You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop

We recently marked the anniversary of President Obama’s order to Seal Team 6 to take out Osama bin Laden. His action displayed brilliance, decisiveness and fearlessness. He showed his usual “grace under pressure” (JFK’s quote from Hemingway) and when criticized by some French people for not giving bin Laden a proper religious burial, the President answered that he would not allow bin Laden’s burial site to become a shrine!


Below are some other BON MOTS addressed to our sometimes obstreperous allies, the French:

JFK’s Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 1960’s when French President Charles de Gaulle announced that France would pull out of NATO. DeGaulle said that he wanted all U. S. military out of France as soon as possible. Secretary Rusk responded, ” Does that include all those who are buried here from two World Wars?” DeGaulle did not respond.


At a conference in France there was a large number of international engineers participating, including French and American engineers. During a break, one of the French engineers asked, “Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims; what does he plan to do, bomb them?” A Boeing engineer stood up and quietly replied, “Our carriers have three hospitals on board which can treat several hundred people and they are nuclear-powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day; they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water each day and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from the flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?”


A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference which included admirals from the United States, Canada, Australia and France. At a cocktail reception, the admiral found himself standing with a large group of officers which included people from those countries. Everyone was chatting in English as they sipped their drinks when a French admiral suddenly complained that because Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, “Why is it that we always have to speak English at these conferences rather than speak in French?” Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, “Maybe it’s because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German!”


Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, it took him a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on baggage. “You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked, sarcastically. Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously. “Then you should have known to have your passport ready, instead of holding up the line.”, the agent said, derisively. Mr. Whiting replied, “The last time I was here I didn’t have to show it.” The agent said, huffily, “That’s impossible, Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France.” Mr. Whiting, the american senior citizen gave the Frenchman a long hard look and quietly said, “Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate your country, I just couldn’t find a single Frenchman to show a passport to!”


9 thoughts on “You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop”

  1. “Patriotism, in my opinion, should come from truth, not from jingoistic propaganda based on half-truths, generalities, prejudice, or outright ignorance. “…and when criticized by “SOME” French people…” Come on! Really? And, “…Does that include all those who are buried here from two World Wars?” We didn’t burry our fallen on French soil. They were shipped here to be put to rest at home. The underlying premise of these stories and the one I take exception to, is that the French are somehow anti American. This anti French campaign started when they stood before the UN general assembly, and denounced the U.S. march to war in Iraq. I might add, a large standing ovation followed. History has shown they were right! Being proud of our country and the good things we’ve done as a nation is not incompatible with being honest about the bad things we’ve done. Like arming, training, and supporting people like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin when we thought it was in our best interest to do so.

  2. Sue, years ago, when I was still teaching, on many occasions a student group from another country would visit our school. On one such occasion a group of teens from France visited my high school class, (not sure why, as I taught Spanish), but someone in that class may have been hosting one of the young men. At any rate, I was fairly surprised when a couple of the French teens used the class visit as a platform to express their dislike of American politics, customs and culture. I remained silent and listened while the youngster was on his soapbox. My students, who were obviously very intent in their hopes that these visitors would enjoy their stay in the U.S., sat politely though many had red faces and the telltale neck tic. Finally, one of my students, in a very nice tone, suggested that the one French student who was on a rant about U.S. injustices, may be forgetting a small part of history, W W II. I do recall the French student, with a dismissive bat of his hand, letting out a “Pfffffff!” I’ve never forgotten that.. have had Uruguayan, Spanish, Argentinian, Dutch and German students visit and never noted a similar incident. What does that “translate” to..(couldn’t resist the play on words), I don’t know, but I do know that I exercised patience that day and kept my usually vocal self, silent. Not an easy task.

    1. Hi, Nancy,

      We were always taught that when in another’s home–or country–that we should always show good manners; obviously they were not reared well. You were very circumspect in your behavior.


  3. I’ve never been to France but the French who I’ve known have been wonderful people. They were all women and all war brides who came to America with their GI husbands following WWII. Maybe that sets them apart from the main population. While in the Navy my ship was deployed to France following a patrol in the North Atlantic. I had been transferred to another ship and missed this cruise. Later I ran into some of my old shipmates and we talked about what liberty had been like in their port of call, La Harve. Till then their European experiences had been with the people of Scotland and Denmark where they had been warmly welcomed. This was not the case in France. They all said the French were cold and unwelcoming of American servicemen. I won’t extend that description of all French but I’ll also put some credibility in what my mates reported. Nice story, Sue!

    1. I detest generalizations and have been a Francophile all of my life; French food, perfume, fashion, art! I have loved everything French! My brother served in France while he was in the Air Force and he HATED the French, but when he was in Holland and Germany, he loved their natives! A war bride and her husband operated a home for veterans across the street from me and I utterly adored Blanche (and I pronounced it BLONCH which she loved!). Our jeweler Andre was a pilot with the French Resistance and he came to this country after the war and operated the finest store. I have only fond feelings for all French people I have known!

  4. Hi Sue, very good article. My stepfather was in a group that helped free some French from the Germans. There was an article in the Readers Digest about it. It is an awesome story. You should see his face when he has told the story. It is a bittersweet memory for him.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.