The liberation of Europe
‘In 1944 I left for Normandy on one of the more than 5,000 ships. We landed at 8 o’clock in the evening. We fought till 12 o’clock. The liberation of the French cities was celebrated elatedly. Soldiers and civilians fraternised. You felt part of it all. Indiscriminately of race, skin, origin or religion. Civilians and the military embraced. All celebrated victory and liberation. We were welcomed as heroes.’
Moughit Ben Daoud
As many as 70,000 Moroccans take part in the liberation of Europe. They are involved in the invasion of Normandy, southern France and especially the battles in Italy.
In the summer of 1943 hundreds of goums with their horses and mules set sail for Italy. They conquer Sicily. During the winter thousands of Moroccans stay in the mountainous regions of central Italy. The Allies want to beat the Germans here in order to realise free passage to Rome. This turns out to be very difficult: it is icy cold and the narrow, hilly paths are unsuited for the American tanks. After heavy bombardments on Monte Cassinothe Moroccan soldiers succeed in breaking through the German front.
The German commander writes to Adolf Hitler: ‘the impossible has happened. The Moroccan soldiers invaded and beat our front.’
4 January 1944: ‘The night of 31 December to 1 January was very difficult. Snowstorms. Siberian temperatures (minus 30 C). We dug ourselves in snow holes on the top of Monte Casale. The night watch arrives crawling on elbows and knees. His hands and feet were frozen. He did not even feel the flame touching his fingers while he lit a cigarette.’ 29 January 1944: ‘We have been at the front lines for sixteen days now. We are bearded. All goes well. We still get some grenades (some 120 per day). My hands are blackened by the cold.’
Entry in the diary of a Moroccan soldier