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Sunday, 26 August 2007

The French and Indo China. Memories of Vietnam

There is a big difference I have noticed living in France. The subject of Vietnam is still very cotroversial in America. In fact I try to avoid getting into arguments on the subject. I try to avoid getting into arguments on any subject on internet in fact.

Amongst the French however it only seems to evoke fond memories. I have many friends and aquaintances who served in Vietnam. Eugene served in the army in the Infanterie de Marine. These were not marines in the American sense but ordinary infantry who went by sea to serve in the colonies. There is André who served with a colonial Tunisien regiment. There was old M. Solange who fought the Moroccans in the 1930s, spent the war in the French concession in Shanghai and then served with the police in Saigon. Old Watermass, who after serving in the army in Indochina worked in a coffee plantation. Christoph’s grandfather who was a prisoner of the Japonese in Vietnam. There was a légionnaire in Marseille I knew who went out to Indo china in 1945 in a British ship to reoccupy it. He didn’t like being served with porridge for breakfast. No wine either. They were also equipped with British Lee Enfield rifles. And so on and so on.

They were however all volunteers. The French couldn’t send conscripts overseas. Algeria of course was not overseas as it was composed of three French departments and therefore French national territory. That of course became a political issue. The Algerian war also served to eclipse the French Indochinese war. The generals hadn’t liked the defeat of course but amogst the ordinary soldiery as I said earlier there is no bitterness only fond memories.

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