Originally there were plans to make a line of defense out of papier mache penguins (ten meters high--so y'know, not life sized). The Surrealists had figured the penguins would frighten German soldiers (who were known to have recurring nightmares about all things Antarctic) and greatly confound the High Command (ditto). But, the French were like "hey, what do Surrealists know about fortifications" and the rest is history. Luckily, yes, definitely, guys: George C. Scott totally saved their bacon. And then refused the Best Acting Oscar presented to him by De Gaulle.
In my own words, tho' based entirely on the poorly photocopied liner notes of a Scott Walker album and a recipe found on the inside of a Campbell Soup label.