Why aren’t the French grateful for Americans rescuing them during two Word Wars plus Vietnam plus the Cold War?
Here are a few facts to answer these prejudices:
Fact: In WW1, war casualties related to total population were: 1 French life out of 19, 1 German out of 33, 1 British out of 66, 1 Russian out of 100, and… 1 American out of 1,000.
Facts: The US engaged action in France in July 1918, and landed in Normandy in June 44, not because they were ordered to rescue the French (who by the way were not at all defeated in 1918), but because, in 1917, President Wilson judged it was the US national interest to fight for Democracy; and on December 7, 1941, because Japan had attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, Germany and Italy immediately declaring war to the US as a consequence. On December 6, 1941, the US public opinion was still as pacifist as the French or British public opinion were in 1938. And who would blame them?
Facts: War casualties between May 6, 1940 (beginning of the German offensive in Maastricht) and June 18, 1940 (France asked for an armistice) were: Netherlands: 4,000. Britain: 3,500. Belgium: 22,000. France: 96,000. During their French campaign, the Wehrmacht lost 27,000 plus 18,000 missing, and the overwhelmed, under equipped, obsolete French Air Force still shot down around 600 German aircrafts (thanks in part to US made Curtiss fighter planes). The dismal figure of one German killed at the cost of 4 French is indeed pathetic. But so were the British humiliation in Malaya, Singapore and Libya, the Soviet collapse from June to December ‘41, the US evacuation of the Philippines… and the first US encounter with German forces on the ground: against Rommel, in winter 42-43, at the Kassarina Pass in Tunisia and other confrontations (See Patton’s memories here).
Fact: The first allied victory against the Wehrmacht was El Alamein, October 42. Montgomery had an army of 220,000 Scots, Irish, Welch, Aussies, Kiwis, Indians, South Africans, French (yes! lead by Colonel Koenig), Canadians… and Englishmen; and 1,060 tanks. Rommel had 80,000 troops, with 360 tanks, not enough gas, not enough ammunition. The battle went on for 2 weeks. Allied losses: 30,000. German losses: 10,000. Rommel wasn’t eliminated, he only retreated… to beat the hell out of US forces in Tunisia a month later.
Facts: During WW2, France lost 565,000 lives by various acts of war1: on the battlefield, during open resistance operations, or through hostages shot or tortured to death or exterminated in camps (360,000) many because their husbands, sons, etc. had joined the resistance or managed to join the Free French Forces. The British lost 357,000; the US: 298,000; and the Germans lost, counting only the ones wearing a uniform, 4,200,000 lives. Yeah, four million two hundred thousand! Out of them 3,100,000 died on the Eastern Front. If one counts contribution to victory against Nazism in number of Germans killed, the Russians’ contribution to victory should be rated at 75% (Russian casualties: no one will ever know but at least 12 million.)
Fact: If De Gaulle wasn’t given the occasion to contribute to the Normandy landing Free French crack troops which had proven their abilities at Monte Cassino and other places, it was because Roosevelt absolutely opposed any French participation to Overlord. However, 100,000 French troops participated with success (under General Juin) to the 1943 Italian campaign, 6 Free French divisions did contribute hugely and effectively to the Provence landing (General De Lattre de Tassigny) , and held their ground in Alsace during the battle of the Bulge, disobeying Eisenhower’s orders to retreat. At that time, the Allied Forces on the west front consisted in: US: 45 divisions; UK: 12 divisions: France: 9 divisions; Poland Free Forces: 1 (d… good) division. In total, peanuts compared with the Soviet forces on the other side.
Fact: British and American sources always noted how loyal and effective had been the French Underground in organizing the rescue of allied airmen shot in France, and in providing priceless intelligence, this at the risk of death, torture, deportation, etc.
Fact: In 1950-57, the European Union, which made Europe at last safe for Democracy, was masterminded by Jean Monnet, a Frenchman, with massive American support at the time (and a massive, total support from Konrad Adenauer, the German De Gaulle). It was Jean Monnet who had suggested to Harry Truman what was to become the Marshall Plan, which Monnet had already suggested in… 1919. The Marshall Plan was not a subsidy but a loan. It was reimbursed in full.
Fact: The same Jean Monnet, in 1938, had managed to convince both President Roosevelt and his own government to improvise massive French orders of US aircrafts to attempt to catch up with German rearmament. These orders, paid cash for several hundred planes (Curtiss P 36, Douglas A 20, Glenn Martin 166, Vultee Vengeance), were the first instrument allowing the small and almost bankrupt US aircraft industry of 1938 to finance its tooling up for mass production, the US Congress – and General “Hap” Arnold heading the USAAC - voicing their firm opposition.
Fact: In 1954, when the French were finally defeated in Vietnam (without any American help), they had 50,000 troops and their biggest planes were Douglas A26 and C47’s, and Vought Corsairs. When the US was defeated by the same enemy some twenty years later, it had 550,000 troops, B52’s, napalm, missiles, the works…
Fact: In 1956, the French, British and Israeli forces undertook the first open war against the Egyptian socialist dictatorship (Gamal Abdel Nasser) and Islam fundamentalism. Through the U.N., the United States ordered them to stop. They complied. (Were they right? Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, Gaddafi were kids at the time…)
Fact: In 1960, when the Soviet threat against the US through Cuba became a major crisis, De Gaulle was the first Free World head of state to officially warn the Soviet that, in case of war, France would immediately apply the North Atlantic Treaty. Before the British! De Gaulle never hated the Americans (nor anyone for that matter, he would say: “I am not anti-American; only Pro-French. And remember that’s what I am paid for…”). He came himself to the funerals of Eisenhower and JFK. But he favored the Republicans (Eisenhower was a personal friend, he actively supported Nixon) and strongly disliked LBJ. Do you really blame him? Would he favor the Republicans today?
Fact: In 1977, it was the French Foreign Legion paratroopers which jumped on Kolwezi, Zaire, to rescue the thousands of civilians including much more than a few Americans trapped by rebel uprising. This with the help of the US Air Force for in-flight refueling and of Morocco for refueling on the ground.
Fact: In 1975-85, in Libya, French forces successfully prevented Qaddafi’s repeated attempts to extend its territory in Central Africa. It cost around 20 French lives then Qaddafi gave up. US media never mentioned it.
Fact: France contributed 40,000 troops to Desert Storm in ‘91. The Foreign Legion was part of the advanced army group threatening Baghdad when Gen. Schwarzkopf decided to comply with UN guidelines, thus making it necessary to plan for an all-out war against Iraq 11years later…. Do you wonder the French, and a few others, may have felt somewhat skeptical 12 years later? And was General Schwarzkopf right in complying with U. N. guidelines at the time? Why?
Fact: Since 1776, the US has been at war with Japan, Germany, Spain, Mexico, United Kingdom, North Vietnam, North Korea and numerous countries for periods lasting from a few weeks to a few years. With France: 3 days only, in November 42 in Casablanca during Operation Torch. Vichy France’s forces, fighting upon orders from a fascist puppet government, fought the American invasion against their own will, and with antiquated weaponry. 800 Americans and 4,000 Frenchmen were killed3.
Fact: France, that “pathetic socialist nation” of “cowardly monkeys” with “faggots as soldiers” and “arch-enemy of the United States”, has been a united nation-state for 1,504 years, during which its people knew all the glory, all the humiliation, all the success, all the ridicule, all the genius, all the stupidity, all the heroism and all the shame, all the political systems from the worst to the best, all the selfless dedication and shameful corruption mankind could experience. Yet, at the end of the day, the French are free, prosperous, and masters of their destiny. As an American, I pray that the same will be said of the American people in the year 3,280, and I trust that it will be for the good of mankind.
No, I won’t mention Lafayette. He was only a kid, it was Rochambeau and De Grasse who did the work, including Rochambeau’s gesture to Cornwallis, after Yorktown, to surrender his sword, not to him, but to George Washington; thus acknowledging him, in the eyes of the world, as Head of State of the new American Republic. The scene is on a huge painting in the Senate building in Washington, together with the naval battle of Chesapeake Bay, where De Grasse’s fleet took a severe spanking (French losses: around 5,000, their highest in one action during the American war, these 5,000 sailors are still waiting for their memorial in Washington…) from the Royal Navy but did prevent the infantry landing which might have rescued Cornwallis in Yorktown. The French do have faults, but they understand symbols… and show business. They are – of course! – friends of the United States, but stick to their rights not to agree sometimes.
And why not?
1. Not counting some 15,000 deaths inflicted by the French fascist militia to the French underground or vice-versa, and close to 100,000 of the 130,000 young male Alsatians drafted by force in the Wehrmacht, resisting the draft, therefore sent in reprisal directly on the Russian Front. Of the 30,000 survivors, the last ones were liberated from the Soviet Gulag in… the late eighties.
2. Regarding French contribution to military intelligence, one example only: memories of Jacques Bergier who was a keyman in the Marco Polo network. Marco Polo was the first to inform the Western allies and the Soviets of the existence of V1 and V2 projects, of the Peenemunde secret rocket plant, and first indicated all the component suppliers of the V2, disclosing notably that the key component: the pump moving and combining Hydrogen Peroxyde (oxidant) and Potassium Permanganate (fuel) was… Swedish made, because only the Swedes had the right quality of stainless steel. Bergier was eventually captured, sent to the Dora concentration camp who was assembling V2’s because he was an aircraft engineer. While down to 75 Lbs. body weight, he connected through his German foreman who was a member of the Rote Capelle network with a Swiss Marco Polo agent, who forwarded data to the West and the Soviets. Bergier wrote: “The problem is the Russians believed us but the Anglo-Saxons didn’t.”
3. And yet, until mid 1944, Roosevelt stubbornly supported the Vichy Government and recognized it as legal even though all knew it had taken power through a Coup d’Etat imposed by the Germans in July 1940, and opposed De Gaulle’s Free French Government even though General De Gaulle was very officially the Minister of Defense in the last government of the 3rd Republic as of June 18, 1940, and constitutionally the sole legitimate authority of the French Republic overseas. Churchill, on the contrary, recognized De Gaulle in the very first days. Of course, De Gaulle didn’t forget, and neither did all the French who fought Nazism and Fascism. So that, in 1943 in North Africa, one could witness this outrageous absurdity: the US Administration was De facto in charge. A French fascist administration was in theory reporting to the US… and there were still hundreds of Jews in local jails waiting for deportation in compliance with Vichy’s anti-Semitic laws!!!
About the author: Dr. Andre R. Teissier-duCros, Atlanta GA, is a US Citizen, Member of the Commemorative Air Force and of the Libertarian Party, co-founder of ALEPS (French libertarian movement), FAA licensed pilot, French Huguenot father, Scottish mother, who witnessed the liberation of Paris in 1944 aged 7 (those were the days…). He is President of Gean Overseas, Inc.