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100 years ago in Spokane: Ferdinand Foch, WWI commander of Allies, feted in Spokane

The cannons at Fort Wright welcomed Ferdinand Foch, supreme commander of the Allies during the recent world war, to Spokane on Nov. 29, 1921.  (S-R archives)
The cannons at Fort Wright welcomed Ferdinand Foch, supreme commander of the Allies during the recent world war, to Spokane on Nov. 29, 1921. (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

A 17-gun salute welcomed Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme Allied commander in the recent world war, to Spokane.

The cannons roared out from Fort Wright, and thousands of people lined the downtown streets to greet the French general.

“The presence of the marshal seemed to hallow the very pavement on which his car was driven,” said the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

Foch had become a hero of almost mythic proportions after he led the French, British and U.S. forces to victory over Germany. Spokane was clearly overcome with pride and emotion to have him in the city, even for only a day.

Foch addressed the city in a brief speech during a mass meeting at the Spokane Armory.

“I am here with my comrades, the members of the American Legion with whom I fought and with whom, three years ago, I was marching in victory toward the Rhine,” he said in French. “And when I find my comrades here in Spokane, so far from the eastern shores of the United States, and so far from France, so far from the Rhine, I begin to understand the wonderful spirit that took these men of the legion so far from their homes to help me.”

One bittersweet moment occurred at St. Maries, Idaho, just before Foch embarked on the train for Spokane.

Three French war brides approached Foch and one of them said. “Oh, Monsieur le Marechal, we love America but we are homesick for France.”

Another said, “We love our native country. We want to return to France. Do take us back; do please take us back.”

Foch seemed confused. At first, he did not know how to reply.

Then he grasped the hand of one of the women and said, “But you are here in America. This is your home. You must never forget France, but you must love your new home and honor your husbands.”

A correspondent said the women “seemed comforted.”

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