General Charles DeGualle was almost unknown to the French public when the Germans defeated the French Army. They came to know him as a result of empassioned radio broadcasts from London. At first there was relatively little interest in ressistance. Most French people felt the Germans had won the War and they had to ajust to the new realities. This began to change when the Germans began conscripting forced labor in France and the fortunes of war began to change. The Allies (America and Britain) wanted some control over the Provisional Government. Both Roosevelt and Churchill not to mention Eisenhower were frustrated with DeGualle. In the end, they were able to exercise little control over the political situation in the liberated areas. DeGualle had touched a cord in the French soul. The French people quiickly organized a Provisional Government on their own and the overwealming choice to lead it was General Charles de Gualle. This was also frustrating to the Communists who had played such an important role in the Resistance. As much as DeGualle frustrated the Americans and British, i was DeGualle more than anyone else that prevented France from going Communist. The British and French has ideas about a provisional gobernment. DeGualle took the matter out of their hands and became the central figure in organizing the provisional government.
General Charles DeGualle was almost unknown to the French public when the Germans defeated the French Army. They came to know him as a result of empassioned radio broadcasts from London. World war II is notable for three of the greatest political orators in history (Churchill, Hitler, an Roosevelt), each with very detinctive styles and message. Often omittied from that triad is Degaulle. English readers are of course familir with Churchill and Roosevelt. And we are familiar with Hitler mostly through the vulgar hitrionics that we see in newsreels without even knowing what he is saying. DeGuale is more of a mystery because all we have to go on is the radio recordings. But what a voice. The French were transfixed by it. As for the message, more than three others, it was a pure appeal to patriotism. Some leaders shy away from overt displays of patrioism--not Charles De Gualle.
At first there was relatively little interest in ressistance. Most French people felt the Germans had won the War and they had to ajust to the new realities. This began to change in 1942. The Wehrmacht Barbarossa offensive not only failed to destroy the Red Army, but the Soviet Winter offensive before Moscow badly damaged the German forces. As a result, the Germans had to intensify their war effort. More workers were drafted from war factories. And they could only be replaced by foreign workers. Conscripting French workers for war work in the Reich was a major factor increasing support for the Resistance. Young men went into hding, many joining the Resistance. The changing fortunes of German arms at the same time gave increasing hope that the Germans could be defeated. And DeGualle's broadcasts from London were an inspiration to all Frenchmen.
DeGualle had, however, a stormy relationship with Primeminister Churchill and President Roosevelt.It was Churchill that essentially made DeGualle. He helped raise him out of obscurity as a minor military officer, to the symbol of the french people. He supported him and provided him nd his Free French movement fcilites in Britain. It was British radio transmitters that broacast his messages to France. Without Churchill, that voice would have never reached the French prople. Ine might have expected grattitude. Such asentiment was not part of DeGualle's character. Differences between the two quickly developed. The Royal Navy action at Oran did not help. An even worse relationship developed with President Rooseelt. This was because the americans tried to deal with Vichy. Roosevelt thought that a wedge might be drive, between Vichy and the NAZIs. To DeGualle this was anethma. The Free Frech actin seizing Saint Pierre and Miquelon from Vichy infuriated the Americans (December 1941). Other incidets occurred. Basically Roosevelt believed with some accuracy that DeGualle could not view the overall war effort outside the narrow lens of purely French interests. The fracus over DeGualle's radio broacast to France with the D-Day landings.
After D-Day, DeGualle moved to seize control of the liberated areas. He was litterally the only person who could have prevented the Communists from seizing control of large areas of the country, especially all important Paris. Again the Allies did not understand the importance of Paris. Eisenhower understandingly thinking militarily planned to bypass Paris to better pursue the retreating Germans. DeGualle relaized that if the Allies did not enter Paris, the Communists would seize control and another Commune might result. (The Commune was the 1870 seizure of Paris by leftist parties requiring the Third Republic to begin by a bloody and destructive campaign to regain control of the capital.) French histoy is intricatly tied to the history of Paris more than any other country's history is tied to their capital. DeGualle understood this and eventually convinced Eisenhower to relieve the city which had risen up against the Germans. The Free French and American troops liberating the city combined with DeGualle's appearance forestalled a Communist takeover. Had this not occurred, France may well have suffered a debilitating civil war like the one which occurred in Greece.
The President in particular had no intention of setting him up as the head of thr Provisional Government. The Allies (America and Britain) wanted some control over the Provisional Government. Both Roosevelt and Churchill not to mention Eisenhower were frustrated with DeGualle.
After D-Day, De Gualle's popularity helped him to quickly organize a government in the liberated areas. Here he saved France and perhaps Weestern Europe. This was not what Roosevelt and Churchill wanted, but accepted the facti acompli. De Gualle headed two provisional governents. This is sometimes glossed over by historians, but in fact was of enormous importance. France on the eve of liberation was a time bomb. DeGualle understood this the Allies did not. The Communists were the strongest ellement in the Resistance and had a chance of seizing control, something that would not occur in free elections. Roosevelt and Churchill in the end, they were able to exercise little control over the political situation in the liberated areas. DeGualle had touched a cord in the French soul. The French people quiickly organized a Provisional Government on their own and the overwealming choice to lead it was General Charles de Gualle.
De Gualle's career was nothing short of monumntal. Helping to save France twice. What Churchill and especially President Roosevelt did not understand that the Free French would not affect the outcome of D-Day or the War. But in the coming Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union, keeping France out of Soviet hand was critical. And this meant stopping the Communists who were very important in the Resistnce from seizing power. DeGualle not only frustrated his westen allies, but he also frustrated the Communists who played such an important role in the Resistance. As much as DeGualle frustrated the Americans and British, it was DeGualle more than anyone else that prevented France from going Communist. The British and French has ideas about a provisional gobernment. DeGualle took the matter only of their hands and became the central figure in organizing the provisional government. De Gualle resigned over a minor matter (1946). Had his career ended here, DeGualle would have been a military and politucal figure of great importance, But of course it did not end here.
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