Press and Sun-Bulletin/March 8, 1945
NEW YORK, March 8. General de Gaulle’s petulant rudeness and the demanding attitude of his France toward the United States will be all for the best if they cure us, finally, of the juvenile crush which has controlled our relations with this irresponsible people. In that case, we would see France and the French very much as their continental neighbors and many of the British saw them, not through the calf eyes of a rich, young, extravagant and geographically distant nation which regarded even her village manure-piles as fetchingly quaint and the innate larceny of her merchants as a somehow lovable foible.
The plain fact of the matter is that France quit cold in this war and later was rescued by the Americans, the second time in a quarter of a century that her life was saved by the United States. Her conduct in the brief fighting war in 1940 was not comparable to that of the Russians when their homeland was attacked a year later nor to the tenacity of the Germans in recent weeks. Reporters who covered the rout wrote that French Army units were intimidated by the mere noise of the Stukas and that the soldier of 1940 was no worthy son of the father who died in Verdun in 1916.
During the interval between the wars, sometimes called the long armistice, the attitude of France toward the United States was that of a spoiled and perfumed sweetheart toward an infatuated and too generous suitor. The French nation was a feminine concept in our psychology, pretty, vivacious, erratic, unreasonable, but, altogether, desirable. French politicians, stout, practical and shrewd, realized all this and laughed at our gullibility for they knew themselves and their own people.
It must have amazed them that they could get so much propaganda and the material benefits of this unreasoning goodwill from a few hundred or thousand medals of their Legion of Honor which entitled essentially undistinguished Americans to a little red ribbon or rosette in their lapels. Meanwhile, Americans wore hooted in Paris for being Americans whose country now and again would send in a bill for a little payment on the debt of World War I.
The history of France is not that of a peace-loving, unaggressive nation, although, for that matter, none of the great powers got that way through fair and gentle methods, and the extension of France up to the Rhine after this war will be a repetition, in reverse, of Alsace-Lorraine, with consequences which some future generation will have the privilege or misfortune to observe. Lost provinces always pine for rescue as every Frenchman knows and inevitably knights go warring to release them.
There is no reason to dislike France or the French but neither is there any excuse to maintain the fictitious concept that has embarrassed us in our thoughts and dealings all this time. They have their excellent virtues which we may appreciate without that sophomoric rapture in the contemplation of a toothsome co-ed which has distorted our relations.
It seems a little too much to ask that in the midst of a war in which Americans landed in the face of German fortifications on the French coast, chased the Nazis out of Paris and, finally, are smashing into Germany, the rescue party should also give and deliver to France rolling stock to replenish her railroads, feed and clothe her and rearm the army which, in 1940, gave up its weapons without a creditable fight.