Republican politicians and conservative news outlets (especially Breitbart) have been displaying an uninformed exuberance for the candidacy of Marine Le Pen, whose National Front is currently leading the polls less than two months before the first round of France’s presidential election.
They ought to read an August 2014 interview on the Jewish website Tablet, in which Le Pen denounced America for saying “what’s good and evil but only according to its own interests. Not according to any moral sense ever!”
The April French presidential election coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Congressional declaration of war against Imperial Germany, and Marine Le Pen is appallingly ignorant of the selfless, pivotal contributions American doughboys, sailors, and pilots made to the Allied victory in World War I. Between April 1917 and the November 1918 Armistice that ended the war, the United States, starting with an army of barely 100,000 active-duty soldiers, trained 4.7 million soldiers, airmen, and sailors, and the U.S. Navy and Allied navies safely transported more than 2 million of them to France.
In the spring of 1918, when the German army launched five offensives, American doughboys and Marines, at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Woods, repulsed the most dangerous attack that had taken their soldiers within 35 miles of Paris. Then, beginning in July 1918, the American army, under the masterful command of General John J. Pershing, led the counterattack that wrecked Kaiser Wilhelm II’s army and sent it on a headlong retreat out of France.
But the cost in American lives was steep, 53,000 killed in action in France during World War I and another 63,000 non-combat fatalities (most of those as a result of the devastating 1918 worldwide flu pandemic). My maternal grandfather, David Schneiderman, born on the fabled Jewish Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1892, was taken off a France-bound troop transport in the summer of 1918, suffering from the flu infection. He was evacuated to a military hospital at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he miraculously recovered, with the unwavering support of his mother, who, despite speaking only Russian and Yiddish, relocated for several weeks from her Bronx apartment to his bedside.
Nearly 30,000 World War I combatants are buried in American military cemeteries in France. Has Marine Le Pen or her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former leader of the National Front, ever visited any of these cemeteries? The Suresnes American Cemetery is located near the site of the National Front’s headquarters.
By contrast, Geert Wilders, the 53-year-old conservative politician whose Party for Freedom is expected to lead the parliamentary voting in Holland in a few weeks, gave a speech in New York City in 2008 in which he demonstrated a profound understanding of the incredible heroism and sacrifices of America’s soldiers, sailors, and pilots who preserved democracy and human rights in Europe during the 20th century.
“Dear friends,” he said, “liberty is the most precious of gifts. My generation never had to fight for this freedom. It was offered to us on a silver platter, by people who fought for it with their lives. All throughout Europe, American cemeteries remind us of the young boys who never made it home, and whose memory we cherish.”
American World War II cemeteries are located in Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Great Britain, and France, which has five cemeteries where an additional 31,000 Americans are buried. One American GI buried beneath a Jewish Star in France’s Brittany Cemetery is my father’s first cousin Simon Levy, a medic in the 29th Infantry Division, who was killed in August 1944.
My late father, Barney Schulte, fought in France with General George Patton’s crack Sixth Armored Division, which with the Second, Third, and Fourth Armored divisions spearheaded the American breakout from Normandy (“Operation Cobra”) through Avranches during the last week of July 1944. Then, during the first week of August 1944, the Sixth and Fourth Armored divisions, under the command of General Patton’s newly activated Third Army, rampaged through Brittany, the French province from which the Le Pen family hails.
Marine Le Pen and many of her compatriots apparently have been duped by Charles De Gaulle’s extensive falsifications of World War II history into believing the Resistance helped liberate the Brittany Peninsula and other regions of France.
While credit for the crushing defeat of the Imperial German military on the Western front in 1918 was earned equally by French, American, and British/Canadian/Australian/New Zealanders, a more catastrophic defeat inflicted on Germany’s military forces in France in 1944 was almost entirely an American victory. Approximately 90 percent of France was liberated by American soldiers. The British and Canadians freed a small section of northwest France, and French soldiers, with American assistance, did likewise in southeastern France.
Marc Weitzmann, the author of the 2014 Le Pen interview for Tablet, admitted this uncomfortable truth on the same website:
“No other country has lied to itself since World War II as much as France. In 1945, France pretended to have freed itself alone and that it was among the winners when it was the other way around – only a minority of French had fought with the Allies and they could’ve never gotten rid of the Germans and Petain without them.”
Unfortunately, Weitzmann falsely attributes France’s liberation to the “Allies,” when, to repeat, it was overwhelmingly an American victory. Moreover, France’s monumental myth-making about its battlefield contributions in World War II began in late August 1944, when the Free French leader, General de Gaulle, arrived in a just-liberated Paris and falsely proclaimed:
“Paris! Outraged Paris! Broken Paris! Martyred Paris, but liberated Paris! Liberated by the people of Paris with help from the armies of France, with the help and support of the whole of France, of France which is fighting, of the only France, the real France, eternal France.”
In reality, there were no “armies of France,” as it contributed only one division, Second Armored, to the blood-soaked Normandy Campaign, in which Americans suffered 126,000 casualties and the British and Canadians another 81,000 between June 6, 1944 and August 29, 1944. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied commander on the Western Front, made a political decision to allow the French Second Armored, which had only joined the fighting on August 1, 1944, to advance through American lines and to be given the honor of freeing Paris.
In early January 2017, Marine Le Pen visited New York City and attended a cocktail party at the Trump Tower residence of George Lombardi, a high-profile supporter of Donald Trump. Trump’s transition team denied that a meeting occurred between Le Pen and the then-president-elect. If President Trump meets with Marine Le Pen after the French elections, he should frankly tell her that no political relationship can be maintained between him and any French leader who despicably erases the unrivaled heroic contributions of American soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors to the reversal of the German conquests of France during World Wars I and II.