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  #1  
Old 08-07-2010, 11:18 AM
AllFreedomUnlessDefyingScience AllFreedomUnlessDefyingScience is offline
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Never been fired and only dropped once

During a recent re-viewing of "Full Metal Jacket" I chuckled at the joke "Want to buy some ARVN rifles? Never been fired and only dropped once!" I seem to recall that this was recycled from WWII where the Italians were derided identically. Does anyone know if this particular phrase goes further back in history than that?
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  #2  
Old 08-07-2010, 11:28 AM
running coach running coach is online now
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A quick Googling also has the French in WW2 as the subject of the joke.

"Want Thag rock?. Never thrown, only dropped once".
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  #3  
Old 08-07-2010, 11:43 AM
Tripler Tripler is offline
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It was in regards to the French, who stereotypically (and falsely) fired once and then when fired at, dropped their rifles and ran like rabbits.

Tell that joke to a Legionnaire, and see who runs.

Tripler
(Pssst, you wouldn't be running when yer laid out on the floor.)
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Old 08-07-2010, 01:08 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tripler View Post
It was in regards to the French, who stereotypically (and falsely) fired once and then when fired at, dropped their rifles and ran like rabbits.

Tell that joke to a Legionnaire, and see who runs.

Tripler
(Pssst, you wouldn't be running when yer laid out on the floor.)
FFL are not French Line Army soldiers, they are an elite unit.

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The army is divided into different Corps or armes. These units retain both symbolic and non symbolic and administrative values.

* Troupes de Marine composed of:
o Marine Infantry (Infanterie de Marine, including parachute regiments such as 1er RPIMa and light cavalry such as RICM)
o Marine Artillery (Artillerie de Marine)
* Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère)
* Armoured Cavalry (Arme Blindée Cavalerie)
* Artillery;
* Army Light Aviation (Aviation Légère de l'Armée de Terre - ALAT), including combat helicopters;
* Military engineers (Génie Militaire);
* Infantry,
o including specialist mountain infantry (Chasseurs Alpins)
* Maintenance (Matériel)
* Logistics (Train)
* Signals (Transmissions)
* Commissary

The operational organisation of the Army combines units from various Corps in 17 Brigades.
Notice how many are NOT FFL.
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Old 08-07-2010, 04:19 PM
Gukumatz Gukumatz is offline
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This has piqued my curiosity - where does the French surrender-monkey meme actually come from? Considering they weren't the only country absolutely steamrolled by Germany, why them? Denmark, for instance, surrendered after two hours. Norway after only two months.

And it's not like French history is not filled with great big military campaigns. What's the source of this?
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  #6  
Old 08-07-2010, 04:24 PM
Asympotically fat Asympotically fat is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
This has piqued my curiosity - where does the French surrender-monkey meme actually come from? Considering they weren't the only country absolutely steamrolled by Germany, why them? Denmark, for instance, surrendered after two hours. Norway after only two months.

And it's not like French history is not filled with great big military campaigns. What's the source of this?
It was actually a joke from The Simpsons.
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Old 08-07-2010, 04:36 PM
Ephemera Ephemera is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
This has piqued my curiosity - where does the French surrender-monkey meme actually come from? Considering they weren't the only country absolutely steamrolled by Germany, why them? Denmark, for instance, surrendered after two hours. Norway after only two months.

And it's not like French history is not filled with great big military campaigns. What's the source of this?
I assume it's some sort of American antipathy towards the French. I wonder if it's a common stereotype outside the US and countries that have similar feelings towards them, like the UK and Germany.
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  #8  
Old 08-07-2010, 04:43 PM
Tripler Tripler is offline
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Originally Posted by aruvqan View Post

FFL are not French Line Army soldiers, they are an elite unit.

Notice how many are NOT FFL.
Yeah, I know. I was making a reference to a French military unit that an average reader would understand. And their elite nature would underscore that you would never make a joke like that to a member of such a kickass group.

Tripler
Unless I'm not understanding your point . . .

Last edited by Tripler; 08-07-2010 at 04:44 PM..
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  #9  
Old 08-07-2010, 04:59 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Originally Posted by aruvqan View Post
FFL are not French Line Army soldiers, they are an elite unit.
They're also primarily not French (except for the officers).

Stranger
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  #10  
Old 08-07-2010, 05:14 PM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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I saw this show recently but instead of trying to give my own version I found this post at Smith & Wesson Forums

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Great comeback by Jonathan Winters....

I don't know how many of you watch The Green Room on showtime but it's a great little show where comics banter back and forth. the other night, Jonathan Winters was cracking everyone up and then he mentioned that he served in WW2..after the applause, he relayed the story of a Frenchman who was telling him how much he disliked America and Americans and so forth....Jonathan said that he just raised his hands high above his head and said, "Well, in my country, this means touchdown."
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  #11  
Old 08-07-2010, 05:14 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
And it's not like French history is not filled with great big military campaigns. What's the source of this?
I'm pretty sure it's some republican american antipathy. I use it as a litmus test, frankly. If someone makes a crack about french military strength, I take it that their knowledge of history and possibly learning in general is suspect.
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Old 08-07-2010, 05:25 PM
zoid zoid is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
This has piqued my curiosity - where does the French surrender-monkey meme actually come from? Considering they weren't the only country absolutely steamrolled by Germany, why them? Denmark, for instance, surrendered after two hours. Norway after only two months.

And it's not like French history is not filled with great big military campaigns. What's the source of this?
Just my gut feeling but I think the issue is that the US and UK considered France a strong ally. Norway and Denmark - yeah we like them, we'd buy 'em a beer. But France was supposed to be on our team, to have our back in a fight. The US and UK almost felt betrayed when they gave in.

Now I'm just talking about hurt feelings, not facts. I'm sure the argument could be made that the French might have held out a hell of a lot longer if maybe someone would have had thier back a lot sooner.
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  #13  
Old 08-07-2010, 05:33 PM
Gukumatz Gukumatz is offline
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Aaah, that makes it clear. I was unaware of the Simpsons connection. The antipathy reminds me a lot of my German friends' antipathy towards Italy, probably for similiar reasons.

It also reminds of that Charles V quote - "I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse." Probably the best put-down in history.
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  #14  
Old 08-07-2010, 05:42 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoid View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
This has piqued my curiosity - where does the French surrender-monkey meme actually come from? Considering they weren't the only country absolutely steamrolled by Germany, why them? Denmark, for instance, surrendered after two hours. Norway after only two months.
Just my gut feeling but I think the issue is that the US and UK considered France a strong ally... The US and UK almost felt betrayed when they gave in.
Except the US wasn't a French ally at the commencement of WW II and the UK was only a relatively recent ally ( from 1907 at best ) after centuries of mutual antagonism.

I think it is more the rapidity of the French collapse in 1940, with perhaps the hearkening back to the superficially similar French collapse of 1870 ( both to German opponents ), was so surprising to so many people that it was easy to invent a meme of cowardice to explain it. All the more so as the very independent and assertive foreign policy of de Gaulle after WW II made them into a somewhat antagonistic-seeming ally and thus ripe for caricature.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 08-07-2010 at 05:46 PM..
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  #15  
Old 08-07-2010, 06:02 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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I have always understood the insult to the French as being about their political will rather than their soldiers per se. The Maginot Line was supposed to be invincible, but it was never fully funded or completed and therefore failed to offer protection. Then, after a rapid surrender, significant portions of the French government started working for the Germans.
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  #16  
Old 08-07-2010, 07:18 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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It's WAAAAY older than the Simpsons. They can be credited for the specific "cheese eating surrender monkeys" line that right wing media picked up a few years later when the Iraq War was ramping up. Groundkeeper Willie didn't pull the surrender-happy idea out of nowhere; the sentiment has been around.

It's anti-French sentiment + surrendering in two world wars relatively quickly + perhaps creating a problem in Indochina and then leaving it for the US to clean up (in retrospect, they may have had the right idea). It seems that there are other countries that might deserve the rep more, like Italy, but the anti-French sentiment pushes it in their direction. Napoleon conquered most of Europe (oh right, he was Corsican...), and the French Military is arguably one of the most effective these days.
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  #17  
Old 08-07-2010, 07:46 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
surrendering in two world wars relatively quickly
One . The French bore the brunt of the Western Front in WW I and suffered more military casualties than anyone other than Germany and Russia.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 08-07-2010 at 07:46 PM..
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Old 08-07-2010, 08:08 PM
UncleBill UncleBill is offline
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I have always understood the insult to the French as being about their political will rather than their soldiers per se. The Maginot Line was supposed to be invincible, but it was never fully funded or completed and therefore failed to offer protection. Then, after a rapid surrender, significant portions of the French government started working for the Germans.
The Maginot line was, as I was taught, a magnificently fortified defensive system designed amazingly well for the LAST war. It was poorly designed for the brand spanking new blitzkrieg style of warfare, and overrun with relative ease after being loudly advertised as invincible.

As for the reputation before that, the French and British Armies of WWI were getting chewed up like dog meat for years, and in 1917 there were lots of desertions and mutinies in the French Army, over 23,000 convicted of mutinous behavior, like not running headlong into German machine gun kill zones and the like. The Brits, as far as I know, did not have nearly the same rate of mutiny and desertion. This would appear to be a likely source of the derision, like Brits need a good reason to ridicule the French anyway.
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  #19  
Old 08-07-2010, 08:14 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
surrendering in two world wars relatively quickly
One . The French bore the brunt of the Western Front in WW I and suffered more military casualties than anyone other than Germany and Russia.
Oops, sorry for the lapse. Parts of their territory did get swallowed up though. Still, they lost 1.7 million people (1.4m military), and it wasn't from overindulgence of wine while they cowered in abandoned theatres. They fought hard, even after the surrender in WW2 for many.
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Old 08-07-2010, 08:23 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
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I'm still not sure it was originally used to put down the French. Yes, Google is full of examples where it's been applied to the French, but that tells us nothing about its origin.

FWIW, the first time I remember seeing the expression was shortly after the 'Six Day War' in 1967 when it was the caption of a cartoon showing rifles for sale in an Egyptian army surplus store.
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  #21  
Old 08-07-2010, 10:29 PM
rowrrbazzle rowrrbazzle is offline
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Our contempt for the French is the return for their contempt for the whole rest of the world, including us. As I've posted before, EVERYBODY hates France.

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The plain, unvarnished truth—which the whole political community does everything it can to hide—is that France has become one of the least popular countries on the planet. I have already mentioned its arrogance and vanity. To these should be added the way our rulers presume to lecture the entire world.
Jacques Julliard, "Sur une déculotée," Le Nouvel Observateur, July 19, 2001, after the poor reception to France's offer to host the 2008 Olympics. Quoted in the book Anti-Americanism by Jean-François Revel.
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  #22  
Old 08-07-2010, 10:51 PM
robardin robardin is offline
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Originally Posted by UncleBill View Post
The Maginot line was, as I was taught, a magnificently fortified defensive system designed amazingly well for the LAST war. It was poorly designed for the brand spanking new blitzkrieg style of warfare, and overrun with relative ease after being loudly advertised as invincible.
Not at all. The Maginot Line was never "overrun" - in fact it served its primary purpose, to ensure that the Germans would not be able to succeed with a direct invasion from the East across the Rhine. Nor is it true that the Line ended at Belgium so that the Germans simply "went around" the line from the North - it did extend along that border as well, all the way to the Channel, if not as strongly fortified on that side.

As well as being a general deterrent to invasion, its purpose was also to slow down any invasion to allow the French army to mobilize, as the French recognized that they were seriously outnumbered by the Germans in the event of another war by almost 2-to-1. In the end, this is what really killed France's will to fight: the Germans were not only able to break through, by steamrolling through Belgium going through the dense forest of Ardennes which had been considered "impassable" by a significant military force, but were able to do so with an awesome speed, before the French army could mobilize (which would take about three weeks).

By the time the French government surrendered, most of the Maginot stations which had seen action had held their ground, but had been bypassed and could be attacked from behind.

Last edited by robardin; 08-07-2010 at 10:52 PM..
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  #23  
Old 08-08-2010, 01:41 AM
sweeteviljesus sweeteviljesus is offline
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Don't have an answer for the OP but regarding the issue of the Maginot Line, it seems to me that the real problem wasn't reliance on the fortifications, but rather France's unwillingness to attack Germany after the invasion of Poland (though this is a charge which could be leveled at Britain too).
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  #24  
Old 08-08-2010, 02:55 AM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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The US perspective of France is not mirrored in Europe. It's a pretty strange and ignorant perspective as best I can see.

The thing needs context, whether French assistance to the former British colonies in the War of Independence or WW1 when France sustained literally unimaginable casualties.

If Americans want to criticise France for not having the balls to fight, you might want to compare French losses in any campaign - including Napoleonic and WW1 - to what the US public will accept before it's time to declare 'victory'.

In relation to WW2, no nation joined by land was able to stand up to Nazi Germany except the Soviets at the end of a 1,000 mile supply chain in the middle of winter.

But this isn't a cock -measuring competition, it's just a response to what seems a very long-standing and ignorant perspective. I guess if it wasn't the French, it'd be another country - it seems to be the nature of these things.
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Old 08-08-2010, 03:48 AM
yendis yendis is offline
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I have seen the reference numerous times in various books and memoirs about WW2, it was always a joke made by British Tommies attempting to sell captured Italian supplies after the first British offensive in North Africa. I am digging through my books to find a concrete reference because google is throwing up a lot of anti-french noise.
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  #26  
Old 08-08-2010, 09:21 AM
Shodan Shodan is offline
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Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
FWIW, the first time I remember seeing the expression was shortly after the 'Six Day War' in 1967 when it was the caption of a cartoon showing rifles for sale in an Egyptian army surplus store.
Same here - the joke was
Quote:
For Sale: Egyptian rifle.

Never fired. Dropped once.
Regards,Shodan
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  #27  
Old 08-08-2010, 09:42 AM
Slithy Tove Slithy Tove is offline
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I'd heard the joke earlier than the Six-Day War, in reference to Lee Harvey Oswald's Italian rifle.

A collary joke was "how does an Italian admiral review his fleet? With a glass-bottom boat."
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  #28  
Old 08-08-2010, 11:01 AM
UncleBill UncleBill is offline
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robardin, I did misspeak, "overrun" was not correct, but "bypassed", "outflanked", or "blown by" may have been better. The fortifications were and are amazing, and many remained intact as fighting positions, mostly the ones the Germans bypassed, analogous to Island Hopping in the Pacific.
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Old 08-08-2010, 11:27 AM
JRDelirious JRDelirious is online now
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IIRC, right after WW2 when more scientific studies were made of actual infantry combat, it turned out that the vast majority of troops really fired very few shots anyway.
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:46 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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I recently read Theodore Dalrymple's book, "The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism" and he addresses the topic of the French collapse during the German invasion of WWII.

The German invasion was much more successful than anyone, except Hitler thought it would be. Most of the German high command thought it would fail or at least expected a long hard campaign.

The trouble is that the French intelligentsia was infected with pacifism after WWI and this carried over into the French school system. Young men who had been taught that all governments are morally equivalent and that there is nothing worth fighting and dying for are not the ideal troops for a dogged defensive fight.

The German occupation was a devastating counterpoint to pacifist ideas and many prominent French pacifists ending up in the French resistance, but the damage was done.

I recall that Thomas Sowell explores some similar themes in his book, "Intellectuals and Society".
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:50 PM
Babale Babale is offline
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Originally Posted by Inner Stickler View Post
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Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
And it's not like French history is not filled with great big military campaigns. What's the source of this?
I'm pretty sure it's some republican american antipathy. I use it as a litmus test, frankly. If someone makes a crack about french military strength, I take it that their knowledge of history and possibly learning in general is suspect.
If I had to pick the greatest military leader ever, I'd say Genghis Khan. But my second choice would be Napoleon. I still make French jokes, though. (I like telling people that the French used up their allowance of badassitude for the next 500 years with Napoleon).
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  #32  
Old 08-08-2010, 02:48 PM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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And to follow on from the weird and ignorant stuff about the French, the Italian stuff is even more obviously ignorant - why the fuck would anyone want to fight for a stupid Fascist like Mussolini? Of course you're going to surrender at the first opportunity.

Some really odd parochial shit in this thread.
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Old 08-08-2010, 03:18 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
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Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
FWIW, the first time I remember seeing the expression was shortly after the 'Six Day War' in 1967 when it was the caption of a cartoon showing rifles for sale in an Egyptian army surplus store.
Same here - the joke was
Quote:
For Sale: Egyptian rifle.

Never fired. Dropped once.
Regards,Shodan
I'd like a near-mint, never fired Rasheed (only 8000 made). Maybe they were planning ahead for the export market.

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Originally Posted by PrettyVacant View Post
And to follow on from the weird and ignorant stuff about the French, the Italian stuff is even more obviously ignorant - why the fuck would anyone want to fight for a stupid Fascist like Mussolini? Of course you're going to surrender at the first opportunity.

Some really odd parochial shit in this thread.
Are you suggesting that the Italians were all willing to surrender ASAP because they hated Mussolini so much? He may have not enjoyed the support that Hitler had, and was certainly offed by his own countrymen, but I don't think you can assume a lack of support and motivation. There are Mussolini apologetics around today, even, so not everyone could have considered him a "stupid fascist." I don't know enough about that battlefront to say what affected Italian performance, or even if they hadn't fought quite well after all.

It seems that their performance in the first Italo-Abyssinian/Ethiopian War might have something to do with it. The Ethiopians were the only (one of the few?) African nations to defeat an European colonial power, and I'm sure it created some negative reputation for a time.
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Old 08-12-2010, 02:54 AM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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I think people conflate Italy's role in WW2 with Germany's.

Italy was only in the war for 3 years (June 1940 > until Mussolini was thrown out). It had a very small industrial base, it's hardware was outdated - for example, Mussolini got the air force involved in the Battle of Britain with bi-planes and the army was in no better condition, and the country as a whole really wasn't fanatical about fighting for the Fascist leadership.

For goodness sake, the population of Naples threw the Germans out. Italy, even today, is left-leaning (socialism to communism), it was even more the case then - of course a great chunk of the population wanted rid of the fascists.
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  #35  
Old 08-12-2010, 03:59 AM
UDS UDS is offline
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Just my gut feeling but I think the issue is that the US and UK considered France a strong ally. Norway and Denmark - yeah we like them, we'd buy 'em a beer. But France was supposed to be on our team, to have our back in a fight. The US and UK almost felt betrayed when they gave in.

Now I'm just talking about hurt feelings, not facts. I'm sure the argument could be made that the French might have held out a hell of a lot longer if maybe someone would have had thier back a lot sooner.
As others have pointed out, it would be a bit rich for the Americans to criticise the French for not fighting on in 1940, when the Americans themselves were staying well clear of the war.

I suspect this meme – in so far as it applies to the French – owes a good deal to the British. After the French signed their armistice with Germany the British did all kinds of quite unpleasant things, like sinking the French fleet – with substantial loss of life – because they didn’t trust French assurances that it would not be made available to the Germans, mounting air raids in which many French civilians died, etc. The British felt understandably conflicted about this – they had been allied with the French until very shortly before, and France had displayed no hostile intent towards the UK. One way of resolving this conflict would have been to play up the “we were betrayed by cowardly Frenchies” idea.

And it would have leveraged off an impression left in the Great War. In the early years of that war the French army in the field was very, very much larger than the British. It bore the brunt of various attacks and offensives, the experience of which demonstrated that, with the military strategy and technology of 1914, defending forces were practically impregnable and attacking forces would suffer horrendous losses. So the French suffered absolutely appalling losses – much more, in numerical terms, than the British. After Verdun the French generals were pretty well aware that the morale of their troops was badly degraded, and that requiring them to engage in further offensives would damage it further, and could lead to mutiny. Hence from 1916 on they adopted a largely defensive position. The brunt of offensive actions was thereafter born by the British armies who, by this stage of the war, had been built up considerably.

The upshot of all this is that the British experience of the Great War was, to a large extent, of British forces mounting difficult offensives while the French sat tight in defensive positions. This was not likely to build up a strong impression among the Tommies of the fighting qualities of the French. And this was a preconception that they could draw on a generation later to help justify to themselves their actions against the French in 1940 and afterwards.
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  #36  
Old 08-12-2010, 04:51 AM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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This gives some sense of the scale of casualties in WW1 - it's beyond crazy:

WW1 casualties by nation

Last edited by PrettyVacant; 08-12-2010 at 04:51 AM..
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  #37  
Old 08-12-2010, 04:52 AM
Quartz Quartz is online now
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But my second choice would be Napoleon.
You must be kidding. Napoleon was an adventurer. After his initial successes, he got thrashed. Egypt? Russia? Spain?
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  #38  
Old 08-12-2010, 09:17 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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The long term antipathy to France was due to de Gaulle's "go it alone" attitude. They tried to be both in and out of NATo, for example.

The current hatred is more American/Republican. When GWB was arm-twisting the minor nations in the security council to agree to an invasion of Iraq for relatively bogus reasons, they were making offers like "you'll never get another cent of American aid and we'll block any international organizations we contribute to as well." FOr nations like (IIRC) Mozambique, foreign aid is very important. The French consider themselves (perhaps too pompously) defenders of the third world and announced they would veto the resolution, thus relieveing several small countries of having to decide to sell their soul for food. Hence the adoption of the whole Simpsons "Cheese eating surrender monkeys" meme (Simpsons never miss an opportunity to insult anyone), "Freedom Fries", and all that other crap.

Who was right? That's another question.
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  #39  
Old 08-12-2010, 09:35 AM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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Not really a question of who was right; morally, legally and in every other sense that comes to mind, Rumsfeld's 'Old Europe' (which included France) was correct. At least 700,000 dead and innocent Iraq's would likely agree, as would the millions still living in camps.

If you want to ask questions, how about why so much of US society got behind that retarded, jingoistic characterisation - you don't even need to leave these boards, just take a look at the "Freedom Fries" threads in the archive.

Really, in comparison to what the great US/UK alliance did, the significance of French "attitude" pales somewhat.
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  #40  
Old 08-12-2010, 10:28 AM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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My guess is the meme is solely from WW2. Few Americans today know that Napoleon was French, and his empire covered most of Europe at one point. Probably he's better known for being insane.
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  #41  
Old 08-12-2010, 11:23 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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Originally Posted by Babale View Post
If I had to pick the greatest military leader ever, I'd say Genghis Khan. But my second choice would be Napoleon.
Why not Wellington? He defeated Napoleon. Surely he's a better leader.
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  #42  
Old 08-12-2010, 11:37 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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I think the concept arose considerably after WWII, after the French government refused to toe the line on U.S. military policy, pulling out of NATO, making planes fly around France to get to Libya, etc. I think post-WWII, Amero-French feelings were quite warm. It's only when France began to assert itself as a sovereign state that certain quarters of American society started pulling the "you owe us gratitude line" which then led to the concept of cheese-eating surrender monkeys.
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  #43  
Old 08-12-2010, 11:40 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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As for the surrender-monkey thing, I think it's originally British. The monkey part probably refers to the legend of the Hartlepool Monkey, allegedly hanged as a French spy. And the surrender part comes from various British victories over the French, at Agincourt, and at Waterloo, and others.
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Old 08-12-2010, 11:42 AM
Mr. Excellent Mr. Excellent is offline
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Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
My guess is the meme is solely from WW2. Few Americans today know that Napoleon was French, and his empire covered most of Europe at one point. Probably he's better known for being insane.
Really? Come on - American high schools aren't that bad. I can't imagine anyone with a high school diploma being unaware that Napolean came to power by first collaborating with (and then betraying) the Revolution, had himself crowned Emperor of France, and cut a swathe through Europe. I mean, hell, this is one reason we had the War of 1812.
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  #45  
Old 08-12-2010, 11:52 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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My guess is the meme is solely from WW2. Few Americans today know that Napoleon was French ...
Really? What do they think he was? Corsican, or something?
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  #46  
Old 08-12-2010, 12:17 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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They're not entirely sure who or what he is, other than an extravagantly dressed short man with his hand stuck into his jacket. I'm sure some significant portion of people think he was a Roman emperor.
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  #47  
Old 08-12-2010, 12:31 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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"The trouble with the French economy is that they don't even have a word for 'entrepreneur" " - GWB (Not actually a real quote, but too spot-on funny not to repeat.)

I'm not sure how much european history Americans absorb in high school. The problem is that the French were steamrolled in 1940 - basically the old saw about always being ready to fight the last war, not the current one. The allies were glad to prop up de Gaulle and pretend that he was part of their group, but in reality the French were not 100% resistance fighters until after the liberation when suddenly everyone was. De Gaulle tried to ignore the humiliation and pretend that France was on par with the USA and Britain who had fought and become modern powers through WWII. Hence the touchiness about their military, which we saw in the Pacific atomic bomb tests and sinking the Greenpeace ship, and the overwhelming pretentiousness that does not befit a second-rate power. They thought more highly of themselves than others did. One joke was that when de Gaulle was presented with the plans for his tomb, he said "that's a lot of money to spend for only 3 days..."

However, standing up to GWB and his steamroller diplomacy is what set off the recent round of Freedom Fries stupidity, mainly in the USA.
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  #48  
Old 08-12-2010, 12:46 PM
Steve MB Steve MB is offline
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Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
FWIW, the first time I remember seeing the expression was shortly after the 'Six Day War' in 1967 when it was the caption of a cartoon showing rifles for sale in an Egyptian army surplus store.
To be fair, it was the fault of the Soviet advisers, who told the Egyptians to use the strategy that always worked for them: draw the enemy deep into your own territory and wait for winter.
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  #49  
Old 08-12-2010, 07:25 PM
lisiate lisiate is offline
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Originally Posted by robardin View Post

As well as being a general deterrent to invasion, its purpose was also to slow down any invasion to allow the French army to mobilize, as the French recognized that they were seriously outnumbered by the Germans in the event of another war by almost 2-to-1. In the end, this is what really killed France's will to fight: the Germans were not only able to break through, by steamrolling through Belgium going through the dense forest of Ardennes which had been considered "impassable" by a significant military force, but were able to do so with an awesome speed, before the French army could mobilize (which would take about three weeks).
Just a minor correction but the French had plenty of time to mobilise, commencing in September 1939. Following a (very) minor advance into the Saar region, the French and British forces took a very cautious approach and stayed put through to May 1940. This 'Sitzkrieg' or 'Phoney War' was ended by the German invasion of Belgium and France with France falling in six weeks.
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  #50  
Old 08-13-2010, 01:29 AM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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In relation to WW1, while I put the link in post #36 to clarify the French sacrifice, if we also consider the Italian combined military and civilian dead in WW1 . . . . it's pretty extraordinary.
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