For Bastille Day, France commemorates World War I

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Bastille Day 2014 - France
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For Bastille Day, France commemorates World War I
Student of the 'Ecole Nationale Superieure des Officiers de Sapeurs-Pompiers', the French firefighters' elite school, stand at attention during inspection prior to the start of the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris, on July 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
French Republican Guards parade during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, on July 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Soldiers of the 1st Regiment of Spahis march through Concorde square during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris, on July 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Greek Presidential Guard (Evzones) march down the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris during the annual Bastille Day military parade on July 14, 2014. France has issued an unprecedented invitation to all 72 countries involved in World War I to take part in its annual Bastille Day military parade. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Soldiers of the French 1st Infantry Regiment (Front) followed by soldiers from the 1st Regiment of Spahis march down the Champs-Elysees avenue during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris, on July 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Alpha Jets of the French Air Force, La Patrouille de France, releasing trails of blue, white and red smoke, the colors of the French national flag, fly over the Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) in Paris during the annual Bastille Day military parade on July 14, 2014. France has issued an unprecedented invitation to all 72 countries involved in World War I to take part in its annual Bastille Day military parade. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU (Photo credit should read PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images)
A Boeing C135 refueling tanker (C) followed by four Rafale fighter jets fly over the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2014 during the annual Bastille Day military parade. France has issued an unprecedented invitation to all 72 countries involved in World War I to take part in its annual Bastille Day military parade. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
The National Assembly is illuminated with the blue, white and red colors, on July 13, 2014, on the eve of Bastille Day, France's National Day. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU (Photo credit should read PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images)
People take part in the French Institute Alliance Francaise's street fair to celebrate Bastille Day in New York on July 13, 2014. Each year, Bastille Day on 60th Street brings the best of France to New York for an afternoon of activities. AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Jets for the Patrouille de France fly over the Arc de Triomphe during the traditional Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. (AP Photo/Thomas Samson/Pool)
Soldiers and their dogs walk down the Champs-Elysees during the Bastille Day parade on in Paris, France, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Leclerc tanks drive down the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Troops march down the Champs-Elysees avenue during the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. The Arc de Triomphe is seen in background. (AP Photo/Thomas Samson, Pool)
France's President Francois Hollande, left in the car, stands in his command car with French Army Chief of Staff, General Pierre de Villiers during the traditional Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool)
France's President Francois Hollande, left, rides his command car with French Army Chief of Staff, General Pierre de Villiers, during the traditional Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool)
Prince Albert of Monaco, center, attends the traditional military parade as part of the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, France, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. (AP Photo Etienne Laurent, Pool)
French gendarme motorcyclists leave after parading puring the traditional Bastille Day Parade on the Champs Elysees in Paris, Monday, July 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
French President Francois Hollande, right, stands at the national flag during Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, France, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. (AP Photo Etienne Laurent, Pool)
Greek soldiers walk down the Champs-Elysees during the Bastille Day parade on in Paris, France, Monday, July 14, 2014. Soldiers and flags of 76 countries are walking down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorates the centenary of the First World War. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Cottages on the south bank of the Nethe River in Flanders burn during the Great War, date unknown. (AP Photo)
PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 14: French soldiers wear WWI French soldiers 'Poilu' uniforms during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, on July 14, 2014. France has issued an unprecedented invitation to all 72 countries involved in World War I to take part in its annual Bastille Day military parade. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 14: French soldiers wearing WWI French soldiers 'Poilu' uniforms parade during the the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Place de la Concorde on July 14, 2014, in Paris, France. France has issued an unprecedented invitation to all 72 countries involved in World War I to take part in its annual Bastille Day military parade. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
An abandoned position at the Western Front after a long fight during the Great War, date and location unknown. (AP Photo)
Destruction of forest in the Western Front is pictured during the Great War, date and location unknown. (AP Photo)
French Red Cross train is stopped at a wayside station in France with wounded units of the French army including Arab and Senegalese soldiers, date unknown. (AP Photo)
A British sailor prepares to dump a mine into the sea, date and location unknown. (AP Photo)
The four-stack British ocean liner, RMS Lusitania, is shown in this undated photo. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat of the southern coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915 and sank in 18 minutes. Date and location are unknown. (AP Photo)
The Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Force, General John J. Pershing, inspects the occupying U.S. Army troops in Coblenz, Germany. Pershing was on an inspection tour of the occupied territory after the signing of the Armistice in 1918. Date is unknown. (AP Photo)
This is a scene of destruction somewhere on the Western Front during the Great War, date and location unknown. (AP Photo)
An army camp goes up in flames as a measure to keep disease from spreading as it has in the armies of the Eastern Front resulting in heavy losses, during the Great War, date and location unknown. (AP Photo)
Shipbuilders work on a 4500 ton reinforced concrete ship at an American shipyard during World War I. The ship is being built for the Merchant Marines. Date and location are unknown. (AP Photo)
The wooden ship "General Pershing" is launched at the Ward Shipyard in Olympia, Wash., during World War I. The ship was built for the Merchant Marines. Date is unknown. (AP Photo)
Recruits of foreign birth swear allegiance to the flag after the U.S. entered World War I. This is one of the emergency steps taken to speed up citizenship papers to those who would fight for the U.S. Date and location are unknown. (AP Photo)
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By SYLVIE CORBET

PARIS (AP) - Soldiers carrying the flags of 76 countries marched Monday down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as France's traditional Bastille Day military parade commemorated the centenary of World War I.

France invited all countries that were involved on the battlefields - former allies and enemies, former colonizers and colonies, participating altogether in the ceremony as a symbol of peace.

"Ten million soldiers were killed or died of their injuries on countless battlefields. We owe them gratitude," President Francois Hollande said in a message ahead of the march.

The message took on special meaning amid renewed violence in Gaza and Iraq, and as French troops fight extremists in Africa.

Bastille Day Parade Honors Centenary of WWI

MARCH OF MEMORY

Three soldiers of each of the 76 countries marched along the cobblestones in their national dress uniform.

Surrounding them were rows of French troops in sky-blue period uniforms of the "Poilus," the name given to French infantrymen of World War I.

The ceremony echoed the first celebration of Bastille Day after the end of what was then known as "The Great War," in 1919. "The war's wounded were at the forefront of the parade in their wheelchairs ... We celebrated the greatness of the French military by putting first the most visible victims," recalled historian Antoine Prost.

A French army choir interpreted two popular songs of the Poilus - one telling the story of soldiers flirting with a pretty waitress in a tavern - before raising their voices in the national anthem, "La Marseillaise."

TODAY'S FRONTS

While young people from all invited countries closed Monday's ceremony with a peace dance and a release of doves, the annual event is also about demonstrating France's military might.

More than 3,700 soldiers, 50 aircraft, 280 military vehicles and 240 horses of the French national guard participated in the parade, which paid homage to forces serving overseas.

France currently has a strong military presence in Africa with 3,000 soldiers in the Sahel region of northern Africa fighting extremists, and 2,000 in Central African Republic trying to help quell sectarian violence.

OLD WOUNDS

Among the international visitors marched representatives of former French colonies, paying homage to the 600,000 colonial soldiers who served on France's side during World War I, mainly from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal.

All those who lost lives in Europe during the war were invited, no matter what was then the status of the territories at the time, the French president's office explained, in an effort to quash an emerging controversy over the presence of Algerian soldiers.

Some members of the French far right and Algerian independence movement objected to their presence, because memories of Algeria's war for independence remain painful on both sides of the Mediterranean a half-century later.

BASTILLE DAY TRADITIONS

Bastille Day marks the July 14, 1789, storming of the Bastille prison by angry Paris crowds that helped spark the French Revolution.

The French capital will enjoy a fireworks show Monday night, exceptionally fired from the Eiffel Tower.

Festive balls - often mixing old-fashioned accordion tunes with trendy dance music - and fireworks are also held all over the country. And the tradition has stretched beyond French borders, with parties from New Orleans to Australia and beyond.

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