The Old Front Line

THREE-QUARTERS OF A CENTURY HAS NOT BEEN TIME ENOUGH TO EFFACE THE REMNANTS OF VIOLENCE ALONG A FOUR-HUNDRED-MILE FRONT

It is early fall in France, anf the forest is silent and peaceful. A man, dressed in camouflage fatigues and carrying a metal detector and a sawed-off pickax, disappears into the misty underbrush. Here and there holes in the ground are half-filled with deads leaves; strands of rusty barbed wire hang from corkscrew-shaped metal posts. The forest, about forty miles from Paris, is officially called the Bois de la Brigade Marine. The French government has given this land to the United States; Americans know it as Belleau Wood. It was here that men of a U.S.Read more »

The Radical Revolution

For years people have argued that France had the real revolution and that ours was mild by comparison. But now a powerful new book says the American Revolution was the most sweeping in all history. It alone established a pure commercial culture—a culture that makes America the universal society we are today.

The French Revolution followed American independence by six years, but it was the later event that went into the books as “the Great Revolution” and became the revolutionary archetype. It is not only the contrast of the conspicuously greater political violence of the French Revolution that has led historians to play down the comparative radicalism of its American counterpart but the fact that the French Revolution swiftly became the model for radical political transformation.Read more »

A Black American In The Paris Salon

In an age when the best black artists were lucky to exhibit their work at state fairs, Henry Ossawa Tanner was accepted by the most selective jury in France

Dr. Philip Bellefleur had been headmaster of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf for about three years when he found the painting in 1970. He and a housekeeper had opened the door to a large storage closet, one that hadn’t been opened in five years, perhaps more. Inside they saw scores of dusty boxes and a half-dozen paintings stacked against the wall. After a quick look Bellefleur concluded that maybe two of the six pictures were valuable—one because it was so large, nine by twelve feet, and the other because it gave him goose bumps. Read more »

An American Coup in Paris

Remember the excitement of the 1924 Olympics in Chariots of Fire? That was nothing compared with what the U.S. rugby team did to the French at those games.

It is springtime in post-World War I Paris, the final day of the rugby tournament at the VIII Olympiad, to be exact, and fifty thousand Frenchmen are filing into Colombes Stadium to watch the mighty French national rugby team win the first gold medal of the 1924 Olympics. Their opponents? A ragtag band of California college kids calling themselves the USA Olympic rugby team. Barely two hours later the novice American rugby team has pulled off what the United Press sports editor Henry L.Read more »

Bernhardt In America

In the years between the dedication of the Statue of Liberty and the First World War, the Divine Sarah was, for hundreds of thousands of Americans, the single most compelling embodiment of the French Republic

During Sarah Bernhardt’s 1912–13 American tour, the souvenir program for La Dame aux Camélias quoted Mark Twain: “There are five kinds of actresses: bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses, and Sarah Bernhardt.”

In her own country the prestigious Journal des Débats pronounced her a national institution, maintaining that “to criticize her is like criticizing the tomb of Napoleon.” It was Read more »

Liberté Egalité Animosité

When the French Revolution broke out two hundred years ago this month, Americans greeted it enthusiastically. After all, without the French we could never have become free. But the cheers faded as the brutality of the convulsion emerged—and we saw we were still only a feeble newborn facing a giant, intimidating world power.

There were two great revolutions against European monarchs in the late eighteenth century. In the first, the French nation helped Americans achieve their independence from George III. Without that help our revolution could not have succeeded. Yet when the French rebelled against Louis XVI, Americans hailed their action, then hesitated over it, and finally recoiled from it, causing bitterness in France and among some Americans. Why had the “sister republics” not embraced each other when they had the opportunity?Read more »

Forts Of The Americas

On their weathered stone battlements can
be read the whole history of the three-century
struggle for supremacy in the New World

On the northwest shoulder of South America, looking out over the blue waters of the Caribbean, an ancient citadel stands guard above a Spanish city. Three thousand miles to the north, where the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets the gray rollers of the North Atlantic, the guns of another once-menacing fortress stare sullenly across a bleak, empty sea. The tropical city is Cartagena, Colombia. The northern bastion is Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, once called the “Gibraltar of the West.” Read more »

A True And Delectable History Of Creole Cooking

New Orleans cuisine—with its French roux, African okra, Indian filé, and Spanish peppers—is literally a gastronomic melting pot. Here’s how it all came together.

Across most of America nowadays the term Creole when applied to food variably conjures up images of charred, blackened fish and meat, overbearing, fiery seasonings, and a ubiquitous red sauce not unlike the kind you buy in a can. As a seventh-generation native of south Louisiana, and as a food writer, I join other locals in feeling a twinge of horror at what has befallen my native cuisine since it became the food fad of the eighties.Read more »

What Happened Off Devon

On the eve of the Normandy invasion, a training mission in the English Channel came apart in fire and horror. For years, the grim story was suppressed.

Ralph Greene was in the lab of the 228th Station Hospital processing some routine tests when he got the order to report immediately to the hospital’s recreation room. It was early in the afternoon of April 28, 1944, and for Greene, a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, the day had begun like every other for the past several months—handling sick call, checking on soldiers with such unmartial ailments as chicken pox and measles, tending to the victims of minor training mishaps.Read more »

Escape From Vichy

One of the most ingenious and least known rescue missions of World War II was engineered by a young American dandy, Varian Fry, who shepherded to safety hundreds of European intellectuals wanted by the Nazis

ALL WARS , great and small, can be counted on to produce four things: misery, death, destruction, and refugees. As far as the first three are concerned, the Second World War differed from its predecessors only in scale. In the matter of refugees, however, the conflict produced a wholly new phenomenon: the mass transplanting of the intelligentsia of one continent to another continent.Read more »