The Frenchie Podcast
Stories of the French-Speaking Cajuns of World War II
This is a condensed edited version of the pilot Podcast show featuring Brig. Gen. Robert LeBlanc.
The Frenchie Podcast is dedicated to the stories and legacies of the French-speaking Cajuns of WWII, as told by the veterans themselves. During the last two decades, historian Jason Theriot has recorded oral history interviews with several WWII veterans from Louisiana who used their bilingual abilities as interpreters and translators in overseas military service. These Cajuns, like their Acadian ancestors, grew up speaking French. But unlike generations before, these Cajuns experienced ridicule for speaking French and an Americanization process that sought to do away with this so-called “back-country language” and culture.
Young Cajuns who spoke French at school in the ’20s and ’30s were often punished; many grew up ashamed of their language and culture. Society tended to view the Cajun French language as a handicap, and the people who spoke it, as low-class citizens. All of that change during WWII when these same Cajuns arrived in French-dominated territories, like North African and Europe, where their French-speaking abilities proved invaluable to military operations. This had a profound impact of their sense of a Cajun identity.
What emerged from this unique wartime experience was a long-lost pride in their heritage. When the army needed bi-lingual interpreters, they called on Frenchie to bridge the language gap.
Each Podcast show will feature an individual WWII veteran with digitized audio excerpts from his/her oral history interview(s). The host will provide additional content to help the listener with background information about the featured veteran and their worldly travels during the war. Where appropriate, additional material, such as letters and memoir excerpts, will be read by the host to add to the story line. The listeners will gain an appreciation for the unique contributions these Cajuns made during the war and how their experiences helped to plant the seeds for a culture revival that swept through Acadiana in the ’60s and ’70s.