112 Gripes about the French
The 1945 Handbook for American GIs in Occupied France
Distributed for Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
To bridge the cultural divide, the American generals commissioned this surprisingly candid guide that paired common complaints about the French with answers aimed at promoting understanding. From the fascinations of French nightlife to Gallic grooming and fashions, the guide sought to correct the misconceptions behind a litany of common complaints: Laissez-faire is not in fact a call to laziness, and the French do not play checkers in cafés all day—though they do extol the virtues of a leisurely lunch. The moral principles of the Frenchwoman ought not to be drawn from the few one might find loitering on the fringes of the camp.
Beyond their intended instructive purposes, the grievances included in the guide are at times as revealing of the preconceptions of the American servicemen as they are of the French, as well as offering fascinating insight into the details of daily life immediately after the war, including the acute poverty, the shortage of food and supplies, and the scale of destruction suffered by France during the six years of conflict. Illustrated throughout with charming cartoons and written in a direct, no-nonsense style, 112 Gripes about the French is by turns amusing and thought-provoking in its valiant stand against prejudice and stereotype.