Back when I was at school, I remember some story or other about the French having bailed out the Colonial rebels (at the time) during the Revolution. Some guy called Lafayette? At university, it was made clear that this wasn't necessarily because the French loved the rascally rebels, but that they liked the English even less than rebels did. But the bailout part? pretty much the same. Showing up in WWI was presented as a kind of "thank-you" -- a repayment of a debt of honor.
I'm teaching World War Two this week (doubtful I'm going to get past "and then the Berlin Wall fell"). I've noticed this before, but a reference to this article elsewhere made me think of it again. Here's my question, oh internets:
When did the common trope for US involvement in WWs I & II become, "the Brits and the French were a bunch of useless idiots who couldn't fight a war to, er, save their own bacon, so we (the US) had to come in and do it for them!"?
I just don't remember growing up with this. It wasn't in the movies I watched (and I've seen pretty much all of the big war films of the 50s, 60s, and 70s). It's not true in the newsreels of the time (although the Brits are often praised for their pluck in the face of adversity in a pretty patronising manner) -- at least not in the ones I've seen. And this is the even weirder thing to me: I get this from students who are taking a class that began with the French Revolution. We have discussed the Napoleonic Wars, second-wave imperialism/colonialism, and other things that might make a person think that France and Great Britain have indeed been forces with which to be reckoned. But we get to WWI, and it all goes out the window.
Does anybody have a clue on this one?