Your history lesson for today: A thousand years’ worth of French military history. Since right-wing hate-mongerers still keep trotting out the "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys" lie from time to time, and many others are gullible enough to buy it, having this article to refer to will come in handy.
Let’s take the toughest case first: the German invasion, 1940, when the French Army supposedly disgraced itself against the Wehrmacht. This is the only real evidence you’ll find to call the French cowards, and the more you know about it, the less it proves. Yeah, the French were scared of Hitler. Who wasn’t? Chamberlain, the British prime minister, all but licked the Fuhrer’s goosesteppers, basically let him have all of Central Europe, because Britain was terrified of war with Germany. Hell, Stalin signed a sweetheart deal with Hitler out of sheer terror, and Stalin wasn’t a man who scared easy.
The French were scared, all right. But they had reason to be. For starters, they’d barely begun to recover from their last little scrap with the Germans: a little squabble you might’ve heard of, called WW I.
WW I was the worst war in history to be a soldier in. WW II was worse if you were a civilian, but the trenches of WW I were five years of Hell like General Sherman never dreamed of. At the end of it a big chunk of northern France looked like the surface of the moon, only bloodier, nothing but craters and rats and entrails.
Verdun. Just that name was enough to make Frenchmen and Germans, the few who survived it, wake up yelling for years afterward. The French lost 1.5 million men out of a total population of 40 million fighting the Germans from 1914-1918. A lot of those guys died charging German machine-gun nests with bayonets. I’d really like to see one of you office smartasses joke about “surrender monkeys” with a French soldier, 1914 vintage. You’d piss your dockers.
Shit, we strut around like we’re so tough and we can’t even handle a few uppity Iraqi villages. These guys faced the Germans head on for five years, and we call them cowards? And at the end, it was the Germans, not the French, who said “calf rope.”
When the sequel war came, the French relied on their frontier fortifications and used their tanks (which were better than the Germans’, one on one) defensively. The Germans had a newer, better offensive strategy. So they won. And the French surrendered. Which was damn sensible of them.
This was the WEHRMACHT. In two years, they conquered all of Western Europe and lost only 30,000 troops in the process. That’s less than the casualties of Gettysburg. You get the picture? Nobody, no army on earth, could’ve held off the Germans under the conditions that the French faced them.
(Found as a result of a Google search suggested in an A Fistful of Euros comment)