Rouen: La Semaine Rouge


  • Stephen Bourque School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College


While many are familiar with the Normandy Invasion, few American, Canadian or British citizens know about the massive air campaign waged against their occupied ally. This offensive lasted four long years and targeted most of France’s population centers and infrastructure. By the time the war was over, the Allied air forces killed as many French as the Germans killed British civilians during the “blitz” and vengeance weapon assaults, equaling between 60,000 and 75,000 out of a total of 150,000 French civilian deaths during the war were caused by Allied bombs.

For Rouen’s civilians the war did not end on June 6, 1944. For more than two months, the city continued to see both the movement of German forces to the front and the continuation of attacks by fighter-bombers. After months of heavy allied bombing, Canadian troops finally moved into Rouen, ending the nightmare.

Today, after decades of reconstruction, Rouen is a thriving, vibrant city. It has a beautiful riverfront, great shopping and wonderful cafés and restaurants. However, evidence of the wartime destruction is obvious: damage to the front of the Palace de Justice, the remains of burnt-out buildings, and the noticable differences in the architecture of buildings constructed before and after the war.

Justified or not, the devastation of Rouen in 1944 is part of the Second World War’s sordid history. It is certainly a narrative worthy of understanding when evaluating the war’s effect on politics and society in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Author Biography

Stephen Bourque, School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

Stephen A. Bourque (Ph.D. Georgia State University) is professor of history at the School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he teaches subjects related to the theory, history, and practice of the operational art of war. He is also the school’s senior representative to Training and Doctrine Command’s Mission Command Training Program observing and coaching corps and division Plans and Future Operations sections.

Dr. Bourque retired in 1992 after twenty years enlisted and commissioned service. Immediately prior to Operation DESERT STORM, he taught tactics and operational art at the Command and General Staff College. He followed this teaching assignment with practical experience with the 1st Infantry Division’s Tactical Operations Center during the conflict, earning a bronze star for his service. Since leaving active-duty, he has taught at several colleges and universities including Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, California State University-Northridge, the University of Kansas, and the Naval War College.

He is the author of several books and numerous articles and book reviews including Jayhawk! The VII Corps in the 1991 Persian Gulf War (2002), The Road to Safwan (2007), Soldiers' Lives: The Post Cold War Era (2008), and a recent article, Operational Fires: Heavy Bombing of Norman Towns on D-Day,” The Canadian Journal of Military History (spring, 2010). He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies (University of Calgary), and an active member of the Society of Military History.