a sad piece of history

This story comes from the BBC. It gives an account of how, upon requesting that French troops be allowed to lead the liberation of Paris during the second world war, de Gaulle was given a condition by American and British forces: make sure those who entered Paris were all white. The victory should seen as a “whites only” victory. Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, wrote to de Gaulle, “It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.” General Frederick Morgan of Britain concurred, “I have told Colonel de Chevene that his chances of getting what he wants will be vastly improved if he can produce a white infantry division.” The problem for France (beyond, of course, the moral one) was that less than 40% of French troops were white. Most were Africans from colonies. Rather than be rewarded for freeing France, most were immediately deported back home. Gives a new sense of what what it meant for France to be “free” and how the US military was deeply interested in and committed to racism even while fighting the second World War.

3 thoughts on “a sad piece of history”

  1. Me either. Thanks for posting about it, Shakha. I think it’s really important to rewrite history this way. There seem to be a few details that tend to get left out.

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  2. Interesting, Shamus – I was watching a bit on the anniversary of Josephine Baker’s death today, and one of the main strains of argument was the freedom she experienced in Paris, including advocating for civil rights, (seemingly genuine) adoration by fans, etc., a prosperous life.

    Of course, image vs. reality is probably true, and the optics of a Black, ‘exotic’ entertainer differs from the nationalism contained in military images. But it was striking to see these two things juxtaposed.

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