So President Obama stood on the soil of France and apologized for “American arrogance.” Let see. Who’s the arrogant one? America, after doing most of the fighting, bleeding and dying to liberate France from her Nazi conquerors, gallantly lowered its profile to allow General Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle and his rag-tag Free French army to look like they were liberating Paris? Or the French, who commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of their freedom with the battle cry “Paris se libere!” (“Paris liberates itself!)? – By BARRY FARBER
Our Response: Dear Barry
I’ll be frank and direct here since there is no point going any other way about this. I have spent the best part of the last six years fighting prejudice and anti-French attitudes in the American media after France’s refusal to follow the Bush administration into Iraq (See www.Miquelon.org).
If you have some argument with your president, I suggest you take it up with him directly instead of lambasting the French with a partial and incomplete historical record.
To address your points specifically :
- “Who’s the arrogant one? ” – Right off, I detect prejudice against the French.
- “America, after doing most of the fighting, bleeding and dying to liberate France from her Nazi conquerors” – Pure revisionism. Saving Private Ryan was not a documentary : I do not owe my freedom to US troops, but to the ALLIES. On D-Day, there were Canadians, British and other Allied Troops. I also owe my freedom the African Free French troops who landed in Provence. Secondly, had the Soviets not bled the German war machine on the eastern front (with a ratio of 20 to 1 Soviet to American dead), D-Day would not have been possible. Therefore, I, my French Compatriots, do not owe our freedom to any specific power, but to ALL ALLIES regardless. Thirdly, who are you to use the mantle of World War II and D-Day for your own grandstanding ? Unless you were there on D-Day, I have nothing but contempt for your posturing.
- “America, (…), gallantly lowered its profile to allow General Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle and his rag-tag Free French army” – I don’t appreciate your “rag-tag” qualifier as you are talking about members of my own family who risked their lives to free Europe of Nazism. Any man or woman who fought the Nazis deserves to be respected and not labeled as a second rate soldier. The historical record shows that Paris was partially liberated by a citizen uprising under Henri Rol-Tanguy before Allied troops entered the city. Even WIKIPEDIA disagrees with you : “Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower did not consider Paris as a primary objective; instead, American and British Allies wanted to enter Berlin before the Soviet Union’s army and put an end to the conflict. Moreover Eisenhower thought it too early for a battle in Paris; he wanted to prevent another battle of Stalingrad, and knew that Hitler had given orders to destroy Paris. In a siege, it was estimated 4,000 tons of food per day would be needed to supply the Parisians, plus effort to restore vital infrastructure including transport and energy supply. Such a task would require time and entire Allied divisions”
For more information about what 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 approachiung 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.
More about why the US landed in France:
- We didn’t come to Europe to save the the French, either in 1917 or in 1944. We didn’t come to 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.”
SOURCE : Published in Paris in 1945 by the ‘Information & Education Division’ of the US Occupation Forces.