Monday, 1 November 2010

French Obsession #8 -The Importance of Learning the French Language

Photo Copyright Christina Wigren

This photo was taken about two weeks ago. There are few leaves left on the trees here in Norrkoping today, November first. I am linking to Frenchy's French Obsession.

Today is or was my dear father's birthday. He would have been 93 years old today. He left us four years ago, so he did get to live quite a long, and I think, happy life. He was 88 when he passed away.

What does my father have to do with the French Obsession? As all of you who have followed this blog know, he was not French but Swedish; my father was an American of Swedish descent. But he studied the French language (among a lot of other subjects) at Columbia University in New York. Then he was drafted after finishing college, and thanks to his university degree, he was made an officer rather than just an inlisted man. He spent the next five years in the US army in England, France and Belgium. Yes, I am talking about World War II.

His duties were as quartermaster in a French-speaking area. Because he was the only one who could speak fluent enough French he was easily chosen as the one responsible for dealing with the local people and making purchases for his unit. So one day, he and his chauffeur were sent off to fetch something. If it was firewood or soap, I do not know.

While they were away, perhaps in another town far away, something really big happened. The enemy (which in this case was the German army) made some kind of surge or lightning-attack right there where his unit was. When my father and his driver returned with the items that had been requested, there was nobody there. There was only a note telling them where to go. He never saw his fellow soldiers from this unit again. He never found out what had happened or whether they were killed or captured.

This is my father as I remember him best, standing beside me:
Photo Copyright Christina Wigren

Most likely, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this story if he had not been able to speak French.
Something to think about when you are learning to conjugate all of those verbs!

Thank you for visiting!
Best wishes,

First Commenter:
Ann of
Ann's Snap Edit & Scrap

Please click on the image and go to Le Chateau des fleurs by Frenchy to visit other posts about a French Obsession:



Ann said...

I guess you could say that the French language saved your father's life. Great story.

Lin said...

That's really sad that he never found out what happened to his unit. I wonder if you could research that story and find out. I would love to think that they all got out safely and went on to live happy lives like your dad. :)

Isabelle Thornton said...

Oh WOW! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story !
WOW. Thank you so much for your father for serving in France...If it was not for the US soldiers. I would be speaking German :)
Lots of love to you.
What a great father and Man your Dad was :)

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

Hi Anna - I've just been checking comments on my sithenah photoblog - your comments didn't appear because they were shifted into the spam box - reason for them being there is that the aminus3 platform doesn't accept html links in comments. I've unspammed them now but not sure if that will make them appear there.

The French Maid said...

What an AMAZING story! I am facinated by wartime stories like this, anyway, I guess because I'm an Air Force brat! Thanks to your Dad for his service...
--Lee Ann

Rebecca said...

Very interesting. My dad was born in 1917 too, on November 28th. And he fought in WWII also. He died 33 years ago.

French is a beautiful language, unfortunately I just can't get the pronunciation even remotely correct.

Anna said...

Dear Ann,
You guessed it. That is exactly what I am saying. You never know what benefit you will have of the things you learn in school. In my father's case, his knowledge of French probaly saved his life.
Dear Lin,
I know it is so sad to think of what might of happened to his fellow soldiers. I would also like to think that at least some of them got out of there alive and got to live happy lives as my father did.
Daddy never talked about the war. I asked him about it when he was in his fifties, when he should have remembered things clearly. But he did not seem to want to talk about it then, and only replied that he was just glad to have been able to come home alive. But then later, he wanted to take a trip to visit some of the places where he had been, but he was more or less confined to a wheelchair from that time forward, so I was at a loss to figure out how that trip was to made and it never happened. Then I asked him when he only had a few months left to live, and he could not remember enough of the details that might have helped me to do any research.

I think I have to ask my brother to help me on this one. He seems to know alot more about it than I do. I did not even know he had been a quartermaster, that was information that my brother provided. I suspect that he may have told Nils more than he told me.
Le Chateau des fleurs by Frenchy
Dear Frenchy,
Thank you for your kind words. I was a little worried that this was a bit too grey for your colourful meme. But it is an important subject, as I think you know. My father wished that they could have done even more to help the whole of Europe be free at that time.

He told me that as an American officer he was considered quite a 'catch', so he did actually go on a couple of dates with local girls. But it was so sweetly innocent. He sat and talked with a girl at home with her mother or parents as chaperons.
He had no vices.
The US army gave cigarettes to the soldiers (which probably ruined the health of many of those men). He tried smoking, but stopped because of the bombing at night. You could hear a whistling sound and wonder where it was going to land. It got on his nerves, so he stopped smoking. The cigarettes became currency. To get his clothes washes he could pay a local woman in cigarettes (that she also could use as currency and not necessarily smoke).
My mother asked my father if he ever used his service weapon, his pistol. The only time his fired it was to shoot rats in Antwerpen, the three weeks that he and other soldiers had to wait for a boat at the docks to get home. They waited there, slept there and took turns keeping watch for the rats. Towards the end of the war there was no food either. When he finally arrived at home he had boils and skin infections from malnutrition and arthritis. But thankfully, not tuberculosis as many other the soldiers had.
Thank you for allowing my little tribute to my dear father. I am sure he would have liked you, your sweet family, your meme and your blog. He thought families should stick together.
Gerald (Hyde DP)
Dear Gerald,
Thank you for retriving my comment out of the spam box! I'll remember that another time to not put a link on my comments on your site!

Anna said...

The French Maid
Dear Lee Ann,
Thank you for your input and kind words. There are a lot of interesting stories to be told. I am sure that you probably could tell some, since you have lived closer to it than I have. My father was in the reserves after the war, which meant that he put on his uniform and went to a meeting once a week and did some kind of training for a week every summer. But we never had to move around the way the families of those who are in active duty. So I salute you!
Dear Rebecca,
We seem to have sveral things in common!
Your Dad was born 1917 on November 28th!? That is incredable! Where was he? What did he do in WWII??
Was he in Europe or in the Pacific?
My father was going to be sent to the Pacific just when the war ended. He felt very fortunate to be able to come home.
I am sorry to hear that he did not get to live as long as my father. I hope that he had a happy life even if it was not so long. My guess is that he was very proud of you.

Yes, I agree. French is a beautiful language, but I have not mastered it yet.(Even though I have actually taken classes.) They would not be able to send me off on a mission because of my knowledge of French! It is fun doing this theme-posts for the French Obsession, but I don't dare write even any short phrases to Frenchy. What if I don't get it right??

Learning pronunciation is a demanding process. You have to go through the entire alphabet and relearn all of the sounds, and then apply this to all the words you need to use. And then after you learn to pronounce individual words, you have to learn to put them together in sentences. French pronounciation is difficult because they don't say everything. They hopp over some sounds that you would think should be there. I thought it was easier to understand the Italians because they seem to say all of the letters in their words!
Thank you for writing.
Thank you all for taking the time to visit and comment.

Best wishes,

Cezar and Léia said...

Bonjour Anna and little kitty Sara,
First of all congratulations for this adorable post, your blog is full of positive energy and adorable stories.
We are from Brazil and little Luna ( our kitty ) came from Brazil with us and now she has a Luxembourg passport!Cool, isn't it?She is well adapted in her new life and very happy with new friends!I also think she can meowww in French!
I'm studying French but it's not so easy because I don't have French friends and I use a lot English and Portuguese language here.
But I will not give up.I know I will speak French correctly if I keep studying hard,and it's a kind of dream for me and also some target! :)
Thanks for your words here, I think it's a great support and also for your visit in my Luxembourg blog.
By the way, if Sara have sometime, maybe she can enjoy Luna's blog!

hugs from mommy Léia
purrs and love from little LUNA

Rebecca said...

Thanks for your lovely response. I know for certain that my father was in Sicily, I'm not sure where else (not the Pacific)because he wouldn't talk about it. He was wounded and wore a brace on his leg for the rest of his life. I know he got a purple heart, but didn't talk about that either.
I hope those soldiers made an escape, especially if someone was able to leave a note that is a good sign.
Well as far as the French language is concerned I think I will not succeed, but I had fun in Canada with an ex-boyfriend who could speak fluent French (his native language).I felt like a parrot trying to repeat everything...then I'd forget everything a few minutes later! Languages are not my thing!

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