Vintage Saturday: Goumier

French-Moroccan Goumier at Monte Casino
Moroccan soldier in the French Army with American gear. Originally published in “Yank” magazine.

Moroccan troops, known as les Goumiers Marocains were part of the French auxiliaries in the Army of Africa. As with all post-surrender French forces in WWII, they were armed and equipped with other Allied equipment; in this case n American 1903 (probably A4) Springfield and 16″ bayonet, which this fellow is currently sharpening. The striped, hooded cloak (“djellaba”) was unique to these units (here’s a color photo of one). The mountain fighting skills of the Goumier are unfortunately tainted by the mass rapes in the aftermath of Monte Cassino and elsewhere in the Italian campaign.

49 Comments

  1. The Day of Battle, The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson is the second volume in his trilogy on the US Army in North Africa and Europe during WW 2.

    Atkinson as expected describes the various battles but also delves into the crimes of the French Army in Italy, the ~ 70,000 American and British deserters in Italy, the shenanigans of the Communications Zone (apparently Crap Game from Kelly’s Heroes was closer to documentary than fiction) and the combat between the US and French armies (the French killed ~ 500 GIs during a botched amphibious landing in Africa).

    • Always good to read your contributions to discussion J.Harlan. It would be illusion to think that actors down to regulars were clear of vice; no such thing in wartime. When opportunity is there, gate of most primitive of urges come loose.

      • American mistreatment of Japanese war dead certainly caused the IJA and IJN to exact reprisals upon prisoners (using said prisoners as bayonet practice and worse!).

        • …and vice-versa. In-humanity was forte on both and all sides.
          http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/247337/unbroken-japan-still-deep-denial-over-cannibalism-daniel-greenfield

          After one of first air-attacks on Japan, a shot-down American officer was killed and his liver eaten in a ceremonial way by high ranking Japanese officer. I believe the American flyer’s name was capt. Hall.

          Mind you, in antic times it was common past-time to kick into heads of enemies. That was allegedly beginning of soccer. Is treatment of enemy in any future (and final) war any better? I doubt it.

          • They ate his liver eh, well that’s charming.

            I doubt any future war would be final, they’d be some survivors who doubtless would engage in a war over who shall eat who’s livers.

            Ideally Aliens will invade beforehand and we can all join in together as a species and beat them up. “We come in peace!” Meh.

          • Hmmm, well if it’s true… Maybe they were hungry, as oppose doing it for any other reason. I mean if they were stuck on an island, and had ate all the Beetles after eating everything else. Tasty enemy liver, would be a better prospect than each others livers for as long as possible in order you continue to try and win through.

    • I had absolutely no idea there was 70,000 deserters, in Italy or anywhere else. That’s an interesting topic I haven’t delved into before, I imagined there was perhaps a few hundred maybe a thousand all told.

      • Perhaps 70,000 is a figure which encapsulates those temporarily absent due to war I.e. Being separated ultimately legitimately from units, stragglers via the others all having been blown to smithereens etc leaving the survivors cut off until they eventually managed to rejoin their own army elsewhere.

        Although it was a large conflict, so maybe actual deserstion was more prevalent than I perceived not having experienced it. I know Britain shot a few thousand in WW1 but I haven’t tended to regard most of them as deserters previously, due to, putting it down to shell shock etc.

        I don’t think we did it in WW2 or as much, the U.S seemingly didn’t reading a Wikipedia page about it briefly. It says the Soviets shot a hundred or so thousand, but they had a bigger army and the conflict was more serious, mitigating factors.

        Found this,

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2332814/The-wartime-TRUTH-Army-tried-hide-How-gangs-U-S-deserters-terrorized-WWII-Paris-reign-mob-style-violence.html

        says 100,000 Brits deserted, doesn’t explain this in detail however.

        • I watched the film Gettysburg, Tom what’s his face, Sniper… Berenger, played Stonewall Jackson. Anyway, there was a Union scene which showed deserters and it made out that particular episode was down to some nonsense of an Army technicality which doesn’t surprise me. I could imagine it perhaps being quite high in the U.S civil war- As a civil war, morale etc. And because there was places to go not affected by the war, being a big place.

          • Well… I mean, it was more serious for the Communist party now Adolf had ditched the uneasy peace between National Socialism and Socialism, well Communism more specifically.

            I assume alot of the people after winning the Russian Civi war against their own Freikorps backed by foreign imperialists, weren’t against Communism. And thus when the Nazis attacked in order to overthrow it, perhaps a majority of people didn’t want it overthrown remembering the old days and grievances gained during the civil war.

            So Stalin, who obviously has a bad reputation but who after all was instrumental in winning the many battles to ensure the October revolution wasn’t snuffed out by 1939 ramped this up into an all out struggle for survival- The Nazis certainly wanted to control the country, I am not sure this would have meant certain death to everyone or complete Serfdom but you can’t blame Josef for saying it would.

            Thus in an absolute desperate fight to the death, as advertised and indeed as it developed into everyone needs to make the ultimate sacrifice.

            The Communist party being a dictatorship spelled out this meant for Communism on pain of death, non negotiable terms of service as expected in a dictatorship. I doubt the Nazis tolerated descenting voices opposed to Hitlers big ideas.

            So given the size of Soviet forces, the overall number of deserters would be higher statistically than smaller forces anyway. And desertion… Well in an all out fight to the death, were your supposed to swarm into German lines everytime, everytime guaranteed certain death until the enemy runs out of ammo to achieve victory was possibly higher than that of more laid back U.S forces- Who operated in a different context, they came into the war late and saw themselves as sorting out other folks mess in return for more power eventually which was fair enough.

          • British forces in WW2 had changed since WW1 society had changed, the proof of this is in 1945 the people elected a Labour government. And the forces of… The King, and Empire, found themselves allied to every type of Communist the world over. Times had changed, even the British wanted something to reward them for victory, prior to the war obviously the country had it’s own fascist and Communist movements. Which they rejected, but not to return to the status quo of WW1 type society.

    • This reminds me of “Days Of Glory ( Indigenes)”, Rachid Bouchareb’s evocative, searing and up-front examination of the historical, political, social and emotional issues surrounding North African volunteers in French military service from that period, told in the form of a docu-drama that unnervingly mirrors stark reality and hard truth as closely as one can get in this sort of genre.

      As far as Crap Game in “Kelly’s Heroes” is concerned, who was it who first said that truth is stranger than fiction? The innumerable twists and turns of wartime have nearly always offered the opportunity for one sort of profit-making or the other for those astute — or greedy and lacking in conscience enough — to exploit. This seems to hold true throughout recorded history, right up to the present-day situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the so-called “fog of war” and the even more foggy period of post-conflict nation-building has afforded once-in-a-lifetime opportunities undreamed of before the upsets caused by U.S. and Allied interventions. To this day, one wonders where hundreds of millions of dollars or more in aid — in hard currency and/or hardware — has actually gone, and with very little, if any, concrete result to show for it.

      • These aid agency’s are very dubious in general without wars being used as an excuse to get a hand into the public purse, our aid money has been seemingly getting funneled off into London based consultancy firms the Government advocates of aid employ.

        Iraq and Afghan cost the U.S trillions… Mind you, I suppose it is an industry of a sort, and thus the wealth it generates for those who create the business- The wealth creators, is distributed more generally, cough.

        • The corruption appears to be prevalent at every level on both sides ( donor and donee included, civilian and military as well ). Which is not to say that every single entity involved had corruption within its ranks, because there were still many foreign and local ( as in Iraqi )contractors, government agencies and aid organizations who did their best to keep things clean, above-board and workable in the face of an almost overwhelming culture of graft.

          A case in point was related to me by a General Contractor who was in Iraq in the heady days after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the sputtering frenzy of sincere, if somewhat misguided, nation-building that followed. I have little reason, if any, to doubt his veracity. He told me about an ultra-modern, American-style hospital complex that his company had built ( he was the General Superintendant of Construction at the time ). This particular hospital had everything and then some, being fully equipped to a level that would have rivaled the best U.S. hospitals of the time. The Bush Administration had certainly spared no expense in ensuring that this would be one model for others that might follow.

          Two days after the official ribbon-cutting and all-around glad-handing by sundry Iraqi and American officials, he got a call saying that none of the lights in the hospital were working. This really puzzled him since all systems, including lighting and electrical, had been thoroughly tested and certified during commissioning and start-up. Upon investigation, he found that virtually all the lighting fixtures had been looted by erstwhile Iraqi hospital employees either for use in their own homes or for sale on the black market, because they had either not been paid their wages or were grossly underpaid to the point that they had little choice but to do what they did in order to merely survive. Since said lighting fixtures were part of the standard, American-style post-commissioning warranty period under contract, he had to replace them all for free.

          He then found out that the Iraqi hospital administrator, who held absolute, literal life-and-death, power over the staff, was not only skimming his employees’ wages, but had also begun to remove the major, highly-expensive pieces of equipment ( such as X-Ray and MRI machines, and high-capacity back-up generators ) from the hospital, after which he sold said equipment back to the hospital — and the Health Ministry — for a tidy sum. This particular individual was very well-connected to the regional powers-that-be, so no-one dared to oppose him in his wonderful capitalist venture, which no doubt also resulted in substantial rewards for his sponsors at a higher level.

          But that is not all. No-one on the American side, from the company my friend worked for to the U.S. Government and its agencies, would prosecute the issue because of political sensitivities and the issue of sovereignty. After all, even though the U.S. fully funded and built this hospital, it was still an Iraqi entity in the end. The final confirmation of this absurd train of events came about when the administrator locked down the hospital complex with armed guards, and it stood unused, completely at odds with the original purpose of serving the good of the Iraqi people as an area general hospital, for years to come because the administrator saw fit to use it as a bargaining chip in his socio-economic-political dealings. If you have ever played Monopoly and understood its deeper ramifications, you will understand this perfectly.

          • Dodgy business all round.

            Saddam. Al Qaeda. Gulf war. Iran. Arabistan. Turkey. Oil. Mesopotamia. France. WMD. Cold war. Sunni. WW2. Kurds. U.S election. Shia. Islamic revolution. 9/11. Islamic invasion of Persia. Intelligence. Iran/Iraq war. Shah. Baathist Iraq. WW1. Israel. Baathist Syria. Gulf monarchies. Sectarianism. Blair. Counter insurgency. Wads of dollars. U.N. Isis.

            We didn’t start the fire, but we are trying to fight it.

            I liked George W Bush. Anyway old Bin laden turned up in Pakistan eh, next to an army barracks. And here we all are today worrying about Chechnya… I mean Syria.

          • Indeed. Machinations within machinations within more machinations, et al. What a sorry mess!

            I forgot to mention in my previous post that the Iraqi hospital administrator in question also owned several medical centers and clinics in the same city as the new public hospital. The purloined high-end medical equipment was transported to his medical centers for personal business usage before it was sold back to the Health Ministry. Said administrator therefore contrived to make a healthy profit at little to no investment cost off of the local residents , who had no choice but to pay full commercial rates for any services and treatments they received since the otherwise free public hospital was under lockdown by him and his minions. He therefore turned a very tidy profit every step of the way at the cost of the ordinary Iraqi citizens as well as the American taxpayers. He was never taken to court or held accountable because he was regarded as a valuable and sovereign local ally whom the occupation administration needed.

            My friend described him as being well-educated, well-spoken, charming, gracious and completely without conscience or empathy.

      • Earl –

        On corruption in Iraq – I’m a big fan of the San Francisco crime-n-courts novels of John Lescroart (way better than Grisham) but in this context I’d really recommend his “Betrayal.” It’s about a Bay Area cop/ National Guardsman with TBI/ PTSD who has no idea if he is guilty of killing the ex-SEAL/ “security consultant” who led his unit into the ambush that wiped out his unit, and stole his girlfriend while he was in Walter Reed, and is an excellent and well-researched portrayal of the environment where entire planeloads of $100 bills just disappeared. I buy every used copy of this book I run across and pass them on to OIF vets I meet. Incredible read.

        Jim

        • Thanks for the recommendation, Jim — I’ll have to check it out when I get the chance. Overall, I’ve found that recommended reading and viewing posted by knowledgeable FW contributors and readers tends to be generally more cognizant of hard historical realities ( even in fictional form ) than those recommended by otherwise reputable critics from the mainstream, including the more conventional firearms-friendly ones.

  2. To be frank, I prefer to be factual than emotive and this is reason I acknowledged J. Harlan’s contribution. But, having said that I do observe certain undercurrent (to which I am inevitable part) which has tendency to react on “merits” of war.

    As I mentioned several times in past, I do not consider myself a peacenik and definitely not a ‘leftist’. But still, there is some part of me which makes me being acutely aware of that reality. I trust that leaders of this world work out some pact which instills peace, for most part.

    This is probably the best wish I can have for all this Season. Merry Christmas!

  3. It was not only rape. It was theft, arson, murder… anything they wanted to do to the civilian population. Those were the terms of the reward the commanders of the “good guys” gave them.

    • Loot has always been an inducement to take part in wars- British Tars privateering etc.

      Maybe on this occasion if the prevalence of rape was particularly high as oppose that of robbery, perhaps the French colonial rulers thought access to “enemy” blondes might serve as a specific inducement to get the Moroccans to wholeheartedly participate.

      Lay a few Italian fashion magazines and tourist brochures around the mens messes prior to embarking, not that this is an inducement to rape in of itself.

      Doubtless quite a few probably promised the local ladies many camels, spicy food and magic carpets instead.

      It’s quite the thing to Arabs because their women all have black hair, North African pirates used to kidnapp Icelandic women because of it apparently. Clearly France needed men to fight for her, shockingly bad form if the intention was anything but honourable obviously.

      Whistle.

      • If you are interested about puslion management within French army since 19th c, here are some stuff :

        -Hierarchy put in balance the needs of individual conscript and aggressivity as a combat bonus. It have been decided that soldiers in garrison could go once per month to an authorized brothel nearby. (in order to keep tension but get it manageable). Authorized prostitutes were regurlarly checked by doctor (to prevent disease spread) and police (useful source for intelligence).

        -A religious movement tried to milit within youth to bring “morality” within barracks. In some aspect, those groups gave tips to young guys about how to join prestigious assignation (physical exercises to be able to be selected in elite groups, hygiene, honor and patriotism, etc…) but also a christian frame to every aspect of life (ex: advise to stand against naugthy songs, order to destroy sexually explicit and implicit material, replace some behaviours by prayer, etc…)

        -Philippe Pétain was one member of this movement.
        Before he received title of “Maréchal”, he have been in charge of various barracks. He tried to manage them with the great principles he was taught younger. I let you imagine his popularity within troops when he tried to forbade the monthly brothel visit…

  4. I’m respectful of the Japanese but it must be pointed out that Japanese treatment on POW’s and civilians was extremely brutal long before Pearl Harbor. Ask the Chi ese. This was not an inevitable consequence of Japanese culture. Japanese treatment of Russian prisoners of war in 1904 was exemplary. Perhaps in WWI as well.

    • Very good point — thank you. Changed dynamic circumstances in all their myriad complexities — social, humanistic and political, among them — would warrant a deeper examination and analysis of the why’s and wherefore’s.

      • 100 years next year since the Russian revolution, the defining event of the 20th c coming as it did in the midst of WW1. Western foreign policy towards Russia is still cold war orientated, 26 years later, vested interests involved sitting behind fancy desks they’ve occupied since before 1990.

        And it seems some people have never quite forgiven them for breaking the international order in 1917…

        In WW1 the British would perhaps have preferred to keep the U.S out and rely on the Tsar because they knew the dangerously democratic U.S could eat into their global cake empire, the U.S population was reluctant to bite into the cake at the time in fear of being embroiled in WW1 which was a foreign scrap between interbred monarchies designed to keep the peace by family ties.

        In regards this latest outbreak of “red baiting” Personally I just think Putin was right. Right in Crimea, right in Ukraine, right on Syria, right on Iraq, Libya, Nato, it’s patently obvious I don’t require convincing by Russian “propaganda.” I would suggest most of the population at least here agrees, which the powers that be, take for subversion because they can’t countenance they might be wrong in their ivory towers.

        • Very true PDB; it is outlived mentality kept against the current of time and as you say, very much attempting to justify positions of those who lived on it like mushrooms on pile of manure.
          Sooner or later it has to go; it is grotesquely laughable. Every intelligent citizen must realize it.

      • Yeah, Red scare blinded America like nothing else and still keeps hurting, although under different name. Forget all the ideologies; I have name for it – narcissistic tribal preoccupation.

    • Well the chap in the photo certainly looks a character, doubtless some of the reported excesses were exaggerated- By, enemy forces.

      I knew a bloke who was in 2Rep and he said the Algerians had been very savage in the war for independence, he wasn’t in it but he had experience of the place later which by all accounts sounds pretty wild, Morocco is near Algeria so I imagine them being somewhat similar.

    • Thanks very much for this most informative link, Denny — what an eye-opener. “Saigoneer” is an excellent cultural website highlighting that city’s ( and Vietnam’s ) modernization in the 21st century, with all it’s positive and negative aspects, if you allow for it’s obvious mandate in promoting the country internationally.

      And best wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, yours and all here on FW!

      • You are very welcome, Earl!

        It has been my pleasure to see you here again and to read from you. I believe you as former South-East Asian can relate to events as described in the video. Narrative is incredibly entangled, as much as life itself gets at times of wars and in their following.

        Also to you and your relatives Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  5. Ian- The rifle is clearly a Model 1903 with a front sight and the upper band and lower band are milled, not stamped so this is a M1903, not M1903A4.
    Interesting photo and background history.

  6. Marcel Vigneiras gave 167’000 M1917 bolt action rifle and 47’000 M1903 (A3) (and 11’000 more in october 1944) , lent by the US to the French Liberation Army, in the second half of 1943.
    M1 Garand were reserved for the US GIs

    Previously:

    From July 1940 to mid July 1942, Free-French had a mix of British and French weapons. The later had benn brought back from Norway or captured in various colonies (hence the huge number of 3-shots Berthier)
    The battle of Bir Hacheim (May-june 1942) saw the lost of almost all french-made weapons, replaced by .303 types.
    The Vichy French North African Army (l’Armée d’Afrique) opposed the allies landings in Algeria and Morroco, with old Bertier (92, 07-15, 92M16, 07-15M16), a few (3’000) MAS36 and even some Lebel.
    After switching side in November 1942 the French North African Army received Thompson and STEN smg, but no new rifles; this for the Tunisian campaign (November 1942-May 1943)
    The re-equipment with .30-06 weapons occured only after the Free-French and the former vichy colonials troops merged in June 1943.

    Best Regards

  7. I view Atkinson’s books, and I do have them and have read them, as a popular history.

    I’ve always thought the best way to view the Nazi-Soviet war was as a religious war between the two religion like ideologies. It makes the whole thing more sensible if viewed like the Crusades or the Muslim march across Africa, Asia and Europe.

    I don’t see anything I’ve read Putin has said to be anything but the historical Russian drive west and south.

    Our government is stuck in a Cold War mind set.

    I had read accounts of the money wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan on things like that hospital over the years. In the mean time honest, hard working Americans like me can’t find a good job in this country.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New years all.

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