Seventy years ago today Allied troops crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. The amphibious invasion, code named Operation Overlord, was the first step in a long fight to liberate France from the German Occupation.
There was no U.S. diplomatic presence in metropolitan France at the time of the invasion -- nor had there been since 1942. That November, following the Allied invasion of French North Africa, the severance of relations between Vichy and Washington, and the subsequent German occupation of Vichy France, the last U.S. diplomats on French European soil were arrested by German authorities. In violation of diplomatic immunity, these U.S. diplomats were held in German internment camps from November 1942 through March 1944, when an agreement was made to exchange them for German prisoners of war.
Douglas MacArthur II was one of the U.S. diplomats freed in the swap. That spring, the Office of Secret Services (OSS) suggested that MacArthur be parachuted into France ahead of the Normandy landing. The Department of State, however, did not agree. According to MacArthur, “the department felt that a better use of me could be made by having me go into Normandy after we landed, and then at the liberation of Paris, presume a place in the embassy political section.” The Department of State’s preference won out, and MacArthur did not enter Paris until just after Liberation in August 1944.
To learn more about MacArthur’s experience read his oral history interview on the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) website.
About the Author: Lindsay Krasnoff serves in the Office of the Historian.
For More Information:
- Remarks by President Obama at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day -- Omaha Beach, Normandy
- West Wing Week: 6/6/14 or, "Dispatches: Europe"
- U.S. Department of Defense: The 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the Invasion of Normandy
- Photos -- President Obama Travels to Poland, Belgium, and France: June 3-6, 2014