Ah, yes, our friends, the French. We didn't interfere in their Revolution because it was King Louis that helped us against King George, but they still seem to have a chip on their shoulder. So much for someone we helped three times last century: WWI, WWII, and Southeast Asia. And what did we get for it? The Chauchat
, De Gaule, and Viet Nam. If they had let the Vietnamese become independent, Ho Chi Minh probably wouldn't have gone Communist, and an awful lot of lives wouldn´t have been wasted.
From America's Forgotten Army
by Charles Whiting, end of Chapter 5 STORM TO THE RHINE
Sensitive about his own and France's prestige and position in the world, de Gaulle wanted the world to see that he and France were playing a full part in these world-shaking events. True, he had once stated privately that the Anglo-Americans should be allowed to do the fighting against the Germans and be killed, if necessary, doing so; France would need all the soldiers she could muster to deal with the problems of the post-war world. But now he was prepared to sacrifice French lives for the sake of the publicity a crossing would gain for France.
In the end the Americans appeared. With them they brought one single rubber dingy! The reaction of the hard-bitten colonial soldiers is not recorded. But honor had to be satisfied. THe whole of France was waiting for a French crossing. So a certain Sergeant Bertout and nine of his dark-skinned Algerian riflemen clambered into the boat and laboriously rowed themselves across the Rhine. It is doubtful whether the Germans were even aware that the French were crossing the Rhine for the first time since the days of Napoleon. Or perhaps they didn't take the "invasion" seriously. At all events they did not react until daybreak. Then they started shelling a second French crossing at the small town of Germersheim.
The scruffy bunch of one-time "collabos," renegades, ex-Maquis and North African colonial soldiers had managed to do what the haughty aristocratic Leclerc had failed to do back in November 1944. They had crossed the Rhine; aptly enough the date was April 1, 1945--April Fool's Day.
Some time later the French at Speyer, while their comrades were burning and plundering their way through the Black Forest heading for Stuttgart, started to erect a monument to Sergeant Bertout and his nine North Africans, who had crossed the Rhine in that lone rubber dingy. It was in the form of a stone pillar, the height of a man. It bore the palm twig of the French Army, a curved scimitar and some letters in Arabic, perhaps to symbolize French and Algerian cooperation. Chisled into the belly of the stone was the inscription:
Le 31 mars 1945 le 3d Rgt de Tiralleurs
Algeriens fanchit le Rhin
L'operation fut executee par le group Franc
du Regiment le Ier Battaillon et les Sappeurs
de la 83 I Cie
It was to be a lasting tribute to the glory of France, and naturally, in addition, to General Charles de Gaulle.
That March thousands of Britons, Canadians and Americans had died in the attempt to cross the Rhine. Yet for their effort and self-sacrifice there is no single monument save for those rows and rows of white headstones in those quiet green cemeteries, such as the ones at St. Avold and Epinal dedicated to the dead of the Seventh Army. Along the whole length of the Rhine there is no trace of their passing, those young men of 50 years ago. Only at Speyer does that one pillar exist. Of all the nations involved, the French, ironically enough, are making sure that "la gloire de France" will be remembered when all else is forgotten.
, September 18, 1995 Volume 146, No. 12:
De Gaulle gave clout to the once weak French presidency and stabilized France. But jealous of the Churchill-Roosevelt wartime bond, he remained a passionate anti-Atlanticist with a long memory. In 1963, still irate over Britain's cave-in to U.S. pressure to pull back from Suez in 1956, he vetoed Britain's application to join the European Economic Community. (His successors obstructed the entry of Spain and Portugal.) The following year, he withdrew France from the nato military command and asked President Lyndon Johnson to remove U.S. troops from France. A seething Secretary of State Dean Rusk flew to Paris to seek clarification: "Does your order include the bodies of American soldiers in France's cemeteries?"