By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Drew Verbis, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa Public Affairs
Rear Adm. Matthew A. Zirkle, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-CNA) Chief of Staff, delivered remarks during ceremonies in Grasse and Bar-sur-Loup, France, to commemorate the 57th French-American Navy Grasse Day honoring the legacy of French Admiral Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse, Sept. 22, 2019.
De Grasse is best known for his command of the French fleet during the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, the last year of the American Revolutionary War. His actions led to the defeat of the British, who surrendered at Yorktown and yielded victory to the Americans.
“Over 240 years ago, a group of 13 British colonies in the New World set out on an ambitious quest to form a country founded on the principles of liberty and democracy,” said Zirkle. “This quest was not without help from our French friends, who shared similar values and came to our aid during the American Revolution.”
Each year, a commemoration is held at the foot of the Admiral de Grasse statue, which signifies the historic friendship between France and America, two nations united by common values. This ceremony also pays homage to the Sailors and Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice to build a safer and more just world.
Zirkle highlighted the importance of commemorating Grasse Navy Day. “We must continue to honor and remember the admiral’s legacy of coming to the aid of an ally. It is my great hope that we continue this tradition, building on this genuine friendship between France and the United States for many generations to come.”
France holds a special place for Americans, dating back to the Revolutionary War as America’s first ally. More than two million U.S. service members came to France in defense of our shared liberties in WWII. Of these, more than 68,000 are buried or memorialized at American cemeteries in France.
“Fast forward to today, France and the United States are still conducting maritime operations together across the globe,” said Zirkle. “From carrier strike group operations to anti-submarine warfare exercises and ballistic missile defense, our navies have built a strong and invaluable relationship forged by a common bond of safety and security at sea. I think that if Admiral de Grasse were with us today that he would be very pleased to see that the sacrifices his men made during the Battle of the Chesapeake have resulted in an unshakeable maritime alliance between our two great nations.”
CNE-CNA, headquartered in Naples, Italy, oversees joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, join, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.