My father’s college roommate, after he returned home from the South Pacific in 1946, was another WWII veteran, a man named Mike Block. No, let me correct that: until he joined the US Army in 1939, he was a Frenchman named Michel Bloit (possibly once Bloch). I thought of him when I saw this headline: “U.S. Army Quietly Discharging Immigrant Recruits.”
Don’t take what I am going to relate about Block/Bloit as gospel. I’m repeating stories I heard in my childhood so have no real feel for their veracity–except in the most general sense. Most of it is true: I met the Bloit family when I was a child and am confident of the truth of the broad strokes of the story.
Bloit was finishing prep school, I believe, in the United States in 1939/1940. After the invasion of Poland, his father correctly forecast what would be coming. As a French Jewish family, he knew his would be particularly vulnerable when the Germans marched into Paris, as they surely would. His business, a factory making porcelain dishes and knickknacks, would also be imperiled. So, he made a deal with his son: He would sell him the business for a dollar if Michel joined the US Army, which would make him a citizen. So, when the German tanks rolled into Paris in June, the company was legitimately a US business and it was left alone. After all, the US wasn’t involved in the war. Not yet.
Sometime in 1942, the Army realized that this Mike Block it had spoke French like, well, a Frenchman. A light-bulb went on in someone’s head: Why not send this guy to France? Let him spy for us? They did just that.
For a year or more, Bloit was stationed a couple of hours from Paris. I’m not sure exactly what he did, but he funneled information back to the Allied headquarters in London, providing an important service to the war effort.
After D-Day, as the Allies rolled steadily toward Paris, Bloit asked that an American captain’s uniform and two lieutenant’s uniforms, along with some chewing gum, be added to an airdrop scheduled for him. On August 25, 1944, he donned the captain’s uniform and dressed two members of the resistance in the lieutenant’s uniforms and gave them gum to chew (Americans were famous for chewing gum) and instructed them to remain silent. He then walked into the headquarters of the German armored battalion with the two Frenchmen and told the commanding general that the Allies were in Paris and that he would accept a surrender.
Bloit didn’t know if the Allies really had entered Paris yet, simply that it was about to happen. So, he led his captured tanks and vehicles as slowly as he could go to Paris–and it is a good thing he did. They got to the French capital just hours after the first Allied troops had entered it.
Bloit, or Block, was a real American hero.
Of course, Mike Block was not the only “foreigner” to help American armies. Think Hamilton, Lafayette and DeKalb in the Revolution… and all those Irish who fought valiantly for the Union during the Civil War. There have probably been a million who fought for this country who were not “from” here.
The idea that the US is now purging its armed forces of immigrant soldiers is one of the most un-American ideas I have heard for quite some time. The people currently running our country aren’t patriots but are xenophobes of the worst kind. They are killing the spirit of the country we love.