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eXile Classic / The War Nerd / July 4, 2014

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This article was first published in The eXile on October 2, 2003

The new big thing on the web is all these sites with names like “I Hate France,” with supposed datelines of French military history, supposedly proving how the French are total cowards. If you want to see a sample of this dumbass Frog bashing, try this:

www.albinoblacksheep.com/text/france.html

Well, I’m going to tell you guys something you probably don’t want to hear: these sites are total bullshit, the notion that the French are cowards is total bullshit, and anybody who knows anything about European military history knows damn well that over the past thousand years, the French have the most glorious military history in Europe, maybe the world.

Before you send me more of those death threats, let me finish. I hate Chirac too, and his disco foreign minister with the blow-dry ‘do and the snotty smile. But there are two things I hate more than I hate the French: ignorant fake war buffs, and people who are ungrateful. And when an American mouths off about French military history, he’s not just being ignorant, he’s being ungrateful. I was raised to think ungrateful people were trash.

When I say ungrateful, I’m talking about the American Revolution. If you’re a true American patriot, then this is the war that matters. Hell, most of you probably couldn’t name three major battles from it, but try going back to when you read Johnny Tremaine in fourth grade and you might recall a little place called Yorktown, Virginia, where we bottled up Cornwallis’s army, forced the Brits’ surrender and pretty much won the war.

Well, news flash: “we” didn’t win that battle, any more than the Northern Alliance conquered the Taliban. The French army and navy won Yorktown for us. Americans didn’t have the materiel or the training to mount a combined operation like that, with naval blockade and land siege. It was the French artillery forces and military engineers who ran the siege, and at sea it was a French admiral, de Grasse, who kicked the shit out of the British navy when they tried to break the siege.

Long before that, in fact as soon as we showed the Brits at Saratoga that we could win once in a while, they started pouring in huge shipments of everything from cannon to uniforms. We’d never have got near Yorktown if it wasn’t for massive French aid.

So how come you bastards don’t mention Yorktown in your cheap webpages? I’ll tell you why: because you’re too ignorant to know about it and too dishonest to mention it if you did.

The thing that gets to me is why Americans hate the French so much when they only did us good and never did us any harm. Like, why not hate the Brits? They’re the ones who killed thousands of Americans in the Revolution, and thirty years later they came back and attacked us again. That time around they managed to burn Washington DC to the ground while they were at it. How come you web jerks never mention that?

Sure, the easy answer is because the Brits are with us now, and the French aren’t. But being a war buff means knowing your history and respecting it.

Well, so much for ungrateful. Now let’s talk about ignorant. And that’s what you are if you think the French can’t fight: just plain ignorant. Appreciation of the French martial spirit is just about the most basic way you can distinguish real war nerds from fake little teachers’pets.

Let’s take the toughest case first: the German invasion, 1940, when the French Army supposedly disgraced itself against the Wehrmacht. This is the only real evidence you’ll find to call the French cowards, and the more you know about it, the less it proves. Yeah, the French were scared of Hitler. Who wasn’t? Chamberlain, the British prime minister, all but licked the Fuhrer’s goosesteppers, basically let him have all of Central Europe, because Britain was terrified of war with Germany. Hell, Stalin signed a sweetheart deal with Hitler out of sheer terror, and Stalin wasn’t a man who scared easy.

The French were scared, all right. But they had reason to be. For starters, they’d barely begun to recover from their last little scrap with the Germans: a little squabble you might’ve heard of, called WW I.

WW I was the worst war in history to be a soldier in. WW II was worse if you were a civilian, but the trenches of WW I were five years of Hell like General Sherman never dreamed of. At the end of it a big chunk of northern France looked like the surface of the moon, only bloodier, nothing but craters and rats and entrails.

Verdun. Just that name was enough to make Frenchmen and Germans, the few who survived it, wake up yelling for years afterward. The French lost 1.5 million men out of a total population of 40 million fighting the Germans from 1914-1918. A lot of those guys died charging German machine-gun nests with bayonets. I’d really like to see one of you office smartasses joke about “surrender monkeys” with a French soldier, 1914 vintage. You’d piss your dockers.

Shit, we strut around like we’re so tough and we can’t even handle a few uppity Iraqi villages. These guys faced the Germans head on for five years, and we call them cowards? And at the end, it was the Germans, not the French, who said “calf rope.”

When the sequel war came, the French relied on their frontier fortifications and used their tanks (which were better than the Germans’, one on one) defensively. The Germans had a newer, better offensive strategy. So they won. And the French surrendered. Which was damn sensible of them.

This was the WEHRMACHT. In two years, they conquered all of Western Europe and lost only 30,000 troops in the process. That’s less than the casualties of Gettysburg. You get the picture? Nobody, no army on earth, could’ve held off the Germans under the conditions that the French faced them. The French lost because they had a long land border with Germany. The English survived because they had the English Channel between them and the Wehrmacht. When the English Army faced the Wermacht at Dunkirk, well, thanks to spin the tuck-tail-and-flee result got turned into some heroic tale of a brilliant British retreat. The fact is, even the Brits behaved like cowards in the face of the Wermacht, abandoning the French. It’s that simple.

Here’s a quick sampler of some of my favorite French victories, like an antidote to those ignorant websites. We’ll start way back and move up to the 20th century.

Tours, 732 AD: The Muslims had already taken Spain and were well on their way to taking the rest of Europe. The only power with a chance of stopping them was the French army under Charles “the Hammer” Martel, King of the Franks (French), who answered to the really cool nickname “the Hammer of God.” It was the French who saved the continent’s ass. All the smart money was on the Muslims: there were 60,000 of them, crazy Jihadis whose cavalry was faster and deadlier than any in Europe. The French army was heavily outnumbered and had no cavalry. Fighting in phalanxes, they held against dozens of cavalry charges and after at least two days of hand-to-hand combat, finally managed to hack their way to the Muslim center and kill their commander. The Muslims retreated to Spain, and Europe developed as an independent civilization.

Orleans, May 1429: Joan of Arc: is she the most insanely cool military commander in history or what? This French peasant girl gets instructions from her favorite saints to help out the French against the English invaders. She goes to the King (well, the Dauphin, but close enough) and tells him to give her the army and she’ll take it from there. And somehow she convinces him. She takes the army, which has lost every battle it’s been in lately, to Orleans, which is under English siege. Now Joan is a nice girl, so she tries to settle things peaceably. She explains in a letter to the enemy commanders that everything can still be cool, “…provided you give up France…and go back to your own countries, for God’s sake. And if you do not, wait for the Maid, who will visit you briefly to your great sorrow.” The next day she put on armor, mounted a charger, and prepared to lead the attack on the besiegers’ fortifications. She ordered the gates opened, but the Mayor refused until Joan explained that she, personally, would cut off his head. The gates went up, the French sallied out, and Joan led the first successful attack they’d made in years. The English strongpoints were taken, the siege was broken, and Joan’s career in the cow-milking trade was over.

Braddock’s Defeat (aka Battle of Monongahela) July 1755: Next time you’re driving through the Ohio Valley, remember you’re passing near the site of a great French victory over an Anglo-American force twice its size. General Edward Braddock marched west from Virginia with 1,500 men — a very large army in 18th-c. America. His orders were to seize French land and forts in the Valley — your basic undeclared land-grab invasion. The French joined the local tribes to resist, and then set up a classic ambush. It was a slaughter. More than half of Braddock’s force — 880 men — were killed or wounded. The only Anglo officer to escape unhurt was this guy called George Washington, and even he had two horses shot out from under him. After a few minutes of non-stop fire from French and Indians hidden in the woods, Braddock’s command came apart like something out of Nam, post-Tet. Braddock was hit and wounded, but none of his troops would risk getting shot to rescue him.

Austerlitz, Dec. 1805: You always hear about Austerlitz as “Napoleon’s Greatest Victory,” like the little guy personally went out and wiped out the combined Russian and Austrian armies. The fact is, ever since the Revolution in 1789, French armies had been kicking ass against everybody. They were free citizens fighting against scared peasant and degenerate mercenaries, and it was no contest. At Austerlitz, 65,000 French troops took on 90,000 Russians and Austrians and destroyed them. Absolutely annihilated them. The French lost only 8,000, compared to 29,000 of the enemy. The tactics Bonaparte used were very risky, and would only have worked with superb troops: he encouraged the enemy to attack a weak line, then brought up reinforcements who’d been held out of sight. That kind of tactical plan takes iron discipline and perfect timing — and the French had it.

Jena, Oct. 1806: just a quick reminder for anybody who thinks the Germans always beat the French. Napoleon takes on the Prussian army and destroys it. 27,000 Prussian casualties vs. 5,000 French. Prussian army routed, pursued for miles by French cavalry.

You eXile guys might want to remember that the French under Napoleon are still the only army ever to have taken all of continental Europe, from Moscow to Madrid. I could keep listing French victories till I had a book. In fact, it’s not a bad idea. A nice big hardback, so you could take it to the assholes running all the anti-French-military sites and bash their heads in with it.

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25 Comments

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  • 1. Mr. Peabody's Lederhosen  |  July 24th, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Conservative America, always unable to deal with reality, are the ones who simply make shit up when the facts say otherwise. Stupid Motherfuckers – all of them!

  • 2. Frank Chapeau  |  August 6th, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Great piece Gary, as usual. Thanks for setting the record straight. I’d be curious to read what you have to say about current events in the Levant. How do you figure US intelligence got so thoroughly blindsided by ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

  • 3. DtD  |  August 27th, 2014 at 5:45 am

    Oh, Dr. D. It is so nice to see your classics re-posted.
    The world misses you, buddy, but I know you are goin through a tough time at the moment. Hopefully you can get back on board with Pando again soon, once things settle down. No shortage of material out there at the moment.

  • 4. Mark  |  September 3rd, 2014 at 12:03 am

    dude,
    you wasted some outrage. everybody knows the French helped us in our Revolution, and that having Germans for neighbors wasn’t easy in the last century. Only idiots and Republicans believe that silliness.
    Good rag, more limonov, less silliness, get to work!

  • 5. nampa1  |  September 12th, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    bring back the exile/exiled!!

  • 6. Batterytrain  |  September 18th, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    What a load of cock and bull! Napoleon wasn’t even French and Martel wasn’t entirely either and the Frankish tribes weren’t even “French-French”, hint* hint* “Northern Europe”.

    The real underrated armies has to be the Swedish+Prussian armies. The military history of the Swedish empire and all the countries surrounding it, is incredible. Most people or Europeans don’t know about Gustavus Adolphus during the Great Northern war and how they kicked serious French/continental European ass when they tried to invade them to make them a bitch puppet state. Swedish empire managed to defeat the Prussians+French+Russians+Danish+Austro-Hungarians simultaneously while having little access to arable land and warm water ports.

    Prussians are also underrated, sure they lost to Napoleon but once they corrected their mistakes and hurdles, they started kicking serious ass despite being disadvantaged in the form of terrain plus lack of warm water ports. Read about Friedrich the Great and how he defeated multiple armies on straight ground battles as if it was leisure time. Heck they fought extremely well in WWI.

    The West represents everything wrong and bad, in this case Jewish influenced and backed capitalism, the individualist consumerist termite colonist, excessive materialist based identity, atomized dumbed down existence, hedonism as the basis for living, ego-driven false virtues and purposes, rootlessness, cultureless, blandness, nihilism, self-centeredness, plastic false personalities, manufactured fake realities to please the masses; no nation state for any other race but open-borders neo-colonialized world where the colonized simply follow in the footsteps of their enslaved ancestors by succumbing to these launched values.

    Germans were against the internationalist banking cartel, whom were simply corroding/corrupting the core essences of nation-states of people worldwide. They wanted essentially nation states based on race for everybody else with economic slots and jobs catered towards serving the people and the country instead of some vague neo-liberal hyper-individualist fantastic imaginary end-lighted tunnel with ego-centric pointless underpinnings. The Nazi’s were the real good guys in the fight against the decadent corrupting degenerate Western world; it is so gratifying to see the descendants of these Western ww2 soldiers writhe in agony in living in the soullessness modern world and to see their societies fall apart courtesy of being lapdogs to their Anglo-Zionist banking masters.

    Also I never understood why these people always boasted about their experiences, when the Germans, Russians, Balts, Eastern Europeans, Balkanize etc did the vast majority of the real fighting. Remember Germany was mostly a landlocked territory surrounded by enemies on all sides consistently throughout history but they also defeated most of their enemies on straight to straight ground battles, enemies who were equal in technology and numbers to them. Most German colonies were also based in their home turf in Europe AKA Baltic states whereas Brits/French/Spanish/American colonies were based in countries/regions of inferior cultures or people that were behind in civilization and technology wise to that of Western Europe.

    Same could be said for Russia, Russia was also mostly land locked with no warm water ports, little arable land compared to that of Western Europe, difficult and harsh landscapes plus unpredictable weather, continuous infrastructure and civic difficulties due to their environment, entry point for invaders going into or outside Europe, easily accessible by land for opponents, while Russian colonies were also based either in Europe whom had the same weapons/technology/tactics/capabilities as them or other difficult harsh regions with opponents whom were as versatile with equal access to technology/weapons as them. The fact that the Russians were able to regularly deploy vast numbers of forces and win so many wars against enemies while controlling huge territories of the northern hemisphere at the same time is an enormous feat they accomplished which is nothing short of incredible.

    The Russians/Germans are the real ones who did most of the fighting and ass-kicking in both world wars and all previous wars in Europe; even during the Napoleanic era/afterwards it was the Prussian, Russian, Swedish, Polish-Lithuanian, Dutch, Austro-Hungarian, Danish, Ottoman empires whom were the strongest and most impressive not because of the amount of territory they conquered on a map but because of the sheer number of battles and types of wars they had to wage on each other to acquire as little colonies/wealth/power/territory as they could where each had equal technology and militaristic potential with each other. Brits/French plus Western Europe were never caught in such a scenario while having easy access to warm water ports which is why the British empire was the most overrated empire in history for that reason and so was most Western empires.

    So I don’t understand why these American WW2 soldiers and previous American WWI soldiers thumped their chests so much and bragged, when they never had to face so many difficulties/challenges/complexities and unfair harsh conditions in terms of warfare and military flexibility as Germans/Russians plus other historical mainland continental European empires. I would venture to say that most of them were pussies and posers compared to Germans+Russians. This whole greatest generation hero WW2 myths baffles me to no end combined with the ignorance+stupidity of Americans plus Brits on these conditions and scenario’s…

  • 7. Bernhard A Kats  |  September 25th, 2014 at 5:13 am

    I missed you Gary, master story teller of Libya, Mauritania and Uganda.
    The French? You forgot West Africa. And their recent victories in Libya and Mali.
    Write about another African country. Nigeria may be. But not about Zuid Afrika or the Goudkust (Ghana). I am Dutch, and I know what I am talking about. Grolsch beer and “apartheid”.

  • 8. Peter Sloane  |  October 22nd, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Well, I can see why you would want to disprove the case of the French being cowards, and agree completely that France was instrumental, more so than Americans, in gaining U.S. independence.

    However, downplaying the British sacrifice during WWII is insulting, and your odd sense that America needs to be providing some kind of hegemony of European powers during WWII is just strange: Europe, not America, suffered WWI and then understandably attempted to avoid WWII. Then, they all fought together, as allies, and it is people like yourself that give credence to the opinions of ignoramouses/ignorami..

  • 9. draper  |  November 4th, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Indeed Russians,French, and Germans fought a lot in Europe in the last 2-3 centuries. But how come it was always Britain and later US who benefited from European wars? Maybe there is a lesson to be learned? Maybe it should be learned quickly, before current sanction wars cause irreparable damage?

  • 10. Jeff Moore  |  November 12th, 2014 at 6:40 am

    The idea that some – any group are cowards, is a disguised attempt to intrinsically separate one group or humans from another as fundamentally different.
    All people are a construct of the current society they’re a part of. The Wehrmacht were a somewhat predictable outcome of a centuries worth of militarization underlying the birth of a nation in a hostile neighborhood.
    German leaders, like so many others looked to their military to defend and extend an Empire. By 1939, enough Germans had absorbed military tactics, technical wizbang, and theory that their military had both cohesion and enough fanaticism to attempt (again) to break out of central Europe and conquer.
    But this sort of culture was not unique in its capability compared to its neighbors, but unique in its modern (at the time) equivalence to Rome’s or Napolean”s martial capabilities earlier.
    The real question isn’t why this or that group is cowardly. That’s just ignorance of history, but why militarism is still the dominant way of conducting human relations. The answer is a failure (so far) of imagination. The “Arab Spring” and the defense of Kobane by a mixed gender secular communal force of peaceniks (to some extent) may point to a different world in birth, or just another still birth. It depends on our willingness to imagine another future.
    But as Gary points out anyone facing the Germans in 39 needed a very cool head to survive. Any summary insult proclaiming French cowardice is ignorant if not cowardly in itself.

  • 11. Galtic Troll  |  November 25th, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Mark Ames, I shall troll you to the ends of Galt’s Gulch. For I am Galtard Warrior! Fear me!

  • 12. Gustavus Adolphus  |  December 18th, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    I agree its dumb to consider all French soldiers to be cowards. The Italians after the Roman era deserve more scorn although they showed great bravery in WWI. But you don’t mention the French defeats in
    Indochina
    Algeria
    Franco-Prussian War (1870)
    Seven Years War (they lost Canada)
    Waterloo (although they won at Ligny and Quartre Bras)

  • 13. FLODA  |  December 19th, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Terrific Gary! You really should write that book you mentioned.

  • 14. Lex  |  December 20th, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Another fact about the Revolution: the French supplied the Continental Army with superb gunpowder, far more reliable and effective than the British stuff, especially in the damp. This thanks to the great chemist Lavoisier, who was guillotined a few years later.

  • 15. Max  |  January 5th, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Good Article.

    No one remembers that the french were the premier military superpower in europe from Charlemagne to the Crusades to Napoleon – that’s about a thousand years.
    The French Foreign Legion is still considered an elite corp of bad-asses.

    I think the main decline in respect for french military power has to do with their defeat and occupation by the Nazis in WW2 – AND that everyone views the french as arrogant bastards.
    This view, of course, is not helped by the surly and prickly attitudes of the french, particularly parisians, towards foreigners – especially americans and brits.
    So, in revenge, the americans and brits label the french as brie-eating wimps, who needed the allies to rescue them from nazi occupation.

  • 16. knuck  |  January 12th, 2015 at 12:35 am

    My dad hated the French. He called them,”the whores of the earth!” Pop was merchant marine,WWII and Korea. Forty five Atlantic crossings in WWII including the Mermansk run. Pop had the qualifications to command unlimited tonnage. One of his last commands in WWII was aboard a hospital ship. The ship was completely full,including all the morgues.There were hundred of American corpses stacked and rotting on the deck. They pulled into Marseilles to offload bodies before steaming back to the USA. The puddlejumpers would not allow them to offload. They may have an impressive military history. Doesn’t change my opinion.

  • 17. HK  |  February 1st, 2015 at 9:53 am

    About the 1940 defeat in the Battle of France: Everybody seems to forget that it was not the French army against the Germans, it was the British, French, Dutch and Belgian armies about Germany. The latter 2 were wiped out in a week or so, and the British were defeated as well, after which they ran head over heels across the English channel. The defence of France was based on the idea of having both the British and French fighting against the Germans, and after the British pull out, the whole strategy collapsed. Thus the idea of British betrayal in France, which in part lead to ambivalence towards the British, amongst Vichy French officers. The main point: the Battle of France was a British defeat as well, but only the French part is usually taken into account. When the British part of it gets mentioned, it’s “the heroic evacuation at Dunkirk against all odds”.

  • 18. TrangleC  |  May 3rd, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    People grew up with Hollywood movies and TV series like “Band of Brothers”, making Wehrmacht soldiers look like cowardly, wimpy, ineffective losers who can easily be defeated.

    So since the French got defeated by those pathetic German pushovers, that means they must be even more pathetic.

    How could anyone who got their knowledge of history mostly from Hollywood and “The History Channel” think anything else?

  • 19. Dusty Chaps  |  June 9th, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Well, TrangleC, the majority of informed Americans don’t get “their knowledge of history mostly from Hollywood;” but “The History Channel,” hmm. I think by now most movie buffs understand that tinseltown is all about entertaining theatre and making money and not historical accuracy. If any group in the USA has an undisputed gripe with the movies it’s native Americans, the victims of a continuing genocide. Last time anyone counted noses only 3,000,000 remained after four hundred years or so of slaughter and denial of human rights and stolen treaty mandated property.

  • 20. Dusty Chaps  |  June 10th, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Say Gary, are you really an overweight, data entry pustule mired in San Jose all these years? Hard to believe. You write really well for someone who can’t control his appetite and lacks discernible ambition.

  • 21. hui  |  June 28th, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    “Conservative America, always unable to deal with reality, are the ones who simply make shit up when the facts say otherwise.”

    You mean like dipshit retard inbreds trolling comments sections to make racist statements about blacks being dumb, because you just know a white guy who trolls comments sections is fucking Einstein.

  • 22. History lover  |  May 3rd, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Hi,
    great article for sure!
    Thank you.
    French Haters also pretend that France never won a war.
    It’s totally false and this country has won many wars (not only battles…)during its long History.
    I won’t go in details, but it’s easy to verify that for those who are interested in real History.

    @Gustavus Adolphus

    You clearly don’t know that France won the Algeria war military, but the context of decolonization and the international context led to a political decision of Algeria Independence (it’s the same context that Indochina).

    About Waterloo, French Army were largely outnumbered by an international alliance and they nearly won this battle (they lost due to several facts: an important General that can’t be there, a problem of artillery that was the favourite aspect of Napoleon’s strategy, etc.).

  • 23. DERIK  |  September 17th, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Batterytrain : I didn’t know France and Sweden were in war.They were allies in the thirty years war.
    Gustave Adolphus : during the seven years war, the french were absolutely outnumbred and they won many battles meanwhile this.Read about Pierre Lemoyne d’Iberville.

  • 24. DERIK  |  September 17th, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Sorry for my english, I’m french.

  • 25. thesurveyor  |  September 24th, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    I think there is one word for someone who acts so offended with the label ‘coward’ and then goes on to label someone else a coward – hypocrite.
    Now onto your comments regarding Dunkirk. Whatever the reasons for the withdrawal at Dunkirk everyday people like you and I gave their lives fighting against an invading enemy, so who are you to disrespect their memory in that way. Don’t forget that the British were fighting on French soil to help defend the french nation, and when the Germans broke through the French line in the south (due to overwhelming air support and superior tank tactics) they managed to encircle the BEF and parts of the French army. At that point the allies were in a desperate situation and the risk of complete annihilation was high (remember they were surrounded), so the best tactic and safest was to withdraw to fight another day. If they had stayed and been defeated then both countries would be out of the war and Germany would now stand victorious. It was no secret that this was the plan because tonnes of equipment and vehicles were being destroyed in and around Dunkirk as the BEF approach the beaches, and the whole point of pulling back to the beach was to be evacuated. Had the French army held on to the rest of their country then the British army could have been resupplied and sent back to France but that was not the case which is completely understandable when you consider the facts. And fight another day they did, Britain was able to hold out against Germany and bring America into the war. You seem to forget d-day and the liberation of France by British and American forces (including Canadian, Polish, and French forces) but you instead focus on one aspect of the war, which in all respects was a turning point in the allies favour. I wouldn’t say that any person willing to fight for their country is a coward, and certainly not the French, just because you read it on the Internet doesn’t make it true. If you consider yourself a historian then you yourself should read the facts and take care not to make so many self opinionated remarks. It’s that simple!


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