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The 70th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony of the D-Day Invasion at Normandy; Updates on Bowe Bergdahl's Health; Police in Seattle Trying to Determine Motive for A Deadly Shooting; Radio Legend Casey Kasem in Critical Condition

Aired June 6, 2014 - 04:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is an historic morning. World leaders coming together to join thousands of veterans on the beaches of Normandy. It was 70 years ago this morning, brave soldiers from around the globe banded together to bring town the Nazis, the Third Reich, marking the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler. We're bringing you the live moments of remembrances, the commemorations, the pageantry this morning. President Obama just minutes away from his speech as we have live team coverage starting right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. And it is 30 minutes past the hour.

ROMANS: So in less than an hour President Obama will deliver a speech at Omaha Beach. One of 17 heads of state on hand at Normandy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, an invasion that liberated Europe and basically painted the standard of living for millions of people in the decades that followed. Thousands have gathered in the historic French village to honor 150,000 fallen soldiers who helped defeat Adolf Hitler.

White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is traveling with the president, she joins us live from Colleville-sur-Mer in France. Welcome this morning. For anybody who hasn't had a chance to visit those beaches, it is remarkable. The feeling standing there of knowing the kind of history that happened on that day and the hours and days after, Michelle, and then how it changed the world. It's a remarkable place.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi Christine. Right, this is my first time here. And you are right, you get the sense that you can't believe that so much happened in this very place 70 years ago today. I mean this American cemetery behind us, more than 9,000 are buried there. You look at the list of casualties from that one day of battle. On this beautiful day today, well on that day it was terrible weather. That just contributed to the difficulties, the arduous journey up that beach these American servicemen had along with allies. Thousands killed in a single day.

You compare that to the Iraq and Afghanistan war, that's the about the same number killed in a day than in those two modern wars combined over the course of their entirety. It really is remarkable and soon we'll be hearing from the president. He's going to meet with some Normandy veterans that are here, that made the journey here today. He's going to meet with leaders. There will be remarks in about an hour. Later on in the day, there's some other events, there is a world leaders lunch and then there's an official ceremony before he leaves here and heads back to Paris.

So luckily, it's a beautiful day for this here. You really get a sense of the solemnity of it, seeing a lot of veterans walking around with their families, walking around some of these graves, paying their respects and visiting them and everyone eager to hear exactly what President Obama will say. We know that he's going to make reference to the great sacrifice during this war in the name of human freedom. Christine.

ROMANS: We talk so much about the bravery of that day, Michelle, but veterans and, I'm sure, the men there today will say they were scared to death, seasick after a night in the rolling ocean waves, terrible weather, freezing cold, losing their gear in the water, walking on to the beach, confronted by German machine gunners, barbed wire and still they kept moving forward. You think about what happened there 70 years ago and see the solemnity of it there right now, a very different picture.

KOSINSIKI: Right. And I know that many of them lied about their ages. You read the stories of some of the people and how it shaped their later lives. Some were 16, 17 years old when they signed up because they really felt the power of this moment at the course of the war. This was really -- D-day was the turning point, you might say. To hear them talk about how much they wanted to be a part of it knowing the danger and the force they were up against.

I remember interviewing a Normandy vet a few years ago in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He had lied about his age. He was just a teenager, and he was talking about how his job that day was to pull the bodies of his fallen comrades out of the water after the invasion happened. To talk about it, he still becomes emotional how much that affected him. Sort of later in life now, one thing he really focuses on is the need for modern day soldiers to get help for PTSD. That wasn't something that was really handled back then or really talked about. It's tough to talk to somebody in their 80s, so far after the fact.

So long since this happened, the emotion that still comes out, it's incredibly touching.

ROMANS: Michelle Kosinski, thank you, so great to see some of those men there. You saw John Kerry there earlier, the secretary of state shaking hands with some of the veterans on hand. That's a big trip, a long trip for someone in their 80s, or 90s.

BERMANS: These are things that stay with you for decade after decade for these men. Of course, as Michelle mentioned, these beaches were stained with blood 70 years ago today. Today is such a different scene. Let's go now to Gold Beach, which looks so different today. Almost a

beautiful location. That's where we find Jim Bittermann in Arromanches-les-Bains in France . Good morning Jim.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. There's been a lot happening already this morning. Starting with a brilliant sunrise this morning. They had a couple people talk about the weather so far. In fact the weather has just been terrific, unlike 70 years ago. Here in Arromanches we have seen a lot of the reconstructs assembling all morning long. There are now hundreds of vehicles on the beach including floating tanks and landing craft and all sorts of things like that.

We have just had, in the last 35 minutes or so, a Dutch ceremony. This is the king and queen of Holland. There's like a collision of ceremonies here today. Very shortly we're going to see the queen Elizabeth in the British cemetery in Bayeux. Prince Charles is already over there. Like you say, President Obama arriving at Colleville-sur- Mer, at the American cemetery.

All up and down the shore, there's something going on. We looked last night, there was a huge fireworks display up and down the 60 miles of coast, 96 kilometers of coast here, as they did, what was almost a recreation of what happened 70 years ago, because the first thing that happened before the invasion were the airborne troops went in and the bombers came over and bombed the German facilities.

So just like 70 years ago, there were a lot of explosions along the coast last night. John.

BERMAN: Jim, it is remarkable to see. You travel to France, you go to Paris and it can be a modern city or a city with so much history, but if you go where you are right now, the remembrances, the visions, the sights from World War II are still there, still so prominent.

BITTERMANN: Absolutely. The people here have very vivid memories. There are many people around who remember the day that liberation began. Some with not so pleasant memories, in fact. One of the things that the President Hollande of France said this morning was that he wanted to recognize the civilian casualties. There were about 20,000 civilian casualties before and after D-Day.

Some towns up here were absolutely flattened. The town of Caen where President Hollande was speaking whit morning, was in fact 75 percent destroyed because the Germans held out there for about six weeks after D-Day and the Americans and other allied forces surrounded the Caen. They couldn't get the Germans to surrender and they just bombed the city flat trying to get the Germans to capitulate, eventually they did of course. But in any case a lot of the communities up here were changed completely by the invasion, not only because they had liberation but also because they had to be rebuilt after the war.

BERMAN: Such a sight, Jim Bittermann at Gold Beach, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

ROMANS: You can still see some of the equipment in the ocean behind him on the beach. It's amazing some of the carriers that brought the men up, that were beached, they have left them there so you can see them out there. You can see the hulking metal rusting equipment that brought the Americans to shore.

BERMAN: Equally as stunning, some of the German defensive positions were so strong they can't be removed, they simply cant be removed 70 years later, which shows you how difficult this invasion really was.

ROMANS: I think some of that is left to show you what happened there too.

A defiant President Obama says there will be absolutely no apologies for the Bowe Bergdahl prison exchange. The White House is facing growing criticism for releasing five Taliban detainees to free the army sergeant. An army sergeant that some call a deserter. Here in Washington angry law-makers are slamming the deal, but administration officials plan to keep hammering home a singular message to justify it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was our last remaining POW. This was our last best chance to get him as this war winds down. That's exactly what we did.

JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: There's a clear record of these people having returned to the fight and in leadership positions because it's a badge of honor to have been in Guantanamo. These are also war criminals. A couple of them were accused of killing thousands of Shiite Muslims. These are the ones that used to take women into the soccer stadium at Kabul and hang them from the goal post. I would certainly not want to release anyone that would pose a risk of further threat to the United States of America.


ROMANS: President Obama says he considers the uproar over the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange politically motivated, calling it business as usual in Washington.

BERMANS: The White House is using a proof of life video to defend this deal to help free Bowe Bergdahl. It reportedly shows the army sergeant in captivity late last year, a different video than this one. In the video that was shown to senators that apparently appeared disoriented and frail. Pentagon officials have showed it to a group of senators including Oklahoma in the Republican Dr. Tom Coburn.

Here's what Senator Coburn said he took from the video.


SEN. TOM COBURN(R-OK), M.D.: He had been drugged. Either with an anti-psychotic or hypnotic drug. You can tell. It's easy. His speech was slurred, he was having trouble reading, he had what's called nystagmus, he had been obviously drugged.


BERMAN: The senator emphasized that this is his observations, he's making these as a physician. He also told CNN that Bergdahl cleared a health check when he arrived in Germany, but his mental and psychological condition, understandably, may not be stable.

ROMANS: When Bowe Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and fell into the hands of the Taliban, it wasn't the first time he had wandered off from an assigned area. A classified military report completed two months after he vanished says it happened twice before. He came back both times. The reports stops short of concluding Bergdahl was a deserter, stops short of making that conclusion. The sergeant is still recovering from five years in captivity at a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

That's where we find Matthew Chance this morning. Matthew, what new are we learning about his condition both now and also in the months leading up to his release?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're not hearing much about what happened to him in the months leading up to his release, except to say that part of the treatment he's been receiving here at the Landstuhl Regional Medical facility, which is a U.S. military hospital in southern Germany, is to do with his nutrition and diet needs after spending nearly five years in captivity. There are issues, which they won't go into, which have to be addressed in terms of his health.

Apart from that on a physical level, the word we're getting from inside the hospital where Sergeant Bergdahl is being treated right now is that he's pretty stable. In fact, every day they are saying that he's getting better. He's also apparently talking to medical staff in English, of course, and is generally more engaged according to their statements in his treatment plan.

So we're seeing some serious signs of improvement each and every day that is here. In terms of the psychology of the issue, his psychological state, that's a different matter altogether. That is something that is being assessed on a daily basis. He's engaged with talks with clinical psychologists to see if they can address the inevitable trauma he will have endured from being in captivity for so long. It is not until he is ready. They say, for him to be reintegrated into society and to meet his family again, will they put him on a plane back home to the United States. That could be some days away at this point. Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Matthew Chance, he would go on to San Antonio for the next stage of his reintegration. Thank you so much for that.

Breaking news overnight, new details about a school shooting that left one person dead and several more in the hospital this morning. We'll tell you what investigators are saying about the suspected gunman, that's next.


ROMANS: This morning police in Seattle trying to determine the motive for a deadly shooting on the campus of Seattle Pacific University. The alleged gunman, identified as 26-year-old, Aaron Ybarra, is now in custody. Authorities say he opened fire with a shotgun inside the school's Otto Miller hall killing one person, wounding two others. Police say a student security guard tackled the shooter as he was reloading and then others helped to hold him down. A third person was injured in the struggle.

Students in the building described the scene to CNN affiliate KRIO.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all got scared and we went up, everyone went up to the front of the classroom and fell on the floor. Then we started checking our phones, social media, the news and that's how we found out what was going on. Then about 30 minutes later the police came and unlocked the door and let us out. We met all in the lobby. That's where, it was taped off, we saw blood on the carpet, bullet shells, blood spatters on the wall, and then they kind of checked our bags, patted us down, and let us out two by two.


ROMANS: One of those wounded in the shooting is in critical condition. Police say the suspect was not a student at the school. Still looking for a motive.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, a 24-year-old suspect in a deadly shooting rampage in Canada taken into custody just this morning. Justin Bourque accused of pulling off one of the worst mass shootings in royal Canadian mounted police history. He had been spotted several times following Wednesdays killing spree, but alluded capture for these two days. He is accuse of killing three police officers and injuring two others in the residential town in New Brunswick.

ROMANS: The family of the Wisconsin girl who was found stabbed 19 times, her family says she's improving, able to get out of her hospital bed. She took a walk with her father. The hospital has upgraded her condition to fair. Two of her classmates have been charged with first degree attempted homicide. Police say they lured her into the woods, attacked her as a tribute to the fictional Internet character Slender Man.

BERMAN: Legendary radio DJ Casey Kasem in critical condition at a hospital in Washington state. The 82 year old is suffering from a form of dementia. His medical care is triggering this bitter family legal battles. His children from a previous marriage have accused his new wife Jean Kasem of not allowing them to see him. Last week a judge granted them daily visits with their father. A spokesman for the hospital says Kasem is alert and comfortable.

ROMANS: All right, severe weather for millions this morning. Deadly storms across the country leaving some communities devastated. Where they are heading today next.

And our coverage of the 70th anniversary of D-Day live from Normandy.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Millions of Americans bracing for another round, another round of severe weather today. Thunderstorms packing damaging winds, torrential rains and hail. This is posing a threat from Colorado to the Gulf coast states. The latest round of severe weather coming on the heels of some powerful storms that battered the Midwest and southeast on Thursday.

BERMAN: Want you to take a look at the damage in Arkansas. These whipping winds snapped tree limbs like toothpicks. Crews are working around the clock to clear this debris. These devastating winds tossing around these small planes. Look at that. At least three people in the state were killed by the severe weather.

ROMANS: More of the same in Topeka, Kansas. Powerful winds uprooting a tree, dropping it right on top of a house. Power lines down all over Topeka. As many as 12,000 people were in the dark at the height of the storm.

BERMAN: You're looking at live pictures of President Obama and the French leader Francois Hollande. They are arriving at the 70th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day invasion. This is just off the beaches in Normandy. A historic event, thousands gathered there to pay their respects.

ROMANS: Seventeen heads of states, so this will be a remarkable show of remembrance from European leaders, from the American president, the queen of England, were told, is there as well.

BERMAN: Think about this, 70 years ago right now, 160,000 men crossing the English channel just setting off on what was the, and still remains, the largest military operation of all time.

ROMANS: Talk about the courage of those men, but the fear as well. Think of it, the weather was terrible, they didn't know when they were going to take the trip. Suddenly they get the go, horrible weather, seasickness and then they hit those beaches and changed history, changed the course of history.

BERMAN: And history still being made there as well. So many world leaders gathered in France for this. We'll talk about this, we will talk about the meetings that president Obama is having with other European leaders, including what could be a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. But that's for later. Right now, we are looking at this solemn moment as world leaders gather to remember the D-Day invasion some 70 years ago.