The Corner

D-Day: The Moral Audit

Brilliant piece by Irish writer Kevin Myers in the Sunday Telegraph here.

Commenting on this piece, another friend (an Irishman) sent me the following

thoughts:

“The official version of the Normandy campaign was never keen on dwelling on

the misbehaviour of allied troops, (quite a lot of local women were raped)

or the appalling civilian casualties, most of which were completely

unnecessary. I used to go on hols quite regularly to Normandy, and got the

definite impression that the Brits and Americans were not terribly popular

there, largely due to the numbers of people that the allies managed to kill

in 1944. I am sure you know about Douglas-Hume’s court martial, and the

destruction of Le Havre: the frogs’ widely held theory was that it was

deliberately destroyed so as to remove a potential rival to Southampton for

the transatlantic trade: but that’s the French for you. I was in a town

called (I think) Eu, which was virtually erased, with massive civilian dead

on the night of June 5th 1944 by heavy bombers, in the mistaken belief that

there were SS tanks stationed there.

“Have you read Max Hastings ‘Overlord’? He made the point that many of the

British squaddies were veterans of the 1940 debacle, and probably disliked

the French far more than they disliked the Germans. There were several

incidents when Norman civilians who came out to strip dead bodies of their

watches, wallets etc were unceremoniously put up against a wall and shot by

NCOs.

“The late Alan Clark was quite good in his book also. He made the obvious

(but still controversial) point that, wherever the German Army met the

Anglo-American forces in anything like equal numbers, they wiped the floor

with them. You have to hand it to the Krauts: they were beaten by superior

numbers in the end.

“Hastings also makes the point that the French peasantry had to a large

extent reached a modus vivendi with the Germans: the regular soldiers were

actually not that unpopular in many districts. The resistance was largely a

myth in many areas, and as they were frequently Communist dominated, not

always wildly popular where they did operate. I read an amazing statistic

recently that there were 250,000 babies born to French women from German

soldiers in 1940-1944: by now there must be about a million French people

descended from such liaisons. I remember a holiday I spent in Normandy once

when I commented to an aged rustic local about all the tall, strapping blond

blue eyed kids in the local village school: I said that this showed the

Normans’ Viking blood: he replied rather cynically that there had been a

German barracks up the road during the war.”

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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