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As American soldiers fanned out from their beachhead in Normandy in June of 1944 and began the liberation of France, every soldier carried that reminder in his kit. A compact trove of knowledge and reassurance, Instructions for American Servicemen in France during World War II was issued to soldiers just before they embarked for France to help them understand both why they were going and what they’d find when they got there.
After lying unseen in Army archives for decades, this remarkable guide is now available in audio.
Written in a straightforward, personal tone, the pamphlet is equal parts guidebook, cultural snapshot, and propaganda piece. A central aim is to dispel any prejudices American soldiers may have about the French. Warning soldiers that the defeat “is a raw spot which the Nazis have been riding” since the occupation began, Instructions is careful to highlight France’s long historical role as a major U.S. ally. Following that is a brief, fascinating sketch of the French character and stark reminders of the deprivation the French have endured under occupation. Yet an air of reassuring confidence pervades the final section of the pamphlet, which sounds like a straightforward tourists' guide to Paris and the provinces.
Written by anonymous War Department staffers to meet the urgent needs of the moment, with no thought of its historical value, Instructions for American Servicemen in France during World War II nevertheless brings to vivid life the closing years of World War II—when optimism was growing, but a long, demanding road still lay ahead.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By DS on 03-11-13
A TIMELESS DICTIONARY
While this was written for a serviceman in 1942, only the first half is dated, and not very dated at that. The second half is a dictionary and pronunciation guide that is just as useful today
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
By Carroll on 11-25-14
An interesting historical view.....
These are rare views on how Americans viewed the world & life in France. The unique descriptions of what they "thought" GI's should learn is interesting as much for how they comment on life in America and this foreign land.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Mary Carnegie on 04-21-18
Wise advice for US soldiers abroad.
In spite of the 1942 publication date, the text has obviously been updated to consider the more realistic arrival of Allied troops in France on D-Day, 6 June ‘44.
It is very tactful advice on how to behave on foreign soil for GIs coming from all over the USA - it is flattering to American soldiers from the neck end of nowhere in implying they’re all accustomed to luxury toilets and constant hot water while reminding them that 4 years of Occupation has impoverished France (or at least those who have not collaborated or indulged in black market corruption) to a dreadful state.
Don’t call them “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” (a more recent USA jibe.) Respect another culture, those tough peasants, and the sophistication of Paris.
Beware brothels, and be respectful of women of other professions. Try to learn a modicum of basic French, avoid boasting (“Careless talk costs lives”)
The two gigantic elephants in the room are never mentioned- the Jews, and the black soldiers fighting for France in integrated and other regiments, later banned from Liberation parades in Paris by US insistance, which more or less destroyed any idea of moral justice or right vs wrong from WWII.