The Goumiers of WWII

   While you’re waiting for my Northumberland entry….
  General Sir Harold Alexander, who commanded one of the Allied Armies in Italy, issued directives on November 8, 1943 for his own Fifth battalion. They were to advance into the Liri Valley to mount an amphibious assault on Frosinone, which was thirty miles beyond Monte Cassino, south of Rome. The town of Cassino was inland from the Gulf of Gaeta and is about forty miles north of Naples (Napoli ).
   The advance which Gen. Alexander commenced was quite less than successful because they couldn’t penetrate into the valley. Churchill and Brooke became desperate to rescue the Italian campaign. A telegram sent by the PM to Roosevelt on Christmas requested that his LSTs remain because he wanted to attack at Anzio. This was going against an agreement made at the Washington Conference, but the possibility of gaining control of Rome was great enough that those involved agreed to try, even against the odds.
     Mark Clark, the CEF ( Corps Expéditionnaire Francais ) attacked the Gustav Line on January 12, 1944, and with much trepidation on the part of the Americans The CEF comprised of colonial French troops from North Africa and they seemed too dramatic and over-emphasized as if they were making a movie- not at war. Faith in the French was low because they had lost control of their country to the Germans.
     The CEF commander, General Alphonse Juin, was considered a great soldier whose origins were Algerian and he had been raised in poverty. Sent to St. Cyr for training he graduated first in his class. He had been wounded so badly in WWI that he’d lost the use of his right arm but continued to serve in battle. (In his free time he was a writer, and after the war he was elected as alumni to the Académie Francaise.)
     Besides two (and later four) divisions, the CEF also had 8,000 guerrillas of Moroccan descent who were referred to as goumiers. These men were veterans of savage skirmishes which took place in the Atlas Mountains when the Muslim tribes had resisted French rule. These men were, in fact, Muslims themselves, but they had become loyal to France.
     The Goumiers were easily distinguished by their dress. Their clothes were striped and appeared to be made out of homespun blanket material and their boots were knee-high- made from soft leather. In their tabors ( battalions ) they had forty women who did the cooking, tended wounded men and provided other comforts.
     Goumiers traveled on mules with finesse, could suffer hardships easier than most and specialized in close combat and with much of their work done at night they could be as dangerous as bats or worse. In the book, There’s a War to be Won by Geoffrey Perret an account is given:
     “Up in the mountains, a dozing American soldier might well wake in terror to find a knife at his throat while a goumier’s free hand felt for his dog tags, to decide whether to cut or not to cut. Once the life saving tags were found, the knife was gently withdrawn as the goumier disappeared into the night whispering, “Nice American”, searching for a German to send gurgling to hell.”
     Goumier patrols were dispatched to patrol past Cassino, a town that was a hilltop about a thousand feet up. 2,000 feet above that, the beautiful monastery of Monte Cassino, stared down at the town and razorback ridges which were dense with thorny brush and vegetation which was impassable to anything living – save a rabbit- or a goumier.
     René Dody, who commanded the 2nd Moroccan Division was asked by Mark Clark to penetrate this area. His division did infiltrate to the north and east on found trails, but even though it made possible some frontal assaults on the Germans in key positions and on several occasions it was minimally successful. Mostly the snow caused the difficulty, so much so that even the goumiers had difficulty on this impassable terrain.                                                                                                                                  
To read more about the U.S. Army in WWII check out:
There’s a War to be Won  by Geoffrey Perret
Ballantine Books
ISBN  0-345-37924-1
et voir ce lien pour plus d’info sur les goumiers:
This entry is not an excerpt from the book.
All Rights Reserved
Evelyn M. Wallace
March 4, 2008
Loving you more each day…
The Castle Lady 

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9 Responses to The Goumiers of WWII

  1. Paul says:

    This was a coincidence because last night I went to a presentation at Cantigny (Wheaton, not France), by the author of a book on WWI\’s "Lost Battalion".  One of the parts of the story is about the last carrier pigeon they sent out who some say saved those who were left.  You being interested in history and, I think, a Francophile, I thought that if you hadn\’t heard the story you might enjoy these links:

    I enjoy reading history and one of favorite subjects is war, and especially WWII.  Although, as Sherman said,"war is hell", it often brings out the best in us.  I came away last night wondering if any of us in the West, me included, have it in us anymore, and if not, is that good or bad?


  2. mammo says:

    Bonjour mon amie !
    Merci pour ce billet ,je ne sais pas trop lire l\’anglais mes enfants ont traduit , j\’espère que tu vas bien merci pour tes commentaires heureuse que tu sois fidèle merci beaucoup à bientôt CRIS


  3. Evelyn says:

    Thanks for the great links on the homing pigeons. That is pretty interesting reading. I am not exactly enamoured of war stories but sometimes unique happenings get my attention. It is really something that Cher Ami lived as long as he did with those wounds !
                Bon Soiree Cris! Merci tres bien pour tes visites. SVP si tu prefere voir ma bulle ainsi c\’est tout en Francais mais c\’est different entierement en contenu.
                                                                    Sourires! Smiles!     The Castle Lady   ;  )


  4. kïrstin says:

    wow. i think i like these goumiers. my kind of soldiers.  🙂
    the coast of france eh? i hope you take some pictures – well i know you will. i mean i hope you post them  🙂  i saw a webcam of a french beach – it was beautiful. im not one for crowded beaches. i like the rocky ones better.
    s. lizard♫


  5. Serena says:

    good morning, castle lady!thank you for visiting my space…I\’m 4th in a literature\’s contest, about "never violence over women". nice sunday to you……bye bye 🙂


  6. Wayward says:

    War knows no rules.  Did you ever hear of government that waged peace??
    The battle for Cassino was a very hard fought battle.  The liberation of Italy did not come on a silver platter. My Father was involved with Norht Africa and Italy.  I never met him.  He is now gone. As a family tradition all men served peacetime or not .  Starting with the French Indian Wars.  1700s. And the beat goes on.
    I served in Vietman.  It was a  conflict similar to Iraq except it was green and not tan like sand.  They enemy looked just like their neighbor.  Reality gave meaning to the phrase, "Halt who goes there, friend or foe~"   It is actually an oxymoron when you think about it.
    Anywho, I came by via Reina\’s.  Your response caught my attention.
    Have a terrific week!

    If I don\’t see you in the future, I\’ll see you in the pasture.
    Peace, Love, Hippie Stuff,
    Wayward Bii


  7. Evelyn says:

    Can I call you "not-so wayward" Bill ? Good points made there especially about the parallel between Iraq and Vietnam because I don\’t see a whole lot of difference either, to be quite frank. I love our troops for the sacrifice they make for us every day but as a whole I wish war didn\’t exist. Or maybe it\’s better to say I wish it didn\’t HAVE to exist. I\’ll come visit you soon. I\’m deep in research right now on my next huge project (i.e. Northumberland ) but I\’ll be along soon!
    Promise. Thanks Kirs and Syr for dropping by and I hope your WE was super !
                                                Kisses and hugs to all !    Evelyn   ;  )     XXXOOO


  8. kïrstin says:

    mamacita! i love cilantro –
    i just went loking thru some of your other blogs – you are a busy lady! i liked them, however  🙂
    s. lizard♫


  9. Wayward says:

    I saw in my stats that either you or someone else came to my space. That was the only footprint.  It gave me the incentive to return.  I am glad I did.  I read and enjoyed your response.  I wholly support our troops, they are doing their job.  Unfortunately they don\’t get to pick the circumstances.  I truly feel for them because of the extended tours and then they come home to a Veteran Affairs system that is woefully inadequate to their special needs.  TBI (traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and loss of limbs.  If people think that the social security system is faltering wait another 5 years from now when the government will be paying for both.  This war has very far reaching tentacles into the future.
    Thanks again for the comment.  It\’s a cut above.
    Peace, Love, Hippie Stuff,
    Wayward Bill
    Have a terrific week!
    Peace, Love, Hippie Stuff,
    Wayward Bill


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