My Father's War

The French experience of fighting with the 1917-18 US Army

Armand Rérat (1892-1976), was born at Etupes in eastern France, schooled in Paris and London. His career as an English teacher was interrupted by war and his mobilisation in August 1914, joining his French regiment, the 223e Régiment d’Infanterie in Lorraine. He fought at Verdun in 1916.

His English skills prompted his posting in December 1917 to the American Army as an instructor in the 165th Infantry Regiment, 42nd Division – the ‘Rainbow Division’, with Douglas MacArthur as Chief of Staff, where he remained until the end of the war and the occupation of Remagen in Germany in the spring of 1919.

Armand spoke little of the war but wrote a memoir, which was only discovered at the bottom of a trunk in 2002 by his daughter, Giselle. Translated from the original French, this published account describes his war from Langres to Remagen: the Battle of the Marne, the crossing of the Ourcq, the battle of St. Mihiel, the Argonne, crossing Luxembourg and finally the occupation of Germany.

He was very critical of the Americans, particularly with regard to certain officers whose criminal negligence, according to him, had led to many injuries and deaths. His vivid memories of those events, and his anger, present a fascinating story for the modern reader. His survival through five years of total war were remarkable: his intensely personal account of those years presents a fascinating commentary and analysis of allies at war.

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