Frenchie: The Story of the French-Speaking Cajuns of World War II

Frenchie: The Story of the French-Speaking Cajuns of World War II

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Frenchie: The Story of the French-Speaking Cajuns of World War II

by Jason P. Theriot

Coming August 2024

 

About the Book

As soon as American forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in June 1944, military commanders called for “Frenchies” to serve as interpreters with the local population. These young Cajun soldiers from Louisiana, like their Acadian ancestors, had grown up speaking French as their first language. In fact, Cajuns represented the largest group of French-speaking Americans in the military, and their linguistic abilities proved invaluable to operations around the world.

Ironically, this same generation experienced discrimination in a state-sanctioned English-only school system that sought to “Americanize” them. Often punished for speaking French at school, many young Cajuns grew up ashamed of their language and culture. Yet, during the Second World War, when these same Cajuns arrived in the francophone territories of North Africa and Europe, where their bilingual abilities became a vital resource, Frenchies bridged the language gap. What emerged from this unique wartime experience was a long-lost pride in Cajun heritage, creating a profound impact of their sense of identity.

 

About the Author

Jason P. Theriot, PhD, is an author, historian, and consultant. He earned a doctorate in history from the University of Houston and a degree in journalism from Louisiana State University. Additionally, he is a former Energy Policy Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Theriot specializes in family memoirs, biographies, and company histories.

 

Praise for Frenchie

“As Theriot shows, Cajun GIs who used their oft-derided French-speaking skills to help win World War II experienced a cultural awakening—one that presaged the rise of the Cajun pride and empowerment movement that began on a larger scale some two decades later.”—Shane K. Bernard, PhD, writer and historian

“Jason Theriot’s well-written book, Frenchie, is told with dignity and a deep cultural understanding largely due to his own upbringing. His expansive narrative on the firsthand experiences of the last surviving members of this group, as well as the spirit of hundreds of other French-speaking Cajun soldiers who died before them, is the most important account to date.”—Pat Mire, filmmaker, Mon Cher Camarade

“June 6, 2024, marks the eightieth anniversary of the D-Day landings of World War II. There can be no better time than this anniversary for Theriot’s twenty-five-year study uncovering the many wartime roles French-speaking Cajuns played, serving in diverse positions from interpreters in North Africa to secret agents behind enemy lines with the French Resistance.”—Warren Perrin, lawyer and author of Acadie Then and Now: A People’s History

 

© 2024 University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press

Paperback | 6" x 9" | ISBN: 978-1-959569-10-7