“Visiting the Balkan front in 1912, Messimy saw the advantages gained by the dull-colored Bulgarians and came home determined to make the French soldier less visible. His project to clothe him in gray-blue or gray-green raised a howl of protest. Army pride was as intransigent about giving up its red trousers as it was about adopting heavy guns. Army prestige was once again felt to be at stake. To clothe the French soldier in some muddy, inglorious color, declared the army’s champions, would be to realize the fondest hopes of Dreyfusards and Freemasons. To banish “all that is colorful, all that gives the soldier his vivid aspect,” wrote the Echo de Paris, “is to go contrary both to French taste and military function.” Messimy pointed out that the two might no longer be synonymous, but his opponents proved immovable. At a parliamentary hearing a former War Minister, M. Etienne, spoke for France.
“Eliminate the red trousers?” he cried. “Never! Le pantalon rouge c’est la France!”
“That blind and imbecile attachment to the most visible of all colors,” wrote Messimy afterward, “was to have cruel consequences.”
Sunday, October 14, 2018
That blind and imbecile attachment to the most visible of all colors
From the Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.