John Noonan in the Weekly Standard does his bit to correct a bit of comic historical slander against the French military.
The stereotype exists in a realm of pop-history, where many believe that France’s past is littered with dropped rifles and abandoned posts. This stink has clung to the French military for decades now. It’s wrong, inaccurate, and undeserved.
While there is no definitive history of cruel japes, the idea of the surrendering French seems to have come from World War II and the Battle of France. There, Hitler’s army enveloped French, British, and Belgian forces in a brilliant flanking maneuver. The ensuing evacuation of 350,000 soldiers at Dunkirk is renowned as one of England’s finest hours. What fewer have heard of is the heroic stand of the French First Army at Lille, where 40,000 encircled French soldiers held out against 7 German divisions. While others fled, the outnumbered French bravely stood and fought—ensuring the successful evacuation of another 100,000 allied troops.
And history did not end 75 years ago:
After the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid, the Spanish government withdrew its combat forces from Iraq. After the 2015 Paris attacks claimed the lives of 137, France responded by hammering ISIS positions in Syria. President Francois Hollande addressed his nation with resolve, saying “[terrorists] must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved.”
Of course, if you read this blog, you had the whole story six years ago.