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The city in a different light

“Eisenhower’s provost marshal estimated that in December eighteen thousand American deserters roamed the European theater, plus another ten thousand British absconders. The equivalent of a division of military fugitives was believed to be hiding in the Parisian demimonde, often joining forces with local black marketeers to peddle K rations for 75 cents from the tailgates of stolen Army trucks—hundreds of such vehicles vanished every day—or simply selling the entire deuce-and-a-half for $5,000. Eventually four thousand military policemen and detectives worked the streets of Paris. From September through December [1944] they arrested more than ten thousand people, including French civilians caught selling marijuana to soldiers. A five-story French army barracks on the Boulevard Mortier became a detention block capable of holding more than two thousand miscreants, while the merely AWOL were rounded up and trucked back to the front in lots of sixteen under MP guard. Many soldiers in an Army railway battalion in Paris were arrested and court-martialed en masse for pilferage; nearly two hundred of them drew prison sentences, some as long as fifty years—later commuted for those who agreed to combat duty. Still, the malfeasance and misconduct would thrive through the end of the war, to the point that Paris, the city of light, the city of learning, the city of love, earned yet another nickname: ‘Chicago-sur-Seine.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

Published inEconomicsRick AtkinsonThe Second World War

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