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Reflections on the Anniversary of Operation Dragoon and the Common Interests We share with Allies

September 4, 2014 at 9:21 AM UTC

The following is a blog from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Adm. Mark Ferguson, reflecting on his participation in the 70th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon and the opportunity to meet with veterans from this historic operation. This blog also highlights his engagements with our British and French allies while in Toulon, France.

The following is a blog from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Adm. Mark Ferguson, reflecting on his participation in the 70th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon and the opportunity to meet with veterans from this historic operation. This blog also highlights his engagements with our British and French allies while in Toulon, France.

I had the pleasure of visiting Toulon, France from 14-16 Aug. and participating in a series of events commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Southern France. The first engagement was an opportunity to meet the United Kingdom’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas; and Admiral Bernard Rogel, the Chief of Staff of the French Navy. With a shared understanding of the volatile security environment in the Middle East and North Africa, we were able to have a focused discussion on the utility of collective naval power to meet our common interests in the maritime domain.

I discussed three main points:

1. The requirement to be ready for high-end, naval warfare against potential adversaries who could pose highly disruptive threats to our collective security.

2. The introduction of more U.S. Navy capabilities to the European theater capable of contributing to Maritime Domain Awareness, Ballistic Missile Defense, and credible combat power alongside our Allies and Partners.

3. The need for speed with regard to NATO reaction time - the requirement to sharpen NATO’s ability to quickly respond to a crisis.

140814-N-ZZ999-001 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Aug. 15, 2014) – Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, speaks with Lt. Col. (ret.) Ray Windmill, a veteran of the Royal Armed Forces, aboard the aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) as part of events commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon. Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion that led to the liberation of southern France in World War II. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. (ret.) Ray Windmill) Join the conversation on Twitterfollow us on Facebook and while you're at it check us out on Google+

 

Later in the day aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, I had the opportunity to meet veterans of the Aug. 15, 1944 invasion of Southern France, also known as Operation DRAGOON. Meeting veterans from World War II is becoming increasingly rare, and I was grateful for the opportunity to meet such a courageous and humble group of men. That said, I was struck by how the passage of time has neither diminished the magnitude of their undertaking, nor the respect that they command.

I took great pride in reassuring our aging veterans that today’s Sailors are committed to preserving the freedom for which they and so many others so valiantly and bravely secured. President Eisenhower perhaps best captured the spirit of our enduring dedication when he wrote, “We owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice; and with the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live eternally.” The French Navy celebrated the August 1944 liberation of Southern France with an impressive ceremony, further reminding us of how grateful they are as a nation for the sacrifices Allied service members made to restore their freedom.

140816-N-UE250-260 DRAGUIGNAN, France (Aug. 16, 2014) Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and Uzra Zeya, U.S. Charge d'Affaires to France, place a wreath during a remembrance ceremony at Rhone American Cemetery for service members who died during the Allied landing in Southern France during World War II. The event was held in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon, which led to the liberation of Southern France by Allied forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corey Hensley/Released) Join the conversation on Twitter follow us on Facebook and while you're at it check us out on Google+

 

On Aug. 16, I participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Rhone American Cemetery. For 70 years, the village of Draguignan has cared for the American servicemen and women who gave their lives for the liberation of France from the Nazis. I encourage all of our Sailors throughout Europe to visit the American Battle Monuments Commission Cemeteries in France and Luxembourg if the opportunity presents itself. It will be time well-spent, and you will value the experience.

In closing, I would like to express my appreciation to our French hosts for a moving display of gratitude and remembrance. I would also like to commend USS Mount Whitney and the CNE-CNA-C6F team who participated in these events.

140816-N-UE250-234 DRAGUIGNAN, France (Aug. 16, 2014) Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, delivers remarks during a remembrance ceremony at Rhone American Cemetery for service members who died during the Allied landing in Southern France during World War II. The event commemorated the 70th anniversary of Operation Dragoon, which led to the liberation of Southern France by Allied Forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corey Hensley/Released) Join the conversation on Twitter follow us on Facebook and while you're at it check us out on Google+