Claim: France demanded that the U.S. remove buried American soldiers from their soil, saying “Come pick up your garbage.”
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2003]
Did you hear about France demanding the American soldiers buried over there be dug up and removed from their land? You know, the ones that died in World
And the worst of it? They sent a note to our government saying, “Come and pick up your trash.”
Origins: Expressing disdain for the French (a popular pastime in America) ran at fever pitch during the first half of 2003. The manuvering in the United Nations by the French government to prevent the war in Iraq was viewed by many as an act of base ingratitude in light of the sacrifices made by Britain and America to rescue France and its people during two World Wars. That anger surfaced in a number of the rumors of the day, some of which called for boycotts of goods presumed to be made by French companies, and others which turned out to be mishearings or misunderstandings of events reported in the news. It is from this latter category that the “come and pick up your trash” blood boiler is plucked.
In March 2003, at one of the largest British war cemeteries in northern France, hate-filled comments were sprayed in red paint over a monument to Britain’s dead from World
Yankees,” was painted the comment that would spark the rumor: “Dig up your garbage. It is fouling our soil.”
Outrage over this craven act of anonymous vandals was swift and unanimous, with the French authorities just as incensed by it as anyone.
Scant days after the anti-war slogans were discovered, President Jacques Chirac sent an apology to
Queen Elizabeth over the desecration of those graves. “These unacceptable and disgraceful acts are unanimously condemned by the French people,” said
Yet rumor being what it is, it wasn’t long until this real story (unnamed hooligans, defacement of a British cemetery, apology by the President of France) rearranged itself into quite a different tale, one in which the French government stood poised with shovel in hand to cleanse their land by digging up American war dead while sending a “Come and pick up your trash” note to the
It is ironic that the reality of who wanted the American dead removed from French soil at that time was the polar opposite of the rumor. In March 2003, U.S.
This was not the first time the placement of America’s war dead had been the subject of rancor. In the 1960s, France, under Charles DeGaulle, bolted from the NATO Nuclear Planning Group and established their own nuclear deterrent, an act which strained French relations with the United States. In 1966, DeGaulle asked that all American soldiers be removed from France. “Does that include the dead Americans in military cemeteries as well?”
About 30,000 Americans who died fighting World War I are buried in eight European cemeteries (six in France, one in Belgium, and one in England), and another 73,000
Barbara “french toasted” Mikkelson
Last updated: 6 June 2015
Solochek, Jeffrey. “Bring War Dead Home, Bill Says.” St. Petersburg Times. 13 March 2003 (p. B1). Tagliabue, John. “Chirac Apologizes for Vandalized Graves.” The New York Times. 4 April 2003 (p. A6). Agence France Presse. “Iraq Protesters Deface British War Monument in France.” 1 April 2003.