Gatecrashing the Liberation
26th August 1944. The Liberation of Paris. From left to right, Georges Bidault, head of the Conseil National de la Résistance; General Charles de Gaulle; de Gaulle’s personal aide, Alexandre Parodi. And who is on the right of Parodi? Wearing both civilian and military clothes and his arm in a sling was a gatecrasher, one George Dukson.
The 22-year old minor hero of the Resistance assumed that he had as much right to be there as anyone else, and pushed his way into the parade to the place of honor, and remained there until the guards led him off the parade at gun point. There were a lot of incidents like this one on that fateful day when everyone tried to bask in the radiance of de Gaulle and the liberated nation. De Gaulle himself reflected in his memoirs: “Some people with minor walk-on roles joined the cortege of my comrades, even though they had no right to. But no one paid them any attention.”
However Dukson had been one of the few black people on the demonstration, and this incident was singled out as a symbol of injustice the black people received. De Gaulle wanted to lead the Allied forces’ entry into Paris himself with his own troops, and the Allies agreed to this on one condition: the liberation should be seen as a “whites only” victory, despite the fact that many blacks indeed fought in Europe during WWII. When the actual liberation came, the shortage of white troops meant that many liberators were Spanish, and some were North Africans and Syrians.
As France’s West African Tirailleurs Senegalais, despite forming 65% of Free French Forces and dying in large numbers, they didn’t receive heroes’ welcome in Paris. Many were simply stripped of their uniforms and sent home and in 1959 their pensions were frozen.