mercredi 14 mai 2008

Extract: "112 gripes about the French"

Published in Paris in 1945 by the 'Information & Education Division' of the US Occupation Forces.

"We're always pulling the French out of a jam. Did they ever do anything for us?"

They did. They helped us out of one of the greatest jams we were ever in. During the American revolution, when almost the entire world stood by in "non intervention" or was against us, it was France who was our greatest ally and benefactor. France loaned the thirteen states $6,000,000 - and gave us over $3,000,000 more. (That was a lot more money in those days than it is now.)

45,000 Frenchmen volunteered in the army of George Washington. - They crossed the Atlantic Ocean in small boats that took two months to make the voyage.

Washington's army had no military engineers; it was French engineers who designed and built our fortifications.

The name of Lafayette is one that Americans will never forget, and the French are as proud of that name as we are.

You can judge the measure and meaning of French aid to our Revolution from the letter George Washington sent on April 9, 1781 to our military envoy in Paris, asking for help from France: "We are at this hour suspended in the balance; not from choice but from hard and absolute necessity... Our troops are fast approaching nakedness... our hospitals are without medicines and our sick without nutrition... in a word, we are at the end of our tether, and... now or never our deliverance must come."

It was France that came to our aid in our darkest hour.


"The French act has if they won the war single-handed."

Those who do are damned fools. The French did not win this war single-handed. Neither did we. Neither did the Russians or the British or the Chinese.

If you want to form your own opinion about how much French did to help win the war, ask yourself these questions: Suppose the French army and navy had joined up with the Germans in 1940 (as Hitler tried to get them to do)? Suppose the French armies which were fighting the Germans or the Italians had been fighting us? Suppose there had been no French underground, no French resistance, no French sabotage of German military production, no French espionage for SHAEF, no French guerrillas behind the German lines, no French Maquis in Central France, no FFI inside France as we fought our way through? How many more American lives do you think we would have lost?


"The French didn't put up a real fight against the Germans."

No one - least of all the French themselves - will try do deny the enormity of the defeat and the humiliation France suffered in 1940. French military leadership and strategy was tragically inadequate. But this does not mean that the French did not put up a "real fight".

In the six week Battle of France, from May 10 to June 22, 1940, the French lost, in military personnel alone, 260,000 wounded and 108,000 killed. A total of 368,000 casualties in six weeks is not something to pass off lightly.

Yes, the Germans gave the French a terrible beating. But it took the combined strength of the United States, Great Britain, Soviet Russia, Canada, etc., to beat the Germans. It's asking rather a great deal of France to match such strength against hers.

"The French mostly collaborated with the Germans."

The Germans would disagree with that. The Germans tried for four years to get more Frenchmen to collaborate. That s why they killed so many hostages. That's why they destroyed 344 communities for "crimes" not connected with military operations.

The Germans overran France in 1940. For two years they used every promise, trick and pressure to induce the French people to work in Germany for the German war machine. They offered workers better food, clothes, privileges and protection denied them in France under occupation rules. And in all of France, during that entire period, about 75,000 French workers enlisted. The Germans admitted the campaign was a failure.

The LVF (Legion Volontaire Francaise), the French volunteer army that the Germans tried to organize, was a gigantic flop.


"We came to Europe twice in twenty-five years to save the French."

We didn't come to Europe to save the French, either in 1917 or in 1944. We didn't come to Europe to do anyone any favors. We came to Europe because we, in America were threatened by a hostile, aggressive and very dangerous power.

In this war, France fell in June of 1940. We didn't invade Europe until June of 1944. We didn't even think of "saving the French" through military action until after Pearl Harbor - after the Germans declared war on us. We came to Europe, in two wars, because it was better to fight our enemy in Europe than in America. Would it have been smarter to fight the Battle of the Bulge in Ohio? Would it have been smarter if D-Day had meant a hop across the Atlantic Ocean, instead of the English Channel, in order to get at an enemy sending rocket bombs into our homes? Would it have been smart to wait in America until V bombs, buzz bombs, rocket bombs, and - perhaps - atomic bombs had made shambles of our cities? Even the kids in Germany sang this song: "Today Germany, tomorrow the world." We were a part of that world. We were marked for conquest.

When France fell, our last defense on the Continent was gone. France was the "keystone of freedom" on land from the Mediterranean to the North Sea; it was a bulwark against German aggression. France guarded the Atlantic, and the bases the Germans needed on the Atlantic for submarine and air warfare.

American security and American foreign policy have always rested on this hard fact: we cannot permit a hostile power on the Atlantic Ocean. We can not be secure if we are threatened on the Atlantic. That's why we went to war in 1917; that's why we had to fight in 1944. And that's why, as a matter of common sense and the national interest, President Roosevelt declared (November 11, 1941): "The defense of any territory under the control of the French Volunteer Forces (the Free French) is vital to the defense of the United States."


"The French let us down when the fighting got tough. What did they do - as fighters - to help us out?"

Here are a few of the things the French did:

The French fought in Africa, in Sicily, liberated Corsica, fought in Italy, took part in the invasion of Europe and fought through the battles of France and Germany -- from Normandy to Munich.
Units from the French navy participated in the invasions of Sicily, Italy, Normandy and South France.
Units of the French navy and merchant marine took part in convoying operations on the Atlantic and Murmansk routes.
On June 5, 1944, the day before D-Day, over 5,000 Frenchmen of the resistance dynamited railroads in more than 500 strategic places.
They delayed strategic German troop movements for an average of 48 hours, according to our military experts. Those 48 hours were tactically priceless ; they saved an untold number of American lives.
French resistance groups blew up a series of bridges in southern France and delayed one of the Wehrmacht's crack units (Das Reich Panzer Division) for twelve days in getting from Bordeaux to Normandy.
About 30,000 FF1 troups supported the Third Army's VIII Corps in Brittany: they seized and held key spogs ; they conducted extensive guerrilla operations behind the German lines.
25,000 FFI troops protected the south flank of the Third Army in its daring dash across France: the FFI wiped out German bridgeheads north of the Loire River ; they guarded vital lines of communication; they wiped out pockets of German resistance; they held many towns and cities under orders from our commmand.
When our Third Army was approaching the area between Dijon and Troyes from the west, and while the Seventh Army was approaching this sector from the South, it was the FFI who stubbornly blocked the Germans from making a stand and prevented a mass retirement of German troops.
In Paris, as our armies drew close, several hundred thousand French men and women rose up against the Germans. 50,000 armed men of the resistance fought and beat the Nazi garrison, and occupied the main buildings and administrative offices of Paris.


"After France fell, the French laid down and let the Germans walk all over them. They just waited for us to liberate them. Why didn't they put up a fight?"

Millions of French men, women and children put up a fight that took immense guts, skill and patience.

The Fighting French never stopped fighting - in the RAF North Africa, Italy, and up through France with the US 7th Army.

Here is how the French people inside France fought the Germans after the fall of France:

They sabotaged production in war plants. They destroyed parts, damaged machinery, slowed down production, changed blue-prints
They dynamited power plants, warehouses. transmission lines. They wrecked trains. They destroyed bridges. They damaged locomotives.
They organized armed groups which fought the German police, the Gestapo, the Vichy militia. They executed French collaborationists.
They acted as a great spy army for SHAEF in London. They transmitted as many as 300 reports a day to SHAEF on German troops' movements, military installations, and the nature and movement of military supplies.
They got samples of new German weapons and explosive powder to London.
They ran an elaborate "underground railway" for getting shot-down American and British flyers back to England. They hid, clothed, fed and smuggled out of France over 4,000 American airmen and parachutists (Getting food and clothes isn't easy when you're on a starvation ration yourself. It's risky to forge identification papers). Every American airman rescued meant half a dozen French lives were risked. On an average, one Frenchman was shot every two hours, from 1940 to 1944 by the Germans in an effort to stop French sabotage and assistance to the Allies.

The Germans destroyed 344 communities (62 completely) for "crimes" not connected with military operations.

Perhaps the Germans realized better than we do the relentless fight against them which the French people waged.

An official German report, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor on December 26, 1942, stated sadly: "For systematic inefficiency and criminal carelessness they (the French) are unsurpassed in the history of modern industrial labor".

Extract from 112 gripes about the French:

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