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France and US share eternal flame for D-Day Commemoration

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An eternal flame that was first lit in Paris over a century ago has made its way to the United States to honor the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, a significant event during World War II. The “Flame of Liberty,” or “Flamme de la Liberte,” was originally kindled on November 11, 1923, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. This single flame, encased in a white lantern, was brought to Arlington National Cemetery in time for Memorial Day in a display of gratitude from France, the European ally. The journey of the flame to the U.S. was orchestrated by 34 young French ambassadors, most of whom were aged 23 or younger.

The flame, originating from the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris, symbolizes France’s appreciation for the sacrifices made by its allies during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. French Ambassador Laurent Bili emphasized the significance of the flame as a representation of the camaraderie and friendship shared amongst soldiers during World War II. The storming of Normandy, also known as D-Day or Operation Overlord, marked a crucial turning point in the war, leading to the liberation of Europe from Nazi control. Dr. Jim Ginther, the lead archivist at the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum, highlighted the strategic importance of the beach landings as part of the allied plan to create a second front against Germany and relieve pressure on Soviet forces.

The journey of the “Flame of Liberty” to the U.S. involved a transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary II, culminating in its arrival in Washington, D.C. The flame was presented at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, where ceremonies commemorated the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The French Ambassador noted that this was only the second time the eternal flame had been brought to America, with the first occasion being in 1949. This year’s anniversary held particular significance due to the presence of numerous veterans who had participated in the historic D-Day invasion, underscoring the importance of honoring their service and sacrifices.

Reflecting on the historical context of the Normandy landings, Ginther explained the allied strategy of invading Europe to secure the final defeat of Germany. The invasion of Europe, which began with D-Day, was pivotal in shifting the tides of the war and ultimately leading to the liberation of the continent from Nazi control. The French Ambassador emphasized the importance of commemorating this year’s anniversary as one of the last major events involving a significant number of veterans who played a crucial role in the Normandy landings. Following the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, the “Flame of Liberty” will be kept lit at the French embassy until the flame naturally extinguishes itself, marking the conclusion of the commemorative events surrounding the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

In conclusion, the arrival of the “Flame of Liberty” in the U.S. is a poignant gesture of gratitude from France to its allies who fought side by side during the tumultuous period of World War II. The flame serves as a symbol of unity, friendship, and remembrance, honoring the sacrifices and bravery of soldiers who participated in the Normandy landings. As the flame burns brightly at the French embassy following the commemorative ceremonies, it stands as a reminder of the enduring legacy of D-Day and the shared history of France and the United States in the fight for freedom and democracy.

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