Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Finished: "What Soldiers Do" by Mary Louise Roberts

Finished: What Soldiers Do: sex and the American G.I. World War II France by Mary Louise Roberts, 2013, 9780226923093.

Committee title.  Interesting but Roberts does not always sell me.  The book itself is pretty decent but what really impressed me was the massive research.  Roberts cites work from archives in the U.S., England, and France and many other research and historical work.  Very impressive.

Anyway.  Roberts focuses on post-invasion Western France.  The Armies have gone fought through and the newly liberated areas are rife with soldiers.  The soldiers are out whoring.  The French people have been starving and suffering for five years and the women do most anything to earn a buck.  Or, even a couple cigarettes (which were as good as cash at that time).  Roberts tells us that U.S. views on French morality and sexuality were mistaken and the poor behavior of many U.S. soldiers (the limeys and canucks behaved much better) was indicative of that and also indicative of the lack of diplomatic and inter-governmental agreements.

Here is a quick recap as I recall it.  U.S. soldiers expected sex, sex, sex, from the what they heard were famously sexy and horny Frenchwomen.  Many soldiers were boorish at best and some cities - Roberts focuses on Le Havre - had prostitutes and soldiers fornicating in public during the day.  Prostitution was rife and VD rates soared.  The U.S. was willing to organize and oversee prostitution but could not do so because of public outcry from the States.  The Army said "we understand the problem, but there is no problem."  Thousands and thousands of soldiers overwhelmed the French police presence.

Meanwhile, make sure you're not black and anywhere near a rape.  You'll be blamed, tried within a couple weeks, and hung in public.  The topic of racial discrimination and blame takes up a third or so of the Roberts book.

 Rape was a problem with black and white soldiers but the black guys were blamed.  Doing so was racism from both Americans and French but also an excuse to say the sexual assaults were not widespread, that one subset could be blamed.

There is more to say but the book is at home and I cannot leaf through it to remind me.  Maybe later.

Hey, I twice used the word "rife".

LATER:  I have the book in hand.  Split into three parts, Romance, Prostitution, Rape.  Now that I do have the book in hand I do not have the enthusiasm to page through and make more comments.

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