No doubt, Champagne corks were popping on the Champs Elysées this week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris from the prolonged four-year German occupation in World War II.
Despite repeated orders from Hitler that the French capital “must not fall into the enemy’s hand except lying in complete debris” to be accomplished by bombing it and blowing up its bridges, General Dietrich von Choltitz, as commander of the German garrison and military governor of Paris, surrendered on August 25, 1944, in a simple ceremony at the Hôtel Meurice, the newly established headquarters of French General Leclerc.
The liberation of France came at a tragically steep cost: 134,000 Americans were killed, wounded, missing, or captured; casualties among the British, Canadians, and Poles totaled 91,000. In half a million sorties flown during the summer, more than 4,000 planes were lost, evenly divided between the RAF and the U.S. Army Air Force. A total of 600,000 tons of Allied bombs were dropped on occupied France, the weight of 64 Eiffel Towers, resulting in the deaths of between 50,000 and 67,000 French civilians. The campaign was expensive indeed.