Just Above Sunset
June 6, 2004: We ARE the good guys, and always have been...
Robert Lilly, a criminology
professor at Northern Kentucky University, has a book not yet published here – perhaps the translation is not quite
L'image du soldat en service en Europe comme "symbole américain" est tout sauf exacte. La participation de "la plus glorieuse génération qu'aucune société ait jamais engendrée" - comme les Américains se plaisent à dire - à la victoire de 1945 comporte une odieuse face cachée, l'un des comportements les moins héroïques et les plus brutaux dont un soldat puisse se rendre coupable : le viol. S'appuyant sur des archives des tribunaux militaires américains inexploitées depuis plus de soixante ans, Robert Lilly montre que, entre le 8 octobre 1942, date du premier viol jugé en Angleterre, et le 23 septembre 1945, date du dernier viol jugé en Allemagne, 17 000 femmes environ furent victimes de viols commis par des soldats américains en Angleterre, en France et en Allemagne. Pièces à l'appui, il dresse la typologie de ces viols, explique qui étaient les violeurs, quelles étaient leurs motivations et leur modus operandi, fait le portrait de leurs victimes, fait entendre leur voix exacte, ainsi que celle des procureurs et des avocats. Il montre enfin que les schémas de viols changent énormément en France comparé à ce qui s'était passé en Angleterre et à ce qui se passera en Allemagne ; les sanctions militaires changèrent également, les punitions reflétant la différence de perception que les Américains avaient des paramètres idéologiques de chaque pays, de ses habitants et de ses réfugiés.
Ah, but if your French
is not up to speed today, the Associated Press has you covered.
PARIS (AP) - With crushing firepower, U.S.-led forces stormed into a proud nation under the yoke
of a murderous tyrant to cries of joy from a liberated public. Then came the
less uplifting work of running an occupation.
This is not “The
Greatest Generation” stuff, obviously. But the fellow from Kentucky is
quoted as saying, “There is a great, ugly underbelly that has not been really explored.”
"There remains a huge recognition toward the liberators; they are still heroes," said Elizabeth
Coquart, journalist and author of La France des GIs (France of the GIs). "But
that doesn't mean we can't judge and say, 'Yes, some GIs behaved badly."'
So do we stretch the parallel
to fit – France at the end of WWII and our “bad apples” (and their leaders) doing awful things in that prison
outside of Baghdad?
France was a country already battered by four years of foreign domination, but it quickly had
a provisional government in place. The Americans faced nothing resembling the
Iraqi insurgency, and they left it to the French to deal with its Nazi collaborators.
But the fellow from Kentucky
contends that while there were rapes (les viols) by GIs in France, the number of cases "skyrocketed" when U.S. soldiers
rolled into Germany and the war was wrapping up.
While U.S. soldiers were exempt from prosecution in French courts, those who were court-martialed
often received severe punishment.
It seems times have changed. We have three guilty pleas in the prison scandal so far. Executions? No – dishonorable discharge and loss of
pay will do these days. Is that progress?
Perhaps so. Perhaps not.
From Paris, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis send these comments in an email to Just Above Sunset:
Within the quotes about the book you can find the 'facts' that go a long way to explain the anti-social behavior of some allied WWII occupying troops.
The GIs had money, chewing gum, cigarettes, chocolate bars, loaded guns and spare time. While the war was still on they had a lot to do, but afterwards - yes - they could have gotten bored. Any soldier can tell you about 'hurry up and wait.' Some were waiting for years in Britain before D-Day.
The GIs also had big numbers. AP says there were 750,000 troops still in France in October 1945. Remember the money, chewing gum, cigarettes, chocolate bars, and guns. In any other situation, with this many nearly idle troops, how many rapes would be normal?
Then from the French text, 'from 8. October 1942 until 23 September 1945,' 17,000 rape cases were tried involving US troops, in Britain, France and Germany.’ This is a near three-year time span. A figure I found elsewhere suggests there were 2,846,439 allied troops involved with the invasion of Europe in 1944.
Obviously there were many more rapes than prosecutions, but all the same the 17,000 number might be low. With the number of people involved over the period of time involved - how many rapes would there be, say in California, for example?
More interesting would have been an examination of the over-all crime rate. Imagine it - you've got money, chewing gum, cigarettes, nylon stockings, chocolate bars, and guns, and you've got some seriously wrecked countries, and millions of defenseless civilians who have lost everything. Plus there are all the army's stores, just waiting to be ripped off and recycled to these millions of civilians with nothing. It was a dream situation for Milo Minderbinder.
I think Americans have a problem acknowledging crime. Americans refuse to believe it is a big business, a parallel economy, involving billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of 'workers.' How much does it amount to? Given the numbers most likely, it is no surprise that there would have been a number of troops looking for opportunities.
One other thing - Puritan Anglo-Saxon mores forbid the notion of setting up bordellos for the troops. The German army operated 'soldatenpuffs' as a routine. They were realists.
This is perplexing for Europeans. Why is it that Americans are so unaware that there are a lot of other Americans in the crime business? Although there are some big numbers thrown around in connection with the occasional white-crime cases, these are a drop in the ocean compared to - the narcotics business, just to name one.
Europeans think naming soldiers' names in relation to the abuses in Iraq does not excuse their superiors. The hardest part to understand is the 'filming for the public' part. Was it intended for intimidation? Was it intended for the public?
If not, those who are running the United States are too stupid for the job. Europeans don't understand this either. There are probably a lot of Americans just as puzzled.
Yep, I’m one of those Americans.
This issue updated and published on...
Paris readers add nine hours....