IN CELEBRATION OF THE 75th ANNIVERSARY OF THE “MERCI TRAIN” (1949-2024) via our French-American project #MDFDEFriendshipMerciTrain75 (2024-2025), the Mouvement des Français de l’Etranger (MDFDE) — French and Francophones Abroad — Friends of the Merci Train FRANCE-USA, is joining the Executive Committee of the Association du Souvenir du Général Leclerc de Hauteclocque Maréchal de France and their partner, the Comité de la Voie de la Liberté, via their French-British-American project — La Flamme de la Liberté (the Liberty Flame) Operation Mirror 2024 — celebrating in May 2024 — Under the High Patronage of Mr. Emmanuel MACRON, President of the French Republic — the 80th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings (1944-2024).

Dear MDFDE Friends of the “Merci Train” FRANCE-USA


As officially announced today, we are thrilled to partner with the Association du Souvenir du Général LECLERC DE HAUTECLOCQUE, Maréchal de France, a French non-profit, under the leadership of M. Christian DELAHAYE, president Association du Souvenir du Général LECLERC DE HAUTECLOCQUE and Hervé RACAT, coordinateur COPI “Flamme de la Liberté” (the Liberty Flame) honoring the memory of the General Philippe LECLERC and other legendary men and women; and the Comité de la Voie de la Liberté, presided by Catherine CIRON, honoring the memory of Gen. George S. Patton, his 3rd Army, and Commander Guy de la Vasselais.









WWII 1939-1945. Portrait of Free-French Gen. Philippe LECLERC DE HAUTECLOCQUE (1902-1945), Commander of the 2e DB (the 2nd Armored Division, France), attached to the 3rd U.S. Army of Gen. George S. PATTON (1885-1945), which after final training in Yorkshire (U.K.) received the long-awaited order to disembark on August 1 at Utah Beach, Normandy, leading to his Liberation of Paris, France, August 26, 1944. Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France.

Crowds of French patriots line the Champs Elysees to view Free French tanks and half tracks of Leclerc’s 2e DB pass through the Arc du Triomphe on 26 August 1944, after Paris was liberated. Jack Downey, U.S. Office of War Information – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID fsac.1a55001

Gen. Philippe LECLERC DE HAUTECLOCQUE (1902-1947), the “French Desert Fox,”  the Allied Commander who liberated Paris, named Marshall of France posthumously in 1952, died at the young age of 45, when his North American B-25 Mitchell, Tailly II, carrying him and his staff, crashed near Colomb-Béchar in then French Algeria, North Africa, killing everyone on board. His body was returned to France, where it was taken to Paris along the route that 2e DB had followed in August 1944.

Gen. LECLERC DE HAUTECLOCQUE‘s tragic, unpredictable death, which shocked to the core his fellow military officers and the French people — happened eleven days before the triomphal arrival in the war-torn port of Le Havre of Drew PEARSON’s FRIENDSHIP TRAIN (see below our post MDFDE/FRANCE-USA: 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE “MERCI TRAIN:” THE FRENCH RESPONSE TO DREW PEARSON’S FRIENDSHIP TRAIN).

And that’s how the daring WWII exploits of Gen. LECLERC, Gen. PATTON and his French liaison, Commander Guy de la VASSELAIS, backed by these magnificent, selfless, young soldiers who, on that fateful morning, in the early hours of June 6, 1944 — D-DAY — serving under the central command of Gen. EISENHOWER — to the sound of his simple “Let’s Go!,” freed our parents and grand-parents from Nazi Germany while too many of them died in the bloody waters and on the beaches of Normandy, France… led us to M. Hervé RACAT’s Associa-tion and their fantastic project FLAMME DE LA LIBERTE (the LIBERTY FLAME) Operation Mirror 2024 so we can pay homage to all these fallen WWII heroes, especially all the French, British and American veterans engaged in combat on that horrific day as we celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Normandy Landing and the 75th Anniversary of the “Merci Train,” all together, this year.

As some of you already know, among the gifts packed in the 49 SNCF “48 and 8” boxcars forming the “Merci Train” sent to the people of the United States were some “Bornes de la Liberté,” the Liberty Highway markers — Commander Guy de la Vasselais’s dearest project he also initiated via the “Merci Train,” — another part of my extensive research since 2017 in cooperation with the Comité de la Voie de la Liberté then including M. Jean QUETIER, Mayor of Sainte-Mère-Eglise (2014-2020) and M. Michel SCICLUNA — mayor of Auneau-Bleury-Saint-Syphorien (Eure et Loir) between (2003-2015 and 2016-2020), Commander de la Vasselais’ birthplace, himself elected Mayor in 1945 then Senator of Eure-et-Loir (1959-1962).

As we will continue to report to you the latest news about project Flamme de la Liberté — Operation Mirror 2024 — in connection with the real story of the “Merci Train,” I would like to first express our thanks to M. Hervé RACAT for inviting us aboard his Team; our thanks and gratitude to President Emmanuel MACRON for granting this said project his High Patronage; and our thanks in advance to M. Philippe ETIENNE, our former French Ambassador to the United States, and M. Sébastien LECORNU, Ministre des Armées (French Minister of the Armed Forces), for their precious support and assistance so this very moving French-Anglo-American mission gets all the success it truly deserves.

All the best,

Elisabeth Jenssen Founder & President MDFDE  Chair, #MDFDEFriendshipMerciTrain75

P.S. Please find below the summary of La Flamme de la Liberté — Operation Mirror 2024


Summary of our project

As part of the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, the organizers of the « Flame of Liberty » are proposing to physically transport the Flame of the French Nation to the United States of America, with a stopover in the United Kingdom, which was heavily involved in the liberation and was the point of departure for the Allied armada. A copy of the flame will be deposited at Southwick House, near Portsmouth, which was the headquarters of the Allied naval forces from 1943. It was here that General Eisenhower decided to postpone the landings until June 6, 1944.

The project is also to place this French flame on the tomb of the unknown soldiers in the Arlington military cemetery (Virginia). The aim is to show France’s gratitude to its two allies, because without their commitment we would not have been able to recover our freedom and our nation.

The Flame of the Nation, which has been burning since November 11, 1923 on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe, will be collected on May 8, 2024 at around 7.30 pm, following the daily rekindling of the flame. It will be transported in a convoy of vintage 1944 military vehicles via the “Voie de la Liberté” from the village of Saint Symphorien-le-Château.

44 young Frenchmen will accompany it on the 915 km journey from Paris to Cherbourg.

Historical point

On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched the largest-ever landing operation, designed to liberate France and the whole of Europe from Nazi dictatorship. Nearly 7,000 ships, 156,000 men of 12 nationalities, including more than 72,000 Americans, 64,000 British and French (Kieffer commandos and SAS paratroopers) arrived by air and on the five beaches of Normandy. It was the « longest day » that marked the beginning of the liberation of our country.

More than 10,600 Allied soldiers, including 6,600 Americans and 3,000 British, were put out of action on June 6, 1944. Some had barely set foot on the sands of Normandy when they were mowed down by German machine guns. Most of them were under the age of 25!

The Allied Liberation of Paris


MDFDE/France: WWII: Here’s to You, Guy de LA VASSELAIS & Gabriel HOCQUART! #MDFDEFriendshipMerciTrain70

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