French naval visit to Portland commemorates VE Day
PORTLAND — Sixty-nine years after news broke of Germany’s surrender in World War II – celebrated as Victory Day in France – the French Navy patrol vessel Fulmar docked Thursday in Portland.
During a ceremony at City Hall afterward, local and French dignitaries discussed the long history of military alliances between the U.S. and France, as well as the strong cultural link between the European country and Maine.
“As the state of Maine has one of the largest populations of French-Canadian immigrants in the United States, there are a great number of family and cultural connections,” said Fabien Fieschi, consul general of France to New England, during the event.
“Maine has a strong connection to France, as 30 percent of its population is of French or French-Canadian descent,” agreed state Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, reading a legislative sentiment welcoming the Fulmar.
Lt. Josian Grenet, commander of the Fulmar, highlighted the two countries’ shared military history in his remarks, noting that the French were a key ally in America’s war for independence from Great Britain.
More than a century later, the U.S. came to France’s aid in World War I and World War II, most famously leading the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach – a military siege that cost tens of thousands of lives but ultimately resulted in a victory that gave Allied forces a key foothold in Nazi-occupied France.
According to a city announcement of the visit, the Fulmar is based at Saint Pierre and Miquelon, an eight-island French territory off the coast of Newfoundland. The area represents the country’s closest territory to the United States and the last existing remnant of France’s colonial holdings during the European settlement of North America.
The Fulmar is tasked with assisting other vessels and policing the fisheries in the French Exclusive Economic Zone surrounding the territory, according to the city of Portland.
During Thursday’s event, Mayor Michael Brennan gave Grenet a ceremonial key to the city, among other symbolic gifts exchanged between dignitaries.
Also speaking at the event were Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland; Cmdr. Anthony Ceraolo of the U.S. Coast Guard; attorney and Honorary Consul of France for Maine Severin Beliveau; and Marie Madec, military attache from the French Embassy in Washington, D.C.