Pennsylvanians in Paris

On 25 and 26 August 1944, Charles DeGaulle gave uncomfortably long victory speeches to crowds of hundreds of thousands of Parisians. Not once did he recognize any of the other allied countries whom had a role in France’s or Paris’ liberation. At least thirteen Allied countries had soldiers fighting on French soil, and besides the French, four others: the British, Poles, Canadians, and Americans, were directly involved in the liberation of Paris. This incensed the normally unflappable Gen Eisenhower, who devoted almost all of his efforts to keeping the allied coalition functioning.

Eisenhower directed the Allies to have another victory parade on the 29th, and that every Allied unit heading to the front move through Paris, if practical. The first unit enroute to the front east of Paris was the US 28th “Keystone” Infantry Division made up of soldiers from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. (They would only receive the nickname “Bloody Bucket” from the Germans in the vicious fighting along the Siegfried Line and the Huertgen Forest later in the year.) Their commander, MG Norman Cota, directed that most of the 18,000 Pennsylvanians march in one imposing, and intimidating, mass formation, 28 abreast, with loaded personal weapons. It was to show the Parisians, and DeGaulle, that the war was not being fought by France alone, and that millions of soldiers from around the world were also fighting to liberate France and defeat the Germans.

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