Paris was not burning

“Warm summer rain drenched the motley legions of liberation at dawn on Thursday, August 24 [1944], as three columns from the French 2nd Armored Division made ready for battle twenty miles southwest of Paris. Village women scurried through the bivouacs carrying urns of coffee and platters heaped with fried eggs and breakfast rolls. Soldiers finished shaving with ritualistic precision, then shouldered their weapons and swaggered into formation, ‘booming like bitterns throughout the wood,’ as an American colonel later wrote, ‘pounding their chests and screaming, “En avant!” ’ Tricolor pennants flew from three thousand vehicles named for Napoleonic triumphs or for French towns now unshackled, like Caen and Cherbourg. Each tank and scout car bore a white silhouette of France with the cross of Lorraine superimposed. The twelve thousand troops comprised not only French regulars, but sailors far from the sea, Lebanese Christian engineers, and Senegalese riflemen who until three weeks earlier had never set foot on European France. Also in the ranks could be found Spanish Republicans, Gaullists, monarchists, Jews, Muslims, Catholic reactionaries, animists, anarchists, antipapists, communists, socialists, freethinkers, and militant Quakers.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

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