Last Thursday, August 29, was a day of warm remembrance for Americans and their oldest of allies, the French.
Gathering in Washington DC, French and U.S. military officers as well as Americans who simply love France, commemorated the liberation of Paris 75 years before.
In both a Mass of Thanksgiving at Washington’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral, followed by a luncheon at the Army-Navy Club, and concluding with a concert at the World War II Memorial, the French said “Merci!” to Americans who oversaw their liberation from Nazi captors.
Americans graciously returned the salute.
These remarkable events were the work of the First Alliance, a private nonprofit foundation, to commemorate the strategic alliance between France and the U.S. and to advance the goals of its military leaders.
“It is fitting and timely that we do this, as the liberation of Paris cemented an alliance that began with Lafayette helping America become a free and independent country,” said the Honorable Carole L. Brookins, who launched First Alliance in 2017.
Former World Bank executive Brookins also pointed out that from the joint effort by the Free French resistance and the Allied Forces in World War II, the Liberation returned a democratic form of government back to France after more than four years of the puppet Vichy dictatorship.
Emerging to lead that government was the soldier who led the Free French in exile and went on to become the father of modern France: General Charles DeGaulle.
The Mass at St. Matthew’s was celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese of the United States, and its homilist was Bishop Antoine de Romanet of the Diocese of the French Armed Forces.
Bishop de Romanet hushed the worshipers by bringing to life the scene of the French welcoming the Americans and their own resistance as conquering heroes as they marched past the Eiffel Tower.
Over lunch, participants heard Dr. Michael Neiberg, chair of War Studies at the U.S. Army War College, recall little-known but intriguing facts about the liberation: how Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and his colleagues “miraculously” avoided a repeat in Paris of the recent Polish liberation in which Warsaw was “flattened to the ground;” how the movie legend of a German officer disobeying Hitler’s orders to burn Paris to the ground is “pure mythology;” and the storied “uprising of the Paris police” who refused German orders to surrender their guns and hung the French Tri-Color outside their headquarters rather than the swastika.
The memorable celebration concluded with a ceremony at the World War II memorial. Among the speakers were two distinguished members of the First Alliance’s Senior Advisory Board, retired Lieutenant Gen. Mick Kicklighter and Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the Supreme Allied Commander who became the 34th U.S. President.
Events concluded with the playing of the anthems of both France and the U.S. were played by the U.S. Army band—“Pershing’s Own,” as the marching musicians are known for being started by the legendary World War I general.
It is no secret that modern leaders of France and the U.S. have their differences—the most recent case in point being the differences between Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump over climate change and Russian involvement in the G-7. But differences over policy and clashing personalities are transcended by the historical bond between the two nations that was celebrated in Washington and will continue to be celebrated, thanks to the First Alliance.
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