NORMANDY, France – Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards begins the final leg of his weeklong economic and resilience mission, visiting hallowed World War II battlegrounds and paying tribute to Louisiana’s military veterans. Among the battle sites the governor will visit are the crossroads town of Sainte-Mère-Église, the D-Day landing zone at Utah Beach, and Pointe du Hoc, where an imposing cliff was scaled by Army Rangers in search of a German gun battery.
The mission will conclude Saturday with a trip to Omaha Beach, scene of some of D-Day’s most intense fighting. At the Normandy American Cemetery, Gov. Edwards will lay a wreath at the grave of one of the soldiers from Louisiana who was killed in action during the Battle of Normandy. After a brief ceremony, the delegation will visit the graves of other Louisiana servicemen buried there.
“It is a humbling experience to retrace the footsteps of brave soldiers who did their duty, confronted tyranny and, in many cases, made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom,” Gov. Edwards said. “I am honored to represent all Louisianans here in Normandy as we salute those members of the U.S. military and their allies whose courageous actions secured the blessings of liberty that we continue to enjoy today.”
Thursday, Gov. Edwards visited the Pegasus Bridge where the first shots of the D-Day invasion were fired and recalled Louisiana’s unique contributions to the invasion at Normandy. On June 6, 1944, tens of thousands of Allied soldiers secured a strategic beachfront foothold after being put ashore by shallow-draft “Higgins boats” manufactured in New Orleans shipyards. That epic battle helped turn the tide of the war in Europe.
Fifty-six years later to the day – on June 6, 2000 – what is now the National World War II Museum opened in New Orleans. Today, the museum is an important economic driver for Louisiana, with annual revenue of more than $70 million in 2021 and support for more than 400 direct and indirect jobs. Walter J. Leger III, executive vice-president and general counsel of New Orleans & Company, accompanied the Louisiana delegation to Normandy and joined Gov. Edwards in raising awareness about the massive museum expansion and $400 million capital campaign currently underway.
“New Orleans is celebrated around the world as a center of creativity and innovation, and this mission has allowed us to promote visitorship to Louisiana, to renew our bond of friendship and economic partnership with the people of France, and to promote what is one of the leading museums in America,” Leger said. “With the ongoing development of unforgettable exhibits and technological marvels, the National World War II Museum continues to be a source of great pride for the city, the state, and the country. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Gov. Edwards to shine a light on this extraordinary New Orleans institution in the global marketplace."