Vive La France 1

: Winning A Cause World War Stories

The determination of the people of Alsace and Lorraine not to submit to

the pressure of their conquerors was made evident even up to the very

day that war was declared in 1914. Von Moltke had predicted that It

will require no less than fifty years to wean the hearts of her lost

Provinces from France. Notwithstanding all their efforts, the German

leaders in 1890 had said, After nineteen years of annexation, German

uence has made no progress in Alsace. When the German soldiers at

the beginning of the World War entered the provinces, their officers

said to them, We are now in enemy country.

This remark seems all the more strange because the population of the

provinces was largely German. Most of the French citizens had

emigrated to France, and all the young men had left to avoid German

military service and the possibility of being forced to fight France.

Many Germans had moved in. Indeed if at this late day a vote had been

taken, no doubt the majority would have expressed the desire to remain

under German rule. But Germany still considered the country as an

enemy. She knew the whole world disapproved of her seizing the

provinces. Therefore it did not surprise the German government to

learn that President Wilson, as one of the fourteen points to be

observed in making a permanent peace for the world, gave as the


The wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871, in the matter of

Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly

fifty years should be righted.

At the foot of the Vosges mountains near the Lorraine border, the

American armies joined those of France. There in the Lorraine sector

they fought valiantly and finally drove the enemy headlong before them

through the Argonne forest, helping to make it possible for the

peacemakers to gather again in the great council hall at Versailles

where, nearly half a century before, France had seen the first German

emperor crowned and then had been forced to sign the humiliating

agreement that later became the Treaty of Frankfort.

But now the tables were turned; this meeting was in answer to the plea

of a defeated Germany who was to agree to return her stolen property

and to make good as far as possible the wrong she had done France and

the world.

The statue of Strassburg in Paris had been stripped of the mourning

which had covered it for nearly fifty years. Germany, as a victor, had

indeed been a hard master, not caring in the least for the interests of

the people in the conquered territories. How different was the spirit

of the French as victors is shown in General Petain's orders to the

French armies after the signing of the armistice.

As a piece of military literature it ranks with the soundest and the

most eloquent ever delivered. In the spirit of President Lincoln's

second inaugural address, With malice towards none, with charity for

all, it emphasizes a contrast which will be remembered for

generations, to the everlasting shame of Germany and the glory of

France. To every true American patriot it means that our armies have

been fighting with the flower and chivalry of France, not for revenge,

but for the overthrow of oppression, the freedom of the oppressed, and

for honorable and permanent peace.

To the French Armies:--

During long months you have fought. History will record the tenacity

and fierce energy displayed during these four years by our country

which had to vanquish in order not to die.

Tomorrow, in order to better dictate peace, you are going to carry your

arms as far as the Rhine. Into that land of Alsace-Lorraine that is so

dear to us, you will march as liberators. You will go further: all the

way into Germany to occupy lands which are the necessary guarantees of

just reparation.

France has suffered in her ravaged fields and in her ruined villages.

The freed provinces have had to submit to intolerable, vexatious, and

odious outrages, but you are not to answer these crimes by the

commission of violences, which, under the spur of your resentment, may

seem to you legitimate.

You are to remain under discipline and to show respect to persons and

property. You will know, after having vanquished your adversary by

force of arms, how to impress him further by the dignity of your

attitude, and the world will not know which to admire more, your

conduct in success or your heroism in fighting.

I address a fond and affectionate greeting to our dead, whose

sacrifices gave us the victory. And I send a message of salutation,

full of sad affection, to the fathers, to the mothers, to the widows

and orphans of France, who, in these days of national joy, dry their

tears for a moment to acclaim the triumph of our arms. I bow my head

before your magnificent flags.

Vive la France!

(Signed) PETAIN.

[1] Translated from the French of Alphonse Daudet.