U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Chief of Staff Rear Adm. Matthew A. Zirkle delivered remarks during a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of Operation Dragoon at the Rhone American Cemetery, Aug. 16, 2019.
Operation Dragoon, known as the “Forgotten Invasion,” was the code name used for the Allied offensive in Southern France on Aug. 15, 1944. A total of 450,000 Sailors and Soldiers participated and removed German forces, immediately liberating Marseille and Toulon. Casualties included 3,000 American and 10,000 French service members. Allied forces who participated in the raid included the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa, and Madagascar.
“As we look out across the beautiful and serene landscape here at the Rhone American Cemetery, we see 1,152 monuments to courage, loyalty, honor, and duty who fought valiantly during this most important operation,” said Zirkle. “Each headstone and inscription represents an individual who never saw their family again, was unable to live their life to its fullest - a future never realized. They represent the ultimate sacrifice one can give in service to others. Every one of those brave men and women who died during the fierce fighting here 75 years ago, died a hero.”
Zirkle talked about how Operation Dragoon remains a historic reminder of how the dedicated resolve of allies with a common purpose and shared vision can build partnerships that endure.
“To our French brothers and sisters-in-arms, may I also say ‘merci’ for your valiant service,” said Zirkle. “France is the United States’ oldest ally, dating back to the American War for Independence. Our bond of friendship and shared values of liberty and democracy were greatly solidified during the darkest days of World War II. Seventy-five years later, French and American forces still work together to provide stability and security around the world.”
While the nature of war has changed dramatically, and the battlefield has shifted into other domains, the courage and valor of the service members who took part in Operation Dragoon are everlasting. The maneuvers of Operations Dragoon and Overlord, commonly referred to as D-Day, gave birth to our modern-day, multi-national operations and forged partnerships and bonds we value and continue to benefit from to this day.
“The freedom that France, the United States, and Europe enjoy today was earned by the blood and sacrifice of those interred in these hallowed grounds,” said Zirkle.
We cannot and will not forget their sacrifice”
To commemorate the anniversary of Operation Dragoon, multi-national service members participated in approximately 25 ceremonies from Aug. 14-17 throughout six French communities in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of Southern France and include performances by the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band and a port visit by the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75).
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests, and security and stability in Europe and Africa.