What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France
by Mary Louise Roberts (University of Chicago Press, £21)
In September 1944, three months after the Allied invasion of Normandy, Life ran an otherwise unremarkable piece entitled “The Girl Partisan of Chartres.” It was a two-column vignette by Jack Belden, one of the most celebrated foreign correspondents of his day, on a “pretty 17-year-old” called Nicole who “killed a Boche” on the night of Bastille Day earlier that summer. As a news item, the story, in typical Life fashion, is light on the facts and heavy on the stereotype. But as a window into the contemporary American understanding of the Liberation—and of the French women to be liberated—it says everything.