Cajun Frenchies’ in WWII
A little known story of a special group of Americans serving in World War II is that of the French-speaking Cajuns of South Louisiana. These young men, descendants of the Acadians who were expelled from Canada by the British in the 1760s, found that their handed down patois— which had been under attack by the English-speaking school and parish government system of the state for hundreds of years– was suddenly in demand.
It should be remembered that one of Andrew Jackson’s best trained and equipped units at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 was the local militia battalion (Batallion d’Orleans) of Major Jean Baptiste Plauche, complete with Napoleanic Grenadier-style uniforms. Fast forward to 1940 and the 2nd Battalion of the Louisiana National Guard’s 156th Infantry Regiment contained about 95 percent Cajun troops– and performed their drill in “Bayou French.”
These misaligned people, out of time and place, soon became interpreters for their field commanders– particularly in the Torch Landings in Vichy French North Africa in 1942 and the later liberation of Metropolitan France in 1944– and several of them were secret agents of the OSS who were able to pass as native French speakers while working with the French underground.
Jason Theriot, Ph.D., and Jason Dawsey, Ph.D. take a look at these bilingual Cajun soldiers in WWII in the below from the New Orleans-based National WWII Museum.
A great doc on the subject is Mon Cher Camarade, which appeared on Lousiana Public Broadcasting a couple years ago.