D-Day at 70: When Ernest Hemingway wanted to capture Paris

 

Allied troops and journalists in the streets of Paris during the city's liberation, August 1944. (Ralph Morse—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Allied troops and journalists in the streets of Paris during the city's liberation in August 1944. (Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images)

An earlier post on WorldViews flagged some of the terrific work that photojournalists from Life magazine did on the front lines of World War II. After D-Day, an event whose 70th anniversary falls on Friday, Allied forces and the journalists accompanying them moved through battlefields in Normandy toward Paris.

General Charles de Gaulle, who led the French government-in-exile for four years, at the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, Aug. 25, 1944. (Ralph Morse—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images) Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who led the French government-in-exile for four years, at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in August 1944. (Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images)

The French capital fell into Allied hands in late August. As U.S. forces approached, some of these early embeds, including Ernest Hemingway, hoped to reach Paris ahead of the U.S. Army. But there was an important figure who was dead against them trying. Here's a wonderful vignette from LIFE:

LIFE photographer Ralph Morse, now 94 years old, recalls being outside Paris in a press camp — he was covering George Patton’s Third Army and its sweep toward the Rhine for LIFE — when, he says, Ernest Hemingway, who was also in the camp, offered a suggestion.

“I knew Hemingway pretty well because his later wife, Mary, had worked for LIFE, and she had reported with me on a few stories,” Morse told LIFE.com. “So, we’re in this camp, waiting, and Hemingway says, ‘You know, the Germans can’t possibly have mined every road into Paris. Why don’t we find a back road? We can be at the Champs-Élysées before the troops get there.’ Of course, we did make it into Paris . . . but not the way Hemingway wanted.”

“Hemingway’s idea,” Morse recalls, “to get into Paris before U.S. troops headed in was scuttled because someone — maybe a reporter who wasn’t invited along? Who knows? — someone leaked the plan to Patton, and before we knew it, the press camp was surrounded by military police. Patton walks in and says, ‘If any of you make a move toward Paris before the troops do, I’ll court martial you!’ Anyway, we went in shortly afterward. It was a quick trip from the outskirts, because there were so few Germans left to stop us.”

French guerrilla activity and protests by state employees had made the city ungovernable for the Germans. Its fall to U.S. and French forces was met by a jubilant public. Here's Life again:

“It was an amazing sight, an amazing feeling,” Morse recalls. “So many people in the streets, holding hands, everyone headed for the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe, the same way that everyone in New York heads to Times Square, for example, when something momentous happens. It really was — well, liberating.”

Parisians fill the streets on August 25th, 1944, after occupying German forces surrender. (Ralph Morse—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Parisians fill the streets on Aug. 25, 1944, after occupying German forces surrender. (Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images)

See Life's complete D-Day coverage here.

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
Continue reading
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read World

world

worldviews

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters