It's been 75 years since 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches and paddocks of France, in what's known as D-Day.
The huge landing effort created the momentum to defeat Adolf Hitler, and liberate Europe.
Queen Elizabeth II hosted representatives from all the allied nations of World War II - New Zealand represented by Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy.
"Seventy-five years ago, hundreds of thousands of young soldiers sailors and airmen left these shores in the cause of freedom," the Queen said.
But it wasn't about the politicians and diplomats, it was about the veterans.
"We had around 11,000 men engaged in D-Day in the RAF and Navy - around 6,000 were pilots and around 4700 in the navy," Dame Patsy said.
Just seven New Zealand D-Day veterans are still alive. None could make it to these commemorations, but hundreds of their British and American counterparts represented them.
"I always wondered where those poor soldiers were going, and that's stuck in my mind for years and years and years," veteran Horace Thurston said.
Veteran Guy Harrison said he didn't remember a lot from the war.
"I have had flashbacks but nothing to worry about."
Dame Patsy said Kiwi soldiers are remembered fondly.
"They all knew the Kiwis and I think we did make a big impression."
Thousands watched the commemoration event in Portsmouth, which concluded with the veterans boarding a cruise ship and crossing the Channel to Normandy. In the skies above, hundreds of paratroopers jumped from aircraft - including 97-year-old Tom Rice, who made the same jump 75 years ago:
"The D-Day jump I landed standing up for the most part and then went down to my knees and bounced a couple times, because I had so much equipment and I had a difficult time getting out of that equipment," Rice said.
A leap of faith that helped save the world from Hitler.