Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

The French Way of War

I’ve been reading Lartéguy recently so was intrigued to hear of another French writer formed by his military experience, Pierre Schoendoerffer (right).

In a tweet, the cigarette-smoking Helen Andrews shared an article called What a 1963 Novel Tells Us About the French Army, Mission Command, and the Romance of the Indochina War.

I dislike the romanticism surrounding the magnificent losers vs. ugly victors dichotomy – a magnificent victory is infinitely preferably to both. Hence why my natural Jacobite sympathies are highly qualified by complete and utter disdain for Charlie’s unwillingness to see the task through. (An easy judgement when made from centuries of hindsight, I’ll concede.)

Anyhow, I sent the article to The Major and he proffered this reply:

I was going to say something snide about the French army but to be quite honest I have thought for some time that it is rather better than ours [Ed.: the British]. Their officers are tougher, harder, and more professional than ours – those I encountered professionally certainly were. They are also not infected by the political correctness which is wrecking/has wrecked our army (among other factors).

The distinction between the colonial army and the large conscript army at home is valid. It was the conscript army which was defeated in 1870, 1914, and 1940… not the colonial army to which the modern French army now looks.

It is also true that the US Army don’t do Mission Command well. The Marines on the other hand…

Meanwhile back in the States the prolific Ken Burns has done an eighteen-hour documentary on the Vietnam conflict which allegedly ignores all the scholarly input of the past two decades. Nevermind, we just regret it won’t feature the late great Shelby Foote, who (in Burns’s ‘The Civil War’) spoke with such assurance you imagined he was there.

This post was published on Thursday, September 21st, 2017 12:30 pm. It has been categorised under France Military and been tagged under , , .
Bob Mounger
22 Sep 2017 2:01 pm

Shelby Foote’s civil war trilogy taught me never to trust TV documentaries, even the ones in which Shelby Foote appears.

In the last volume, Foote goes to great pains to point out that Robert E. Lee considered George McClellan to be the best general the Union sent against him. In the battle of the seven days, McClellan got within earshot of Richmond church bells. It took Grant 3 years & ten times the casualties to get back to the same spot.

Most viewers of the TV show would have been left with a very different picture of McClellan…

L G Clark
24 Sep 2017 10:59 am

My favourite joke about the French military goes as follows:

Why are the roads in northern France lined with shade trees?

Because the French know that the Germans don’t like marching towards Paris in the sun.

24 Oct 2017 10:24 pm

A cousin of mine, a Frenchman whose family imported wines from Bordeaux to their country of origin, Holland, fought heroically with the Charlemagne Division (look it up, neophites). He was in Berlin in the last days.
Naturally, he could return afterwards neither to Bordeaux nor to France itself.
What did he do? Slink off to Argentina?
No: he joined the French Foreign Legion. It looked the other way and sent him to Indo-China, where he died, again heroically, fighting the one real enemy, Bolshevism.

The French Army will save France, and thus the rest of us too.

28 Nov 2017 1:17 am

have you seen Schoendoerffer’s Dien Bien Phu? Absolutely terrific cinematography.

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