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tv   Washington Journal Author Mary Louise Roberts on D- Day and French Citizens  CSPAN  May 27, 2019 9:16pm-9:44pm EDT

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legacy. >> first of all, thank you very much. you have an amazing family legacy. what you're bringing up is a subject close to my heart. the many ways in which women participated in a resistance. they were not fully able to participate in military resistance when the americans arrived, they were not given uniforms. the roles were shaped by their gender. they did all the different things that you described. one of the advantages is they were not under suspicion. they were the ones who carried the resistance newspapers or bombs. when they got through checkpoints, they
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often times acted innocent. as he said a young woman was a real center for resistance. a huge amount of resistance and britney. and a young -- was with her mother and they were carrying parachutes. they were participating in that train that would take british pilots were soldiers through france and through the peer needs out through spain and up to england. they had all of these silk parachutes in their suitcases, trying to hide them and keep them away from the normans. i am sorry from the gestapo.
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they get to the train station and anybody that has been in a french station knows there are no escalators. they have to go up a huge part of stairs. at the top is the gestapo. the young daughter loses it. the mother said, excuse me, i'm not going to be able to carry my book and my suitcase up the stairs. could you do that for me? or help me out? that way they literally got the gestapo to --. because women were seducers and beautiful and because they knew how to use that as a weapon, they got away with a lot that young men never would. thank you for bringing that up. >> britney mentioned marseille. we are talking about normandy.
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was of the case after the invasion that many citizens had fled to the countryside? >> it was more true in 1940. as the germans moved east, citizens of paris began a mass exodus. every car and train. the idea was to get to someplace in the west and south of france and away from the germans. at first, they occupy the north with the collaboration in the south. then after the battle in 1942, the realized the threat could be from the south. they occupy the whole country in 1943. >> volunteer from bob in bolivia. >> thank you for having us.
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great job on the book. my father was an american g.i. he was in england loading ships for d- day. he got to normandy in late july. met my mother there and she lived in --. the occupation for many years. they had no food. you couldn't go to a local supermarket to get food. she had nothing. they had to try and grow food in mind feels because there was no open field. the occupation was heavy in the 40s. her uncle got shot by the germans.
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she met my father who was in the supply and of the army. my father would go there and give them food. they never saw canned peaches or a lot of food before. they were pretty much starving under the occupation. she said the germans were very nice. every young and some older. b i think we lost you. thank you for comments. >> i would add again, he is absolutely right. most of france was starving by the end of the war. the french writer said the sound of france was the sound of the growling stomach. this is because the germans took most of the produce and most of the wine. there were always things buried in
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order to save them for the liberation. the beautiful bottle of champagne, the much beloved bottle of wine. one young man when he met an african- american g.i. that amount back and dug up his records in order to show how much he loved american music. it was a period of deprivation for the french. it continued for another year. the winter of 1944 and 1945 was quite hard. by then, france's largely destroyed. there were towns that the french called martyred. among them, saint lo. these towns were 80% destroyed. it was very hard. life was hard during the war.
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most people think the french were collaborators. if you lived in the city, it was much harder than if you lived in the country. you couldn't grow your own food. the war was hard on the french. it was humiliating to be occupied by the germans. >> with the anniversary, we are talking about her book conti day through franchise about the experience of french citizens and norman citizens on d-day. we hear from joshua of brooklyn, next. >> we don't often talk about the date as a starting point. what i wanted to ask is what transpired before hand? with combined operations. mulberry was the
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portable area that was put over so soldiers were able to disembark. there was a lot of innovation. talk about the preparation and technical innovation that went into preparing for d-day. >> hitler constructed what he called the atlantic wall. it was basically a series of fortifications on the beaches of northern france. this included all kinds of barriers and minds. the building of artillery. there were large guns on the top. that is why the rangers were going up, in order to take those. unfortunately, when they got there, they had already
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been removed. there has been a mighty fortress which hitler deemed impenetrable. this was not built by germans, it was built by laborers. many of them polish or ukrainian. men who had been born in conquered countries and were forced to come to france and build the wall. >> i don't speak french but i do value correct pronunciations. help me on the square that we see a number of times in the book. the french were department. what does it mean and why is it so important for norman citizens? >> good question. 20 read last night in my book, i realize, i didn't have to use the word --. it means the landing.
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that was the french word for the landing. it was a word that was whispered to everyone on the morning of june 6. the landings are coming. was a word. there is a wonderful memoir about a young girl who couldn't understand what this meant. it was an adult word. it was specific. remember, was always the hope that the americans would come where the british would come and rescue the french. it was much- anticipated. with it came joy. there were so many mixed feelings. on the one hand, they were the conquerors. on the other hand the destroyers. on one hand a source of hope. when they arrived,
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it brought a tremendous amount of anxiety. this is it. this is the moment. if they fail, all hope will dine. there is a specific kind of anxiety. it is the moment of testing. no one knew they would triumph. things were in the office for a while. until the middle of july. there was a lot of anxiety that it would fail and then they would be under the cyst forever . >> that word is used to describe d- day. that is how the french refer to d- day. >> that is correct. >> let's hear from joe in connecticut. >> my question is
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more of a personal one. my grandmother was mary louise robert. my mother and her moved from manhattan to paris during the depression. her sister jean married a frenchman and lived there for quite a while. i wonder if that is a common name or are we related? >> i think roberts is my father's name. my father was from maine. he supposedly was the descendent of the trunk of plymouth colony's. he was on the mayflower. he was kicked out of plymouth colony. that is my ancestry on my father's side. it is a welsh name. i don't know. i will say, a lot
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of you have talked about marriage between americans and the french. that was one of the happy result of them being on the continent. the french women and american gis often fell in love. that love lasted. when the war was over, the americans came back to get their bride. >> you wrote a book called what soldiers do. sex and the american g.i. in france. why did you write that and what reaction did it get? >> i just got interested in the relationship between the american gis and the french. what distinguished me was i looked at both the french archives. i was a french historian by training.
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i also looked deeply into the american archival situation. i was trying to tell the story from both sides. what i found really surprised me. the summer of 1944, franco-american relations were --. once the prince realized the americans were going to try and copy were static. t joyful. the summer of c the summer of 1945 was a little different. the troops are now coming back in places like a port town, probably the major gait between the gis and france. there suffering from what we would now call ptsd. many of them have lost buddies. there waiting to go home. in many ways they are were hardened.
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and places like that there was a lot of drinking. a lot of alcohol abuse. a lot of prostitution. sometimes in the open air. one of the things i read was the correspondence between the mayor and the colonel who was in charge of the troops and the mayor did have complaints about behavior. there was an interesting shift between the summer of 1944 and the summer of 45. the shift is the difference between soldiers going into a war and soldiers coming out. >> we have a few more minutes for calls. we go to peter and provincetown. we are on with mary louise roberts. >> i want to wish everyone a happy memorial day. especially a couple of people. i am sitting in a hospital right now
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with roger putnam. roger is very ill with cancer. i want to say, two weeks ago, my father passed away. there was an interesting development. my grandfather was part of the original army staff at the college in clarksburg just prior to the deployment of u.s. troops to europe during world war i. there was a time when my dad thought he was going to -- when in fact, he was at iowa state university training as an officer.
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there was an instance where we suddenly changed priorities. connect you have a question? >> my question, was there any lingering sense of support which the french tapped into and perhaps made the connection from world war i to world war ii? >> thank you. >> many of the people that fought in world war ii had dads who fought in world war i. her
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dad came home, describing france as the land of wine and dutiful women. probably all if not most of it decorated. and they got there the expectation was if they got off of the beach, they would meet beautiful french women that would thank them for liberation. france cutter reputation as the babylon of europe with dutiful women who were loose women. inasmuch as there that's exaggerated, the sons had a certain set of expectations. as a result, there was a lot of prostitution in france. by the fall of 1944, the american army was worried about the venereal disease rates.
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that is how it would connect the first and second world war in terms of the american army . >> i don't have french ancestry and there was born in 1946. i wasn't part of the war. it was over when i was born. when i was in high school, i took french classes. i had a french teacher who taught us a poem. to my recollection, i may be wrong, the name of the poem was --. she told us that poem, the first line was used in the normandy go order. i wondered if you knew if that was true and if that is the name of the
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poem? >> yes. your teacher is exactly right. the poem is by a french poet and the first phrase of the poem was the signal to the resistance. it was heard over the bbc that they should get ready and get in formation. come out and start to do the sabotage. the invasion was going to happen within the next week. then on the night of june 5, the second line of the poem was given. something like along -- of the violins. that was when the resistance new the invasion would come within 24 hours. it was indeed a french poem which signal to the resistance.
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first that the invasion would come within a week or so and it was eminent. >> here is rachel from virginia. >> my name is rachel. i have a beloved uncle, bill overstreet, that was a fighter ace in the war. he was a member of the 357th fighter group out of england's. he took part in the war before and after d-day. he was involved shortly before d- day. he was involved in a dogfight over paris. he chased the enemy into the eiffel tower and was able to claim the tree. to get out of paris, he flew low along to avoid the aircraft fire. the way he told us and has told the press and everybody else, this helps to
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re-energize the resistance, giving hope to the french people. so much so that the ambassador to the united states, afforded him the legion of honor in a wonderful ceremony held at the memorial in virginia. did you find any documentation? >> no i didn't. i was focusing, first of all, it is a terrific story. it is. it is common in a sense of people getting rescued by the french pilots or airplane personnel getting rescued. my research for this book, focused on normandy. i went to to archives, the provincial archives. and a special one which is memorial
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to d-day. i wouldn't have picked this up unless i had gone someplace in paris. it is a great story. there are many such wonderful stories. one of my favorite is when a pilot with downed someplace in central france. four people died. one was a survivor. because there was a standard number of people on the planes, the french people decided to create a coffin for the fifth person. they literally buried for people on the plane and put sand in the fifth coffin. waited to stop it would not be suspicious. >> made sure the pilot got to safety. >> to see if we can
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get one more quick call. >> good morning. i have a question. a book like yours is fantastic. i these things and fax taught in french schools today. i feel, this is my opinion, the french themselves are the most ungrateful people on the face of the earth. we lost hundreds of thousands of wonderful young men freeing them. i don't think today , the young french especially, realize the sacrifice by the british, the americans and the canadians made to free them. thank you. >> i will have to disagree. this is one thing i wanted to make sure the viewers knew. the french are
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profoundly grateful to the americans for what they did. i think most go to paris which is a large cosmopolitan city. if you step outside the big city and go to the countryside, particularly normandy are britney, you are treated special as an american. i remember once, i am tall and blonde, i remember i was in normandy doing research. someone mistook me for german. i suddenly found myself eating yesterday spread with my sandwich. and being scored upon, them assuming i was german. when i got up i said in french, i am not a german, i am american. their face has completely changed. >> i think if you go to france, outside of paris,
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you will see that the french are grateful. my sister kathy, her car broke down in the south of france. it was fixed on a holiday at a reasonable cost because the auto mechanic remembered the americans. i have to differ with you. i think they're quite grateful. i think the young people are as well. a lot has happened since 1945. >> joining us from the university of wisconsin in madison is assessor mary louise roberts. we have been talking about her book, the date the franchise. head of the 60 -- 75th anniversary of d-day. thank you so much for being with us. you are watching american
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history tv. all weekend every weekend on cspan 3. >> this is england. before june 6, 1944. from the source the united nations was soon to launch the greatest military expedition of its kind in history. the first channel invasion of europe against the power. preparations were being made. huge quantities of material and supplies collected. guns. bombs. ambulances. s ambulances. we are in


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