France and the United States have shared a special bond ever since the Declaration of Independence in 1776, marking the birth of our nation. Two years later France and America signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, bringing with it formal French recognition of America’s independence from Great Britain as well as French arms and treasure to help secure victory.
Over two hundred years ago, Frenchmen joined the Colonial Army and local militias to fight and die on what would come to be called the United States of America. In the last Century, that unique bond was demonstrated yet again when American and French forces bled together on French soil to liberate Europe from tyranny. The many American heroes currently lying in French soil speak to the enduring importance of our relationship and the critical moments in history when our nations stood together.
Treaty of Amity and Commerce is signed in Paris between Benjamin Franklin and the French Prime Minister. The treaty recognized America’s right to independence and brought financial and military support that played a big part in the resulting victory.
François Joseph Paul de Grasse, Comte de Grasse brought French reinforcements that were decisive in the Battle of the Chesapeake. His reinforcements also proved to be decisive in the Battle of Yorktown, which effectively ended the Revolutionary War.
Admiral Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau – also known simply as Admiral Rochambeau – joined the Continental Army under General George Washington. Rochambeau’s troops marched from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia, with the Continental Army and fought alongside them in the Battle of Yorktown.
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was a nobleman who served as an aide to General Washington at Valley Forge and used his own money to support the revolution.
The layout of the capital of the United States of America was drawn by the hand of Frenchman Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who fought in the War of Independence then stayed on to become a city planner for George Washington.
The United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase from France at a cost of $15 million. The new land nearly doubled the size of the country. In part the French sold it to the Americans to keep the territory out of the hands of the British, who still controlled neighboring Canada.
New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi river, was once owned by the French. Now, the city has a thriving French quarter (known as Vieux Carrée) where you can see everything from classic French architecture to cafes and restaurants named after characters from the pages of French history.
Made in Paris, the iconic Statue of Liberty was presented to U.S. Minister Levi Parsons Morton in Paris on July 4, 1881. The Statue was a gift from the French people commemorating the alliance of France and the United States during the American Revolution. At 93-metres-high and weighing in at 204 tons that’s quite some gift.
April 6th America enters WWI. The first American troops arrive in France on June 26th, constituting the American Expeditionary Force. This was the first time America had sent troops to defend foreign soil. Troops landed in June, but were not fully committed to front line operations until October of that year. Originally called the Great War, at the time no one could conceive that there would be another war on this scale, it is now known simply as The First World War.
Germany signs the Armistice on November 11, 1918, officially ending the First World War. By war’s end the American Expeditionary Forces had evolved into a modern, combat-tested army. But involvement in the First World War came at a cost. The United States had sustained more than 320,000 casualties, over 53,000 of those were killed in action. The war provided the United States with valuable strategic lessons and an officer corps that would become the nucleus for mobilizing and commanding sixteen million American military personnel in World War II.
World War II: On January 26th the first American troops arrive in Britain.
On June 6th the Western Allies launched the largest amphibious invasion in history when they assaulted Normandy, on the northern coast of France. The invaders establish a beachhead as part of Operation Overlord after a successful “D-Day,” the first day of the invasion. This has subsequently come to be seen as the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
On August 25th the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division liberate Paris after four years of Nazi occupation.
The Korean War: As part of a US-initiated and United Nations mandated response to the invasion of South Korea by the North, the French Battalion arrived in Pusan, South Korea on November 29, 1950, and was placed under the operational control of the 23rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, 2nd U.S. Infantry Division.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. France was a founding member of NATO and fully participated in the Alliance from its outset. Paris was home to its first permanent Headquarters in the 1950s and 60s.
Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei was appointed to develop a new grand entrance for the Louvre to accommodate the growing number of visitors and to reorganize the museum’s interior. It was I.M. Pei who designed the now iconic pyramid and the entrance opened in March 1989, coinciding with the bicentenary year of the French Revolution.
The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MAEE) begins setting up endowment funds in conjunction with US universities to finance the development of trans-Atlantic partnerships in higher education and research. For over 20 years, public endowments equally matched by sums invested by the Universities of Berkeley, Stanford and Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been providing financial support for bilateral scientific or educational projects.
The Gulf War: Under US Leadership, France joins forces with the US, and 30 other nations, sending men and equipment to the Gulf to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi invasion forces.
Pierre Morad Omidyar was born in Paris in 1967. Moving to the US during childhood, he studied computing at a number of US institutions. Going on to work for a number of US technology companies, at the age of 28 he began to write the original computer code for an online venue to enable the listing of a direct person-to-person auction for collectible items. Initially called AuctionWeb, it would eventually become the auction site eBay. An American citizen, who lives in US, Omidyar and his wife are well-known philanthropists who founded Omidyar Network in 2004 in order to expand their efforts beyond non-profits to include for-profits and public policy.
9/11: France condemned the barbaric attacks on the US and in response President Jacques Chirac ordered the French secret services to collaborate closely with U.S. intelligence, and created Alliance Base in Paris, a joint-intelligence service center charged with enacting the Bush administration’s War on Terror. On the day of the attacks, French people phoned the US embassy to offer beds to Americans who were stranded in France.
The first French-American Innovation Day (FAID) launches. Now run by the Office for Science and Technology (OST) of the Embassy of France in the United States. This annual event brings together the most prominent French and American experts to discuss innovation in the sciences, technology, and industrial arenas and promotes the excellence of American and French research institutions and companies.
The Bells of Notre-Dame de Paris are rung in honor of the victims of 9/11.