When We Were Heroes

In early summer of 1918, American forces threw back a German offensive that threatened to capture Paris. Later, when they paraded through the French capital, they were cheered by ecstatic Parisians. From the November/December 2018 issue.

A French soldier hugging a suprised American doughboy
French Solder's Greeting, J.C. Leyendecker, September 1, 1917 (J.C. Leyendecker, © SEPS)

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This excerpt is from the article “Homo Americanus in Gay Paree” by Elizabeth Frazer, which appeared in the November 2, 1918, issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

Suddenly a shout — no, not exactly a shout; rather, a big happy hurrah — burst simultaneously from thousands of grateful happy hearts. Here they come! Les Americains! Here they come! Strong emotion swept the crowd like a breeze. Vive l’Amerique! Vive les Americains!

And all that excited sea of souls laughed and cried and shouted and sobbed and rocked in glad exultation over these fine, big, clean garçons who had fought so splendidly, so desperately, so victoriously beside their own brave poilus.

It was American troops who stemmed the tide, who closed the road to Paris. They paid the price in blood, and the price was high. For that single episode showed both friends and foe where the war’s balance of power lay.

On they came, their bayonets glittering in the sun, their faces wreathed in smiles, their eyes — well, not quite straight dead ahead! For who can discipline his eyes, when a bombardment of roses or a barrage of violets hits one straight on the nose? There are garlands of roses round their necks, roses behind their ears, roses in their cartridge belts, roses in the nozzles of their guns, which lately spouted flame and shortly will again.

But today is Fourth of July in Paris! And these soldiers have earned this day of joy.


First page of the article, "Homo Americanus in Gay Paree"
Read “Homo Americanus in Gay Paree” by Elizabeth Frazer, published on November 2, 1918 in the Post.

This article appears in the November/December 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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