22 January 2006

Pourquoi, Francophobia?

[posted by Amy]

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently been "researching" why Americans love to hate the French. I put "researching" in quotes because I am limited to what I can find on the internet. Boy, I never thought I'd miss having full access to a university library, but I do right now! Admittedly, my knowledge of French history (much less European history) is sadly deficient. But, I had to start somewhere, so I just started reading what I could find on "Francophobia." (This is kind-of a weird term, given that it literally translates to being afraid of the French.)

The more I read, the more questions I have. But while I know I have a long way to go on mastering French history, one thing I have resolved is this: I now know why I cringe every time someone tells me a French-bashing joke. Up until now, I didn't have any real basis for that reaction, other than the fact that I used to work with some really nice people who were originally from France. As it turns out, the real reason for my discomfort had less to do with wanting to stand up for my friends as it did for this:

"The fifth reason for Francophobia is more a condition of possibility than a cause per se, but it is quite important. It is the absence of any kind stigma attached to anti-French discourse in the United States. This is probably explained by the absence of any large French-American community in the US, which means there is no painful history of anti-French violence or oppression in the United States and makes France-bashing fair game. Francophobic stereotyping and anti-French jokes would be unacceptable if they dealt with the Japanese, the Arabs or the Mexicans, but one can freely talk about French national cowardice or body odor. No sense of political correctness vis-à-vis the French stands in the way" (Vaïsse 2003, 25-26).

Voilà! What was really bugging me was the fact that we (i.e. Americans) felt so comfortable with making very crass jokes about a specific group of people. You would never get away with making the same joke if you exchanged "French" for "Jew," for example. Why do we feel so comfortable bashing some groups of people, but feel so terrified of being branded as racist for making the exact same comments about another group? Is it solely because the US doesn't have an embarrassing history of specifically persecuting French people?

I think that's how it got started, but now, I think the average American "hates" the French because everyone else does. If pressed, I suspect that the same person who insists on eating "Freedom Fries" wouldn't even be able to find France on a map, much less give you a specific example of how the French are backward or ungrateful for the help in WWII.

Does that mean that I think the French are innocent little angels, being picked on by the world bully? No, of course not. While I do feel a need to "stick up" for my current country of residence, I won't pretend that it is perfect by any stretch. And goodness knows, there is plenty of American-bashing by the French, for better or worse. (OK, it's mainly President Bush bashing, but still...) Both "sides" have earned their fair share of criticism throughout history. But taking pot shots at an entire group of people doesn't make sense. All it really does is perpetuate a culture of mistrust, which doesn't do either country any good.

OK, off my proverbial soapbox!

The article I referenced can be found at:


At 22/1/06 20:52, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say that much of the American backlash against the French, at least in my mind, does stem from the WWII period. Your statement about the French being 'ungrateful for the help in WWII' really struck a chord with me. It sort of trivializes the role of allied support in liberating France...sort of like we gave them a hand in helping them push their car after they had run out of gas. Although I sure there are many who would point out the fierce French resistance forces who opposed the Nazi occupation, the truth is, the French were not well on their way to escaping the grip of Nazi rule. So I think really a more appropriate statement would be that the American soldiers felt that the French were ungrateful for the allied soliders liberating them. I just finished watching the superb "Band of Brothers" special features and in the interviews with the soldiers from E Company, many of them mention that in comparison with the citizens from the other countries that were liberated, the French did not celebrate or welcome them with open arms. I think it would be interesting to investigate "why" the allied troops felt that way and why perhaps the French behaved that way. Were they so ashamed, so defeated, so tired of Nazi occupation that they could not celebrate? Did allied soliders go in with many preconcieved notions about the French people? These would be interesting ideas to explore. But I must say, that even the idea that the French were ungrateful for their liberation leaves a bad taste in my mouth as an American even now. -RC

At 22/1/06 22:51, Blogger croust said...

In response to RC's comment:

I think it's important to recognize that there were two Frances during World War II: Pétain's Vichy France and de Gaulle's Free France.

Vichy France represents the effort to pick up the pieces after the "Débacle" and armistice of June 1940. I think that Pétain, a much-celebrated hero from WWI, did his best to preserve the integrity of France and French culture. I have less sympathy for his Prime Minister, Pierre Laval, who was philosophically and politically inclined toward Hitler's policies.

Free France, however, is just as important (and is usually overlooked in the American version of this history). Remember that the French Empire was still in tact, there were as many French citizens outside of Europe as there were in the occupied territory. De Gaulle organized an army from these citizens (and, of course, the soldiers stationed outside of Europe). The Free French Forces (along with the British) played a huge role in liberating French North Africa. During the Liberation itself, de Gaulle's forces (along with the Brits, the Canadians, and the Americans) were part of the Normandy invasion (known here as Jour-J, in the US as D-Day). The Free French (along with the Americans) landed in Provence in August 1944. As for the liberation of Paris, Général Leclerc's tank division entered the city first, followed by a division led by de Gaulle.

So, while I'm not trying to diminish the importance of American involvement in the liberation of France (the US tipped the balance against the Axis when by finally giving up its isolationist policies), I think we (as Americans expecting gratitude) need to remember that the liberation of France was a team effort that included the Free French, representing all those portions of France that did not succumb to the Blitzkrieg.

Most importantly, we need to recognize that history is influenced by who is writing it. American historians and French historians don't tell the story exactly the same way (just as Brits, Germans, Italians, and Russians tell it their own way). In the US, we learn a version of the story that celebrates the American contributions more than anyone else's. In France, de Gaulle is often celebrated as the liberator of France.

At 23/1/06 04:17, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly the response I was expecting from you, Colin. Yes, politically France during the Second World War could be separated into two entities. However, I doubt the actual French people living in occupied France at the time could be so neatly separated into two camps. There would've most certainly been plenty of folks who aided the Nazi occupation who shared their ideals, those who were looking for personal gain, those who did nothing, those who resisted, etc. The fact that de Gaulle's Free French forces were part of the D-Day invasion and liberation really does not at all change the fact that American soldiers felt no gratitude from those French who were being liberated. From both the standard American and British perspective, the Free French role in the D-Day invasion was largely a symbolic one and numerically they would've AT MOST comprised about 10% of the invasion forces (though I am quite sure not every member of the 400,000 strong Free French forces participated). Furthermore, Leclerc's tank division entered Paris first not because they were the first on the scene but because Eisenhower ordered allied forces under his command to cease advancing on the city (after receiving pressure from de Gaulle)...thus allowing Free French forces the dignified honor of liberating Paris.

The fact that you find it necessary to make the last few statements puzzles me because I would think that almost everyone knows that history is a story told in a different way by different people. My last comment made no reference to historians at all but to actual perceptions of Allied soliders. I don't really think that these perceptions (about the lack of a warm welcome from the liberated French) are in any way invalidated by the fact that American historians place the U.S. at the center of the successful liberation of France. I truly think that it was these perceptions brought back to the U.S. by the millions of soliders who were there during WWII, not just the grand story told by U.S. historians citing the lack of French involvement and the importance of U.S. involvement in defeating the Germans, that has colored anti-French ideas in America in the last 60 years.

But as long as we are on the subject of the subjectiveness of history, I find it both sad and yet understandable that the French would celebrate de Gaulle as the liberator of France. It would've been necessary for French historians to tell the story this way, despite the fact de Gaulle's liberation was an absolute impossiblity without U.S. and British help. What's a bit more sad, is the fact that Americans often don't recognize the de Gaulle's tenacity and the hard work of the French Resistance in the same way that they do Churchill and the British who for so long endured the Blitzkrieg attacks. Again, stating the fact that historians tell their stories in different way doesn't really address this fact...particularly since, in the standard U.S. version of the WWII story, the British are often given credit where credit is due. So this can be seen as a subquestion of Amy's original question...why do Americans look at the French as cowards during WWII whereas the British are seen as brave (though ultimately in need of American assistance). Is it solely because much of France fell under occupation during WWII? Do the British receive more credit simply because America arguably shares more history and culture (especially language) with them? These are interesting questions.


At 23/1/06 13:02, Blogger croust said...

Some very interesting questions, Ryan. But before I respond to them, I have to say that I still maintain that the subjectivity of history has played an important role in how France and the US were represented in 1944 and still plays a role in how that history is told today.

Undoubtedly, some of the French would not have warmly welcomed the American troops. There would have been a number of reasons for this, all based on an individual's particular reading of the situation. Perhaps the individual was a collaborator, and thus saw the liberation as a defeat of Germany and Vichy. Perhaps the individual was recalling post-WWI sentiments—during the 1920s, many French people were upset about the "cultural pollution" that accompanied the American troops, tourists, and ex-patriates. And of course, there could be many other reasons.

At the same time, however, there were French people flying American flags to welcome the troops. The subjectivity comes into play when you look at what stories are picked up and when they are picked up. Today, it seems clear to me that, in the US at least, the negative reactions are portrayed more frequently than the positive.

Regarding the various versions of the liberation—don't you think it's crucial that de Gaulle seized symbolic roles? These were great headlines and photo ops for French newspapers—"De Gaulle on the beaches of Normandy" or "De Gaulle on the Champs-Elysées." While American papers followed the fighting on Omaha Beach and Eisenhower's push toward Berlin, French papers—and especially French radio—could feature their own heroes. Even before the historians got to work sorting out the facts reported by the journalists and participants, different versions of the story were appearing in French and English.

This is getting long, but I do want to respond to your final questions—why are the French perceived as cowards and the British as brave? The simple answer has to be that the Pétain signed an armistice with Hitler, whereas Churchill never did. But...subjectivity comes into play again! From an American point of view, the armistice is usually seen as a surrender to superior forces (how many times have you heard the French referred to as "surrender monkies"?); for Pétain, the armistice was a tactical defeat and a means of cutting France's losses and preserving the sovereignty of at least part of France (though, in hindsight, that sovereignty would be lost two years later); from de Gaulle's point of view, the armistice marked the end of one battle in a much larger war.

At 23/1/06 16:58, Blogger amy7252 said...

I'll leave the debate to everyone else, since my WWII knowledge is abysmal. But, I am enjoying reading what everyone has to say - I'm learning a lot, and so far, it hasn't gotten ugly! :)

I met with my French conversation partner today and decided to ask her a bit about this. She had some interesting things to add:

1. I asked how the French were portrayed to her in school: were the liberation forces under de Gaulle viewed as heros, or was the US/British contingency viewed as the saviors of France. She said both views were taught simultaneously. She said it was clear that France would not have been able to expel Germany on it's own, but that de Gaulle is definitely seen as the heroic leader of the resistance that fought alongside the rest of the Allies.

2. I asked her if she knew whether, *at the time* the French were not welcoming and gracious to the American troops. She said that the D-Day invasion is a touchy subject for those who lived in Normandy, and that yes, some weren't too thrilled about having the front line in their front yards. Many of those people lost countless family members as well as personal property, so it's tough for them to be thankful for the larger picture when they lost so much that was dear to them. I liken it to how many families of US troops are reacting to the current war in Iraq -- we may have liberated the country from the Hussein regime (yes, I'm glossing over a whole other debate here), but what good does that do me when my son/daughter/nephew/mother/neighbor is dead?

3. I asked her if she knew that the Americans viewed the French as "ungrateful" for the help in WWII. Since she answered me in French, I'm not totally sure if she was fully aware of it or not. But, she was angry that the Bush administration portrayed France's no vote for the UN to invade Iraq as equivalent to being ungrateful for the help in WWII. As she (I think rightfully) pointed out: even if you view the US as the savior of France, why should France be forced to do whatever the US wants from that point onward? France has no desire to be the US's "yes man" for all eternity as a result of the liberation.

This last point is one I agree with strongly - if we, as Americans, value our freedom of speech and our freedom to openly disagree with the government, how can we begrudge the French for taking a difference stance on the possibility of war? It's OK to me if you disagree with France's rationale for voting no, but I don't think it's OK to disagree with its fundamental right to stand up for what the people of that country believe is the right course of action.

With that said ... I'll leave this debate to the experts! (Or, at the very least, the people who know more about this point in history than I do.) I hope more people will jump in!!

At 23/1/06 19:52, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is really a great conversation. So far I agree with almost everything the two of you have presented here. First off, I agree with you Colin about the importance the historical record has on shaping ideas about people and places. What you are getting at with your statements about soldiers representations of France and the French as focused on by historians, journalists, etc. is right on the mark. Why was the negative focused on, rather than the positive? This still leads us back to Amy's original question. Of course, as you know, there is so much more to it than the mere subjectivity of history...such subjective historical representations are often debated in an ongoing social dialogue. The dominant idea that takes hold is thus an expression of power. Why is it that the French as unwelcoming cowards is the idea that has taken root so strongly, I wonder?

I also agree totally about the necessity of de Gaulle being portrayed as the true hero in the French liberation...it was an absolute necessity.

I do have a bit of a problem with the idea of a lack of warm welcome being a result of 'cultural pollution'...if anything I would think that would not only set in a bit later (say months after the place has been liberated). Furthermore, it had already been polluted by the German occupation...in this way, I can see how they would think of it as an even further pollution of the already tainted culture.

Amy, your comments about the loss of "many countless family members as well as personal property" makes sense, until you recognize that the citizens in Holland, Denmark, etc. were subjected to the same onslaught...the same losses and destruction. For me the question becomes twofold: 1) Why has U.S. history/media portrayed French(and not the Dutch or Danish people)? 2) Is there perhaps something in the culture of these different groups that would allow these differing lines of thinking?

Finally, the idea that France "owes us" for their liberation and should've aided us in Iraq is ridiculous and absurd. Anyone who truly feels that way is crazy and I agree with everything both you and your friend said on that subject. What I think that idea does express is the depth of the feeling about French ungratefulness, though.

Interesting topics...two of my favorites: historical representations and WWII.


At 23/1/06 19:55, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa...I just re-read my comments and noticed all the typos. For instance, I was supposed to type:
1) Why has U.S. history/media portrayed French(and not the Dutch or Danish people) as cowardly and ungrateful?

Hopefully, you all get the idea.

At 24/1/06 14:10, Blogger Julia said...

Even over here in Prague, where you'd expect a bit more perspective on international relations, I hear a great deal of French bashing from American expats. Anyone who has read the newspaper (watched CNN?) in the last few years jumps on WWII as their stock excuse, but when I question bashers further most seem to feel this way not because of WWII, but for more personal reasons based on their own experiences of culture clash. History blurblets sound a bit better as an excuse though. At least until someone reminds them that we wouldn't have beaten the British if the French hadn't funded (and helped to lead) our armies back in the day and how grateful have we been since then?

At 24/1/06 18:16, Blogger croust said...

I started off by going on a historical rant (can't help it, being a historian and all...), but let me offer some anthropological/sociological thoughts on the current wave of American francophobia.

I feel like a lot of this has to do with creating and reinforcing an American identity by identifying, objectifying, and (sometimes) mocking an "Other." In selecting a country to represent this Other, one would have to avoid the PC battlegrounds—so no identifying ourselves as not-African, not-Asian, not-Arab, etc. The dominant "class" in the US is, and always has been, whites of European heritage. But, it's important to note here where the major waves of immigration arrived from—Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, and eastern Europe. France is the only major European country that's missing [the Cajuns in Louisiana and the French communities in northern Vermont and Maine arrived from Canada, but these groups migrated to the US from Canada, not from France].

So...since (a) the French share a lot of history and cultural similarities with Americans and the countries that are represented in the waves of immigration, and (b) the French are different from us since they aren't really represented in the US population, they make an ideal Other. They're like us, but they're different. Those differences tell us who we are, so, to use a recent example: French society encourages immigrants to assimilate, but American society encourages multiculturalism through allowing immigrants to express their cultural heritage (as long as they can speak English). [Think of the American coverage of the October/November riots in France—it characterized France as "assimilate or be ignored."]

Perhaps the recent francophobia has a lot to do with the end of the Cold War. With the Soviet Union in tact, the US could identify itself as a freedom loving, god-fearing country that offered opportunities to everyone. Since 9/11, the US has been able to identify itself in comparison to Islamic extremists. But, who is there in Europe for the US to use as a foil for their identity? It's got to be the ones that are like us, but different at the same time. If they disagree with the US in front of the UN, doesn't that make for an even better target?

At 27/1/06 02:05, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting ideas...just wanted to mention in a slightly related topic that there was a Cultural Studies Professor on NPR on Monday talking about the French fear of "cultural contamination" particularly with respect to language. I will try to dig out the transcript and post it on this blog. -Ryan

At 27/1/06 10:36, Blogger croust said...

I look forward to that radio transcript, Ryan.

In one of my French classes at UMich, we talked about that very topic. It seems to me that France (or at least the official representation of French culture) has lots of concern about their language. And it's about more than just the infiltration of English words into French. For centuries, the language of international diplomacy and business has been French (a universal language is called a "lingua franca" for a reason). But, in the last 20 or so years, English has been increasingly replacing French, thanks in large part to Hollywood and the web (which took off much better than the older French Minitel). The big slap in the face, however, is that even though the official language for meetings of the European Union is French, more and more is being said in English!

At 28/1/06 00:31, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is unclear to me that Americans have ever gotten along well with the French,
save for brief periods when there was an obvious threat -- namely, England
in the 1770s, 1780s, and 1810s; the Union states in 1860s; and Germany sporatically
during the first half of the 1900s. (I'm not remembering details of the domestic
US response to Roosevelt's official support of France over Germany with respect
to Morocco or North Africa in 1906, but I would guess that the anti-French bias
was at a low ebb in 1915-17 and 1940.)

I expect that the general American bias against the French is a metastized form
of the English anti-French feelings dating from the dawn of time, depending on
how you define "English" and "French"... Using a crude split of "Viking" and "HRE
(which is not)", fights between Norman England and Capetian France (aka
Carolingian Western Francia) are underway before William I dies in 1087.
Succession battles follow, and a surprising number of English kings die while
fighting France or French-supported forces (William I, Stephen, Henry II, John,
Edward II, etc.). I believe that the treaty of Utrecht (1713) ended the last French
intervention in British succession (since the Scots had been successfully causing
problems from the 1500s).

These centuries of conflict, and especially the Catholic-Protestant problems in
the 1600s, almost certainly colored opinions of the British colonists in America.
The colonies were dragged into several wars in the 1700s, ending with the
Seven-Years' War (French and Indian War to you Americans) in the 1750s.
During the 1770s and 1780s the French filled a "lesser-evil" role, providing
support against the British. As soon as the British threat lessened, however,
US-French squabbling resumed -- problems in the negotiations leading to
the 1783 treaty of Paris (the Americans kept on talking directly to the British,
without including the French), the Jay Treaty and XYZ affair in the 1790s, and
preparations for war to prevent the consolidation of French Louisiana. There
were even misgivings among some Americans over the tack of the French
revolution -- deposing the government is fine; killing everyone even remotely
involved is not. (A lesson that should be remembered more often.) The
British became a distraction again in the early 1800s, however, first prompting
France to sell Louisiana and then dragging the US more directly into the
Napoleonic conflict. Faced with a choice between France (attacking some US
shipping) and Britian (attacking a more US shipping), the US did choose the
non-British side. The British quickly settled the dispute with the Americans
(treaty of Ghent, 1814), but the French never really did.
Diplomatic relations between the US and France were severed under Andrew
Jackson (1830s) over demands that France pay reparations for damages
during the Napoleonic era. Things worsened somewhat in the middle of
the century, as the French offered some support to the Confederacy and
fairly blatantly became involved in Mexico.

In short, I would suggest that Americans are anti-French the same way
we are libertarians, Christians, and anglophiles -- by tradition. Unless
there is an actual enemy (Britian, Union/Confederacy, Germany, USSR),
we will profess to hate the French.

Kevin Roust

At 28/1/06 01:44, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like you have to pay for the transcript off of NPR, but here is the link to the story:

Basically what they talked about was the French concern with "cultural contamination" and especially with the infiltration of English (and I assume other languages) into French. The guest on the show (Princeton professor Kwame Anthony Appiah) suggested that 1) France and the Académie française is losing the battle of keeping the French language free of words from other languages and 2) It is precisely because of this (not only because of Hollywood and the web, etc.) that French is losing ground and English is gaining ground. The guest noted that English adopts many useful words from other languages quite freely and this is at least part of the reason why the English language has been so successful...the wheel doesn't have to be reinvented linguistically over and over when there is a perfectly useful word that already exists.

Anyway, interesting idea...sorry I couldn't get the script.

At 28/1/06 12:50, Blogger croust said...

Kevin, a fascinating post! After reading it, I'm now thinking about the divide between American intellectuals and American culture in general. I think you've hit the nail on the head as far as the general culture goes, but it's also worthwhile noting the fascination with France that's been held by many American intellectuals (from Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, all the way through to the poststructuralists and postmodernists in academia today).

Just as Americans are libertarian, Christian, anglophile, and anti-French by tradition; they are also anti-intellectual by tradition. Perhaps the two are linked? Do you think that, in the general American point of view, France's massive influence on modern intellectual history is a contributing factor to American francophobia?

At 28/1/06 17:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a good dissertation topic has been presented just now on this blog! Colin, is it too late to swtich to cultural studies and start your research?


At 28/1/06 17:59, Blogger Nando said...

I don't want to oversimplify things, but maybe the "discomfort" that the Americans and the French cause to each other is related to the centuries of rivalry between the English and the French. Americans and English are related in much more ways than just the language.

Concerning WWII, there is a tendency of idealizing that period as something like "the Golden Age of Intervention", inspired by values and generosity. But we also tend to forget that it was a war and (as current events are probably reminding us) wars are usually not inspired only by idealism. And in that moment, the things that were at stake were beyond that kind of popular approach. There were also military and political goals: world hegemony wasn't the least important, I think. So, the Allies camp was far from being harmonic, with two declining superpowers (France and Great Britain) and another two on the rise (the United States, the USSR). Even more, while the American and the British can always think of themselves at least as "cousins", the French were not just uncomfortable allies, but also the weakest in this weird alliance. From what I know (and sorry I can't quote my sources right now, I can't remember where I read this!), Leclerc was Roosevelt and Churchill's protégé against De Gaulle (they really disliked the guy as a person, let's not talk about his own concept of France and of France's role in the world), and one of the ideas after the Germans and Italians were defeated was to establish an American Protectorate in France. Those were things that were in the air in those days, so I can imagine that an atmosphere of distrust was at least natural.

About Roosevelt plans of world domination (hahaha! it sounds so Lex-Luthorian!) and his role as a precursor in what we are living these days, I found a very interesting book by an Amy's colleague: "American Empire. Roosevelt's Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization", by Neil Smith (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003).

At 28/1/06 18:02, Blogger Nando said...

Oh, and by the way... I'm neither French nor American, but Peruvian, so that probably excuses not just my English, but also my stance in the Francophobic controversy...

At 3/2/06 05:30, Anonymous a different generation said...

Response from “A different generation”
First, I compliment Amy for starting this discussion on why the U.S. dislikes the French. If nothing else, maybe it will help in understanding how some attitudes have developed thru the years. I also want to apologize for how long this will be. Most of your discussions are based on facts, what you have been taught, and what you have read. What is not there are perceptions, personal biases and non-truths. I really doubt the usual prejudices apply here. The French are generally white, Christian, and reasonably educated….like the U.S. I would suggest our problems with them come from their decisions that have affected the U.S. Cases in point in our early history: During our revolutionary war the French did help us only in a limited fashion until they were sure we could win. They did not commit as a nation until along toward the end of the war. Then there is the French/Indian war. I doubt anyone cares at this point in history.
The last century is where real problems have occurred and people remember. We are 60 years post WWII. You are right that history is written by each nation as they saw it from their viewpoint. We do tend to identify more with the English speaking countries such as England, Canada, and Australia.
My dislike for the French comes from several areas. First we bailed the French out twice in the 20th century—WWI and WWII. In both cases French history today would be a lot different and not nearly as pleasant. There were plenty of warnings in the pre-war years yet they did little to protect themselves in the event of war. Pre WWII in 1931 Major Charles de Gaulle joined the Secretariat for National Defense in Paris. In 1934 he published Versy l’arm’ee de m’etier (The Army of the Future) suggesting a move towards mechanized troops and specialized divisions. This placed him in opposition to most of the French military establishment including Prime Minister Petain. His government chose the appeasement route toward Germany. The same thing happened in England. Churchill tried to warn England of the danger from Germany. Then Prime Minister Chamberlain chose the appeasement route.
On D-Day the U.S. provided 20 divisions (over 150,000 landing troops, plus thousands of support troops. The U.S. supplied most of the supplies and armor for the invasion.) England supplied 14 divisions, Canada 3 divisions, France and Poland 1 division each. The Free French forces numbered over 400,000 men and women. Of those, 230,000 were based in Algiers and could not take part in the liberation of France. The chain of command for the planning of D-Day did not include any French. In fact General de Gaulle returned to Britain from Algiers on 4/5 June, the night before the invasion. At that time de Gaulle was recognized as the leader of the Free French. For that reason it was felt that de Gaulle’s presence was needed to get total cooperation during D-Day from the French. For the same reason de Gaulle needed to enter Paris as a leader of the liberation forces.
De Gaulle’s relationships with Churchill and Roosevelt were always difficult. De Gaulle was given a briefing by General Eisenhower just before the invasion and De Gaulle informed Ike the plan would not work and wanted major changes. He was told it was too late to make changes. My point is that the French army was unable to be a force in the liberation. The French resistance forces should get credit for a major contribution to the invasion. But without the U.S. for the second time in one century the French would not be free. This does not mean that France should jump when we say. But I do think they should, along with other countries; work with us for the good of each country. This has not happened. The U.S never got along with de Gaulle after the war. In fact de Gaulle ordered our troops out of France and closed our bases in the 1950s (I can understand the French not wanting foreign troops stationed on their soil, but it was done in a way that caused some hard feelings right or wrong.) In 1979 Libya sanctioned attacks on the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. In December of 1979, President Carter designated Libya as a “state-sponsor of terror.” In 1981, two Libyan jets fired on U.S. jets in the Mediterranean which were shot down. In 1986 President Reagan ordered an air strike on Libya after investigators tied the Libyan government to a bombing that killed two U.S. solders in a Berlin nightclub. France would not give the U.S. permission to use their air space for that raid. That’s a small request which I feel was reasonable. I do not want to open a whole new discussion on the present Iraq war no matter your own thoughts. However, during the debates in the U.N., France was an active leader to keep giving Iraq another chance after 8 years and 17 or so last chance resolutions. Yes, France was not the only country, but don’t you wonder what would have happened if France and others would have said “enough” and united to bring Iraq into line. I’m not talking about France agreeing to go to war—just help put pressure on Iraq. Note: Proof has been found that France was breaking the U.N. embargo by selling arms and other things to Iraq. If you look at the track record of the French government you will see a pattern of not trying to get along. In June of 1947 as head of the French government de Gaulle tried to install what is commonly today still called “Gaullism” which emphasized the interests of France over those of any other country or group. He did not get the support he needed and retired. He re-entered politics in 1958 and lasted till April1968. His leadership was anti-American. I’m sure you all know how the present leader has behaved toward the U.S. The only noticeable time I am aware of that France sided with us was doing the first gulf war.

My last reason for my dislike of the French is my own experiences. I have been to Paris twice-- once in 1963 and again in 1994. Each time my contacts with the people were for the most part not pleasant. I encountered that anti-American attitude. I have also met many Americans who have had the same problems. In 1960 a good friend of mine visited Paris. The dislike of Americans was so strong that the American Embassy suggested American tourists eat there for their own safety. Could all of this be the result of the French government and the “spins” they put on information? Could it be the “spin” the French press puts on their reporting in France? Could it be that the people of France do not make the effort to get the facts straight? Could it be that France is no longer a major power and they resent our power---that’s what many Americans believe. When you look at the negative things you brought up and what I have added I think you can see why the U.S. people dislike the French.

Right or wrong when I look at the above and the continued escalation of terror throughout the world it appears to me that France has a lot at stake also. Along with other countries they need to step up and work for all our good. I’m not suggesting they jump into war like we did. But I do think we deserve better than we have gotten since WWII.

At 3/2/06 19:57, Blogger amy7252 said...

To "A Different Generation":

GREAT comments!! Very interesting. I didn't know about France not allowing the US to use its air space for the Libya attacks in the 80's. I agree with you that it seems like a reasonable request, especially for a country that is in the same *military* alliance as the US (i.e. NATO). I was pretty young when Libya was an issue (I vaguely remember the Libyan terrorist attacks, only in the sense that Libya was a home to "bad guys.")

I've also heard that de Gaulle's post-WWII isolationist policies were not exactly cordial to the US (though I don't really know the details right now). Since I didn't live through that time, I don't have the first-hand reaction that so many WWII veterans must have had. I guess that's why, for me, it seems weird to hold a grudge "all these years later" because to me, post-WWII was "before my time."

Anyway, thanks for contributing!!!

At 4/2/06 18:14, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen "different generation"!


At 7/2/06 23:34, Blogger croust said...

"A Different Generation" raised so many interesting things, that I'm going to respond in two stages. First, responding to the representation of history (in this post); then, responding to the more personal comments (in the next post).

I never realized that de Gaulle didn't participate in the D-Day landing...I just read that he joined that invasion shortly before the liberation of Paris!

I have to quibble with your characterization that the Free French Forces in Algeria "could not participate in the liberation of France." You're absolutely right that they could not participate in the Normandy invasion. But, the Normandy invasion was only one part of the liberation of France. On 15 August 1944, the Provence invasion was carried out by the US 7th Army and the French 1st Army (the troops that had been in Algeria at the time of the Normandy invasion). The two armies took separate paths north, liberating different portions of the country.

Yes, the French had a primarily symbolic presence in the Normandy invasion. Yes, the Americans offered more troops than anyone else in that invasion. But, for me, the "symbolic" participation in Operation Overlord, the "symbolic" capture of Paris (in direct disobedience of Eisenhower's orders), and the very real contributions to the liberation of southern France all add up to a reason that the French can believe that they do not owe the liberation of France entirely to the Americans.

At 13/2/06 02:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Different Generation Comments……Sorry, I am slow to respond to croust. Yes, the French did participate in the D-Day operation and one could say it was symbolic. The French provided one division. (On D-Day American and English Divisions were make up of about 15-20,000 men) I’m guessing the French Division would number about the same. If my memory is correct, at Dunkirk, about 200,000 troops were evacuated of which half were French. Where they all went I don’t know. After the D-Day landings the Free French forces numbered over 400,000 men and women. Of those, 230,000 were based in Algiers and could not take part in the liberation of France. True they were fighting in other areas of the world. The week before D-Day there were 1,537,000 American fighting men based in Great Britain. Included in the logistical maze were more than 16 million tons to feed and supply those men, 137,000 jeeps, trucks and half-tracks, 4,217 tanks and tracked vehicles, 3,500 artillery pieces, 12,000 aircraft, and huge quantities of everything else needed to sustain the armies. All these supplies were made in the U.S., using U.S. raw materials, American labor, and American shipping. In 1934 de Gaulle published Vers l armee de métier (The Army of the Future). He suggested a move towards mechanized troop and specialized army divisions. He views were rejected. Also France chose pre-war to ignore the German build-up.
My point is that France made bad decisions that resulted in their inability to be any kind of a force by D-Day. (Except for the underground) The French would have never set foot on their shores had not what the U.S. done as they did. (Lets also recognize what England, Canada, and other countries did.) Yes, France did make other contributions during the war but this discussion was about why the Americans, not just soldiers, dislike the French so much. When you look at what America did, I still say we deserve better than France has given to date.
Note: I may be wrong and I have not gone back and looked this up. I think Ike and the Allies agreed that de Gaulle as the recognized leader of France should be the one to enter Paris first. I think I’m right that allied forces were stopped from entering Paris so de Gaulle could go first. My point is that I don’t think Eisenhower did order that de Gaulle should not go in first.
On another note, I have a whole new angle on why America dislikes the French. I have to check some facts this week. It gets to the point of French behavior toward Americans recently. I will post it in a few days.

At 21/2/06 06:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Another Generation

From my perspective, this subject has been well discussed and has been a lot of fun. For my final thoughts on the topic, I would like share one more example from a different trouble-spot in the world to support my contention that the French are not our friends and are not team players on the world stage.

The following stories were shared by a Colonel in the U.S. Army just returning from Kosovo. Kosovo is currently divided between U.N. forces from various countries to keep the peace between Muslims and Orthodox Christians. Patrols are made each day to keep the peace, do reconstruction projects, and catch smugglers. At different times, soldiers from one country cross into another country’s area. In these cases, officers from the other country will join the troops responsible for that area, during the patrol. The French are badly hated by the local residents here. In fact, U.S. troops have to wear body armor when traveling with the French due to regular attacks on the French peacekeepers. The U.S. does not wear body armor when in U.S. run areas.

Among many duties, U.S. troops try to win friends by being friends. On one patrol through a village, kids came out to see and talk to the Americans. The Americans gave their small U.S. flag arm patches to the children and put them on sticks to wave. The next day, when a French patrol came through, a French lieutenant took a flag away from one of the kids, told him the Americans were not their friends, didn’t care what happened to them, and were leaving. Then he burned the flag in front of the kid. The next day the Americans found out about it and gave the kid a new flag.

Another example… When out on long patrols, the troops stay in homes of locals and the government pays the locals for their services. On one occasion, there was a big house that had a small bungalow next to it. Both had been rebuilt by the Americans due to damage from Air Force bombing. The bungalow was for an 82 year old man who only wanted to move back home to die. On a joint patrol with the French, the Americans were invited to stay in the “big house.” The French took over the bungalow, put all their gear in the house, and when out partying that night – which is against U.N. rules while on duty. That night, the bungalow was blown up in an effort to kill the French. The general feeling by the Kosovo people is that France couldn’t care less about the people or helping rebuild the country unless there is something in it for them such as big contracts, oil, and anything else that would benefit France as a country.

My last example: On Thanksgiving of 2004, the above mentioned Colonel’s unit invited the French unit to come to Thanksgiving dinner. The French unit came early and ate all the food. When the American units returned from their patrols, there was very little left to eat. The overall behavior of the French was rude and disrespectful. On Thanksgiving 2005, the Americans again invited the French for dinner. This time they told the French they would be served at 1:00. Again, some of the French arrived early and crowded into the line ahead of the Americans. Prepared for this possibility, the American MP’s had orders to remove them to come back at the scheduled time. They French soldiers were rude, refused to leave, and almost had to be removed with force. They stated this was the reason America was hated all over the world. I know that if I were invited to someone’s house and I chose to go, I would certainly be respectful to my host, come at the expected time, and not be rude in behavior and by eating all the food without thought to those who would come later. The Colonel felt this behavior is pretty general by the French troops toward Americans and the Kosovo people thru out the country.

Here are my final thoughts about the French. When you look at our relationship from the Revolutionary War era through WW1, WW2, post WW2 relationships, and up through today, I don’t see any great effort to work with us or appreciate our help during their time of need. Their concern is to look out for themselves and seek out what’s in it for them. I remind you of the millions of dollars in contracts for materials not allowed by the U.N. and kick backs from the oil for food scandal with Iraq prior to the war. Again I ask, what would have happened if France had worked with the U.S. putting pressure on Iraq to comply with the U.N. resolutions short of going to war?

Why is France this way? I don’t know, but I guess in part it could be their culture teaches them to hate America. Some have suggested they are jealous of our country, our power, and accomplishments. They are not the world player that they once were. Personally, I do not believe all French people are all bad, nor do I think all Americans or our government behaves correctly all the time.

Many have suggested that the French are headed toward considerable trouble again, by not handling their immigration problems with their growing Muslim population. Under current projections, the rate of immigration that France is experiencing means it will become a majority Muslim country in approximately 40 years. If this happens, I would think this will not sit well with the French citizenry if problems such as last year’s riots continue to happen. Some think the U.S. will get pulled into a situation where American help is needed to help diffuse rising tensions between the French citizens and a new Muslim majority. Is this unfair thinking? Perhaps. In fairness, I side with those who believe that 90% plus or minus of the Muslim world is peaceful and simply want to be treated fairly. It’s the radical extremist 10% that cause the problems.

Having said all of this, there is one other angle I would like to briefly address regarding U.S. relationships with France, and the rest of the world for that matter. In general, I believe the U.S. is held to a higher standard than the rest of the world. If the U.S. screws-up, it’s world news. If there is a big disaster, we are expected to give more money and goods than anyone else. If we don’t, we are seen as selfish. If another country is having major internal problems, the United States is often expected to send what is needed to correct their problem. If we don’t, it’s world news. If we do and get it right, it is not news. We can not be isolationist, as we do have our own interest to care for, but nor can we be the answer to all the world’s problems.

Again, its been fun and educational. Thank you for this respectfully managed and engaging debate.

At 21/2/06 13:55, Blogger croust said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your comments on this debate as respectful, fun, and educational. Thanks to everyone who's kept it that way!

Another Generation, your last couple points raise what I think is a crucial issue: France tends to look out for its own interests when it comes to world politics, and this has contributed significantly to francophobia amongst the general American population.

But, in a way, I find this criticism kind of unfair. Every country--even the US--acts according to its own interests in world politics.

To complain about French isolationism in the early 1960s and 1980s is to ignore American isolationism in 1914-1917 and in 1933-1941. Both countries have caused problems for each other through such policies. To complain about the French having contracts with Saddam Hussein is to ignore the American contracts with him in the 1980s (and, of course, to also ignore the US's history of illegal contracts, as best represented in the Iran-Contra affair). To complain about the behavior of French troops in Kosovo is to ignore the behavior of American troops in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other similar facilities (this, by the way, is a MAJOR concern in France right now).

So, does France act in the best interests of the US? No, and they would be crazy to do so. Likewise for the US. For example, the Ivory Coast has been on the verge of bloody civil war for some time now. What has the US done to help the situation? Nothing, since the US has very little interest in that part of Africa. France, on the other hand, had troops there for quite some time (about a month ago, the situation got much worse diplomatically and France decided to pull their troops in hopes that it would encourage the two sides to talk to each other).

On another note, we went out to dinner last Friday and had a really interesting conversation with our waiter. At one point he said to us, "You know what I love about America? About 60 or 80 years, you, as a nation, made a choice for pragmatism. Despite the wars, the racism, the poverty, illnesses, and all of the other problems the US faces, you're still number one. France is too philosophic. We're 300 years behind America in the way we think."

I sort of agree with him, but not entirely--this is definitely a case where the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I think American pragmatism has created as many problems as it's created stop-gap solutions for. We're definitely the only remaining superpower, but how long will that last? France has its own set of problems, but when it comes to the international community, they tend to push for more dialogue between nations. I think the current US administration could learn a lot from that.

At 27/2/06 23:59, Anonymous superfrenchie said...

Amy, for more on French bashing and what it's like to be French in today's French-bashing America, go to: superfrenchie.com


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