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 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
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!
 Translated from the French of Alphonse Daudet.