Discussion in 'WWII General' started by sniper1946, Nov 14, 2010.
Mon Cher Camarade
Interesting, I can imagine Cajuns being used as interpretors , but I need more evidence to be convinced that they actually also passed as local French. Their typical strong accent and their 17th idioms would have been extremely hard to hide to a native French interrogator.
With the Acadians (who later settled in Florida to become the Cajuns) their French dialect also differed from "European French" in certain ways so I can see how it could also be present here.
But they likely just had to pass off as French to the Germans and not so much the French? At most, any variations on French could be passed of as being from a different area of France?
I suppose a German would see the difference. I know the story of a Belgian Gestapo agent who passed as a Canadian French and fooled both allied evaders and their French protectors, but I have no example of a Cajun working undercover for the allies in occupied territory.
found this piece skip, scroll down to page 8
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it mentions "a handful of Cajun young men" , but no names, no facts. It's pretty vague, but I'm not saying there weren't any. Thanks anyway.
Je Suis un Soldat Américain: The Role of Cajun Soldiers in WWII
The officers sent in pre-DDay as contacts to the Maquis were trained to remove the Cajun elements from their French. If you read the article I wrote that Sniper posted above, there's a specific soldier mentioned in that regard. The average infantry soldier who acted as an interpreter (think Caje in Combat!) was used as is, with varying degrees of success, depending on their own dialects (there are Cajun dialects) and where they were stationed in France.
ok ,I see. I can imagine the efforts made to hide their accent and pass as locals.
Je pense que c'est tres interessante.
I know I'm a little late to the party... but actually the original settlers of L'Acadie up in Canada all came from the same village of Poitou in Western France. So when the Cajuns returned centuries late,r their dialect, while not Parisian, was almost indistinguishable from the people still in that region.
I once saw a copy of The Bronx/Brooklyn, Brooklyn/Bronx Translation Guide and Dictionary. It was weird because I couldn't read either side.
My best friend's dad was in the US 90th Infantry Division during the war. He was in one of the few AA units not stripped by Patton as infantry replacements. Anyhoo, he was from New Roads, Louisiana and spoke good Cajun French. English was a second language for him. About the only translating he did was talking to the older French civilians about how the war was going and to the madmoselles for local action.
He was in the 537th AAA? My Dad was A Battery.
Not exactly sure what his unit was, just that it escaped being scavaged for infantry replacements. I'll have to check with my buddy for that info. I want to say that his unit was a heavy unit, possibly rail mounted?
Funny, I was thinking of Caje from "Combat!"
Actually the Poitou is a large region, not a village. The modern French spoken in Poitou Charentes (the La Rochelle Poitiers area ) is standard French with a small accent and is quite different from Cajun French . It may have been the same centuries ago , but changes were consequent.
Here's a little more insight on the Cajun question we have here. There are two distinct classes of French descendants that settled in Louisiana. The first were
the French, straight from France. They came over here and established their presence in mainly the New Orleans (Isle de Orleans) area and as far east along the Gulf Coast as Mobile, Alabama. The Acadians got kicked out of Acadia (nowadays known as Nova Scotia) after France lost the French and the Indian War (The Seven Year's War to the Euros) and all of it's holdings in North America. Spain got Louisiana and the Brits got French Canada. The Brits told the French Acadians that in order to stay put, they had to swear allegiance to the British Crown, pay taxes to the Crown and give up being Catholic and adopt the Church of England. That's when the Acadians got P.O'd. They could care less who's face was on the coins and who was sitting on a thrown a million miles away, but there was no way that they was gonna give up on the Pope. No way no how. So the Bloody British forced the Acadians out by brute force and gave their lands to English types. So the Acadians had to load up and move out. Most went to Louisiana since the Spanish were running the place now and they were Catholics through and through. Some walked over to Maine and said to hell with walking to Louisiana and stayed there. Some boats detoured to Maryland since it was the only British colony that had a predominance of Catholics there. Some stopped in the Caribbean, and the rest went to New Orleans.
The Acadian were from the Ille-de-France, Normandy, Brittany, Poitu and Aquitine areas of France. Pretty scattered out area. Some were Huguenots.
The Spanish wouldn't let them off the boats and instead gave them massive land grants (many are still on the books in current Louisiana law if the original family owns the property). Some were sent up the Mississippi to Marksville and Videlia to stop the English from crossing the river from Natchez, MS. Others were sent southwest of New Orleans to the Bayou Teche area, and the rest were settled in south central and southwest Louisiana. That's where my Mom's family ended up, in Acadia Parish (NW of Lafayette).
So what I am getting to here is that there were two dialects of French spoken here, the Parisian French in the New Orleans area, and the (now Cajun) French in the areas the Acadians were settled in by the Spanish. The word "Cajun" is American bastardization of the word Acadian. Dang rednecks. And there was a brisk influx of French speakers from all corners of France and the French speaking world into New Orleans up until the beginning of the American Civil War.
If a Louisiana French speaking GI ended up in France, he could be one of the two variety of French speakers we have. Most of the Parisian French speakers came from the New Orleans area, and the rest came from the areas of French speaking parishes called Acadiana )Cajun French - Wikipedia). Many of the Cajun French speakers were in National Guard units that were called up and Federalized in 1940-41. Others were drafted when the first one was enacted during the Battle of Britain.
The US 156th Infantry Regiment was/is a Louisiana National Guard unit, and was detached from the US 31st ID. It was designated as a RCT when shipped out to North Africa. Not long after arrival, most of the French speakers (Cajun) from the 2 battalions from south Louisiana were pulled out and formed in an MP battalion for use in French speaking areas. The other battalion (rednecks from north Louisiana) stayed with the regiment for the rest of the war. Some smaller units of the LANG stayed with the 31st ID and saw action in New Guinea and the Philippines. Not much use for French speakers chasing women out there.
The major national guard unit from the New Orleans area was the Washington Artillery, AKA the US 141st Field Artillery. They've been in existance since the Mexican War. There were also a large number of engineer units from across the French speaking areas of Louisiana that served in both the ETO and PTO.
The two dialects of French in Louisiana are just as different as the cuisine here as well. In New Orleans you have the French Creole style of French cooking, and the better known Cajun style of cooking in the rest of the state. Both are ummmmmmmmm good too I might add.
So there, hope that clears everything up!
Finally, someone who knows about the Cajun (is it pronounced cah-jan in Cajun french? I forgot) soldiers in WWII history! My grandfather on my mom’s side, Clements, was a French translator who wrote/received letters from a woman from France and my arrogant uncle supposedly has the letters but we think he tossed them out. A woman who we think is the sister of this french-woman pen pan appeared at UL to talk about the French Immersion maybe a couple yrs ago, but we didn’t find out about her appearance till 2 weeks after. Grr! My grandfather was temporarily lost at sea, too. I wish he was still alive but we weren’t allowed, according to grandma, to talk about the war with him. I wish I knew more about his history, like his draft card or certificate(forgot the word) but my uncle probably has it all are no longer. And everything costs even for the close relatives like children of the soldier who fought, unfortunately!