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by Lt. Robert M. Gerard
Originally published in 1943 by the The Infantry Journal.
Few personal narratives of the Battle of France have been written by soldiers, especially by French soldiers who tasted to the uttermost the bitter dregs of defeat. And even fewer have been the authentic accounts of how the actual fighting progressed, of the tactics of small units.
On the other hand, there were innumerable reports in print that recounted the overwhelming superiority of the modern German Army over "the finest infantry in the world." From these reports the impression gained wide circulation that France apparently was blind to the significance of aircraft, tanks, armored trucks and motorcycles in modern war.
The truth was France had all of these but her tragedy was that she had too few and too often didn't know how to use what she had to best advantage.
The French mechanized units fought valiantly and oftentimes successfully against overwhelming odds, as they attempted to stave off the German sweep across the Lowlands and northern France.
Such a unit was the Groupe Franc of which Lt. Gerard was second in command. In numerous engagements his Groupe repulsed and held back the advancing Germans while the body of the French Army retreated from one position to another, never making the final stand which France and the whole world (including the enemy) awaited.
Lieutenant Gerard tells the story of the actions in which his Groupe participated, of how it maneuvered and how it fought. The dogged, indomitable, persistently intelligent leadership of the captain commanding the Groupe stands forth as a splendid example of initiative and endurance for all leaders of fighting men.
And Lt. Gerard himself reveals such qualities of resourcefulness and aggressiveness as to make his story one that can be studied with profit. The picture of cooperation he gives between the differing units of a fighting combat team is particularly valuable.
Lieutenant Gerard was in America attending Harvard University Business School under an American Field Service Fellowship when the war broke out in September 1939. In November, two days after he had married an American girl, he was called back to France for military duty.
Accompanied by his bride he returned to his homeland and attended the Saumur Military Academy, specializing in tanks. He volunteered to serve with the Groupe Franc. After France gave up he escaped to the United States and took steps to become an American citizen.
The following web site has additional information about the author, Robert M. Gerard, as well as a brief excerpt from the book, including a map: