Hagel Meets with French Defense Minister Le Drian
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2014 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met today in Paris with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the day after both attended D-Day anniversary ceremonies in Normandy in honor of the sacrifice and victory of June 6, 1944.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meets with veterans from several nations at the 70th anniversary celebration of D-Day at Omaha Beach in Normandy, June 6, 2014. DOD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The talks were open and wide-ranging, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement, “in keeping with the close relationship between the two militaries and the friendship” between the defense leaders.
Discussion topics included counterterrorism activities in Africa, where the United States and France have many common interests in helping African nations deal with that threat, Kirby added.
This morning in Suresnes, near Paris, former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, greeted Hagel at the American Cemetery and Memorial.
There, Hagel and Le Drian walked to the grave of Cpl. Frank B. Milliard, a corporal in the 346 Field Artillery, 91st division, who died Sept. 20, 1918. He was from Nebraska, and his grave was marked with an American and a French flag.
Angelo Munsel, superintendent of the Suresnes American Cemetery, provided details of Milliard’s service to Hagel and Le Drian.
The memorial holds 1,565 headstones, mostly from World War I, and 24 unknown soldiers from WWII.
Munsel said the cemetery is the only one with WWI and WWII war dead, although Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, killed in WW1, is buried in Normandy next to his brother Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who died in World War II after the Normandy landing.
Many of those buried in the cemetery died of the world’s first recorded H1N1 swine flu pandemic that hit American Expeditionary Forces hard in September 1918.
The group then walked from Milliard’s grave at the bottom of a hill to the Memorial at the top, offering a panoramic view of Paris.
Munsel provided history of the building, noting that Woodrow Wilson delivered his speech on the League of Nations at the site.
“There is a lot of history here,” Hagel said, and Le Drian and the secretary placed wreaths of red and white roses and blue hydrangeas in front of the memorial building.
A recording from the memorial played a 21 gun salute followed by the French national anthem, as well as the Star Spangled Banner. As the U.S. anthem played, a light rain began to fall.
Later, during their meeting, Hagel and Le Drian discussed the NATO Summit, Russian actions in Ukraine, the French sale of Mistral-class ships to Russia, and the security concerns of Allies in Southern Europe, Kirby said.
The defense leaders also spent time reflecting on the D-Day anniversary and the history of the past century, Kirby added.
Hagel said the D-Day ceremony "is a reminder of what history teaches and informs us if we are wise enough to learn from events from the past."
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinAFPS)