African fighters honored as France commemorates WWII landings in Provence

France paid tribute to the fighters coming from Africa and its former colony at a ceremony on Thursday marking the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings in Provence in World War Two which helped liberate southern France.

“The names, the faces, the lives of these heroes of Africa must be part of our lives as free citizens,” said French President Emmanuel Macron when addressing the ceremony held in Saint-Raphael, in the southeast of the country.

Alpha Conde, President of Guinea, and Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, were present at the ceremony.

The choir of the French army sang the song of the Africans, the song of the Commandos of Africa and the Marseillaise. The Patrouille de France flew over the necropolis.

On Aug. 15, 1944, two months after the Normandy landings, some 450,000 soldiers landed on the Provencal coast, among whom were 260,000 French army combatants, mainly soldiers from Africa.

Called “Dragoon”, the operation consisted in liberating South France from the German occupation, in order to regain the ports of Toulon and Marseilles and to go up along the Rhone to join the armies that landed in June in Normandy.

On its website, the French presidency said that this episode is also the sacrifice of tens of thousands of Africans who have saved the honor of France. “They gave their lives, sometimes for territories they had never walked in before, and being for a very long time never recognized. They are part of our memory, our history.”