peace made in france
authored by: Bradley chapline
"I hope life turned out well for you."
"I hope life turned out well for you."
the united states marines attached to the sixth fleet
We were finally getting liberty, and a well deserved rest. Once the Yom Kippur war began in October of 1973 when the Syrian and Egyptian forces simultaneously invaded Israel, our battalion of Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina became a rapid deployment force. Our goal was to make the Suez Canal zone in three days, and launch a nighttime "heloborne" assault in support of Israel, on Egyptian forces.
For most of us, "wet behind the ears Jarheads", these were some very tense moments as we flew our nighttime mission less than 100 feet above the waters of the Suez Canal. I could see the evening's moonlight shining off the waters in the channel. This was frightening. But, we had a mission to accomplish in support of Israel.
Suddenly, our CH46 Marine helicopter does a hard-left turn. All of us were now making our final preparations and checks of our gear and weaponry. Check.....we were now ready to land, deploy the Marine CH-46 helicopter in a squad "V" formation, and fight.
But, thankfully, it was not to be. The Marine heloborne assault on Egyptian forces was aborted. We were turning around and going home, back to the flight deck of the USS Ponce. We were all celebrating.
But, this was short-lived. Because, on the way back to the ship, while flying in "one behind the other formation", the chopper in front of us lost power and crashed into the waters of the Suez Canal. Seeing the huge ball of fire upon impact was just horrifying. There were no survivors.
Then, our next mission would be in support of the mine sweeping operation in the Suez Canal. No doubt, another very dangerous task. Even though the Nixon administration brokered a peace agreement between Israel, Egypt, and Syria that effectively ended the Yom Kippur war, no cargo and or container ships could possibly pass through this now heavily mined waterway.
So, after months of long hours, high stress hazardous duty, we just couldn't wait to hit the liberty Port City of Nice, France. Of course, most Marines wanted whiskey, wine, beer and ladies of the evening.
meeting the enemy in paris
Authorities in Paris were kind enough to send a team of tour guides down to the Port City of Nice to offer all U.S. military personnel a reasonably priced three day trip to Paris. It was quite sad that only one U.S. Marine, me, and three Sailors signed up for the trip to Paris.
Its fair to say the tour guides just totally disengaged from us. When the three of us arrived, by bus, into downtown Paris, the tour guides immediately abandoned us. Then, the two Sailors ditched me. I stood alone, in downtown Paris where I had absolutely no idea how I was going to get back to my ship in southern France.
It may sound strange, but I felt more comfortable in combat operations than in standing in Paris, alone. So, I asked a beautiful young girl passing by if she could help me. I was lucky. She spoke fluent English.
But then, suddenly, an older man comes up from behind me and shoves me away from the girl. He is shouting at me in some type of Arab dialect. Turns out, this was his daughter. But, I was confused. The girl was wearing a French dress, and her mother and father were dressed in traditional Arab garb.
But, I could tell right from the beginning this was not a fully traditional Arab family. While Ahmad Tuma, the father, did seemingly exert his supremacy in family matters, his wife, Oadira, did have a lot of influence in family decisions. Otherwise, their daughter would not be dressed in a "robe de francais".
And still, another shock. When I asked her name, she told me, "Monique" Tuma. The virtual public argument continued between Monique's mother and father. Approximately, five minutes later the argument ended. Monique was told by her mother and father, who did not speak English, to ask me the following questions:
Q - What are you doing here in Paris alone, in your uniform?
A - I was on a tour from Nice to Paris when I got separated from my tour guides.
Q - Is your duty on a U.S. Naval warship?
A - Yes.
Q- Where was your ship before you came here.
A - I cannot answer that.
Statement by Ahmad Tuma translated into English by Monique;
"I hate America, and that means I hate you. I don't want you around my daughter. Why don't you just walk away and stay away from us. Go back to your ship!"
As I was walking away from the Tuma family, I heard both Monique and her mother, Oadira, yelling at her father. But, I didn't turn around, I just kept walking away. Moments later, Monique came running up to my side. She said, "Come back, please."
The father, Ahmad Tuma, began asking me more questions using his daughter as an interpreter:
Q - So, what do you want with my young virgin daughter?
A - I would have really liked to have Monique show me around Paris. The one thing I came here for, more than anything else, was to see some of the ancient cathedrals. I hear they are stunningly beautiful.
Q - How long are you planning to be in my daughter's company?
A - I have three days remaining on my leave time, Sir.
Another statement by the father, Ahmad Tuma, translated by his daughter, Monique;
"Go ahead, you two can be together. But, you remember, if you disrespect my daughter, or take her virginity away in any manner, I will find you, and I will kill you." Monique looked at her father with total contempt.
I replied, "Yes Sir, I understand."
falling in love in paris
Monique and I had just a wonderful time in the most romantic city in the world. We held hands, skipped along sidewalks, visited cathedrals, shared a cup of coffee at a street side café, and enjoyed dinner out under the stars. But, when we went back to the hotel room we were sharing, we both lived up to the promises made to her father.
The two days with Monique in Paris went so fast. It was time for me to take her home. I was shocked when she told me that she lived with her family in northern France, up close to the border with Belgium. I thought, how will I ever make it back to my ship on time. The Port City of Nice is in the far south of France.
Monique said, "Come home with me, stay the night. We'll all drive you back to your ship tomorrow, I promise."
So, off I took to northern France where I went to a place called Amiens. I got a very warm welcome from both Ahmad and Oadira. This was a very wealthy family. The house they lived in was like a "canal side paradise". The scenery from out the windows was just breathtaking. The boat rides with Monique and her parents down the canals in this township were also memories that could never be forgotten.
Christmas morning in northern france
There was no doubt that Ahmad, Monique's father, and I, were both wearing her out with our marathon conversations. Everyone was laughing when, Monique said, "The last job I'll ever want is being a translator."
Ahmad and I talked about religion, politics, war, hate and love. It was really stunning on how much we agreed on. The problem was, we came from two completely different ways of life, where people are just untrusting of those who are different from them. Ahmad and I both saw this very clearly.
So, after this marathon talk, it was time to go to bed. I would wake up on Christmas morning and have to venture all the way back down to the Port City of Nice, France, that sits as part of the world famous French Riviera.
As I walked to the stairwell, Ahmad said in English, "Goodnight Friend, Merry Christmas." We shook hands and firmly embraced. This was very emotional for both of us. Ahmad then had Monique say to me, "I don't want you to leave. You can stay here with my daughter and you will always be taken care of by the family. Everybody here loves you."
I had tears running down my face. I replied, "I love all of you also. And even though I have really nothing back in America, I did take a sworn oath as a United States Marine. I must fulfill this obligation. For, no one honors a deserter, a traitor, or a coward." Ahmad nodded his head in agreement.
I went on, "There is a lot of tensions in this region, but I will make a promise to you that I will always do whatever I can to never take a human life if there is any possible way to avoid doing so." Monique then walked me up to my room where I would spend the remainder of the night.
the long trip back down to the port city of nice, france
I only slept about four hours. When I had awakened, it was still a couple of hours before the morning sun would begin to rise. I walked out onto the upstairs loft, and there was this beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Wow! The family had put this Christmas tree up while I was sleeping! There were several gifts that were wrapped. They all had my name on them.
But, some hours later, we were all loaded up and were ready to head back to the Port City of Nice in Ahmad's 1971 Peugeot four door sedan. I just couldn't get enough of France's majestic countryside. I was asking Ahmad to stop quite often so that I could take more pictures of beautiful scenery that had Monique and I together.
And then I realized I was going to be late getting back to ship. I was scared. If my ship left port, and I wasn't on board and accounted for, the trouble I would be in would be just insurmountable. I asked Ahmad to please drive faster if he could.
When we hit the Port City of Nice I was relieved to see off in the distance that my ship was still docked. But, as we got closer, I saw the Marines and Sailors lining both the port and starboard sides of the ship in their dress uniforms. That meant my ship was ready to leave the Port City of Nice. Or, what is known in Navy terms as, "Getting Underway".
I jumped out of Ahmad's Peugeot and got my luggage out of the trunk. We were all crying while saying our goodbyes. But, while this was going on, many of my fellow Marines and Sailors were making sexual and racially degrading remarks towards not only Monique, but were also insulting to her mother and father. I was so ashamed.
When I hopped on board ship, the Marine officer-of-day escorted me to see my Commanding Officer. I was asked the following by my Captain;
Q - Were the people you were socializing with during your liberty time of Arab descent?
A - Yes Sir, they were.
Q - Did any of these Arabs ask you about our troop and or ship movements and or locations?
A - Yes Sir. But only initially. Not after the first time when I refused to answer.
Q - So, why did you continue to fraternize with these people who you came to know were our enemy?
A - I was dating their daughter. She posed no risk to us.
The following was a statement from my Commanding Officer:
"We'll just see about that Marine. You will be investigated."
As soon as I was dismissed from my Commanding Officer, I double-timed back topside of our ship. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Ahmad, his wife Oadira, and Monique. We all continued to wave goodbye, as many of my fellow Marines and Sailors continued calling names at the Tuma family. Plus, the rhythmic chants of me being called a traitor were really upsetting me. I was now wishing I had not come back.
But, the real truth was, Ahmad and I, however little, had made a peace agreement in France. We both proved it could be done.
The (NIS) Naval Investigative Service conducted their investigation. I was cleared of any and all wrongdoing. In fact, the closing comment on this NIS report stated that, since I had not indulged in either nightclub / bar activities and or ladies of the evening while our ship was docked in the Port City of Nice, there was no evidence to support any allegations of misconduct on my part.
NIS authorities did contend that there were, however, enemy operatives who did in fact target U.S servicemen in bars and brothels for classified information in the Port City of Nice, France.
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"Peace Made In France" Is A True Story