The temporary exhibition

Within the dedicated space of the Reagan Conference Center, the Airborne Museum sets up temporary exhibitions that generally remain in place for one year, renewable for a second year as required.

After the “Assault from the Air: Paratroopers in the Second World War” exhibition, which remained in place for 2022 and 2023, the new temporary exhibition will be open to the public for the year 2024 only, without renewal. The choice of this exhibition was made in keeping with the exceptional year of 2024 for the remembrance sector.

“Eisenhower-De Gaulle: from friendship to alliance, in war and in peace” will open its doors to the public on April 11, and remain open until November 30. The exhibition is a cross-referenced look at these two great figures not only of the Second World War, but also of the 20th century, both of whom left their mark on their countries and influenced the course of world events.

Family situation, career choices, experiences of the First World War: many parallels can be drawn between the lives of the two men even before their first meeting in Algiers in June 1943, which enabled Dwight Eisenhower to fully appreciate the value of Charles de Gaulle, and the importance of the CFLN as a privileged interlocutor on the side of the French forces. Yet this same CFLN and its leader suffered from a lack of recognition that lasted until the summer of 1944, when the Allied forces finally gave the CFLN, now the GPRF, the official credit it deserved. This asymmetry culminated in the final preparations for the Normandy landings, from which De Gaulle was largely excluded.

In spite of this, the triumphant arrival of Charles the Great in Bayeux on June 14 marked the first concrete milestone in his seizure of power. Indeed, the French people had long since recognized the General’s qualities as a providential leader. He then succeeded in imposing his vision of things on August 20, when he urged Eisenhower to launch the 2nd armored division to attack Paris, a city that the supreme commander did not consider a priority. 5 days later, De Gaulle made a triumphant entry into the capital, and the following day delivered a speech that has now gone down in French history. On the 27th, Eisenhower came to meet him and recognized him as provisional President of France.

The following year, on June 14 1945, it was De Gaulle’s turn to offer Eisenhower a token of his appreciation, by making him the only Allied military leader to be made a Companion of the Liberation. The post-war period saw their respective destinies grow in smilitude: the two men of war gradually became statesmen. On April 30, 1952, at an Order of the Liberation dinner, they predicted that they would soon become leaders of their countries. A few months later, Eisenhower was the first to do so. And despite geopolitical differences between the two men, Eisenhower continued to support the General’s return to power. The year 1958 marked the fulfillment of their mutual prediction, with the election of Charles de Gaulle as President of the French Republic. The alliance between France and the United States would endure thanks to this coincidence, despite certain disagreements, always reinforced by the visits of the two figures to the country of their counterpart during their terms of office. In the context of the Cold War, this was crucial to the balance of the Western world. Dwight Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle met for the last time in their lifetimes in August 1962, even though Eisenhower had been out of office since January 1961.

When Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969, De Gaulle attended his funeral in Washington, his last official trip abroad. The General died the following year at La Boisserie. Both men chose to be buried where their roots lie: Colombey for De Gaulle, Abilene for Eisenhower. Both men left behind considerable legacies, for which foundations have been working since their deaths.

“Eisenhower-De Gaulle: from friendship to alliance, in war and in peace” is a traveling exhibition designed jointly by the Fondation Charles de Gaulle and the Eisenhower presidential library, and was first displayed at the Musée de l’Armée des Invalides. It was produced with the support of The First Alliance Foundation (TFA).

This exhibition is for his official stay at the Airborne Museum labelized by the Normandy Region as part of the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Exhibition curators

  • Eisenhower Presidential Library: Dawn Hammatt, Director, assisted by Pam Sanfilippo and Mary Burttzloff.
  • Fondation Charles de Gaulle: Catherine Trouiller, Director of Exhibitions and Publications.
  • Musée de l’Armée: Vincent Giraudier, head of the Historial Charles de Gaulle department.
  • Graphic design: Robaglia Design. Antoine Robaglia assisted by Nathalie Bigard.

Photo credits :

  • Eisenhower Presidential Library
  • Fondation Charles de Gaulle
  • Bridgemann-Giraudon

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