|HISTORY OF THE “LIBERTY ROAD”
Soon after WWII, the idea of establishing a monument was suggested, to commemorate the liberation of France by the American First and Third Armies – a monument which would be an everlasting symbol of Liberty.
It was believed that a single simple monument would not be sufficient to express the sincere gratitude of the French people towards its American liberators. It was then conceived of installing symbolic milestones, or Bornes, marking every kilometer along the route taken by General Bradley’s First Army, and General Patton’s Third Army, after D-Day in Normandy on 6 June 1944, from Utah Beach in Normandy to Bastogne in Belgium.
Liberty Road was the main route of advance of the U.S. Armies on their rout of the German Army, and thereafter it was the main supply route from Cherbourg and Omaha Beach, southwards to Mortain, thence eastward across France to Bastogne in Belgium. This was the main supply route used by the Red Ball Express, to keep the First & Third Armies supplied in their continual and rapid advance across France and on into Central Europe.
Thus, 1146 milestones, (Bornes) were installed along this “Liberty Road” route across France, Luxembourg & Belgium, to commemorate the liberation of Western Europe.
The design on each Borne represents in a symbolic manner, the red flaming torch of the Statue of Liberty surging from the sea, over which the American Armies came to Europe. Circling the top part of the Borne on a blue field, are the 48 stars of the American Flag, to remind viewers that men from every State of our great nation suffered to liberate Western Europe.
Liberty Road was officially inaugurated on 17 September 1947 at Fontainbleu, France by the Prime Minister, Paul Ramadier; along with Francois Mitterand, then Minister of War Veterans; Mr. Jefferson Caffery, U.S. Ambassador to France; members of the American Legion and other military organizations and numerous civilian and military dignitaries.
Today, “Liberty Road” still attracts the many Heads of State at times of official ceremonies, and thousands of visitors, particularly American veterans who ride over it every year.
“Liberty Road” was born in the hearts of the people of Normandy in June of 1944 on the coast of Normandy, during the battles for the liberation of France, when they saw their brothers-in-arms, those young men of the great Republic of the United States, fall more than six thousand kilometers away from their homeland. They thought that the greatness of their courage, surpassed in grandeur, that of the soldiers fighting for their own Motherland.
The Love of Liberty was the only ideal dominating their action!
After having suffered so much under the 4 years of German Nazi oppression, France had to immortalize its Liberation for centuries to come, by this impressive reminder.
An individual monument would not have had enough character to express the country’s gratitude to their Allies.
“Liberty Road”, a true Way of the Cross, a sacred road bathed in the blood of the American soldiers, is the democratic tribute of France to America.
Each Borne is 48 inches high, 24 inches in diameter at the base, tapering upwards to 18 inches in diameter near the top, with a rounded top, and weighing 716 pounds each. As mentioned earlier, a flaming torch on its side was inspired by the Statue of Liberty, donated to the United States of America by France in 1886.
Each Borne is unique, with inscriptions which comprise:
The number of the highway on which it stands.
The two towns closest to the Borne.
The distance separating these two towns.
The 1146 Bornes on “Liberty Road” have been marking these French highways for more than 65 years. Some of these Bornes dangerously located, became a traffic hazard due to improved highways and increased speeds, and therefore, some of them became damaged. Others, due to road widening, and realignment or installation of traffic circles, were removed.
All of these damaged and displaced original Bornes, have been replaced, one on one since 1982, with polyester replicas which are of the same size and design, but less of a road hazard than the original concrete Bornes.
The distribution and dedication of these original Bornes in the United States was handled by the newly formed Liberty Road Foundation. The goal of the Liberty Road Foundation was:
To dedicate to the United States a symbol of gratitude from France for the sacrifice of the American forces during D-Day in Normandy and during their march toward Liberty across all of Western Europe.
To organize the first stages of the project “Bornes in the USA”, which aimed to establish one Borne in each American State, to celebrate on 6 June 1994, the 50th Anniversary of the Landing in Normandy.
To pay homage to the historical relations of Friendship between France and the United States.
To honor, wherever possible, a city located on the Eisenhower Road crossing the United States from San Francisco to Washington, the symbolic road dedicated to General Eisenhower.
The dedication of the first of these Bornes to be brought to the United States, was held at Denver, CO, amid much fanfare on June 6, 1992.
A second one of the original Bornes was dedicated as a special monument at the entrance to the Aircraft Carrier Intrepid, in New York City harbor on June 6, 1994
The third one of these Bornes was installed at the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, KS, on 15 October, 1994.
The fourth Borne, perhaps the final one to be brought to the United States, has been placed at the Camp Blanding Museum at Starke, Florida, and was dedicated on 9 May 1998.
This latter Borne was donated to the Camp Blanding Museum, at Starke, Florida, in a prestigious ceremony at Saint Lo in Normandy, France on 21 October 1997. The Borne was presented to Frank W. Towers, Museum Board Member, by the Prefect (Governor), of the Department of Manche, and the Mayor of Saint Lo. It was then transported to one of our U.S. airbases in Germany, and then flown to the U.S.A. by military air, and it now resides at Camp Blanding where it was installed in a very special ceremony, commemorating the prime reason for its being – V.E. Day.
This particular Borne, #35, came from the highway #174 between Utah Beach and Saint Lo. More specifically, it was located at St. Jean-de-Daye, the very first town to be liberated by the 30th Infantry Division.
The reason and significance of this particular Borne being placed at Camp Blanding is as follows:
During the time period 1940 – 1943, nine (9) Infantry Divisions and the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment trained at Camp Blanding for extended periods of time, up to one year. Among those Divisions were the 1st; 29th; 30th; and the 79th along with the 508th P.I.R. During the invasion of Normandy and the ensuing battle of Normandy, all of these units participated in the fighting in this area of Normandy, and thus established what has become to be known as “Liberty Road”.
So, it is very significant that these units, having trained at Camp Blanding, and having fought side by side in Normandy to restore Liberty and Freedom to the French people, should have this Borne as a permanent reminder of their sacrifices, established here at the Camp Blanding Museum & Memorial Park.
It is also quite significant that we have this Borne established here at Camp Blanding as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices of the men who lost their lives in WWII, establishing “Liberty Road”, the road to FREEDOM!
Contained within the base of this BORNE is an Urn holding Earth from each major town and sites along the “Liberty Road”, which was taken from special and significant places in each town and site:
Utah Beach; St. Mere Eglise; Omaha Beach; Normandy Military Cemetery; St. Jean-de-Daye; Saint LO; Vire; Mortain; St. James; Brittany Military Cemetery, and Domfront.
These were the most important towns and sites along “Liberty Road”, which were liberated by the Camp Blanding units.
Frank W. Towers
30th Infantry Division
Camp Blanding Museum
Frank W. Towers, 2003