The Interpreter

Alice Kaplan

The Interpreter
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Alice Kaplan

254 pages | 15 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2005
Paper $15.00 ISBN: 9780226424255 Published May 2007

No story of World War II is more triumphant than the liberation of France, made famous in countless photos of Parisians waving American flags and kissing GIs as columns of troops paraded down the Champs Élysées. But one of the least-known stories from that era is also one of the ugliest chapters in the history of Jim Crow. In The Interpreter, celebrated author Alice Kaplan recovers this story both as eyewitnesses first saw it, and as it still haunts us today.

The American Army executed 70 of its own soldiers between 1943 and 1946—almost all of them black, in an army that was overwhelmingly white. Through the French interpreter Louis Guilloux’s eyes, Kaplan narrates two different trials: one of a white officer, one of a black soldier, both accused of murder. Both were court-martialed in the same room, yet the outcomes could not have been more different.

Kaplan’s insight into character and setting creates an indelible portrait of war, race relations, and the dangers of capital punishment. 

“A nuanced historical account that resonates with today’s controversies over race and capital punishment.” Publishers Weekly

“American racism could become deadly for black soldiers on the front. The Interpreter reminds us of this sad component of a heroic chapter in American military history.” Los Angeles Times

“With elegance and lucidity, Kaplan revisits these two trials and reveals an appallingly separate and unequal wartime U.S. military justice system.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Kaplan has produced a compelling look at the racial disparities as they were played out…She explores both cases in considerable and vivid detail.” Sacramento Bee

Anthony Edmunds | Library Journal

“A brilliant account. . . . Inventive, moving, and beautifully written, this is a major contribution to investigative history. Highly recommended.”

Publishers Weekly

“A nuanced historical account that resonates with today’s controversies over race and capital punishment.”

Michael S. Roth | Los Angeles Times

“American racism could become deadly for black soldiers on the front. . . . The Interpreter reminds us of this sad component of a heroic chapter in American military history.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

“With elegance and lucidity, Kaplan revisits these two trials and reveals an appallingly separate and unequal wartime U.S. military justice system.”

Hilary Footitt | Modern & Contemporary France
"A highly readable introduction to the underside of Allied/French relations at the Liberation."
Jon Latimer | Times Literary Supplement
“Compelling. . . . [Kaplan] manages to weave a human story. . . . The two cases are so very different, however, that the conclusions Kaplan reaches appear somewhat tenuous.”
Alan M. Osur | Military History
"A fascinating analysis of soldiers, lawyers, commanders, and racial conditions in the Brittany area of France after the Normandy invasion. . . . Kaplan researches and writes well in creating a powerful book."
Contents
Part I: Liberation
1. Plumaudan
2. Occupation and Resistance  
3. The Liberation
4. The Interpreter
5. James Hendricks
 
Part II: United States Versus Private James E. Hendricks
6. The Incident
7. The Court-Martial
8. The Case Against James Hendricks
9. Noemie Bignon's Testimony
10. The Defense
11. Hendricks's Commanding Officer
12. The Hanging
13. Verdicts
 
Part III: United States Versus Captain George P. Whittington
14. Lesneven
15. George Whittington
16. The Investigation
17. The Case Against George Whittington
18. George Whittington's Testimony
19. The Aftermath
20. Whittington's Peace           
 
Part IV: History and Memory   
21. Departure  
22. OK, Joe
23. The Question
24. After the Liberation
 
Epilogue
25. A Visit to Plumaudan
26. Soldier Trouble
27. A Resting Place for James Hendricks
 
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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