Commemorating the liberation of Paris 75 years later

Connecting Vets
August 27, 2019 - 1:40 pm
 Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division became the first American division to enter Germany.



by Lt. Gen. Claude (Mick) Kicklighter, USA (R), Special to 

Just before midnight on August 24th, 1944 the battle to liberate Paris during World War II began. The French 2nd Armored Division reached the Hótel de Ville in the heart of Paris. The next morning, they swept clear the western half of Paris while the U.S. 4th Infantry Division cleared the eastern part. Paris was at last free from four long years of a terrible occupation that cost thousands of lives lost.

The symbolic soul of the French nation began its restoration. French and U.S. military forces fought together as they had since the Revolutionary War, as one team united by common values.

The liberation of this iconic European city from Nazi control was a strategic bellwether in the Allied road toward defeating Hitler. It served as an important symbolic victory and a powerful message of hope for all the Allied nations. Following the Liberation of Paris, French forces continued to fight with great success against Nazi Germany as a key partner of the Allied campaign until the end of the War in Europe in May 1945. 

1944: Parisian girls welcome the liberating US troops arriving in Paris.
Getty Images

Despite Nazi Germany’s military power in Europe and the Free French government’s forced exile, the Franco-American alliance remained strong before the landings at Normandy and then throughout the major campaigns across the Continent which led to Allied victory. Free French and Allied forces fought side-by-side from D-Day to V-E Day, united by their common cause to preserve freedom and defeat the forces of the Third Reich. British, American, and Free French troops worked together to clear North Africa of German and Italian troops in Operation Torch in late 1942; Free French forces and resistance groups supported the Allied Invasion of Normandy in June1944; and Free French and American forces fought together with British and Commonwealth forces in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of southern France in late mid-August 1944.

As we observe the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Paris, we remember, honor, recognize and thank those heroes who, through their sacrifice, valor, dedication, and determination liberated Paris in the fight for freedom for this nation and the world. On August 29, I will participate in a commemoration at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. At the ceremony will be a senior delegation from the French Army, including their former Chief of Army, along with the Commander of the Brigade representing the French 2nd Armored Division, which led the combat with the US 4th Infantry Division in August of 1944. The two U.S. Army commands that participated in this historic liberation – the 4th Infantry Division and the 28th Infantry Division – will also be represented by senior leaders and by their battle colors. The 28th Infantry Division deployed into Paris, marched in the Allied Victory parade on August 29, 1944, and then deployed right back into combat that same day.

In times of both war and peace, throughout our history, the role of our Allies has proven essential in preserving the basis for a stable, free, and prosperous world. During World War II, cooperation between the Allied nations was critical in defeating the forces of tyranny and ending the deadliest military conflict in human history. For the United States, alliances have played key roles dating back to our founding in 1776. The “First Alliance” between the U.S. and France has endured with trust, courage, and selfless service in common purpose for nearly 242 years. Today, we commemorate that alliance and honor all the armed forces and civilians who fought and served during the liberation of Paris.

Claude M. “Mick” Kicklighter, Lieutenant General, US Army (Ret)

Lieutenant General Claude M. “Mick” Kicklighter, USA (Ret) served as an Army officer for over 35 years. Highlights of his Army career include serving two tours of duty in Vietnam, commanding the 25th Infantry Division, serving as Director of the Army Staff, and commanding the U.S. Army in the Pacific, from which he retired from active duty in 1991. Since then Mr. Kicklighter has continued to serve our nation. He served on two separate occasions in positions appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, once at the Department of Veterans Affairs (Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning) and once at the State Department. He also served as the Inspector General of the Department of Defense. He later served both as the director of the Center for Infrastructure Protection/Homeland Security at George Mason University in Virginia and as the director of the Department of Defense (DoD) Commemorations Office. He also recently at Mercer University in Georgia.

Mr. Kicklighter has served as chairman of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, as chairman of Habitat for Humanity International, as a member of the Board of Trustees of Mercer University, where he co-chaired the establishment of the Center for Leadership and Ethics, and as a member of the board of Rescue: Freedom International.

Mr. Kicklighter is proud to have been made an Honorary member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota in 1984.