A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, June 5, 2009

For D-Day: Remembering North Africans in the Liberation of Europe in WW II

Tomorrow we'll be hearing a lot about the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. One forgotten aspect of World War II is that, while most people familiar with the war are well aware of the fighting in Egypt and North Africa (and buffs will also know about the fighting in the Levant and Iraq), the role of Middle Easterners in the liberation of Europe is easily forgotten. Yet Free French units in Sicily and Italy, and General Leclerc's Second Free French Division in France from August 1, 1944, and Free French Forces pushing up from southern France in Operation Dragoon, all included Moroccan and Algerian (though this includes pieds noirs), and some Tunisian, units. Thus North Africans in French uniform participated in all the major campaigns of the Western Front, including the liberation of Paris.

In this post-colonial era, the record of colonial troops fighting for the colonial mother country is often forgotten. But a look at some of the units in the Free French order of battle shows a substantial number of rank-and-file North Africans fighting in Europe from Sicily onward. Though only special forces of Fighting France went ashore on D-Day proper, there were plenty of North African troops in Europe already. Perhaps French celebrations of liberation should include a crescent as well as the Cross of Lorraine.


Coach Mark said...

What would MEI say if they found out al Qaeda WAS in Saddam Hussein's Iraq with his permission?

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Let's try to keep comment threads t the subject of the posts, which in this case is WW II. But I'll answer anyway: What would MEI say? Nothing. As it says several places on this page and in the early posts to this blog, MEI doesn't take positions on Middle Eastern issues: we're a forum for multiple views, and our scholars, authors, etc. are all over the map ideologically, politically, and geographically. I speak for myself here. What would I say? Ask me when the evidence is in.