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Kerry fetes WWII liberation of French village housing family mansion

US Secretary of State John Kerry shares a joke with residents as he takes part in a ceremony on June 7 in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, western France, in memory of the three US soldiers who died during liberation of the city in 1944
US Secretary of State John Kerry shares a joke with residents as he takes part in a ceremony on June 7 in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, western France, in memory of the three US soldiers who died during liberation of the city in 1944

US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday feted the 1944 liberation of a Breton village linked to his family and paid tribute to his country's "eternal" ties with France.

Kerry joined his first cousin Brice Lalonde, a former Green Party candidate for the French presidency and ex-mayor of Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, in paying respects to three US soldiers who died on June 15, 1944 during the battle to free the wealthy seaside resort.

"It's great to be here and to celebrate the eternal bonds between the United States and France," said Kerry, speaking in French.

"Saint-Briac and Britanny have a great significance for me and my family," he said.

Hundreds of locals and scores of American tourists turned up for the ceremony, which included live jazz music.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by residents as he takes part in a ceremony on June 7, 2014 in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, western France, in memory of the three US soldiers who died during liberation of the city in 1944
US Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by residents as he takes part in a ceremony on June 7, 2014 in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, western France, in memory of the three US soldiers who died during liberation of the city in 1944

"France has rebuilt itself painstakingly and is now stronger than ever," a smiling Kerry said.

"The unconditional defence of liberty is written into the heart of the partnership between France and the United States," he said.

"This is what has united us since the inception of America. And this is what undoubtedly unites us today."

Kerry and Lalonde are grandsons of James Forbes, an heir to the Forbes family of Boston.

James Forbes had built a mansion in the village in the 1920s. It was burnt by German soldiers during World War II but rebuilt later.

"We will never forget the courage and the kindness of the residents of this place," Kerry said.

The Secretary of State was accompanied by former GI Tony Vaccaro, whose photograph of an American soldier kissing a French girl after the liberation of Saint-Briac became an enduring image of the end of the war.

Vaccaro, 93, joked that he had taken the iconic shot "by chance".

Kerry's mother Rosemary Forbes was born in Paris in the 1920s and served as a nurse in the French capital during World War II.

Kerry had attended along with world leaders and royals events in France commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which helped liberate France and turned the tide of the war.

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