August 13th, 2017, French Connection Day at Cantigny Park
Remarks by Deputy Consul General of France Frédéric Cholé on the occasion of "French Connection Day" at Cantigny Park
Wheaton, Illinois, August 13th, 2017
It is a great pleasure to be with you today to celebrate French Connection Day. I would like to sincerely thank the organizers of this exciting event, The French Market and Cantigny Park, for their kind invitation.
To all, congratulations on this successful yearly event, my family and I can’t wait to join the crowd and enjoy the day. So I’ll be brief.
French Connection Day is a day to discover different French traditions, the market, the music, the dances, the famous game of pétanque, a favorite summer pass time in France, and a day to discover or rediscover what unites France and Cantigny.
The name Cantigny comes from a tiny village located about 60 miles from Paris in Northern France in the Picardy region. What makes this place important is that it was the epicenter of the first large offensive operation by an American division during World War One.
Cantigny, on high ground, was a strategic site for enemy forces in the region. It was vital for the American troops to capture this position. The rest of the region, engulfed in the war, was depending on it.
On May, 28th, 1918, the First Division, with the support of the French army, led the attack. The enemy resistance was heavy but a few hours later all objectives were seized, yet, the battle continued for three days. The success of this operation marks a crucial step for the advance of the Allied forces in Europe and towards the final victory.
The village was completely destroyed and the American troops suffered many casualties. Among the four thousands American soldiers deployed in Cantigny, over one thousand men were killed or wounded. More than four hundred of them rest in France in the American military cemetery of the Somme.
One of its heroes and commanding officers is Colonel Robert McCormick of Chicago. He left for Europe as a war correspondent for the Tribune in 1915 and later joined the Illinois National Guard. His experience at Cantigny left a lasting impact on his life and legacy. Today, 99 years later, we celebrate history and friendship on his extraordinary estate which he renamed Cantigny in memory of the historic battle, and the men he served with.
This year marks the centenary of the Entry of the U.S into World War One in 1917. The French services are proudly partnering with the Museum of the First Division here at Cantigny, and institutions all over the country to keep the memory alive through various projects and events.
But our common history did not stop on the battlefields WWI. One June 6, 1944, on D-Day, the First Division was at the forefront of the largest military invasion in history. The “Big Red One” was the first wave of troops to land at Omaha Beach in Normandy. We will never forget the invaluable contribution of the men of the Greatest Generation to the Freedom of France.
Today, French Connection Day is an affirmation of these strong historical and human bonds. It is also a reminder that over the years we have developed robust relationships through partnerships, exchanges, culture, and education.
Our connections are vibrant and prosperous.
So today, together, let’s celebrate French Connection Day!