"French Surrender" is often used as a kicker in The Onion's hilarious Our Dumb Century.

Since then, it has been borrowed by the fine folks at FARK.com as one of their headline cliches (in the somewhat-corrupted form "France surrenders").

The Our Dumb Century headlines (narrow your browser window to capture that newspaper feel):

Sunday, September 3, 1939



Hitler Invades Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Norway,
Netherlands, France, Greece, Yugoslavia,
Hungary, Luxembourg

French Surrender
After Valiant
Ten-Minute Struggle

Monday, December 8, 1941


Congress Declares War
After Sneak Attack on
U.S. Imperial Holding

FDR: 'We Conquered the
Hawaiians First'

French Surrender

Friday, August 10, 1945

Nagasaki Bombed 'Just
for the Hell of it'



Wednesday, August 15, 1945

French Unveil
'Arc de Capitulation'

People surrender because they are fed up with endless killings. If the French surrender, it's because they're humanists.

  1. A brief history of French surrenders
  2. A brief conclusion

1. A brief history of French surrenders

Alésia, Gaul, 52 B.C. Vercingétorix surrenders to Julius Caesar. However, Astérix will always win.

Crécy, France, 1337, and Agincourt, France, 1415. The French surrender to the English, because they don't have the nuclear weapon (yet). A few battles are lost, but the war is not over: Joan of Arc will expel the English from France on her own. Almost.

Montreal, Quebec, 1760. the French lose Quebec. But who cares? What's important for us, French people, is that a Frenchman, Jacques Cartier, has previously discovered Canada.

Paris, France, 31 March 1814. Invading Europe has been a piece of cake for Napoleon Bonaparte (ok, 15 years earlier he abandoned his defeated army in Egypt, but he brought so many Egyptian treasures to France that it was almost a victory). He has brought good French laws, French civilization and the French idea of freedom to countries previously rules by stubborn and old-fashioned kings. But every story has en ending. Napoleon suffers from an illness called hubris, and he now surrenders to anybody who surrendered to him before.

Waterloo, Belgium, 18 June 1815. Napoleon, during his holidays on the island of Elba, gets bored. He comes back and takes over France on his own. Almost. Then he surrenders to Wellington in Belgium, probably because nothing interesting has ever happened there. Read Astérix in Belgium for details about the battle.

France, 26 February 1871. Bismarck's Germany defeats Napoleon's nephew. France loses Alsace and Lorraine. The French are really pissed off. This is only a temporary defeat. Pupils in schools learn that they will take revenge one day. Read on.

France, 1914-1918. France does not surrender. The nation proudly resists Germany during four years and leads an Allied coalition which, owing to the help of the United States and other countries, eventually defeats Germany. By way of consequence, millions of people die, national treasures disappear, large parts of the country are devastated. Pétain becomes a national hero because he has killed 300 times more people in Verdun than Osama Bin Laden later in New York. France and the Allies force Germany to pay huge and unfair war penalties. The Germans are really pissed off. Read on.

Rethondes, France, 22 June 1940. Pétain is now an old and wise man. That's why he chooses to surrender to the Germans, saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Then he sets up a soft fascist governement, which turns into a hard Nazi government. The Jews lose their French nationality, and many of them are sent to Hitler before he even asks for them. Cowardice is not always good, after all. Of course, this is not really a French defeat. The real France is De Gaulle's Free France in London, which will eventually liberate Paris and help the Allies to defeat Germany. End of story.

Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, 8 May 1954. General de Castries surrenders to the Viet Minh. It's difficult to turn that defeat into a victory, so we'll just try to forget about it. After all, even the US, who thought they had a hell of an army, were to be humiliated later in Vietnam.

Korea, June 2002. The French football team, just like Napoleon, are bored with winning every competition they take part in. So they bring their wives to the World Cup, lose their matches, and leave Korea soon. Then the French media support Senegal because the Senegalese are nice, they speak French and they play in French clubs, so their victories are almost a French success. Later Brazil wins the tournament owing to a stunning performance by Ronaldo. So the journalists remember that Ronaldo's health problems have been cured by French doctors. So, again, this is a kind of French victory, in a way.

2. A brief conclusion

The foreign point of view: France loses wars. However, this country of losers, in spite of all the wars it has fought, has existed as a political unit for more than a millenium with only short interruptions. This is difficult to understand.

The French point of view, which is implicit in schoolbooks and in the media: France doesn't really lose wars. Defeats are temporary, or they are victories from another point of view. France loses when it's not really France. And when someone wins, there must be something French about it. For example, when a foreign movie is good and successful, there is often French money in it. France is a big country when you're inside.

Don't blame the French. National spirit, that warm and comforting sensation you feel when you wave a flag and congratulate yourself, is always based on overstatements and historical inaccuracies. Even in your country.

/me notes with amazement that someone actually paid to register the following domain names: http:/www.conquerfrance.com/ and (thanks Apatrix) http://francesurrenders.com/. (and thanks asterix for fixing a typo)

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