De Gaulle & Churchill: The Shame.

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When the Allies were victorious in World War II, much was owed to Afro-American GIs and colonial subjects serving in the British Army. Yet the treatment received was shocking:

. . . the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944 was seen as a “whites only” victory . . . The leader of the Free French forces, Charles de Gaulle, made it clear that he wanted his Frenchmen to lead the liberation of Paris. Allied High Command agreed, but only on one condition: De Gaulle’s division must not contain any black soldiers. In January 1944 Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, was to write in a memo stamped, “confidential”: “It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.  A document written by the British General, Frederick Morgan, to Allied Supreme Command stated: “It is unfortunate that the only French formation that is 100% white is an armoured division in Morocco. “Every other French division is only about 40% white. I have told Colonel de Chevene that his chances of getting what he wants will be vastly improved if he can produce a white infantry division.” Finding an all-white division that was available proved to be impossible due to the enormous contribution made to the French Army by West African conscripts. So, Allied Command insisted that all black soldiers be taken out and replaced by white ones from other units. click here.

Writing in The Guardian recently, Hugh Muir recounts equally unjust attitudes within high British political circles:

Recently published in the UK is Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, first released in the US, about the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, an 800-strong unit of black American soldiers whose contribution to the D-day landings had all but been erased from history. After landing on the beaches, they deployed armed balloons and deterred enemy aircraft – a task for which they largely prepared over seven months in the British countryside, having docked in the north of Scotland . . .They were soldiers during wartime, so of course they were met with gratitude, you might say; but the point is more specific for in the era of savagely enforced segregation in the US, white GIs showed a brutal and racist disdain for black GIs posted alongside them in Britain. And the British government, to curry favour with white, predominantly southern soldiers – and a like-minded US military establishment – offered the black GIs scant protection . . . We don’t “want to see lynching begin in England”, noted an aide to Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary. But when Churchill was told of a black GI being hounded from a restaurant by white colleagues, he suggested the soldier acquire a banjo and seek entry as a member of the band. click here

Shame.

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