D. Thompson: French begin to regard Americans as conquerors (7-6-45)

Youngstown Vindicator (July 6, 1945)

Dorothy Thompson1

French begin to regard Americans as conquerors

By Dorothy Thompson

PARIS, France – If psychological factors influence political events more than charters and resolutions passed at international conferences, then we are heading not in the direction of better international relations, but of worse. This is obvious in Paris.

We came in as allies and liberators, greeted by embraces and flowers. But to the average Frenchman, we remain as conquerors and herrenfolk. This is due to a lack of psychological briefing and planned approach.

Vast masses of Frenchmen are hungry and for five winters have been horribly cold. The fact is that coal may determine whether France and, indeed, all Europe will or will not swing politically to violent extremes.

There is a terrible shortage of transportation. I have the impression Allied offices in Paris are unnecessarily overstaffed; and though it is true we are soon to transfer many agencies from here to Germany, Paris as well as other parts of France will continue to be furlough centers and masses of Americans will be moving in and out for a long time to come.

Americans take the best

We have requisitioned the best hotels, villas and apartments; only recently taking 8,000 more billets. Americans in Paris have coal to heat these and men’s and officers’ messes are plentifully supplied with every sort of food. In Paris, every taxicab is in the hands of the American and British forces. We are an army of haves in the midst of a country of have-nots.

If my limited knowledge of French politics is reliable, I sense a gathering storm. All the factors are here for a mass uprising – a resistance movement hungry for absolute leadership, a weak government, currency in which there is no confidence, frayed nerves, a widespread sense of inferiority, inflation which hits worst of all the salaried middle classes without whose leadership no mass movements ever succeeded, and a plenitude of weapons in the people’s hands.

It would be like our forces, from the highest level downward, to have some friendly contact with the French people; yet even our officers treat French military men of the same rank as though they were an inferior breed.

One little incident illustrates this. Recently, two French majors and a colonel walked into the bar of a luxury hotel which has been requisitioned as an American club and ordered drinks. An American sergeant put them out of the place – only British and American officers were admitted. Higher-ups sustained the sergeant.

One must only ask why such psychological stupidity? These officers entered a hotel in their own city where they had often gathered at the bar previous to the German occupation. Now they find they are in the same position as under the Germans except that they were not then in uniform, knew the position and were thus spared public humiliation.

American officers and others who eat extremely well at their own messes patronize the black-market restaurants to the fury of the left-wing movement, whose numbers are now augmented by returned concentration camp victims and who are trying to halt black market profiteering.

Comradeship lacking

No one can ask the Americans to eat less well, but certainly directives could prevent the undermining the French efforts and unnecessary flaunting of a superior status, snubbing fellow officers and avoiding any sort of effective liaison.

Political orientation courses for American officers and enlisted men are invariably addressed by Americans, although many distinguished Frenchmen and French women speak excellent English.

Due to lack of liaison and absence of constructive programs for collaboration, the Allies all are seeing the worst sides of each other – which, to say the least, is unfortunate for the world the San Francisco charter wants to build.