English Translation: French Magazine - Militaria story about my experience in Paris in 1945 - see Chapter 27, Rest and Relaxation.

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On the Way to the Azure Coast  

Bob Gallagher, artilleryman in a group of the mobile DCA (anti-aircraft defense), took advantage of a week’s furlough in Nice by altering his leave documents to extend his stay in Paris. Accompanied by four other GI’s from each of the other batteries of his unit, he embarked from the North Station in August 1945. 

At first, they needed to find lodging in a “civilian” hotel rather than an establishment controlled by the army, to which their falsified permits did not give them access. To avoid the MP patrols searching for deserters, they found a hotel typical of those which abound around Parisian train stations on a little street nearby.  

Despite a number of efforts in sign language and the brandishing of army-printed franc banknotes, our four vacationers failed to get a room--until one of them extracted a large sack of packets of cigarettes accumulated for a discreet resale on the black market. The hotel staff suddenly smiled and one quickly agreed upon a number of cartons which paid for shelter. 

The Americans were surprised by the limited comforts they were offered, but that residence was preferable to sleeping in a trench and washing in a basin consisting of a heavy helmet full of frequently unchanged cold water. 

The next morning, always around the North Station, our accomplices managed to sell their cigarettes to some civilians. Oddly, their clients spoke excellent English, with an accent of the southern United States! They suggested the transaction be concluded in a nearby alley, but, rather than risk being stabbed by potential deserters, the sale occurred in the train station. 

The remainder of their stay consisted of visits, made easier by the Metro, which impressed with its speed and complete network. Rationing did not allow GIs to eat in a restaurant, but they took ample advantage of the outdoor cafes. 

In the Pigalle section, known as Pig Alley since their fathers discovered its popularity in 1918, our four friends went into the nightclubs managed by the American army. The numbers, very professional and appreciated, in particular those by a singer who knew the fashionable American airs, were followed by a chorus line of dancers.  But a fight broke out, triggered by drunken parachutists in the company of entraîneuses [young females often employed by bars and discos whose role is to push clients to drink and dance]. Our artillerymen managed to break away before the arrival of the MP. They finally took their train for the Riviera Recreational Area.  Upon their return to Belgium, with their absence unnoticed, the group prepared to return home. 

Below: 

Bob Gallagher and his comrades upon their arrival on the North Station; the third GI is holding a sack containing their war treasure, some cartons of cigarettes.  

American soldiers on furlough in Paris - 1945

 

(Coll. R. Gallagher, with his kind permission http://gallagherstory.com/ww2/index.html)

 

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