Wednesday, October 02, 2013

...with élan.

In a forum discussion the "French surrender" joke came up, which I am all too often guilty of using as a throwaway gag line myself. (When I do, staghounds usually tastefully jerks my leash with a reminder of the Douaumont ossuary.)

A poster pointed out that the French have a pretty good track record of saddling up and getting involved in the post-war world, which was "generally speaking, more than you can say for those fearsome Krauts these days."

To which another commenter pointed out that "plenty of German DNA was spread across France in the 1940s..." leaving the opening for the obvious riposte:
Plenty of German DNA was spread across France in '14-'18, too. Mostly by Hotchkisses and French 75s.
Incidentally, we're coming up on the hundredth anniversary of the year we broke history. I've got some books I need to start re-reading, what with the cascade of centennials about to hit.


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Already re-read the Tuchman stuff for just this reason. I have a blog post queued for August 2014, too. Nothing special, but it's there, waiting to deploy like the right flank of Moltke's master plan thinking about wheeling around the long way to west of Paris.

Bob said...

Blogger/Author Chris Hernandez has served with the French in Afghanistan:

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

The French had a century and a half of learning the wrong lessons and inculcating it into the doctrine, post Napolean. They keyed on defense when they circumstances cried for offense, and defense when that famous elan was called for.

But I don't need to tell you this.

Tam said...


Yeah, I think I might have linked that here, but I can't remember; it came up in the discussion over at, too.

Tam said...


What I want to get the dirt on is why no French military rifles from the Chassepot to the MAS-36 had safeties.

mikee said...

No safeties? You want to put yet more difficulties between shooting at the enemy versus no-shoot surrender?

Critter said...

Pfft! A true Frenchman needs no safties. Give them Le Nal!

Stretch said...

"... the year we broke history."
The best summation of 1914 I've ever read.

global village idiot said...

I find American slagging of the French to be a trifle ungracious.

It's easy to do, mind you. Their art is mediocre, their food is bizarre, their cars are crap, their architecture is brothelesque, their politics are surreal and the only reason their philosophers are not the most incomprehensible boobs on the planet is because the Germans got there first. Their soldiers are brave past a fault but they're universally poorly-led.

The French contribution to the world is to teach it how to live pleasantly. They didn't invent bread, they made it tasty. They didn't invent wine, they made it enjoyable to drink. They didn't invent women, they made them easy-on-the-eyes so long as they keep their arms at their sides.

You could do much worse as a society.

And let's remember that French soldiers and sailors fought and died for American liberty (admittedly it was just to annoy the British but still) a full 136 years before we returned the favor.


rocinante2 said...

I gave up slagging the French a while back. I never tire of pointing out *who* it was that the Mexicans whupped on Cinco de Mayo, but other than that, their (military) history is filled with too many heartbreaking stories of brave, skilled soldiers poorly led.

Steve said...

So, if I get the gist of this, the French soldiers are mostly competent and brave, but their officers are idiots?

Sounds like most of the generals Lincoln had the first few years of the civil war (Read Lincoln and His Generals.

perlhaqr said...

Yeah. Lots and lots of Frenchmen died in WWI before we showed up. And the French of WWII had the atrociously poor luck of being slotted against the Wehrmacht, who were kicking ass and not even bothering with names. I mean, don't get me wrong, Nazis utterly suck, but they had all the good technique in the early parts of that war.

I don't bag on the French for their military history. Their politics, sure. But not their military history.

Anonymous said...

You broke history in 1917, not 1914.

Had US stayed on it's side of the Atlantic , Krauts would have eventually won and went home. Or negotiated a not-humiliating peace.

Thus, no ignominious defeat, Kaiser still in power and little chance of Germany getting a frothing lunatic in charge.

their cars are crap

Says someone who never drove a Citroen.
They had first production front-wheel drive, monocoque car.

They also invented the awesome hydropneumatic suspension that is nowadays used on all luxury cars like Bentleys, Rolls-Royce etc. Yeah - on those, and the costlier $30K+ Citroens ..

Tam said...

"Says someone who never drove a Citroen."

Says a Slav who never repaired one...

Tam said...

(Also, hasn't been used on a Rolls or Bentley in thirty years...)

Lanius said...

I like to eat my poo.

Ian Argent said...

The French 75 is the artillery of choice for Great War memorials around my part of NJ - though I saw a brace of 37 mm towed AT guns from a later unpleasantness in the parking lot of an American Legion the other day.

(The breech block in our town's is missing, probably deliberately, and is sporting some brand new wheels due to some @#$%# vandals)

markm said...

"Had US stayed on it's side of the Atlantic , Krauts would have eventually won and went home. Or negotiated a not-humiliating peace.

Thus, no ignominious defeat, Kaiser still in power and little chance of Germany getting a frothing lunatic in charge."

Without our intervention, the most likely ending of this war of attrition would have been for France, Great Britain, or both to have followed Russia into societal collapse and a Communist revolution.

Windy Wilson said...

Markm, good point. IIRC, weren't the French Army already mutinying in some places?