TOURNIERES, France – The village of Tournières, like many other small French municipalities during WWII, was heavily occupied by German forces and very unaware of its fate. However, it would later realize the name Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his command post First Advance Headquarters Supreme Allied Expeditionary Force Headquarters, known today as Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army Europe, would forever be a part of its history.
This year marks the 74th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 -- most commonly known as D-Day. The events of D-Day forged partnerships and reinforced transatlantic bonds that remain strong today. Overall, U.S. service members from 20 units in Europe and the U.S. will participate in events and ceremonies in almost 40 locations throughout the Normandy region of France as part of Joint Task Force Normandy 74 until June 7.
U.S Army Europe Soldiers, WWII veterans, local leaders and residents gathered here at the General Eisenhower Monument on June 2 for a wreath-laying ceremony to pay homage to the memory of the Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for liberation of the people in this region of France. Tournières, liberated June 9, 1944, served as the hub for the first military command post on the European continent from August through September 1944.
Serving as guest speakers for the momentous occasion was U.S. Army Europe Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli and Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of the late Gen. Eisenhower..
“It is a privilege, not least, because of the patch I wear as the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe,” Cavoli said. “It is similar to the patch that General Eisenhower’s headquarters used; in fact, we inherited directly the history of his headquarters.”
“Every time I put on this patch, it reminds me of the sacrifice of the “Greatest Generation” as they brought peace to Europe,” he added. “It reminds me of the huge price that the United States, France and all of our allies paid to liberate this continent.”
Cavoli then went on to explain the symbolism of the patch he and all the Soldiers of U.S. Army Europe wear on their uniforms every day.
“The symbolism of the patch is important and powerful,” Cavoli said. It began with a Norman shield, which was originally black, representing the occupied continent; the flaming sword is the sword of freedom, the sword of liberation and the sword of justice; the rainbow contains the colors of the national flags of the alliance. All of this is below a blue sky -- the symbol of a peaceful future for Europe.
Eisenhower’s granddaughter and newly appointed honorary citizen of Tournières reverberated the same message as Cavoli before unveiling the design of the new Eisenhower Memorial, currently under construction in Washington, D.C.
“The new design will display the beaches of Normandy in peacetime,” she said. “It will be important for all of us as this memorial will link forever in the American mind our deepest connection to this part of France. It will serve to symbolize for all of America…the vital importance of our alliance.”
Cavoli emphasized the importance of this event and those taking place over the following days.
“Celebrating commemorations of the liberation of this continent is very important,” Cavoli said. “It serves as a reminder to ourselves, the cost of liberty and the price we’ve paid as a country along with our allies, for the freedom we all enjoy today.”