A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, October 4, 2013

France Belatedly (as in 70 Years Late) Honors Moroccan Troops Who Fougtht to Liberate Corsica

Hmm . . . first I note the passing of the mastermind of Dien Bien Phu, and now here's another reminder of the former French Empire: "Overdue 'merci' extended to Morocco WWII vets." (Also see France 24 video in English, not embeddable, at this link.)

Seventy years ago today marked the completion of the liberation of Corsica from the Axis by Free French Forces.  As I have noted before, there was a substantial North African colonial presence in the Free French ranks.  Corsica was liberated by the Free French I Army Corps. According to Wikipedia, this was its Order of Battle:
While British and American troops invaded mainland Italy in September 1943, the 1st Army Corps, comprising Headquarters, 4th Moroccan Mountain Division (4e DMM), the 1st Regiment of Moroccan Tirailleurs (1er RTM), the 4th Regiment of Moroccan Spahis (4e RSM) (light tank), the 2nd Group of Moroccan Tabors (2e GTM), the Commandos de Choc battalion and the 3rd Battalion, 69th Mountain Artillery Regiment (69e RAM),[9] landed on the island of Corsica in the same month.
A very heavy Moroccan participation, in other words. The French President and the Moroccan King are honoring several survivors of the Corsican operation with the Legion of Honor, though the France 24 says only about 2% of the Moroccan troops who fought in the war are still living.

A footnote about the word goumier, by which the Moroccan troops were known: France organized its colonial forces into goums (from Arabic qom  قوم); a 200-;man body of troops; hence goumiers.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

A story relayed by a U.S. military officer who came to admire the Moroccan forces was that he told one of the "goums" that we could train them in air drops behind enemy lines. The Moroccan opined that jumping out of an airplane even at low altitude sounded really dangerous. He was reassured by the explanation that they would be using parachutes from a much higher altitude. For most Americans, the quality of Moroccan forces was our first encounter with the Arab world, and the bravery and toughness of Moroccan fighting men made a good impression.