After more than four years of German occupation the French 2nd Armored Division and the United States (US) Army 4th Infantry Division, working with the French Resistance (later in WWII called the French Forces of the Interior), liberated the city of Paris, France. The German garrison in the city surrendered to French General Philippe LeClerc on August 25, 1944.
Shortly after the Liberation of Paris, medical personnel of the US Army 24th Evacuation Hospital had an opportunity to visit the city for an afternoon. A US Army truck drove them into Paris and let them off near Notre Dame Cathedral. Lieutenant Josephine Pescatore handed out chocolate and chewing gum to the children. The Americans and Parisians, in spite of the language difference, tried to share their thoughts about the war. After that celebratory afternoon, one of the Parisians they met, Henriette Bellavoine, wrote a letter to Lieutenant Pescatore.
Paris, 10th of September 1944
Dear little American friend,
I should like very much to have you for my friend. I know that we live very far one from the other, but actually you are in France and I do hope that you will not leave old Europa without coming back to Paris for a longer stay than the first one. And then, I should be really happy to live a little bit with you! You are so sympathetic, so kind! All the American people are very sympathetic, but you are specially charming and lovely. I shall always remember you, young American girl, on the Paris Notre Dame, distributing cigarettes___chocolate and chewing-gum to children all around you___ smiles and kisses to everyone. And I want you to know that your kindness and your loveliness touched every one, as well as your sweets, for everybody all around you said: “How lovely she is!” I was sorry that you did not understand them, and I try to translate the general opinion for you.
You certainly appeared to children like a young fairy bringing good things for them (quite a modern fairy, with a helmet on her curly hair!!).
But, I am a bit annoyed and afraid that all of you think that we are a people of beggars. Our sufferings and want during four years are our excuse, specially for children, but well bred people are not very proud.
Yes, we suffered a lot during four years. Morally, because we had never had such a defeat in our past (I hope that it will be a lesson)___ and phisically [sic] because Germans took most of our productions and we starved.
Germans have robbed everything in France and you now find a very poor country__you were kind enough to tell me that Paris is a nice city. Of course it has its past, its mind and its building, but you have seen a very sad and poor Paris! Our shops are empty (they were so beautiful!); there is nothing good to eat, only a little good to drink; there are not any distractions; there is no LIGHT!!
You have not seen the real Paris and I wish you to see it. I am fond of my city (I was born there and I know Paris rather well) and I want you to love it. This will be easy, I think, because you seem to be full of enthusiasm (you have an Italian ascendancy!).
If you like pictures, I shall take you to our best museums. If you like music I shall take you to the Opera. If you like old things I shall take you into the narrow streets of the old Paris.
Come and see me, dear little American friend. I should like to know your country. I should like to know better the American people and you quite specially because you look very charming and sweet and gay. I love your country for its youth, its pep, its strength; I love mine for its past and its mind. You should not leave Europa without spending a few days in Paris; it is worth while. And we could have a good time together and become good friends.
Will you write to me about your actual life. We do not know exactly, in France, what American women do in the U.S. Army and how they live. I should like to know that and to have it known around me.
And now, I want to tell you, once more, how thankful we are to you for your help. What would have become of France if you had not liberated us! When your first soldiers arrived in Paris, we shouted “Bravo” and “Thanks” with all our heart. We do love you because you are very good friends, because we have the same conception of life, the same ideal of freedom. And you are so gay! a so young people! I am sorry that I have no words to tell you how much we admire your strength and your pep. What General Eisenhower does is wonderful, thundering. You may be proud.
I am sorry not to be able to tell you exactly my thoughts about this; I speak English like a poor little child. My school time is far away!! I am much older than you (nearly fourty [sic] years old), but in spite of that difference of age, I think that we could be good friends. Don’t you think so? France and the United States are good friends and one is so much older than the other!!
I left you in a hurry, when I saw you in Paris. This is because I had escaped from my office (I belong to the Administration of the Ville de Paris). I had escaped from my office for a few minutes, to see American soldiers and live in the midst of them for a few minutes. I was so happy to chat with you that I forgot time and had to go back preciputately [sic]. Excuse me.
I hope to hear from you soon. I speak English very badly, but I read it almost fluently and I can read very long letters. You are quite sympathetic to me. I wish with all my heart to see you again, to receive you like a friend of mine, to have a good time with you and I send you my best kisses with my best wishes. Good luck to you.
220 boulevard Voltaire
Paris XI cme
Story as told to me by Lieutenant Josephine Pescatore Reaves. The photographs and letter are used with her permission.
Lieutenant Pescatore and the US Army 24th Evacuation Hospital did not have the opportunity to return to Paris. The unit moved on and in September 1944 became part of Operation Market Garden in Holland.
The US Army 24th Evacuation Hospital and Lieutenant Pescatore are mentioned on this website in an earlier post, “WWII Camp Shanks, New York: And a Visit by Archbishop Spellman.” The story link is https://www.ww2history.org/war-in-europe/wwii-camp-shanks-new-york-and-a-visit-by-archbishop-spellman/.