They were the saviors who had crossed an ocean, risking their lives to free the France. Yet not all American GIs were fearless and blameless heroes. The writer Louis Guilloux discovered him when he was conscripted in August 1944 by the American army as an interpreter. He accompanies officers in the field who conduct investigations into soldiers accused of raping or killing Breton people. He attends their court-martial trials. Oddly, each time, only black GIs are condemned. Whites always manage to get by.
Rape, murder, segregation... The writer will take thirty years to write behind the scenes of the Liberation, a few years before his death. His story, "OK Joe!", almost unnoticed at the time, in 1976, has been republished for a few months. Rennes director Philippe Baron has decided to continue the writer's work through an edifying documentary that collects the stories of witnesses of this period or descendants of victims.
Fear of being accused of ingratitude
"I did my own research, because there were no place names or people in the book. I found Bretons, now elderly, who witnessed hangings, "says the Rennais. The black GIs convicted were indeed hanged publicly in the village square to make examples and show in passing the link with the color of their skin...
" READ ALSO "Jumpin' Joe": the GI of the D-Day who ended the war with the soviets
"The American army conveyed to its soldiers an image of the French woman as a sexy and easy girl who would reward them," says Philippe Baron. After the war, these abuses were gradually passed over in silence. Shame, fear of what will be said or of being accused of ingratitude...
"For a long time, it has been difficult to address these subjects," says Philippe Baron. In the United States, historians have only dared to talk about these gray areas for fifteen years. »
The documentary "OK, Joe!" by Philippe Baron is broadcast Thursday, June 8 at 23:45 pm on France 3 Bretagne and Monday, June 12 at 20:30 pm on LCP.