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The misunderstood military multitude

“On they marched, south, east, and west: past stone barns and mules hauling milk in copper urns, past shops that still peddled perfume and silk scarves, past collaborators with crude swastikas swabbed onto their shaved heads. When the trucks halted for a moment and GIs tumbled out to urinate in squirming echelons on the road shoulders, civilians rushed up to plead for cigarettes with two fingers pressed to the lips, a gesture described by Forrest Pogue as the French national salute. Others offered tricolor nosegays made from blue hydrangeas, red roses, and white asters. ‘Heep, heep, whoo-ray!’ the Frenchmen yelled, repeating phrases learned from doughboys a generation earlier. ‘I speeg Engless. Jees-Christ, cot-damn!’ Soldiers replied in schoolboy French or with handy phrases published in Stars and Stripes, among which was the French for ‘My wife doesn’t understand me.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

Published inRick AtkinsonThe Second World War

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