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Tag: World War II

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Seventy-Five Years Ago, France-Amérique Explained the Atomic Bomb

The Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by an incredibly powerful bomb on August 6 and 9, 1945. In its August 19, 1945 edition, France-Amérique published a front-page feature and a rare popular science article by Jacques Errera. The Belgian physicist discussed nuclear fission and shared his vision of the future of the atomic age. “The atomic bomb...

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The French, History’s All-Time Losers?

The French excel when it comes to patisserie and haute couture, but are supposedly terrible in warfare with lily-livered soldiers going from one defeat to the next. This cliché has been peddled in the United States since the Wehrmacht entered Paris on June 14, 1940, and the French army surrendered eight days later. “Bonjourrrrr, you cheese-eating surrender monkeys!” This is...

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Occupied Paris by Janet Flanner

Writing under the pen name of Genêt, Janet Flanner (1892-1978) was the daughter of a Quaker from Indianapolis who spent fifty years brilliantly portraying Parisian life in her "Letters from Paris" for the New Yorker. Swept up in the politics of the 1930s, she gradually abandoned her neutral stance and invented a new form of journalism. She was forced to...

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George Withers, an Illustrator at War

Seventy-five years ago, on May 8, 1945, Corporal George Withers was in Paris. The war in Europe had ended, and the American artist was painting the national outpouring of joy, scenes of jubilation in Paris, and the victory marches. “Today, I saw Churchill, Anthony Eden, and De Gaulle leading the Armistice Day parade,” he wrote in a letter to his...

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When the Free French Forces Trained in the U.S.

During World War II, more than 4,000 French pilots, navigators, radio operators, machine-gunners, bombardiers, and mechanics were trained in the United States. A little-known chapter in the history of the French Air Force. Boston, June 23, 1943. The French soldiers disembarking from the U.S.S. West Point were ashen-faced, having spent two weeks aboard a luxury ocean liner that had been...

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How Charles de Gaulle Rescued France

As Julian Jackson insists in the preface of his biography, published by Harvard University Press in 2018 and translated in French by Seuil, De Gaulle is “everywhere” in modern France, its undisputed hero. This claim, like some other confident statements in the book, may strike a reader as both narrowly true and what a French thinker might call metaphysically false. His...

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Jeep, a French-American Love Story

The ancestor of the 4x4, Jeep was a World War II icon and a symbol of the liberation of Paris in August 1944. The brand, which was born in the U.S. and was acquired by the French group Renault, has become a strategic asset in the automobile industry. When asked about the instruments of America’s victory in World War II,...

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Liberating the City of Light: Dispatch from an American Journalist

The first American soldiers entered the recently liberated city of Paris 75 years ago on August 25, 1944. They were accompanied by the renowned war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Ernest Taylor Pyle was 44 when he set foot in liberated Paris, almost twice the age of the soldiers he was with. Originally from Dana, Indiana, he was bald and weighed less...

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Conneaut Hosts D-Day in Ohio

Every August, a little town in Ohio hosts the world’s biggest reenactment of the Normandy Landings. More than 2,000 armed and uniformed volunteers will be taking part in this year’s edition from August 15 through 17. On the shores of Lake Erie, the sandy beach by the little town of Conneaut is somewhat similar to Omaha Beach. Wooden obstacles painted...

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The 177 French Soldiers of D-Day

The D-Day Landings on the Normandy beaches took place on June 6, 1944, led by 57,500 American soldiers, 58,815 Brits, 21,400 Canadians, and just 177 Frenchmen! A tiny but elite commando force the history books have long forgotten. “Action stations, 0430 hours, the last coffee before France. The night is drawing to an end, we are stunned by the sight...

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Of Bombs and Beaches: Leon Kroll’s Mosaic Ceiling at Omaha Beach

A chapel stands amidst the graves in the U.S. military cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, the focal point of the Allied landings in France during World War II. Inside, the ceiling of its dome features an astonishing, colorful mosaic by American painter Leon Kroll. Standing among thousands of white marble crosses on a bluff above Omaha Beach in Normandy is a...

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From Connecticut to Normandy: The Planes of D-Day Take to the Skies

Ten World War II cargo planes took off from an airfield in Connecticut last Sunday morning. They will fly across the Atlantic and drop several hundred parachutists over Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 1944 landings. D-Day Doll is almost 76 years old but purrs like she has just come out of the Douglas factory in Santa Monica,...

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The Merci Train, a Locomotive Built on French-American Goodwill

The cane used by the Marquis de La Fayette, 49 Sèvres porcelain vases, a silk wedding dress, and toy soldiers belonging to a ten-year-old boy. These were just a few of the objects gifted to the United States in a convoy of transatlantic solidarity organized after World War II: the French Gratitude Train. Seventy years ago on February 3, 1949,...

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You Are Where You Eat

Looking for her roots in Normandy, an American writer fell in love with pungent cheese and discovered the importance of terroir in French culture and gastronomy. The sky of Normandy is so blue that painters whose work hangs in the Musée d’Orsay had to find new pigment to paint it — so a guide told me. The sun that shines...

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“The Order of the Day,” a Goncourt Laureate Like no Other

For the first time since it was founded, the Prix Goncourt has been awarded to a historical account instead of a novel. The winner is none other than The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard, a staggering work of some 130 pages which was recently translated and published in the U.S. After the initial surprise, readers will be firmly...

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France and the United States From Liberation to Exasperation

How did Americans go, in the mind of the French, from gum-chewing liberators to Coke-swilling invaders? A U.S. historian and a French cheesemonger examined this transformation in a book published this summer. During the Liberation, American GIs used calvados brandy to fuel their Zippo lighters. In 1948, the French communist party called for a boycott of the American soda giant, accusing...

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Flying Free: U.S. Pilots Saved by the Normans

American fighter planes and bombers supported the Allies in the Battle of Normandy from June through August 1944. During the war, some 2,700 pilots were forced to execute an emergency landing. Local inhabitants came to their rescue, and the soldiers were instructed to blend in with the French until the country was liberated. One such aviator, Major McLeod, went on...

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“Memoir of War,” an Excruciating Wait

Memoir of War is an adaptation of a semi-autobiographical work by Marguerite Duras. It recounts the novelist’s seemingly endless wait for her husband, Robert Antelme, who was imprisoned at Buchenwald during World War II. Director Emmanuel Finkiel offers a heartrending movie which was chosen to represent France at the 2019 Oscars ceremony. June, 1944. France is still living under Nazi...

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Yann Castelnot, Remembering Native Veterans

Frenchman Yann Castelnot, a Quebec-based amateur historian, has identified thousands of indigenous soldiers who fought for Canada and the United States since the arrival of the Europeans in the 17th century. In recognition of his archiving work he received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from the Province of Quebec and was congratulated by the Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs. Exactly...

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Claude Lanzmann, Shoah Memorialist, Dies at 92

French journalist and film director Claude Lanzmann, famous for his nine-and-a-half-hour documentary about the Holocaust, Shoah, passed away this Thursday. He was 92. "The people in the Jewish community that I meet are not ordinary deportees," explained Claude Lanzmann to France-Amérique in December 2010 as his film Shoah was being screened in New York. "They are people who have gone to...

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Serge and Beate Klarsfeld: “We Will Keep Fighting as Long as We Are Alive”

Serge and Beate Klarsfeld have spent their lives hunting former Nazis, war criminals, and high-ranking officials of the Vichy regime. France-Amérique met with these “militants of memory,” 82 and 79 respectively, while they were promoting the English publication of their autobiography, Hunting the Truth. “He was over 6 ft. 5 and had a revolver in his pocket. I was also...