July 4, 2007 Orléans, France.
I am in Orléans, my favorite French City. There is no US Independence Day celebration today in Orléans but there is one at an obscure Parisian cemetery called Picpus. This is where the Marquis de Lafayette is buried in American soil. Every July 4th the US ambassador to France attends a small ceremony honoring Lafayette by the raising of an American flag. Lafayette is one of only six people to have been named as an Honorary Citizen of the United States. The others are Mother Teresa, William Penn, Hanna Callowhill Penn, Raoul Wallenberg, and Sir Winston Churchill. Lafayette spent a large portion of his enormous wealth supporting the American Revolution.
Most American history books brush by the fact that the Revolutionary War was only won with considerable help from the French. When the French General Rochambeau met General Washington in 1781 to determine their next move against the British, Washington wanted desperately to attack heavily fortified New York City. So did the British commander! Rochambeau convinced Washington that the wiser move was to go south. Word had come from General Lafayette in Virginia that Cornwallis had taken up a defensive position at Yorktown. If they could surround the city by land and cut off Cornwallis’ escape route on the river, Washington and Rochambeau would strike an enormous blow to the British forces. The arrival of a French war fleet under Admiral De Grasse in Chesapeake Bay, allowed Washington and Rochambeau to march south from New York to attack Cornwallis.
Washington with 2,500 colonials and Rochambeau with 4,000 French troops arrived at Yorktown on the 28th September 1781 and formed a semi-circle around the British entrenchments putting them under siege. Cornwallis, expecting Major General Clinton to sail from New York with a relieving force, had decided to remain in Yorktown rather than march south to the Carolinas or attempt to reach New York. Unfortunately for Cornwallis, the French fleet under De Grasse arrived, destroyed the British fleet and blocked any attempted retreat or reinforcements from reaching Cornwallis. Faced with certain annihilation by bombardment from land and sea, Cornwallis marched out and surrendered on October 19th. The casualties during the siege had been 500 British, 80 Americans and 200 of those cheese-eating-French cowards. The surrender of Cornwallis effectively ended the war and gave us our freedom from British colonial rule.
One hundred and thirty-six years later, at the Marquis de Lafayette’s tomb in Paris on July 4, 1917, it was not General Pershing — but the general’s “designated orator,” Colonel C. E. Stanton who uttered the famous phrase – “Lafayette, nous sommes ici!” (“Lafayette, we are here!”) One hundred thirty-six years later, the Americans had come to repay Lafayette and his countrymen for their assistance in 1781.
Eighty-six years later, the French did not buy the renegade Italian spy’s yellow cake story, as did the British and Americans. Believing that Saddam did not have nor did he try to buy yellow cake to make a nuclear weapon, the French reasoned that Saddam really wasn’t much of a threat to anybody other than his own countrymen. Consequently, they refused to join Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now we have an 800 billion dollar super sized order of Freedom Fries and 3,5o0 dead US soldiers. We should have ordered French Fries and cut the cake.