Though Roberts's arguments are appealing—even seductive—they rest largely on how much credence to give claims grounded in the language and methods of symbolic political analysis. So much of it rests on the interpretations given to the archival materials that readers might wonder about the scope and size of the archival holdings the author used and what proportion of the material she examined did not support such a gendered analysis.
This question also stems from the overreaching language that Roberts employs to make her argument convincing. Readers might also be puzzled by the argument that US soldiers who had fought in Italy found solace in whoring in Le Havre at the end of the war, because Roberts does not make clear why these soldiers were in Le Havre in the first place or what percentage of those who had already fought in the Mediterranean theater of war Italy also fought through France and Germany In addition, whilst there is no doubt that black US soldiers disproportionately received harsher punishments for sexual offenses than white GIs, Roberts offers no proof—not even one name—that any innocent black soldiers were executed These quibbles aside, this is an important and groundbreaking book.
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Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. She heard odd fluttering sounds. What she found in her backyard was stranger still: a man with a face streaked in war paint had landed in her garden and was trying to cut himself free from a parachute. Madame Levrault stood frozen in her nightgown. The man's eyes met hers.
He raised his finger to his lips, signaling her to be silent, and then slipped away into the night. A few hours after their encounter in the garden, thousands of Murphy's countrymen would take their first step onto French land at Omaha and Utah Beach. Thousands of others would take their last step on that sand, if they took a step at all.
Before the end of that day, 2, Americans would perish on the beaches of Normandy.
What Soldiers Do
They would reach the shores of France but die before they met even a single French person. Still others, of course, survived the beaches and fought their way across the north of France. Those soldiers are the subject of this book. For good reason, the Normandy landings have become a sacred event in the American imagination.
Historians, politicians, and filmmakers have celebrated the campaign as a great moment in the history of the Second World War. There is no doubt they are right. But the story, at least as it has been told by American historians, suffers by focusing too narrowly on military strategy. As the new military history has demonstrated, wars cannot be separated from the values and preoccupations of those peoples fighting them.
What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France
It is also crucial, then, to widen our analytic lens in order to consider the encounter between the American soldier and the French civilian. Because historical narratives focus almost exclusively on the day-to-day heroics of the American GI, they slight the French and leave half the story untold. French civilians appear only at the peripheries of the scene, their roles reduced to inert bystanders or joyous celebrants of liberation. In short, they form nothing more than a landscape against which the Allies fight for freedom.
Stephen Ambrose's very popular histories of the Normandy campaign typify this marginalization of the French. In Citizen Soldiers , a history of the army from Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge, Ambrose mentions the Normans only once, implying that they were collaborationists: "[The landings] came as a shock to the Normans, who had quite accommodated themselves to the German occupation.
Otherwise, they appear to be children eager to kiss the Americans' hands, delighted at their liberation, but largely passive and mute. In sum, Ambrose reproduces what he sees as the general GI view of French civilians—as "ungrateful, sullen, lazy and dirty. One aim of this chapter is to amend that view by revisiting the Normandy campaign as it was seen through French eyes.
What was D-day like for the Normans? How did they respond to having their homes, their fields, and their farms turned into a theater of war?
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Norman accounts of the invasion, recorded in diaries, letters, and memoirs, give us an extraordinarily fresh, vivid account of the months prior to and after the invasion. If Normans appeared to be "ungrateful" and "sullen" to the GIs, as Ambrose believed, they had good reason to be. For them, D-day did not begin on the sixth of June. Rather it started in the fall of , when the Allies initiated preinvasion bombing on northern France. The Normans watched their railways, bridges, workplaces, and homes burn to the ground.
For this reason, they dreaded as much as awaited the landings. The war came as a distant thunder, then crashed like an angry storm. As it broke, it produced horrific sights and smells—the rot of animal and human flesh, the stench of death. Normans recounted their encounter with death in a terrible grammar of sounds, sights, smells, and tastes.
An estimated 19, civilians lost their lives in the Battle of Normandy. During the first two days of the campaign alone, about three thousand were killed—roughly the same number of Allied soldiers killed in that period. Other soldiers consorted with streetwalkers or visited brothels, carefully regulated by the German authorities.
Erotic behavior and imaginaries clearly reflected the power imbalances of the time. With the liberation of France, Allied soldiers replaced the Germans but the power imbalances remained and the erotic tourism continued. Many of those accused were paraded with their heads shaven or worse in French town and cities, reflecting a sense of emasculation in postwar France. In these many ways, erotics was linked to tourism and war.
This essay surveys some of the many expressions of erotic feeling in occupied Paris.
Sex Overseas: 'What Soldiers Do' Complicates WWII History
Addressing the complex intersections of tourism, war, and erotics, it seeks to encourage further research in their linkages. If the Germans represented an erotic vision for Brasillach, to many Germans, France, and especially Paris, was equally if not more so an erotic fantasy.
The erotic activities and images took many forms, ranging from romantic liaisons between occupation soldiers and Frenchwomen, visits by German soldiers to nightclubs that offered sexualized images if not the actual experience in Montmartre and elsewhere, and prostitution, carefully monitored and regulated by the German authorities. All will be discussed in this essay with the goal of drawing a preliminary picture of the erotic imaginaries, together with their connections to tourism, as the Occupation soldiers read guidebooks directing them to the various nightclubs, located brothels approved by the military authorities, and wandered the streets of Paris encountering local women, both streetwalkers and others, in a wide variety of places and contexts.
The sexualized tourism of the Occupation soldiers reflected asymmetries of power between occupiers and occupied and, at times, within the German military hierarchy itself. Tourism, erotics, and power were all interlinked. Erotics itself comprises a large realm of cultural activity, combining issues of imagery, gender, sexuality, and prostitution, among others. Those involved seldom keep written records for the later-day historian. Too frequently, tourism is considered in a narrow sense of leisure travel in peacetime and, indeed, tourism has been defined as leisure travel for recreation The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, In its larger meaning, however, tourism is the expression of curiosity and may be expressed best as curiosity in motion.
Based on the Latin notion of curiositas, tourism was deemed a reason to travel by the midth century.
Recent scholars of tourism culture, including Rachid Amirou, Nelson N. Soldiers in foreign lands look around, see, and absorb surrounding sites that may often be alien to them. Too often, the history of tourism in the 20th century is depicted as stopping in only to resume again after In recent years, books edited by Chris Ryan in and Richard Butler and Wantanee Suntikul in have begun to address aspects of war tourism but neither collection addresses World War II France and most of the contributions focus on wartime heritage or memory tourism more than tourism during war itself Ryan, and Butler and Suntikul, Marc Chesnel and Josette Mesplier-Pinet have addressed linkages between war and tourism in France but again the literature focuses more on memory tourism to wartime sites than tourism during a war Chesnel, and Mesplier-Pinet, In Germany, Henning Meyer and Wiebke Kolbe have also written about sites of wartime memory or battlefield tourism in regard to France Meyer and Kolbe Tourism, however, continued and in some ways intensified during the war, as I have argued elsewhere, embracing among other elements erotics and the imaginaries as can be seen in occupied France Gordon and Young German soldiers touring in organized groups and on their own in occupied France became conditioned to see tourism as a leisure activity, contributing to the expectations and imaginaries that underlay the tourism take off in Germany and elsewhere after the war Spode, Their actions and their imaginaries, revealing distinct imbalances in their power relationships with the local French population, nonetheless reflected perceptions of Paris and France formed by the tourist images of the late 19th and early 20th century that helped form their culture as they grew up.
Some of these prewar imaginaries evoked the erotic. In , for example, Paris was described as the modern Babylon, where vice won out over virtue and infamy and crime bred in a fertile ground Ponson du Terr. These imaginaries, of course, include the entire range of erotic fantasies and images tied to tourism and were clearly evident among the German occupation personnel who toured France during the Second World War. Although many have studied the linkage of erotics and tourism, the relationships of both to war have received less attention. In an article on tourism and prostitution in the postwar Third World published in , Nelson N.
Graburn suggested the connection to war and military occupation in stating:. People focus on their conceptions of the beautiful or the interesting, framed, and at times manipulated as Theodor Adorno maintains, in their cultural contexts of time and place. As Adorno suggested, these must be understood in terms of power relationships Adorno, , Such power imbalances may be extreme in times of war, evidenced for example in the organized tours of occupied France provided to the victorious German soldiers by Nazi authorities after their victory of Jean Berthelot, a French official, in late June reported German soldiers in Paris taking photographs of sites recommended by Baedeker Berthelot, , Others since have also described the German soldiers behaving as "tourists" 2 Meinen, , To some extent, a similar case might be made regarding the Allied forces and erotic tourism in liberated France after the military campaign of as indicated in some of the literature to be addressed later in this essay.
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There are many variations in sexual tourism, including voluntary liaisons as well as prostitution, and in the latter case visitors seeking out local sex workers and sex workers migrating to other areas to ply their trade Franklin, , Illustrating the complexities in tracking sexual activity and imaginaries, Karen H. Adler writes that some 5, Frenchwomen may have left their country — the documentation, she notes, is uncertain — to work as prostitutes for higher pay in Germany during the war Adler, , As the writers of the MIT team in Paris noted in , the inequalities involved in sex tourism, that Graburn also referenced, mirrored those in wealth and power between rich and poor countries around the world.
Colonization, they argued, had reinforced the pre-existing power imbalances. Such imbalances helped create similar instances of sexual tourism in the wealthier cities of the West as well.
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The power imbalances mentioned by the MIT team also existed in wartime as the German experience tourism in occupied Paris suggests. While many in occupied France suffered deprivations, one group stood out as privileged, namely the German occupation personnel for whom France became a prized billet, a place for rest and relaxation, and, for many, where they might exercise the tourism imaginaries that had developed over the preceding generations in Germany as elsewhere.
This imbalance was not new. This imbalance affected gender relations far beyond those of prostitution. The German valuation of the Mark at 20 francs, in contrast to 12 prior to the war, made French goods and French prostitutes relatively inexpensive for German personnel there, adding to the imbalance in the relationships of power in France Buisson, , Generally speaking, Germans admired French culture, yet criticized what they saw as French decadence.
Editions were republished in both German and French during the Occupation, although Sieburg was later described by a French observer as a "petty bourgeois" with only a "conventional" knowledge of France and a latecomer to Nazism Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD, Deutsche Wegleiter August , p. As Robert Gildea writes, "Many [German soldiers] came to France as sexual and gastronomic tourists as much as soldiers.
Historian Henri Amouroux noted that Germans enjoyed Paris during. A German officer wounded and decorated during World War I, he had become famous because of his memoir, In Stahlgewittern [Storm of Steel], first published in He wrote: " Paris offers meetings like that with one barely having to seek them; one realizes that the city was founded on the altar of Venus. He later recalled that most of the German soldiers were the sons of farmers and had never left their villages prior to the war.