France holds 70th ‘southern D-Day’ tributes with African leaders
French President François Hollande honoured the hundreds of thousands of troops on Friday who stormed the south of France 70 years ago to open up a second western front against Hitler’s Nazis during World War II.
Tens of thousands of African soldiers were involved in “Operation Dragoon”, mainly from Algeria and Morocco as well as Senegal and soldiers from Pacific islands, and hastened France’s liberation from the Nazis and the end of World War II.
Hollande was joined by 15 leaders from France’s former African colonies and around 240 veterans, many of them in their 90s, in Toulon in the southern region of Provence.
“By their sacrifice, these men bound our country to Africa with a bond of blood that no one can undo,” said Hollande, adding that the landings “changed everything.”
“It was here that France liberated itself, with the support of the Allies,” Hollande said.
Ten weeks after the success of the Normandy beach landings, the 15 August, 1944 southern landings opened a much-needed second front to force the Germans to abandon southern France and the ports of Marseille and Toulon.
On the first evening, some 100,000 soldiers arrived on France's southern beaches and ultimately numbered around 450,000 and 881 warships to liberate the south and force the Germans to quickly retreat.
The cities of Toulon, Cannes and Marseille were liberated on 28 August, 1944.
Hollande will lead two ceremonies on Friday, including one above the Mediterranean shore in Toulon on Mount Faron and aboard the anchored aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
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