The Formation of NATO
The formation of NATO was required to stop the cheese-eating Frenchies!
This story published April 1, 1999
Later this week, April 4 1999, is the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was founded by a collection of Western nations some years after World War II. Indeed, at this very moment an amalgamation of nations under the aegis of NATO is busily bombing Belgrade back into the Stone Age. With the recent addition of Poland and The Czech Republic, NATO is beginning to make Russia more nervous than usual. But it wasn't always that way. For a fleeting few months, Russia was actually a member. And France wasn't.
A little background: Germany ate France for breakfast in World War II. Mowed down by German conventional forces, it took less than six weeks for French defenses to cry Uncle Fritz, throwing in the towel on June 17, 1940. French head of military Marshal Philippe Petain bravely and defiantly kissed Nazi ass, and General Charles de Gaulle, appalled, fled to London. There he tried to put together a provisional French government, which he called Free France, as an alternative to the Vichy regime that was presently in charge. The Vichy regime had the distinct advantage of being on French soil, while de Gaulle had to settle himself with shuttling back and forth between crummy apartments. Not only that, but half a dozen other individuals claiming to run the French provisional government sprung up, giving the situation an appearance not unlike the sudden preponderance of bogus heirs when a wealthy recluse dies.
A Low-Rent War
One of de Gaulle's advisers, Raoul Aglion, published a memoir on the episode: Roosevelt and de Gaulle: Allies in Conflict. He provides a number of unintentionally funny anecdotes, such as the time de Gaulle rented out the Italian delegation's recently vacated apartment in Rockefeller Center. In protest, and anticipating a nasty spat, the Italians fled New York. (Recall Italy was at the time was a card-carrying Bad Guy as part of the Axis). Aglion jumped on the opportunity to get space for his movement in such a prime location, and attempted to rent the room in the name of the French provisional government. The Rockefeller Center turned down his requests, and he was forced to set up offices for Free France under his own name. He was so proud of himself he quickly made a radio announcement saying, "The Free French have occupied Italian territory without a shot." History House understands the urgent need for a provisional government to demonstrate its legitimacy in a field of possible impostors, but considers making a radio address to declare you'd just rented an apartment pathetic.
Shortly thereafter, the loose cannon de Gaulle took some battered French tubs and invaded the minuscule Caribbean islands of Sainte-Pierre and Miquelon, which had previously been run by the occupied French government. De Gaulle's rationale for choosing these particular islands was that another fairly minuscule Caribbean island, Martinique, was far too well-defended for him to rout. At this precise moment, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was about to sign a treaty with occupied France, trying to save the French and British fleets since the American one had just been toasted by the Japanese in Pearl Harbor, and he was not amused by this smattering of yahoos purporting to be the legitimate French government because they'd taken possession of some fetid coconut groves. Couple this with de Gaulle's bumbling American accomplices, Adrian Tixier and Andre Philip, who missed their first meeting with President Roosevelt by four hours and yelled at him nonstop at the next one (FDR remarked that they were "selfishly ambitious and totally incomprehensible.") On top of this, when finally meeting, de Gaulle and FDR exchanged barbs right away. Roosevelt was worried that de Gaulle might be a dictator waiting to happen, and warned him that he was not an elected official. "Joan of Arc was not elected," replied de Gaulle snootily, deciding to equal himself with France's historical savior. Upon hearing this, Churchill observed, "Yes, Mr. President, he thinks he is Joan of Arc, but unfortunately my bishops won't let me burn him."
Stalin for Time
In the meantime, Stalin and Roosevelt were getting along famously. FDR called him "Uncle Joe", they swapped cigars and dirty jokes, and took Churchill along for a night of surreptitious whoring halfway through the Yalta conference. In his letters to his wife, FDR suggests an air of illegitimacy to the talks in the sunny resort city on the Black Sea: "Weather is here, wish you were beautiful." The three had had a whale of time, and, despite squabbling over how to draw some pesky German and Austrian borders, saw eye-to-eye. Some months later, the status of FDR's foreign relations was confirmed when the United Nations opened with the Soviets on board and the French conspicuously absent. Roosevelt got Stalin to commit forces against Japan and the western half of World War II came to a screeching halt.
Soon afterwards, Roosevelt proposed the North American Treaty Organization to keep the French government, one of distinctly easy virtue, at bay. Following the war, the French had declared that the Vichy regime had been false and that the glorified Republic had never ceased but instead was carried on the egomaniacal shoulders of de Gaulle. Unwilling to accept this sort of fickle behavior from a would-be world power, Roosevelt decided that an organization must exist to protect the rest of Western Europe from its largest nation with shifting loyalties. So he got together with Stalin and Churchill, threw in the recently defeated Italy, Belgium, Greece and the splintering Germany into the world's premier peacekeeping force, with its chief mission keeping France out of the club and significantly under wraps. NATO poisoned French wells, introduced foul-smelling wild yeast strains into French wines, stole one star from every Michelin rated restaurant, and smuggled engineers into sensitive positions at Citroen to produce shoddy cars. In no time at all France's postwar recovery was in shambles. Behind-closed-door meetings between the NATO higher ups assured the French that reparations from Germany would be "in the mail", wink-wink.
Suddenly, Roosevelt died in 1944, and Harry Truman was sworn in as president. Truman, sensationally famous for defending his family, grew immediately incensed when Stalin remarked on his prepubescent daughter's round fanny and lousy singing voice and relationships between the U.S. and the Soviet Union soured. By then, Churchill had been kicked out of office and there was no figure imposing enough to bring the adversaries back together. To make matters worse, Stalin had begun showing an insatiable fondness for French girls, and would have them sent to his desk at NATO hourly. This activity was inimical to acts of state, and Truman gave him hell for it. Stalin responded by sending a very fat, very nude Russian woman to the White House on Sunday, when Truman was having church services held. Simultaneously, the French, in an effort to appease the Americans, had just sent over a statue in the shape of a mammoth elephant to Galveston, Texas. Truman was known to have liked elephants, and decided that the French couldn't be all that bad if they had a thing for pachyderms.
However, Truman's daughter had a cheeky piano teacher, Bartok Lugamiv, and, after months of "chopsticks", the President was truly at his wit's end. During those precious months in 1948, the Soviets were booted from NATO and France admitted, despite their obvious intentions of subterfuge. As one might well imagine, the prospect of tossing the world's largest nation out on its ear to admit one smaller than the state of Texas was stressful for Truman, and he soothed his troubled mind by arbitrarily moving Poland's border some 300 miles, in order to encompass Lugamiv's hometown of Daczenow.. Thus, Truman happily reasoned, his daughter's obnoxious piano teacher was now officially and legally Polish, and subject to any malicious joke or slur the President saw fit to sling at him. Unfortunately thousands of other Germans found themselves Polish, and the stand-up comedy circuit deadened noticeably. As the joke-telling in that swath of Eastern Europe dwindled, the former Krauts found solace in drink, and, in so doing, readily embraced Polish traditions.
Sadly, the elephantine colossus sent by France was destroyed when Hurricane Edna whupped the Gulf Coast in 1958, to the dismay of Texas. An enormous outpouring of emotion ensued, and a memorial march wound through the historic Strand district that was composed of nearly eight thousand mourners. Unfortunately, it was the last gift elephant from the French government in this century.
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