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Commemoration of the Call of June 18, by General de Gaulle

Commemoration of the Call of June 18, by General de Gaulle

Published on June 18, 2014
Commemoration of the Call to the French People. Speech by François Delattre, Ambassador of France to the U.S.

Embassy of France, June 18, 2014

See more photos of this event on Flickr.

Mr. Townsend,
General Huntoon,
General Leins,
General Howes,
General Fantuzzi,
Colonel Varhola,
Madam Eisenhower, - it’s an honor to have you with us this morning,
French Veterans, - Cher Président Lucien Stevinou,

American, British, French and Italian friends,

I would also like to express a special word of appreciation to Albert Small and Robert Perry and to pay tribute to them for their exemplary commitment with the Normandy Institute, promoting remembrance for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and passing the torch to younger generation.

Albert Small is one of France’s heroes, since he is himself a World War II veteran. He deserves a wide round of applause.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor to welcome you all today to the French Embassy on this very special occasion, as we are gathered here this morning to commemorate the 74th Anniversary of General de Gaulle’s call to the French Nation on June 18, 1940.

May I extend a special world of welcome to our honorees, whom I will present very shortly with France’s highest distinctions. Their presence and that of their families and friends are testimony of the longstanding friendship and solidarity shared by our countries.

Last week, I had the great honor of accompanying President Hollande and President Obama to the landing beaches of Normandy to take part in the ceremonies of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in the presence of many surviving allied veterans. We all assembled to remember Operation “Overlord”, the largest amphibious undertaking ever which was a turning point in World War II, thus altering the course of history.

It was the day when, as President Hollande stated during his speech at the cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer “Our people came together to fight the same battle, the battle of freedom”.

France will never forget the blood spilled by the more than 20 000 Allied soldiers – our liberators, our heroes – who perished while storming Omaha, Utah, the Pointe du Hoc. They made the ultimate sacrifice to liberate France and Europe from occupation and oppression.

The American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer and its over 9,000 white crosses are a deeply moving testimony of the sacrifices endured by the American people who always answered the call of duty whenever the existence of our country was in jeopardy.

We will never forget.

If I may, before listening to General de Gaulle’s speech, I think a brief historical recount of that momentous event of the 20th century is in order.

In June 1940, after days of fierce combats during which over 100.000 French military personnel lost their lives in less than a month, the new French Government announced its intention to sign an armistice with the enemy. General de Gaulle then decided to fly to London to call on the French nation to resist and to carry on the fight.

It is on June 17, 1940, that General de Gaulle flew from Bordeaux to London where, on that same day, he met with Winston Churchill who agreed to have the General broadcast his appeal from the BBC.

At the end of the day, news reached London that the French Government had just announced that the fight against the Germans should cease. General de Gaulle then decided to broadcast his speech the very next day.

In the morning of June 18, he drafted «a message to the French people » whom he submitted to Churchill. He headed to the BBC and, at 6 pm, read his famous message of hope and courage. This speech of June 18 was not recorded, but it echoed for a very long time among the French resistance fighters.

In the following days, General de Gaulle broadcasted several others appeals to resist. I now invite you to listen to his speech of June 18th.

Remise des décorations

The Legion of Honor that I will bestow upon Mr. Townsend in a minute was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to recognize outstanding services rendered to France, based on a decision by the President of the French Republic. It is France’s highest award and one the most coveted in the world.

Jim Townsend,

You graduated from the prestigious Duke University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. You then embarked on a distinguished career as a civil servant in the U.S. Department of Defense specializing in Europe, the Transatlantic Relationship and NATO.

You served successively in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency as Country Director for European Security Assistance, then as Deputy Director of European Policy from 1990 to 1998, where you played a key role in the enlargement of NATO and in building new relations between the United States and the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe.

As Country Director for Northern Europe, you also developed new post-Cold War defense relations between the United States and the Scandinavian nations. You were also engaged in the Balkan crisis and in building the European coalition that fought with the US in the Gulf War.

From 1998 to 2006, you were assigned to the U.S. Mission at NATO Headquarters in Brussels as Director of European and NATO Policy. In that capacity, during the war in Iraq, you spared no effort to promote the French-American relationship.

Since 2009, as Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense in charge of European Policy and NATO at the Pentagon, the French Embassy has much appreciated your expertise, that is second to none, and your friendship. Indeed, you have been one of the main architects of the excellent cooperation developed between the U.S. and the French Departments of Defense.

You have always demonstrated a willingness to understand France’s position in order to integrate them in the decision-making process at the highest levels of the U.S. Department of Defense.
On a more personal basis, you like history - your office looks like a museum - and you and your children speak fluent French.

On behalf of the President of the French Republic, and in recognition of your unfailing commitment to strengthening the U.S.-French relationship, between the French and American Defense services in particular, it is now my privilege to bestow upon you the insignia of Knight, Chevalier, of the Legion of Honor.

Jim Townsend,
Au nom du Président de la République, nous vous remettons les insignes de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Before presenting General Leins, General Huntoon, General Fantuzzi and Colonel Varhola with the French National Order of Merit, let me just say a few words about this distinction, one of France’s highest.

The “Ordre National du Mérite” was created in 1963 by General de Gaulle, the then President of France, to recognize distinguished merits, both military and civilians, rendered to the French nation. Although it is a more recent order of knighthood, it is actually derived from much older traditions, the traditions of the Order of Military Merit instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte.

General Christopher Leins,

You are a graduate of the prestigious Military Academy of West Point and of the U.S. Army War College.

After your command duty, you specialized in Africa. In 2009, you were assigned as Deputy Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in Djibouti, alongside the French Armed Forces.

In early 2010, you assumed the duties of Director of Political Military African Affairs in the Strategic Plans and Policy Division at the U.S. Joint Staff at the Pentagon. As the Senior Military Officer responsible for the development of strategy and policy recommendations for all military issues related to 53 African countries, you provided expert military advice and policy guidelines on a wide range of African Security challenges to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council.

You dealt more specifically with crises in Sudan, Somalia, the Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Libya and the Central African Republic.

In that capacity, you showed a clear understanding of the French policy in Africa and spared no effort to strengthen the collaboration and coordination between the ministries of defense of our two nations, especially since France’s engagement in Mali.

Indeed, you played a key role in conveying to the French Defense Mission the Pentagon’s decisional process and position regarding France’s requests for logistical support during Operation “Serval”. We much appreciated your and America’s support in this fight against Al-Qaida in Africa.

In recognition of your unwavering support during our mission in Mali, the President of the Republic has awarded you the medal of the National Order of Merit with the rank of Officer.

General Christopher Leins,
Au nom du Président de la République, nous vous remettons les insignes d’Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite.

General David Huntoon,

You started your military career at the prestigious United States Military Academy of West Point in 1973. Over the next 13 years, you served as an Infantry Officer in a series of command and staff assignments in the United States and Germany.

Later, while serving with the 18th U.S. Airborne Corps, you were deployed as a Senior War Plans Officer in Operations “Desert Shield” and “Desert Storm”. In that capacity you worked closely with French Armed forces, coordinating and planning with the 6th Light Armored Division of the French Army, in what was then the first collaboration of US-French Forces at that level since World War II.

Subsequently, you commanded several units including in Korea, in Washington DC - the 3rd US Infantry Regiment - also known as “the Old Guard”, and at Fort Hood, Texas, - the 1st Cavalry Division - .
You also led some of the top military educational establishments: the US Army Command and General Staff College, the US Army War College and the US Military Academy at West Point, your Alma Mater. In all of these institutions, you were very supportive of the visiting French officers and cadets.

As an exemplary and charismatic general officer, you have always been very attentive to the quality of the French-American relationship and never failed to give special consideration to France and its military leaders. The time you spent in Orleans, France, during your father’s assignment to a NATO base in the 1960ies, might have sown the seeds of your close relationship with the French Armed Forces.
For that reason, the President of the French Republic has decided to award you the medal of the National Order of Merit in the rank of Knight.

Lieutenant General David Huntoon,
Au nom du Président de la République, nous vous remettons les insignes de Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite.

General Giovanni Fantuzzi,

You entered the Italian Air Force Academy in 1977 and graduated at the top of your class with an aeronautical engineering degree. In 1981, you did your pilot training at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona, followed by the “Fighter Lead In” course at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico and you were awarded the Top Gun Award.

After deciding to become a test pilot, in 1987, you attended the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California and spent several years at the Italian Air Force Test Center where you tested almost every type of aircraft. In 2002, you were assigned Commanding Officer of the Air Force Test Center.

In 2003, you assumed the duties of Chief of Aeronautical Programs in the National Armament Directorate where you served as Manager of the Joint Strike Fighter Program.

As Brigadier General, you were posted as Chief of Staff to the Air Force Logistics Command in Rome from 2007 to 2009, and, later, as Chief of Plans and Policy Division on the Air Staff from 2009 to 2012. In these capacities, you were deeply involved in the Italian Air Force operation in Afghanistan, as well as in Libya.

However, it is while serving in the Italian Armament Directorate that you played a very active role in the work conducted jointly with the French Air Force.

And as Head of the Plans office at the Italian Air Force Headquarters, you were responsible for the coordination of international cooperation actions, and more specifically with the French Air Force. In that capacity, you gave a major impulse to the operational cooperation with our Air Force.

In recognition of your commitment to strengthening the bilateral cooperation between the French and the Italian Air Forces, the President of the Republic has awarded you the French National Order of Merit with the rank of Knight.

General Giovanni Fantuzzi,
Au nom du Président de la République, nous vous remettons les insignes de Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite.

Colonel Laura Varhola,

You were commissioned an officer in the Military Police Corps. Subsequently, you were detached to the officers’ corps specialized in service abroad and attended the Staff Officers’ Course in France in 2001. Thereafter, you served in various Embassy postings in Africa. Upon your return to the United States, you joined the African Division at the U.S. Joint Staff at the Pentagon as Head of Central, East and South Africa Division in the Deputy-Directorate of African Politico-Military Affairs.

In that position, you have been working very closely with the French Military Attachés in charge of African affairs. You have shared relevant analyses on crises in that area, which have helped French officials make informed decisions but also contributed to a close and growing partnership between our two countries on Africa.

In recognition of your valuable and continuous support to our Military Attachés, the French Government has awarded you the medal of the National Order of Merit with the rank of Knight.

Colonel Laura Varhola,
Au nom du Président de la République, nous vous remettons les insignes de Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite.

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