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World War I and II Commemorations in France

U.S. troops disembark from landing vehicle on Utah Beach
U.S. troops disembark from landing vehicle on Utah Beach
Regional Council of Basse-Normandie/U.S.National Archives

This year, France will commemorate the tragedy and heroism of the two World Wars, those cataclysmic events that changed the face of Europe and marked the 20th century.

A major focus will be on D-Day, in Normandy. On the sixth of June, 1944, over 160,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers landed on a 50 miles stretch of the French coast. They were supported by 195,000 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel. This amphibious invasion was the largest in world history. D-Day lasted for 100 days, and led to the exhaustion of the German army and the liberation of France.

There will be new museums, exhibits, tours, concerts, historical re-enactments, parachute jumps, and a heightened experience at annual festivals for this 70th anniversary.

Caen Memorial
The essential World War II memorial is in the town of Caen bombed in the summer of 1944. Today it is the leading memorial center of Europe.
The Caen Memorial Centre for History and peace has inaugurated a new exhibit space that recreates General Richter’s subterranean bunker, with staging that shows the military aspects of the German Occupation.

In the Arromanches, a 360 degree circular cinema, will show a 19-minute film, projected on nine screens, telling the story of the 100 days of the Battle of Normandy that exhausted the German army. The film includes previously unseen footage from Canadian, American, English, French and German archives

The Overlord Museum
This new museum has an exceptional collection of over ten thousand objects and documents found on Norman soil, gathered over more than 40 years by first-hand witnesses to the conflict.

The Airborne Museum
Follow the trail of U.S. parachutists form the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions during the nights of June 5 and 6, 1944. The museum collection includes aircraft, documents, ammunition and first-hand testimonies. And to make it real, there will be parachute drops by civilian and military people from several countries.

D-Day Festival
This year, the annual festival will be heightened. In addition to the ceremonies, concerts and fireworks, there will be major processions of military vehicles.

Among the many tours, some of the most distinctive are led by historical experts. The “Follow the Invasion Tour”, from Verstraete Travel, begins with a guided tour of London, followed by a crossing of the English Channel by boat. Then a landing at Dieppe Beaches, a tour of Normandy. It ends at the 70the Anniversary commemoration at the June Beach Center on June 6th. Another D-Day 70th Anniversary Tour starts in Paris, travels to Normandy, and visits WWII and WWI battlefields, including Dieppe, Beaumont Hamel, Vimy Ridge and the Menin Gate. It ends in Amsterdam.

One Hundred Years Since the Great War

Commemorating WWI will be exhibitions and events in various regions of France. In Paris, the Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris will present Paris during the conflict, as seen through the lens of newly discovered photographer, Charles Lansiaux (1855-1939).

Le Chemin des Hommes. Eric Poitevin. In 1985, Eric Poitevin took portrait photos of almost all of the WWI survivors. The result, 100 exceptional photogrpahs, will be presented at the Lille Metropolitan Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Inauguration of the 6th continent.This work, by landcape architect Gilles Clement, is meant to be a place of peace. It will open opposite the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Somme, almost a century after the assassination of Sarajevo, which threw the world into the first world conflict.

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