old D-Day veteran Jake Larson, who's taken his message to social media giant TikTok, amassing

almost a million followers.

I last spoke with Jake here at the 75th anniversary. That was 2019. And today, in the Normandy American Cemetery, we met again.


AMANPOUR: Jake Larson, it's great to see you again. It was five years ago we first met here. And now, how old are you?

JAKE LARSON, D-DAY VETERAN: I'm going to be 102 in December.

AMANPOUR: Wow. What is the secret of your health and longevity?

LARSON: I'll have to say, don't die.

AMANPOUR: It's a good one, don't die. You probably didn't know whether you would survive 80 years ago today, did you, when you landed on Omaha?

LARSON: God, no. I was afraid of those landmines they put in the beach there. We were getting small arms fire, but I was afraid to step -- I'd

step on one of those mines. The Germans had -- I told you, that time it was a million mines. And when they started taking them out of there, they found

one and a half million.

AMANPOUR: Wow. You were one of the lucky ones. Do you remember what it was like when they just -- I don't know, suddenly you find yourself getting out

of one of those landing craft, you're on that beach? Do you remember what it was like?

LARSON: Oh, do -- I -- like it was yesterday. I got on a landing craft and I had water right up to my chin. He let us out a little bit too far. But he

was just a 17-year-old pilot for that boat.

AMANPOUR: Wow. You were all kids?

LARSON: We were all kids, yes.

AMANPOUR: And did you know then what you were fighting for?

LARSON: Oh, definitely. That we knew, every one of us.

AMANPOUR: Tell us.

LARSON: Every one of us was prepared to give our life to kick Hitler's ass out of Europe.

AMANPOUR: And you did.

LARSON: And we did. We lost quite a few of -- I lost friends. Everybody lost friends. But we were soldiers. We were prepared to give our life.

AMANPOUR: And now, you, obviously a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, and your great grandchildren and your grandchildren are making

you into a social media star. You're on TikTok, Jake, since we last met.

LARSON: I don't know how that happened.

AMANPOUR: How did it happen?

LARSON: It's crazy.

AMANPOUR: And you go by Papa Jake. You have an actual name.


AMANPOUR: And why do you do it?

LARSON: You know, it's not me, it's my granddaughter. She said, oh, it's just a little story telling thing, she says. And I put a couple of your

stories on my TikTok. She came back within a week and says, Papa, I'm taking you off of my TikTok. I'm going to put you on your own. I said,

you're opening a can of worms here. Why are you putting me on by myself? She says, because you showed me up on mine. It took me 10 months to get

10,000 viewers. You got that in a week.

AMANPOUR: And how many do you have now?

LARSON: Well, the last time I looked, 800,000. It's just on the verge of a million.

AMANPOUR: Yes, it is just on the verge of a million. And, Jake, what stories are you telling? What do you want young people to know?

LARSON: I'm telling the stories of my life. And, I -- I'm a unique person. When I was 15 years old and my cousin, Chick (ph), was 15 years old, he

said, we didn't have any money. We're going to high school with no money. So, he said, let's join the National Guard. I said, we got to be 15 or 18.

He says -- I said, we're just 15. He says, let's go to the armory anyway, and tell them we want to join. And we'll look them straight in the eye and

say -- when they say, how old are you? We'll say, 18, 18.


So, we went to the National Guard. And there was a huge captain sitting there. He looked up and said, what can I do for you young men? Young men,

see? Wow. And I'm thinking, 18, 18. And he says, what year were you born? Wow. So, I said, 1919, sir. Sign right here. That's the only thing he

asked. We both got into the National Guard at 15.

AMANPOUR: You wrote a book, and you told me that it's being used in high schools to teach kids.

LARSON: Yes, grade schools to high schools, yes. It's an honor.

AMANPOUR: Does that make you feel proud?

LARSON: Proud. I have -- the University of Delaware -- the history professor came from Delaware to California to interview me. He interviewed

me for four hours. He's used that book to train his future professors. And now, that interview is in Eisenhower Library in Kansas.

AMANPOUR: Today, it's 80 years since what you all did so heroically.

LARSON: I don't think I was a hero. I was just like anybody else. We were all in this together. I'm not a hero. I'm a -- people keep calling me hero.

I changed that word. I took the O off of a hero. I had a TO there that people say, well, what's a here to? I says, I'm here to tell you that

heroes are up there. They gave their life. They gave it her life so that I could make it.

My God, I had a -- I got a wife, I got children, I got two boys and a girl, I got nine grandchildren, I got 11 great grandchildren, I've got a grandson

that's a grandfather, and I'm still going. Crazy.

AMANPOUR: Will you come back again?

LARSON: Oh, God yes, I'd come back again, just to honor all those that gave their life so that I could be here.

AMANPOUR: Jake Larson, thank you.

LARSON: Well, thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: What a character. What a teacher. Today, leaders from across the world, including Ukraine's president, Zelenskyy, turned out to pay tribute

to veterans like Jake Larson. And at one point, Zelenskyy found himself the focus of thanks.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you're the savior of the people.

ZELENSKYY: Oh, no, no. You. You save Europe.


AMANPOUR: Bonded in a shared endeavor. Flowers and wreaths have been laid at the Normandy memorials, and there have been some incredibly touching

moments. There was a 21-gun salute for those who fell on that day. And this morning, when a lone piper landed on the beach, recreating the moment some

150,000 Allied troops arrived in France in 1944.


AMANPOUR: And there were the bagpipes, of course. When we think of D-Day, perhaps the most vivid imagery comes not from the newsreels of the time,

but from cinema. For example, the visceral, haunting scenes of "Saving Private Ryan." That movie's star, Tom Hanks, is an amateur history buff. He

calls himself a lay historian, and he takes it really seriously.

And since that film, he's produced with Steven Spielberg, the acclaimed TV series "Band of Brothers," "The Pacific," and most recently, "Masters of

the Air." He came to Normandy this time now to pay his respects to the veterans, and I spoke with him about why this anniversary means so much,

and about the importance of storytelling and remembering.



AMANPOUR: Tom Hanks, welcome.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR AND FILMMAKER: Christiane, how nice to see you.

AMANPOUR: And here you -- this is almost --

HANKS: What a day.

AMANPOUR: your home as well.

HANKS: What a day.

AMANPOUR: I mean, you've done so much on World War II. I just want to know what it feels like to be here on the 80th. It may be the last of these


HANKS: I don't -- I mean, I -- we -- if you do the math, if you were -- say you were 17 years old, and you were making your first trip into combat.

On June 6th of 1944, you would do the math, you're now 97 years old. That they're here -- I mean, the first thing I say to any of the veterans that I

happen to meet is, don't get up, you know, because, you know, they're more or less wheelchair bound.

But there they are resplendent in their patches and their hats and their caps and the memories, and I ponder what these last 80 years have been for

them. I want to ask them. What's the most extraordinary thing you've witnessed since that day? And there's an awful lot to take note of. But

would any of it have happened if this day had not been?

AMANPOUR: Well, I wonder, you know, since you lead me straight into that question. It's probably, OK, bar the Cold War, when there wasn't a raging

war in Europe, it's probably the most difficult, most existential crisis for everybody since their sacrifice, with Russia having invaded Ukraine,

with a literal raging war in Europe.

HANKS: I never thought there'd be a land war in Europe in my lifetime once again, because it had proven to be so disastrous for all of humanity the

last time somebody tried that. And it's funny how often it comes out of the ego of one human being. One guy back in the 1930 says, no, I'm going to

solve all these problems because I know what works and what does not work.

I think -- you know, look, I'm a lay historian and I'm as opinionated as any knothead that you're ever going to come across. But there was this

thought that America -- particularly America, was lazy, was divided, was undisciplined, that couldn't get its act together, wouldn't -- that would

never band together in order just to do the right thing by choice.

And when I'm here, I think of a bunch of kids. It was a young force that came here. They were somewhere between -- if you were 25 years old, they

called you pops or they called you the old man. And they -- and they were - - they left absolute all of the comforts of a very comfortable America, safe America on the other side of the ocean. And they put themselves here

for what? Because it was the right thing to do.

And they were not defending the status quo. They were not gaining territory. They were not here for riches. They were not here to conquer

anything. They were really here in order to mend the future, if I can coin a word that has just come out in a book that I read not too long ago.

There was an article, I want to say in the Bedford newspaper, in which, on the 6th June, because of the time lag made, it possible for the 6th of June

to have this be the headlines in United States of America. And it said the next 50 years of European history is being decided right now in the fields

and beaches of Normandy. It was not about everything that had happened prior to 1944. It was actually about what was going to happen in 1954 and

'64. I was born in 1956.

Had D-Day not happened -- and that's not hard to imagine here, you can look around and we can see the evasion in our minds, we can see that day, but we

can also imagine with a little bit of turn of frame, what if it had not happened, if this had stayed as it had been, a conquered territory by one

of the most murderous regimes -- there we go, as a FedEx is delivering my Uber lunch right now.

What would have been like if all those -- that young forces, and the Canadians, and the English, and all of the free (ph) countries had not come

along and said those people are wrong.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you something? Because one man is doing it again, Vladimir Putin. He hasn't been invited. He was you know, 10 years ago, but

this time not. Do you think -- when you think about it, Americans would do this again? British would do it again? I mean, we're in the fight of our

lives again.

HANKS: Well, you don't have to go back very far. I can believe, as early as 1939 and 1940 and big parts of 1941 there was a huge vocal section of

the United States of America that said, no way, Charles Lindbergh led the America first. There were literally Nazi party rallies in Madison Square

Garden, in which Adolf Hitler and George Washington's, their images were up on stage at the same time.

It wasn't until, of course, that we were attacked that everybody kind of, like, wised up and realized that something very venal was going on in the

world. You can't help but wonder, where would we be right now? And I have absolute 100 percent faith in the American people and the concept of what

is right and what is wrong.


And if something as definitive as what happened in Europe back then, I don't think there'd be any question that it would take time, that it would

not be overnight. It would be thought out and it would be, I think, taking into account all the lessons that were learned of what happens when you

don't do it right over a long course of time.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, I walked over there, I looked at the beach, it's Omaha Beach, the cliffs that those boys had to scale. Then they had to

rush, you know, and start to liberate a place they didn't even know anything about. And as you say, they were so young. You did that film,

"Saving Private Ryan." I know you're an actor, but everybody says it's one of the most realistic depictions of what happened that day.

Can you recall what it was like actually filming that and putting yourselves in their boots for that period of time?

HANKS: Well, of course, you know, part of it is glamorous fun, you know. But at the other time, as soon as the camera started rolling and everything

started happening there was a tactile quality to the confusion. One of the things that happened was that special effects guys would come up.

And all over the beach were these little red flags. They said, hey, be careful where the little red flags are, because there's explosive charges

underneath there. It's going to throw some stuff off. And whatever you do, don't step over there, because that's a whole air ram that's going to throw

a guy up in the air. And a guy down there is going to be lit on fire, so try to stay away from him. And you put that together and see, well, this is

a pretty glamorous day of work, isn't it? What time's lunch?

But then it begins. And the first thing they did was remove all those red flags, and I realized that, you know, if something goes on. Now, we are not

in any danger at all whatsoever. But the verisimilitude, if I dare use that word, does put it in a different sort of form. There is a moment when, of

course, as actors, we're just pretending. But there comes a moment where the reason we're there is to capture the truth as the film rolls, and to be

cold, wet, scared, and have it be awfully noisy for an awful long time.

I remember when we were shooting -- and by the way, this is one of the reasons Steven Spielberg wanted to make the movie. He said, finally, I'll

be able to do with film technology. I'll actually be able to capture what happened on Omaha Beach, and here's why I'm going to do it. First, it's

going to take three weeks. And secondly, it's going to be every single day. And third, we're going to have all kinds of stuff going off. And fourth, in

between there, we'll make some sort of movie. At the same time, we're trying to load it up with as much authentic, and I wanted to use the word

again, verisimilitude, as we can. OK, that's our job as filmmakers.

It's also our job as lay historians, because for good or for bad, that movie is a document that has to accurately reflect the tenor of that day.

And I'd like to think that we did.


HANKS: And hearing it from a number of people who said, as confusing as that is, well, multiply that by -- we did not have the smell of cordite or

burning flesh or, you know, blood on the sand, but we did have some version of that, the -- how -- whatever you can get out of a motion picture. I

think we captured it.

And to Steven's credit -- and I will also go along with the audience's credit as well, they were willing to suspend whatever disbelief of it and

say, I've always -- if you've ever wondered what it was like that's as close as somebody in Davenport, Iowa or Oakland, California or Minneapolis,

Minnesota was going to get to that.

AMANPOUR: And then you went on with your production company to do so much more in the anthology of World War II, "Band of Brothers," "Pacific," and

now the latest, "Masters of the Air" about the Air Force. Why? What made you want to do that? And what do you want it to leave?

HANKS: I will tell you that all of the caregivers that I had -- I mean, I was born in '56. So, by the time I'm in kindergarten, everybody grown up to

me is only 15 years away from the war. And they divided their lives into three distinctive parts. They talked about being kids, and they would

always say, well, you know, as a kid, we'd do this. Of course, that was before the war, they said. And then they said, oh, I went to college here,

and I got married here. Well, you have to understand, but that was after the war. They always said that.

And when they talked about those years of stasis, if I'm using the word correctly, and really between 1939, certainly between 1941, to do to -- mid

late -- mid to late 1945, they are talking about almost like a Martian time slip. This period of time existed when nobody had any idea of what was

going to happen in another week and a half. Who was going to die? Who was going to come back? Were they going to be invaded? And that long period of

time, I think it was -- if it wasn't a bona fide scar, it was a saga in their lives that they felt as though that they were lucky to have survived

those three years.


And the -- as soon as you take up any sort of thematic, you know, motion picture telling, you end up learning so much that you cannot squeeze into a

two-and-a-half-hour motion. It does take another eight hours here or another 10 hours there, not in order to get the grand overview of it, but

the specific tiny details that make every episode worth human.


HANKS: Never mind history. Never mind authentic. It becomes human because there's guys have got to get up and brush their teeth. There's guys that

got to get up and be cold. There's guys have got to bury their best friends for no reasons of that. And it's not -- it's our job as, I think, artists

in order to make that act as recognizable as not mythic behavior, not historic behavior, but as human behavior that each one of us could go


AMANPOUR: Do you think it'll get more difficult now that the vets -- I mean, you know, they've reached and are reaching the end of their lives to

pass the stories along?

HANKS: I would like to think that there's anything me and my knothead friends have done down at the office has brought great currency to the

stories that those men tell.

You know, you could have been a veteran of this great, great struggle, and you could have died in a car crash or of a stroke in 1958, and you were

just as big and huge a hero and a contributor to freedom and liberty and everything like that as any of these guys here. If you're 17 years old, and

it's your first mission in combat is to jump out of a plane or come to shore on Omaha Beach in 1944, you are now 97. If you've made it to 97, come

forward. Tell us everything. Let us know whatever it is.

And these guys, old guys now, they're TikTok stars, they have young people, they said, tell us more about it. And everything that comes out of them, I

think is a precious bit of scripture that should be read and studied.

AMANPOUR: On this day, President Biden is also obviously giving his big speeches and it'll all be in the cloak of democracy, that's what we're


HANKS: I like that, the cloak of democracy, sure.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And without mentioning, you know, Donald Trump, he will talk about the stakes for America and for the world. Finally, do you worry

about the United States in case there -- in terms of its commitment to democracy and freedom and everything these people died for, if there's

another Trump presidency?

HANKS: I think there's always a reason to be worried about the short-term, but I look at the longer-term of what this -- what happened. I think there

is an ongoing -- look, our constitution says, we, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, that journey to a more

perfect union has missteps in it. And we know. We -- I can catalogue them as much as you can, and you're a professional journalist, and I'm just a

guy that makes movies and reads books.

AMANPOUR: And a historian.

HANKS: And -- OK. And a lay historian, I'll take that too. Over the long- term, however, we inevitably make progress towards, I think, that more perfect union. That's what it was. And how does it come about? It comes

about because -- not because of somebody's narrative of who is right or who is a victim or not, it comes out of the slow melding of the truth to the

actual practical life that we end up living. It comes down to the good deed that is practiced with your neighbor, with your local merchants.

And I will always have faith that the United States of America and the western societies that have adopted more or less the same sort of democracy

cannot help but turn towards what is right.

AMANPOUR: And they told us how.

HANKS: They were kids, by and large. They were well practiced. Some of them -- you know, years ago -- actually, on the 65th, which is the last

time we were here, I happened to have dinner with the great Andy Rooney, who himself was a veteran.


HANKS: He flew. And he said, oh, come on, they're not all heroes. Some of them -- you know, some of them were in the 38th shoe repair battalion. And

yet, even if you were in a shoe repair battalion -- you know, there were guys -- if you read Ambrose, there were guys whose job it was, they came to

Europe to do one thing and one thing only, to take busted weapons and make them workable again, to take exploded jeeps, (INAUDIBLE) to give her a

bunch of parts in order to get them moving again.

Those guys lost as much sleep and had as bad a teeth from the horrible food that they ate and were as exhausted anybody else was because they woke up

every morning and said, what do I have to do in order to further up this cause of liberation? I'm not going to discount anybody for what they went

through at that time, even if all they did was type out very, very important papers on the typewriters somewhere well behind the lines.

I go back again to that concept. It was the great communal effort. And periodically, in the United States of America, great communal efforts come

to be. And they end up changing the world for the people who want -- who take part of it and actually want to end up -- I can't say it enough, and

it's probably like a little goody two shoes, but they do the right thing.



HANKS: And they wake up every morning and they think, well, what do I need to do today in order to create that more perfect union? That's always seems

to be just slightly out of our grasp, but on the cusp of reality, I like to think.

AMANPOUR: Tom Hanks, thank you so much.

HANKS: Pleasure to talk to you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

HANKS: What a day. What a day.

AMANPOUR: What a day.


AMANPOUR: A great communal effort indeed. And now, we turn to one of the most consequential sites of World War II, and that was about the

preparation, Winston Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms.

This underground bunker was the nerve center of Britain's war effort, where operations like the Normandy invasion were planned as bombs rained down on

London overhead. Seventy years after D-Day, back in 2014, I toured the war rooms with historian and broadcaster Taylor Downing.


TAYLOR DOWNING, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR, "CHURCHILL'S WAR LAB": So, we're in the cabinet room itself, in the Churchill War Rooms, which were built just

before the Second World War, intended to be a sort of underground bunker, really.

AMANPOUR: And still so atmospheric, I mean, look.

DOWNING: Oh, yes.

AMANPOUR: Churchill's cigar, was that really his? I don't know, but the cigar is there, the dispatch box, and this was his chair.

DOWNING: This was the chair. It's as though he's The cabinet have just left. They've just walked out the door. They've sort of kept the place with

this very, very atmospheric feel. Its location was, of course, top secret at the time. It was built to withstand bombing so that the whole government

could carry on.

Down here, there are all the key offices that were needed, the military headquarters, the map room. There was accommodation for senior staff.

Churchill had his own bedroom down here.

AMANPOUR: Taylor, this obviously hasn't changed much since those days. It's still dark.

DOWNING: It's very atmospheric, I think. And what you've got to imagine is that this is below ground. Nobody down here knows what's happening up

above. They had a big ventilation plant that they brought in to try and pump air around. But it would have been very stuffy, very hot, and

everybody puffing away. When the prime minister himself is a great cigar smoker, you know, he's not going to stop smoking. So, you can't tell

anybody else they can't smoke.

So, we're coming here into the map room, which was really the heart of the operation of this underground war rooms, this underground bunker. This is a

reconstruction as it would have been at the end of the war. Somebody from the RAF, somebody from the army.

AMANPOUR: It look a bit surprised to see us. It's incredibly lifelike.

DOWNING: It is, very. It's as though we've interrupted a rather important meeting.

AMANPOUR: And there were unbelievably important meetings here.

DOWNING: There were. This is where Churchill -- although he was a great wordsmith and we remember him for the great words and the phrases --

AMANPOUR: And the inspiration.

DOWNING: And the inspiration to the people of Britain and the whole free world at the time. He actually had a very visual way of understanding

things. He liked maps, he liked charts, he liked anything that gave him a sort of visual display of what was going on.

A version of the map room was sort of packed up and taken with him so that wherever he was he could have this sort of update of what was going on in


AMANPOUR: And he wanted to be in Normandy on D-Day.

DOWNING: He did. He was actually in this very room on the 1st of June getting a briefing with the king. Who was also --

AMANPOUR: The king came down here?

DOWNING: The king was down here on this day as well, George VI. And they were having a briefing about what was going to happen on D-Day. And

Churchill says, you know, I really want to be there on D-Day myself. You can imagine the sort of, my God, you know, the prime minister wants to be

in the front line of a huge operation like D-Day.

And so, he asked if he could go on HMS Belfast, which was the flagship of the Royal Naval commander, to watch the landings happen. Now, he's the

prime minister, no other politician can overrule him. He's the commander of the forces. So, the military can't say, we don't want you here, sir.

And what happens in the end is that the king, a day afterwards, writes to him and says, Winston, I don't think it's a good idea for you to go to D-

Day. What happens if the ship hits a mine or is shelled by the Germans and sinks, you know? The last thing we want to do at a critical moment in the

war is to lose our prime minister.

So, effectively what happens is that reluctantly Churchill stands down and the king, for the first time, tells his prime minister, you can't do


AMANPOUR: Which is an interesting constitutional turnaround.

DOWNING: It's a very rare turnaround, isn't it?

AMANPOUR: This is a really rare permission to come into this room. I don't think anybody gets to see this inside. And here we are with Churchill, on

the phone with?

DOWNING: With Churchill. He's on the phone to Roosevelt. This is the room in which he had the top-secret direct line to the White House.

And in fact, it was -- the outside had a door just like a private loo at WC. And even his staff thought he was going to the loo. He would come in

here, get on the phone to Roosevelt, and then emerge afterwards. So, it was so secret, this hotline.


AMANPOUR: Even people in this secret bunker didn't know that this was where the prime minister and the president spoke.

DOWNING: Didn't know that this existed. Didn't know that this room exists. And it was where he helped build up the relationship and bond and talk with

the president. And it was a really important tiny, tiny, but really important space.

The country was, in a sense, very lucky in 1940, when Churchill was appointed prime minister through those dark days of 1940, France

surrenders, the blitz -- when Britain really was back up against the wall, to have a man who not only understood military things, but gave a huge

encouragement to new ideas, new technologies. He really galvanized Britain's fairly feeble at times military efforts. He was the right leader

in the right place at the right time, and we're very lucky for that today.

AMANPOUR: What would have happened if it hadn't been him?

DOWNING: Difficult to see that we would have fought on. Probably what would have happened was some sort of truce with Hitler in the summer of

1940 and history would have been very, very different.

AMANPOUR: The veterans. How many do you think survive today?

DOWNING: Well, it's said that in the -- in 1994, for the 50th anniversary, there were 20,000 veterans on the Normandy beaches who went there to be

part of that 50th. anniversary. But, you know, I think they're the real heroes.

I mean, here we've been looking at where the strategic planning took place, where the thinking through, obviously there was Eisenhower's headquarters

down on the South Coast, where the specific military planning took place as well. But in the end, a great operation like this is down to the men who

come out of the landing craft first, who jumped from aircraft. They're the real heroes of D-Day?

AMANPOUR: Did they think they were?

DOWNING: No, not at all. I've met lots of these guys, and they're the humblest people. What they tell you is that it was a job that had to be

done. They had to do it. And for instance, Captain Dick Winters, the famous man who was at the center of the "Band of Brothers," Damian Lewis plays him

in the Steven Spielberg miniseries of the name. You ask him, were you a hero? And he says, no. He says, but I served with a company of heroes.

And that's very typical of the spirit of that generation. There's no sort of me, me, me about it. It was a job that had to be done, and we went out

there and we did it. And you have to admire that humility and that spirit.

AMANPOUR: You do indeed.


AMANPOUR: And indeed, from Jake Larson, our 101-year-old veteran, we heard that same humility and shared endeavor.

Now, throughout this hour, we have heard all about the heroic bravery of veterans 80 years ago. On Omaha Beach, that sheer courage is being honored

by an impossible to miss stainless steel sculpture. It's called "Les Braves." It was unveiled on the 60th D-Day anniversary in 2004, and it has

since stood among crashing waves, becoming a permanent part of the memorial.

And earlier, the international ceremony took place in front of the giant structure. Its sculptor is Anilore Banon, and she's here with me now. It is

nice to see you again. Welcome. You've just come from the international ceremony.

So what did it feel like? Because I, we talked when you first unveiled it.

ANILORE BANON, Sculptor, "Les Braves": Yes. Yes. Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: So, what did it feel like? Because I -- we talked when you first unveiled it.



BANON: It's amazing to have been here exactly 20 years ago.


BANON: Crazy. But, you know, wonderful. It was so much emotion to see the same veterans. I mean, they were not many, but they were really being

honored with the medal. And so, they were standing up. And it was really fantastic to see how they were bearing the weight of all the people, all

their friends that died there.


BANON: You had this feeling that they were very humble because they thought about -- I don't know if -- you know what I mean?


BANON: You really feel that that's what they were thinking about their friends.

AMANPOUR: So, you talk about the humility and what they were thinking. What were you thinking when you created "Les Braves" because it's very

expansive? It's not a humble piece.

BANON: No, because you cannot make the brave small. Their courage was huge. And so, for me, it was impossible to do something small about their

bravery. I mean, it has to be a minimum, you know, to look up to. You had to raise your eyes and look up to what they did.

AMANPOUR: So, we're seeing the pictures on the screen as we talk. Just describe the modules. You've got three distinct parts of that.

BANON: Yes. Yes. In fact, I did three pieces because I thought that this bravery, this courage and what they did was an action, a common action. So,

at the center, rise freedom. It's because I thought that I really wanted to show that their sacrifice was eternal. It was about life, not about death.


So, they are rising up from the sand and they have this big, you know, column that are the only straight column of structure in this culture are

the two straight tower, if you can say, and those are honor and freedom that they brought us back and they are surrounded by those wings of hope

and fraternity because it was all together. You know, freedom came from the sea. So, it's wings and it's sails (ph). It has all this, you know,


AMANPOUR: And how did it come that you've just opened -- I think it's about to open or it has opened

BANON: Just opened.

AMANPOUR: Yes. A sister sculpture in Michigan.

BANON: Yes, absolutely. This is -- you know, timing is a synchronicity. Because when I started live -- have here 20 years ago, I always wanted to

do a connection, because all my work is about connecting people so that together we are much stronger and nothing is impossible.

So, I really wanted to do a second one, but it took three years and a lot of efforts to do this one. So, I thought, you know, something will happen

and the right place will come. And it came when the war memorial in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, call me and it says, you know, we walk on that beach and

could it be possible to have a twin sculpture? And I said, but that's exactly what I wanted 20 years ago. So, we did, and it was wonderful to

work with them.

AMANPOUR: And where is it located exactly?

BANON: It's Grosse Pointe, Michigan. It's just on the lake, on Lake Michigan. So, it's the frontier with Canada. So, you -- it's another

symbol, you know, of all these people that came to help us. And so -- and it's really was a beautiful inauguration.

AMANPOUR: And what does it mean to you, as a French woman, to do this sculpture given that "Les Braves" liberated your country and liberated the

rest of Europe?

BANON: It's like if you can say thank you in so many ways. That's my way, because I'm an artist. And it's also not only a way to thank them, it's a

way to show to the young generation, I really wanted to show that bravery and courage is not an old-fashioned value. It's something that certainly

today and with all the 182 and more wars around the world right now, you know, bravery is something that's something we have to --

AMANPOUR: You know, you've just touched on that. The tragedy is that this anniversary and the dwindling number of veterans, "Les Brave," is coming

right at a time when there is another war in Europe and obviously what's happening in Israel and Gaza.

BANON: Yes, it is. This is striking that we don't learn. And I'm thinking, you know, that women are so -- are the first victim with children of all

those wars because, you know, they always -- even they are victim as women also. So, what about if the new diplomacy, you know, they get involved a

little bit now? Don't you think so?

AMANPOUR: I think so. I think --


AMANPOUR: Start a trend, more women around the peace table. Well, Anilore Banon, more women on the art front, and it is -- it's wonderful. And you

didn't think it would last more than six, seven months, but it's lasted 20 years.

BANON: Yes, because people wanted to -- he wanted the sculpture to stay. When people want something, you know, they got it.

AMANPOUR: They get it.

BANON: Yes, they get it.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much for being with us on this 80th anniversary.

BANON: Thank you, Christiane, very much. Yes, thank you.

AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, they lived happily ever after. Among the many veterans honored today was the 100-year-old Harold Terens, who was on

D-Day and stationed in Britain, preparing and repairing damaged planes which were returning from France.

But Harold is in France not only to commemorate D-Day, he's got bigger plans to marry his girlfriend of three years, 96-year-old Jeanne Swerlin.

Take a listen.


HAROLD TERENS, WWII VETERAN: Here in (INAUDIBLE) it's so peaceful. I would like to see the whole world at peace. And I hope that our love story will

reflect on a lot of people in the world that are suffering today like in Ukraine and Gaza.


AMANPOUR: And they certainly look happy. Terens and Swerlinwill tie the knot this weekend in a town just near the beaches where he and the other

U.S. troops landed 80 years ago today. It is never too late for love.

That's it for now, but make sure to tune in tomorrow for my exclusive interview with General C. Q. Brown, Jr. He's chairman of the Joint Chiefs

of Staff, the highest-ranking American military officer, and heir to such giants as the World War II General Omar Bradley, who was first to hold the

job. I asked General Brown if America today could meet a challenge on the scale of the Normandy invasion.


GEN. C. Q. BROWN, JR., U.S. JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Our freedom is not free. And democracy can stand on its own, but we got to make sure we're

prepared. And, you know, one of the things I focus on is ensuring that we have the war fighting skill to deter a future conflict.


AMANPOUR: And it's been said that Americans of this generation have not yet internalized what apparently a lot of military, certainly NATO

military, believe, that it's not inconceivable that there could be a great power war again, and that you have to prepare for it. Do you think people

at home, even in Europe, understand how difficult a situation we're living through right now?

BROWN, JR.: Well, what I'll tell you, I have a sense it's coming along. And having, you know, worked in the Indo-Pacific before here in Europe and

in the Middle East, I've watched over the years and particularly over the past few years, how the awareness not only for those of us in uniform, but

with our elected leadership and the American public.

And we got to continue to remind folks that when you look at the situation that we're seeing that we just can't watch. We got to be -- we got to



AMANPOUR: Be vigilant and lead. And much more of that interview, of course, tomorrow.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from Normandy. And we'll leave you now with some more poignant images from this historic day.