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'Morts Pour la France'; The African Soldier in France During the Second World War

Myron Echenberg
The Journal of African History
Vol. 26, No. 4, World War II and Africa (1985), pp. 363-380
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/181655
Page Count: 18
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'Morts Pour la France'; The African Soldier in France During the Second World War
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Abstract

The involvement of African combatants in France from 1939 to 1945 probably surpassed the large mobilization of an earlier generation during the First World War. Carefully prepared ideologically and well received by the French public, Africans nevertheless paid a heavy price in lives and suffering as soldiers during the Battle of France and as prisoners of the Germans. Liberation brought a new set of tribulations, including discriminatory treatment from French authorities. These hardships culminated in a wave of African soldiers' protests in 1944-5, mainly in France, but including the most serious rising, the so-called mutiny at Thiaroye, outside Dakar, where thirty-five African soldiers were killed. The war's impact was ambiguous. Tragedies like Thiaroye sent shock waves throughout French West Africa, delegitimizing naked force as a political instrument in post-war politics and sweeping away an older form of paternalism. Yet while a militant minority were attracted to more radical forms of political and trade-union organization, most African veterans reaffirmed their loyalties to the French State, which ultimately paid their pensions.

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