French Kiss: How the Americans and French Fell In and Out of Love During the Cold War by Steve Bassett

Traces the 16-year history of what was then the largest U.S. Air Force base in Europe. It pieces together a love affair that defines trust, hope, renewal, prosperity, and finally the discovery that it was all a Cold War delusion.

French kiss: how the americans and french fell in and out of love during the cold war

FRENCH KISS is a one-of-a-kind look at the Cold War. It has it all: laughter, bizarre behavior by high-ranking Air Force officers, black market, sex, love and tears, and most of all how mutual acceptance overcomes suspicion and distrust. The story was made possible by the generosity of Americans and French who worked or served at Dèols-Châteauroux Air Station (CHAS) in the Berry region of Central France. They provided more than 250 hours of interviews while permitting study of cherished mementos and photos. Examples. The beautiful wife of a general explains why she danced and sang naked from her balcony at an exclusive hotel. French kitchen workers preparing Baked Alaska for a large dinner party at the Officers’ Club decided to get drunk instead. The last base Commander was a hard-drinking decorated fighter pilot. He demanded a fireplace be built so that each pilot had a place to smash his liquor glass after a successful mission. No fighter missions were flown from CHAS, for 16 years strictly a supply and repair depot. Officers, their wives and girlfriends turn a historical hunting lodge into a trysting hideout complete with raucous food fights. Trainloads of prostitutes poured into Châteauroux every pay day, some like Nine Fingers and Gigi became legendary. Pilots on temporary duty celebrated the pleasures of the town with the ditty, Ninety Days in Châteauroux. The Black Market was everywhere, even seducing a native kid, one day to become a world-famous French movie star, into the racket. An Air Force Captain describes what Johnny Walker Black label and a carton of cigarettes can get you in Paris. Here are real people, relating maybe for the first time, their sorrows, betrayals, loves and building kinship with military occupiers. Their words are candid and unsparing. An unmarried teenage girl is disowned by her Master Sergeant father and betrayed by the father of her son. The son of a Châteauroux woman and an American GI, now a grown man, fails to hide his hatred for a father who betrayed them with broken promises of a return to France and marriage. A Black Air Force Military Policeman was overwhelmed by the house-to-house open-armed acceptance of his marriage to the white, beautiful daughter of a neighborhood family. A white medic and seasonal football player is proud of the Jive talk he developed as a member of a team that was 75% black. A beautiful cheerleader describes how she and a girlfriend ran into the entire baseball team from an Army supply base, then shared what they had in common, loneliness. Sports were a great integrator. Commissioned officers of all ranks hated Saturday mornings. Full-bird colonels arose early to bend shoulder-to-shoulder with lowest rank enlisted men to clear a field of rocks and stones for a nine-hole golf course. Farm boys and inner-city youths were allowed entry to the most exclusive fencing clubs in France after being taught to parry and thrust by a fencing master imported from Paris. Every American sport from baseball to skeet shooting was there for the asking. This was a land of plenty in the center of France’s most impoverished region. Her first glance at the aisles of goods offered for sale at the Post-Exchange prompted a French woman to exclaim, “It’s just like one big Hollywood movie set.” It was easy to forget that CHAS existed during a Cold War a world away when you were roller skating to the jute-box sounds of the Drifters. France was the Kremlin’s primary target in Europe and Communist radio and print propaganda was everywhere, largely ignored until the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. Described is the empty-headed running around when it was discovered the base evacuation plan in case of war was temporarily lost. No surprise since mock evacuations ordered by NATO had not been performed for years. The bombs didn’t fall and CHAS continued on its merry way until 1967 when Charles de Gaulle kicked NATO out of France. FRENCH KISS is a gripping story never before told.

Genre: HISTORY / World

Secondary Genre: HISTORY / Military / Other

Language: English

Keywords: Chateauroux Air Station, European Cold War hatreds, France Cold War Anti-American, Charles de Gaulle's envy of America, Cold War black market, French prostitutes love Americans, Yankee Go Home, Marshall Plan saves post-war France and Europe, French communist ambush in central France, black market, military personnel and local people, fencing, invasion of Hungary, NATO

Word Count: 104,000

Sales info:

Ranking #2446 in United States Military Veterans History

Sample text:

What was happening in Budapest was anything but a training or practice exercise. As the death toll among Hungarian dissidents mounted, there was little doubt that Communist troops understood quite clearly why they were sent to Hungary. As Helen described to her parents, Banning, who would later serve as deputy commander of the 7373rd AFH upon his return to CHAS, found himself in the middle of international intrigue.

“George Banning called the hospital here from Budapest Tuesday, which was the first word he has been able to get out of there. Since then, Dee has received a letter written November 7, 1956 right after he reached Budapest. He will be there another three weeks. He was in the last car to get through and, although they were not physically injured, they were stopped frequently and guns poked through the windows at them. He set up a hospital in the basement of the Embassy. There are 65 people living there. He's in charge of food rationing, and had enough for two weeks from November 7. The Egyptian embassy was completely demolished in the fighting, the city is a mess, but no one has bothered the U.S. Embassy.”

Among the refugees sequestered in the embassy’s basement was Catholic Cardinal József Mindszenty. The prelate was released from a Communist prison on October 30, 1956, seven days after the street protests erupted in Budapest. His release ended almost seven years of imprisonment that began after his torture-induced statements at a show trial found him guilty of crimes against the Communist state. He arrived in the city on November 2 and was forced to seek asylum at the U.S. Embassy after making a radio broadcast praising the Hungarian insurgents. He would remain in the embassy for fifteen years, despite repeated demands by Communist authorities that he be handed over to them. During that time, he became a Cold War symbol of anti-Communism and a liability to both the East and the West.

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Already translated. Translated by abhimanu snair
Already translated. Translated by Guillermo Barrera Gómez
Author review:
Always does a thorough job, excellent quality, communication and a pleasure to work with. He's done three books for me, and I will be sending him a fourth book when it is finished.

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