The French public had its first glimpse of the country's Pluton tactical nuclear weapon on Monday (14 July), during the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris.
The French public had its first glimpse of the country's Pluton tactical nuclear weapon on Monday (14 July), during the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris. The parade also featured other innovations.
The route of the march, in which 13,000 troops took part, was changed; the National Anthem was altered; and following last year's purely "pedestrian" parade during the energy crisis, mother vehicles made a reappearance.
In blazing sunshine, President Valery Giscard D'Estaing took the salute as six of the Pluton missiles -- a major portion of France's nuclear arsenal -- rumbled down an avenue in Vincennes in eastern Paris.
The Pluton has a power equal to that of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. It is not due to go into service until 1977. But already it has caused friction between France and West Germany.
The Germans want the Pluton to be stationed on their soil, near the Czechoslovakian border, and aimed at eastern Europe. But this is resisted in France by both the right and left in the political spectrum because it would mean, in effect, that France would have returned to the integrated command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which it left nearly ten years ago.
As M. Giscard D'Estaing arrived for the parade, the Marseillaise, which was transformed last year from a stirring military march to a rather mournful hymn, was played in a manner much more closely resembling its former style.