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||Re: African Troops in World War I
« Reply #2 on: Mar 15th, 2008, 7:04am »
…African troops under French command were combatant. The ‘tirailleurs’ in charge of artillery, with their distinctive red fezes, were famous. In 1918, Blaise Diagne, the Senegalese politician and the first African Deputy in the French Chamber of Deputies, was appointed High Commissioner of Recruitment of black troops.
In American WWI military PSYOP commander Captain Heber Blankenhorn mentions German leaflets that began…
To the colored soldiers of the U.S. Army: Hallo boys. What are you doing over here?
It went on to ask about the war for democracy in the land of Jim Crow cars and lynchings, adding an invitation to come to Germany where they liked colored citizens. It ended:
They enjoy exactly the same social privileges as every white man, and quite a number of colored people have mighty fine positions in business in Berlin.
This racial welcome is interesting because it shows the confusion among the German propagandists. They were already producing propaganda attacking the African soldiers among the French forces. They would do exactly the same thing in World War II.
In a leaflet we discussed earlier they said, “but no sooner did England realize that she couldn’t beat the Germans even with the help of nearly all the rest of the savage and civilized world that she persuaded you that the Germans were ‘Huns’ and your deadly foes…” Who were these savages?
They were the Arab and African colonial troops used by England and France. One wonders how the Germans justified calling the people of color “savages” in one leaflet while inviting them to come and live in Berlin in another.
The largest number of African troops, however, were raised by conscription or forced enlistment. France, which used African troops more extensively than any other European power, appointed an African Blaise Diagne, to the post of High Commissioner for recruitment of African troops.
He exceeded his 40,000-man conscription goal, actually enlisting over 60,000. Diagne agreed to do this on condition that hospitals, schools, and medical facilities would be improved in West Africa and that France would extend broader civil and social rights to native Africans at the end of the war.
The French, however, did not live up to their part of the bargain.
The French Army included 340,000 North Africans, at least 250,000 West Africans and 30,000 from the French West Indies. One regiment of Senegalese was among the most highly decorated in the French Army. A thousand Senegalese were shipped to a blood-soaked peninsula in Turkey called Gallipoli where 75% were killed or wounded in just 10 days.
Unlike the British, the French did employ some blacks as high ranking officers. The Commander of the Air Defenses of Paris was a black officer, Sosthene Mortenol. While most African soldiers fought on the continent, about 170,000 served on Europe’s western front. By the end of the war, over 24,000 of these troops were reported killed and thousands were missing in action.