The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle anchored off the naval city of Toulon was at the forefront of ceremonies to commemorate what has been dubbed ‘The Forgotten D-Day’. On board were dignitaries from 28 nations.
President Francois Hollande paid tribute to the men – many of whom were from France’s then-African colonies – who took part in Operation Dragoon in August 1944.
“I want to pass on to you the gratitude of France. It is thanks to you that it is again a sovereign country, it is thanks to you that it became a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations after the war. To the young of Africa, I want to say we have not forgotten the sacrifice of the old and that France knows what it owes them,” he said.
The modern might of France’s military laid on a show for those on board.
Seventy years ago Toulon and the region was in the hands of the Germans. The objective of the Allied mission was to secure the deep water port and drag the enemy forces away from the Normandy front.
Around 450,000 troops took part storming the beaches and parachute drops.
Success came within two weeks, the south of France was liberated, but with the loss of nearly 3,000 troops in Toulon alone.