De Gaulle stressed how Maurice de Saxe had banned volley fire, how French armies of the Napoleonic period had relied on infantry column attack, and how French military power had declined in the nineteenth century because of — supposedly — excessive concentration on firepower e.
He also appears to have accepted the then fashionable lesson drawn from the recent Russo-Japanese War , of how bayonet charges by Japanese infantry with high morale had succeeded in the face of enemy firepower. De Gaulle was promoted to first lieutenant in October When war finally broke out in France in early August , the 33rd Regiment, considered one of the best fighting units in France, was immediately thrown into checking the German advance at Dinant. However, the French Fifth Army commander, General Charles Lanrezac , remained wed to 19th-century battle tactics, throwing his units into pointless bayonet charges with bugles and full colours flying against the German artillery, incurring heavy losses.
As a platoon commander, de Gaulle was involved in fierce fighting from the outset. He received his baptism of fire 15 August and was among the first to be wounded, receiving a bullet in the knee at the Battle of Dinant. However, there is no contemporary evidence that he understood the importance of artillery in modern warfare. Instead, in his writing at the time, he criticised the "overrapid" offensive, the inadequacy of French generals, and the "slowness of the English troops".
He rejoined his regiment in October, as commander of the 7th company. Many of his former comrades were already dead. In December he became regimental adjutant. De Gaulle's unit gained recognition for repeatedly crawling out into no man's land to listen to the conversations of the enemy in their trenches, and the information brought back was so valuable that on 18 January he received the Croix de Guerre.
On 10 February he was promoted to captain, initially on probation. On 3 September his rank of captain became permanent. In late October, returning from leave, he returned to command of 10th company again.
As a company commander at Douaumont during the Battle of Verdun on 2 March , while leading a charge to try to break out of a position which had become surrounded by the enemy, he received a bayonet wound to the left thigh after being stunned by a shell and was captured after passing out from the effects of poison gas. He was one of the few survivors of his battalion. The circumstances of his capture would later become a subject of debate as anti-Gaullists rumored that he had actually surrendered, a claim de Gaulle nonchalantly dismissed. De Gaulle spent 32 months in a German prisoner of war camp, where his treatment was satisfactory.
In captivity, de Gaulle read German newspapers he had learned German at school and spent a summer vacation in Germany and gave talks on his view of the course of the conflict to fellow prisoners. While a prisoner of war, de Gaulle wrote his first book, Discorde chez l'ennemi The Enemy's House Divided , analysing the issues and divisions within the German forces. The book was published in De Gaulle made five unsuccessful escape attempts,  and was moved to a higher-security facility and punished on his return with long periods of solitary confinement and with the withdrawal of privileges such as newspapers and tobacco.
He attempted escape by hiding in a laundry basket, digging a tunnel, digging a hole through a wall, and even posing as a nurse to fool his guards. As the war neared its end, he grew depressed that he was playing no part in the victory, but despite his efforts, he remained in captivity until the armistice.
On 1 December , three weeks later, he returned to his father's house in the Dordogne to be reunited with his three brothers, who had all served in the army and survived the war. After the armistice, de Gaulle served with the staff of the French Military Mission to Poland as an instructor of Poland's infantry during its war with communist Russia — He distinguished himself in operations near the River Zbrucz , with the rank of major in the Polish army, and won Poland's highest military decoration, the Virtuti Militari.
De Gaulle returned to France, where he became a lecturer in military history at St Cyr. He was already a powerful speaker, after practice as a prisoner of war. Here he clashed with his instructor Colonel Moyrand by arguing for tactics based on circumstances rather than doctrine, and after an exercise in which he had played the role of commander, he refused to answer a question about supplies, replying "de minimis non-curat praetor" "a leader does not concern himself with trivia" before ordering the responsible officer to answer Moyrand.
He obtained respectable, but not outstanding grades — 15 or so out of 20 — on many of his assessments. Moyrand wrote in his final report that he was "an intelligent, cultured and serious-minded officer; has brilliance and talent" but criticised him for not deriving as much benefit from the course as he should have done, and for his arrogance: his "excessive self-confidence", his harsh dismissal of the views of others "and his attitude of a King in exile". Having entered 33rd out of , he graduated in 52nd place, with a grade of assez bien "good enough".
He was posted to Mainz to help supervise supplies of food and equipment for the French Army of Occupation. De Gaulle's book La Discorde chez l'ennemi had appeared in March In March he published an essay on the use of tactics according to circumstances, a deliberate gesture in defiance of Moyrand. In de Gaulle began to cultivate Joseph Paul-Boncour , his first political patron. This was a popular topic because of the Maginot Line which was then being planned, but his argument was quite nuanced: he argued that the aim of fortresses should be to weaken the enemy, not to economise on defence.
These later formed the basis for his book The Edge of the Sword Many of the officers in the audience were his seniors, who had taught and examined him only a few years earlier. After spending twelve years as a captain, a normal period, de Gaulle was promoted to commandant major on 25 September De Gaulle trained his men hard a river crossing exercise of the freezing Moselle River at night was vetoed by his commanding general.
An observer wrote of de Gaulle at this time that although he encouraged young officers, "his ego In the winter of —, thirty soldiers "not counting Annamese " died from so-called "German flu", seven of them from de Gaulle's battalion. The Allied occupation of the Rhineland was coming to an end, and de Gaulle's battalion was due to be disbanded, although the decision was later rescinded after he had moved to his next posting.
He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in December and appointed Head of the Third Section operations. His service at SGDN gave him six years' experience of the interface between army planning and government, enabling him to take on ministerial responsibilities in After studying arrangements in the US, Italy, and Belgium, de Gaulle drafted a bill for the organisation of the country in time of war.
He made a presentation about his bill to the CHEM. The bill passed the Chamber of Deputies but failed in the Senate. Mayer thought that although wars were still bound to happen, it was "obsolete" for civilised countries to threaten or wage war on one another as they had in previous centuries. He had a low opinion of the quality of French generals, and was a critic of the Maginot Line and a proponent of mechanised warfare. The book imagined tanks driving around the country like cavalry. De Gaulle's mentor Emile Mayer was somewhat more prophetic than he was about the future importance of air power on the battlefield.
Such an army would both compensate for France's population shortage, and be an efficient tool to enforce international law, particularly the Treaty of Versailles , which forbade Germany from rearming. He also thought it would be a precursor to a deeper national reorganisation, and wrote that "a master has to make his appearance [ Only copies were sold in France; the claim that thousands of copies were sold in Germany  is thought to be an exaggeration. The book attracted praise across the political spectrum, apart from the hard left who were committed to the Republican ideal of a citizen army.
Reynaud first invited him to meet him on 5 December The de Gaulle family were very private. There is no evidence that he was tempted by fascism, and there is little evidence of his views either on domestic upheavals in and or the many foreign policy crises of the decade. Daladier, who was an enthusiast for rearmament with modern weapons, ensured that his name was entered onto the promotion list for the following year. In General Bineau, who had taught him at St Cyr, wrote on his report on his lectureship at CHEM that he was highly able and suitable for high command in the future, but that he hid his attributes under "a cold and lofty attitude".
De Gaulle attracted public attention by leading a parade of 80 tanks into the Place d'Armes at Metz, in his command tank " Austerlitz ". By now de Gaulle was beginning to be a well-known figure, known as "Colonel Motor s ". On 12 September he attacked at Bitche , simultaneously with the Saar Offensive. At the start of October Reynaud asked for a staff posting under de Gaulle, but in the event remained at his post as Minister of Finance. De Gaulle's tanks were inspected by President Lebrun , who was impressed, but regretted that it was too late to implement his ideas.
Daladier, Prime Minister at the time, was too busy to read it. In late-February , Reynaud told de Gaulle that he had been earmarked for command of an armoured division as soon as one became available. When Reynaud became prime minister in March he was reliant on Daladier's backing, so the job went instead to the politician Paul Baudouin. In late-March de Gaulle was told by Reynaud that he would be given command of the 4th Armoured Division , due to form by 15 May.
The Germans attacked the West on 10 May. General Georges told him it was his chance to implement his ideas. De Gaulle commandeered some retreating cavalry and artillery units and also received an extra half-brigade, one of whose battalions included some heavy B1 bis tanks. The attack at Montcornet , a key road junction near Laon, began around on 17 May. Outnumbered and without air support, he lost 23 of his 90 vehicles to mines, anti-tank weapons, or Stukas.
On 18 May he was reinforced by two fresh regiments of armoured cavalry, bringing his strength up to vehicles. He attacked again on 19 May and his forces were once again devastated by German Stukas and artillery. He ignored orders from General Georges to withdraw, and in the early afternoon demanded two more divisions from Touchon, who refused his request. Nevertheless, it was one of the few successes the French enjoyed while suffering defeats elsewhere across the country.
He delayed his retreat until 20 May. On 21 May, at the request of propaganda officers, he gave a talk on French radio about his recent attack. Despite being compulsorily retired as a colonel on 22 June see below he would wear the uniform of a brigadier-general for the rest of his life.
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On 28—29 May, de Gaulle attacked the German bridgehead south of the Somme at Abbeville , taking around German prisoners in the last attempt to cut an escape route for the Allied forces falling back on Dunkirk. The future General Paul Huard, who served under de Gaulle at this time, recorded how he would often stand on a piece of high ground, keeping other officers literally at six yards' distance, subjecting his subordinates to harsh criticism and taking all decisions autocratically himself, behaviour consistent with his later conduct as a political leader. Lacouture points out that for all his undoubted energy and physical courage there is no evidence in his brief period of command that he possessed the "hunter's eye" of the great battlefield commander, and that not a single one of his officers joined him in London, although some joined the Resistance in France.
De Gaulle's rank of brigadier-general became effective on 1 June After a visit to his tailor to be fitted for his general's uniform, he visited Reynaud, who appears to have offered him a government job for the first time, then the commander-in-chief Maxime Weygand , who congratulated him on saving France's honour and asked him for his advice.
He made the same suggestion to Reynaud. He asked for an English-speaking aide and Geoffroy Chodron de Courcel was given the job. On 8 June de Gaulle visited Weygand, who believed it was "the end" and that after France was defeated Britain would also soon sue for peace. He hoped that after an armistice the Germans would allow him to retain enough of a French Army to "maintain order" in France. He gave a "despairing laugh" when de Gaulle suggested fighting on.
It was thought that half a million men could be evacuated to French North Africa , provided the British and French navies and air forces coordinated their efforts. In his memoirs de Gaulle mentioned his support for the proposal to continue the war from French North Africa, but at the time he was more in favour of the plan to form a " redoubt " in Brittany than he later admitted. Italy entered the war on 10 June. That day de Gaulle was present at two meetings with Weygand he only mentions one in his memoirs , one at the defence committee and a second where Weygand barged into Reynaud's office and demanded an armistice.
When Weygand asked de Gaulle, who wanted to carry on fighting, if he had "anything to suggest", de Gaulle replied that it was the government's job to give orders, not to make suggestions. De Gaulle wanted Paris to be stubbornly defended by de Lattre , but instead it was declared an open city. De Gaulle's fighting spirit made a strong impression on the British. He then returned to attend a cabinet meeting, at which it was clear that there was a growing movement for an armistice, and which decided that the government should move to Bordeaux rather than de Gaulle's preference for Quimper in Brittany.
This time few other major French figures were present apart from Reynaud and Baudoin. He was an hour late, and his account is not reliable. Reynaud demanded that France be released from the agreement which he had made with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in March , so that France could seek an armistice. De Gaulle wrote that Churchill was sympathetic to France seeking an armistice, provided that an agreement was reached about what was to happen to the French fleet. This claim was later made by apologists for the Vichy Regime, e. However, is not supported by other eyewitnesses Churchill himself, Roland de Margerie , Spears who agree that Churchill said that he "understood" the French action but that he did not agree with it.
De Gaulle was dissuaded from resigning by the Interior Minister Georges Mandel , who argued that the war was only just beginning, and that de Gaulle needed to keep his reputation unsullied. De Gaulle arrived at Bordeaux on 14 June, and was given a new mission to go to London to discuss the potential evacuation to North Africa. He had a brief meeting with Admiral Darlan about the potential role of the French Navy. Next morning no aircraft could be found so he had to drive to Brittany, where he visited his wife and daughters, and his aged mother whom he never saw again, as she died in July , before taking a boat to Plymouth he asked the skipper if he would be willing to carry on the war under British flag , where he arrived on 16 June.
He ordered the boat Pasteur , with a cargo of munitions, to be diverted to a British port, which caused some members of the French Government to call for him to be put on trial. He telephoned Reynaud — they were cut off during the conversation and had to resume later — with the news that the British had agreed. De Gaulle was now in imminent danger of arrest. Reynaud still had control of secret government funds until the handover of power the next day.
It has been suggested that he ordered de Gaulle to go to London, but no written evidence has ever been found to confirm this. Georges Mandel also refused to come. At around on the morning of 17 June he flew to London on a British aircraft with Edward Spears. The escape was hair-raising, with Spears' aide having to run to the hangar at the last minute to fetch a rope to tie on the luggage. Spears claimed that de Gaulle had been reluctant to come, and that he had pulled him into the aircraft at the last minute, although de Gaulle's biographer does not accept this.
Jean Laurent brought , gold francs in secret funds provided to him by Reynaud. De Gaulle landed at Heston Airport soon after on 17 June Duff Cooper Minister of Information had an advance copy of the text of the address, to which there were no objections. The cabinet eventually agreed after individual lobbying, as indicated by a handwritten amendment to the cabinet minutes.
De Gaulle's Appeal of 18 June exhorted the French people not to be demoralized and to continue to resist the occupation of France. He also — apparently on his own initiative — declared that he would broadcast again the next day.
Few listened to it, although it was published in some newspapers in metropolitan mainland France. The speech was largely aimed at French soldiers who were then in Britain after being evacuated from Norway and Dunkirk ; most showed no interest in fighting for de Gaulle's Free French Forces and were repatriated back to France to become German prisoners of war.
In his next broadcast on 19 June de Gaulle denied the legitimacy of the government at Bordeaux. The British Foreign Office protested to Churchill. De Gaulle also tried, largely in vain, to attract the support of French forces in the French Empire. After the armistice was signed on 21 June , de Gaulle spoke at on 22 June to denounce it. Jean Monnet broke with de Gaulle on 23 June, as he thought his appeal was "too personal" and went too far, and that French opinion would not rally to a man who was seen to be operating from British soil.
De Gaulle broadcast again on 24 June. The armistice took effect from on 25 June. He claimed erroneously that the French fleet was to be handed over to the Germans. De Gaulle had little success in attracting the support of major figures. Roland de Margerie stayed in France despite his opposition to the armistice. At this time de Gaulle's followers consisted of a secretary of limited competence, three colonels, a dozen captains, a famous law professor Cassin , and three battalions of legionnaires who had agreed to stay in Britain and fight for him.
For a time the New Hebrides were the only French colony to back de Gaulle. He considered withdrawing to Canada to live as a private citizen and waited five days before broadcasting. Spears called on de Gaulle on 5 July and found him "astonishingly objective" and acknowledging that it was the right thing from the British point of view. Spears reported to Churchill that de Gaulle had shown "a splendid dignity".
In his broadcast of 8 July he spoke of the "pain and anger" caused by the attack and that it was a "hateful tragedy not a glorious battle", but that one day the enemy would have used the ships against England or the French Empire, and that the defeat of England would mean "bondage forever" for France. They will either go down both together or both together they will win". On Bastille Day 14 July de Gaulle led a group of between and sailors to lay a wreath at the statue of Ferdinand Foch at Grosvenor Gardens.
His family had left Brittany the other ship which left at the same time was sunk and lived for a time at Petts Wood. As his daughter Anne was terrified by the Blitz they moved to Ellesmere in Shropshire, a four-hour journey from London and where de Gaulle was only able to visit them once a month. His wife and daughter also lived for a time in the country at Rodinghead House, Little Gaddesden , in Hertfordshire, 45 kilometres 28 miles from central London.
A separate letter guaranteed the territorial integrity of the French Empire. General Georges Catroux , Governor of French Indo-China which was increasingly coming under Japan's thumb , disapproved of the armistice and congratulated de Gaulle, whom he had known for many years. He was sacked by Vichy and arrived in London on 31 August; de Gaulle had gone to Dakar, but they met in Chad four weeks later.
He was the most senior military figure to defect to the Free French. On average he spoke on BBC radio three times a month. This was the dawn of the Vichy regime. De Gaulle's subsequent speeches reached many parts of the territories under the Vichy regime, helping to rally the French resistance movement and earning him much popularity amongst the French people and soldiers. De Gaulle began by making frequent use of "I" and "me" in his war-time speeches, but over time, their use declined.
However, claims that de Gaulle was surrounded by Cagoulards , Royalists and other right-wing extremists are untrue. Many leading figures of the Free French and the Resistance, e. A newspaper France was also soon set up. De Gaulle organised the Free French Forces and the Allies gave increasing support and recognition to de Gaulle's efforts. It was an all-encompassing coalition of resistance forces, ranging from conservative Catholics like himself to communists. By early , the "Fighting French" movement, as it was now called, gained rapidly in power and influence; it overcame Vichy in Syria and Lebanon, adding to its base.
Dealing with the French communists was a delicate issue, for they were under Moscow's control and the USSR was friendly with Germany in —41 as a result of the Molotov—Ribbentrop Pact. De Gaulle's policy then became one of friendship directly with Moscow, but Stalin showed little interest. It is the only Western allied formation to have fought until the end of the war in the East. In his dealings with the British and Americans both referred to as the "Anglo-Saxons", in de Gaulle's parlance , he always insisted on retaining full freedom of action on behalf of France and was constantly on the verge of losing the Allies' support.
Some writers have sought to deny that there was deep and mutual antipathy between de Gaulle and British and American political leaders. De Gaulle personally had ambivalent feelings about Britain, possibly in part because of childhood memories of the Fashoda Incident. Never did the Anglo-Saxons really treat us as real allies. They never consulted us, government to government, on any of their provisions. For political purpose or by convenience, they sought to use the French forces for their own goals, as if these forces belonged to them, alleging that they had provided weapons to them [ I deliberately adopted a stiffened and hardened attitude In addition, de Gaulle harboured a suspicion of the British in particular, believing that they were seeking to seize France's colonial possessions in the Levant.
Winston Churchill was often frustrated at what he perceived as de Gaulle's patriotic arrogance, but also wrote of his "immense admiration" for him during the early days of his British exile. Although their relationship later became strained, Churchill tried to explain the reasons for de Gaulle's behaviour in the second volume of his history of World War II :. He felt it was essential to his position before the French people that he should maintain a proud and haughty demeanour towards " perfidious Albion ", although in exile, dependent upon our protection and dwelling in our midst.
He had to be rude to the British to prove to French eyes that he was not a British puppet. He certainly carried out this policy with perseverance. De Gaulle described his adversarial relationship with Churchill in these words: "When I am right, I get angry. Churchill gets angry when he is wrong. We are angry at each other much of the time. De Gaulle said that the French people thought he was a reincarnation of Joan of Arc, to which Churchill replied that the English had had to burn the last one.
After his initial support, Churchill, emboldened by American antipathy to the French general, urged his War Cabinet to remove de Gaulle as leader of the French resistance. But the War Cabinet warned Churchill that a precipitate break with de Gaulle would have a disastrous effect on the whole resistance movement. By autumn , Churchill had to acknowledge that de Gaulle had won the struggle for leadership of Free France.
De Gaulle's relations with Washington were even more strained. President Roosevelt for a long time refused to recognize de Gaulle as the representative of France, insisting on negotiations with the Vichy government. At the Casablanca Conference , Roosevelt forced de Gaulle to cooperate with Giraud, but de Gaulle was considered as the undisputed leader of the Resistance by the French people and Giraud was progressively deprived of his political and military roles. British and Soviet allies were outraged that the US president unilaterally recognised the new government of a former enemy before de Gaulle's one and both recognised the French government in retaliation, forcing Roosevelt to recognise de Gaulle in late ,  but Roosevelt managed to exclude de Gaulle from the Yalta Conference.
On take-off, the bomber's tail dropped, and the plane nearly crashed into the airfield's embankment. Only the skill of the pilot, who became aware of sabotage on takeoff, saved them. On inspection, it was found that aeroplane's separator rod had been sabotaged, using acid. Publicly, blame for the incident was cast on German intelligence  however behind closed doors de Gaulle blamed the Western Allies, and later told colleagues that he no longer had confidence in them.
He became first joint head with the less resolutely independent General Henri Giraud , the candidate preferred by the US who wrongly suspected de Gaulle of being a British puppet and then—after squeezing out Giraud by force of personality—sole chairman of the French Committee of National Liberation. As preparations for the liberation of Europe gathered pace, the US in particular found de Gaulle's tendency to view everything from the French perspective to be extremely tiresome.
Roosevelt, who refused to recognize any provisional authority in France until elections had been held, referred to de Gaulle as "an apprentice dictator", a view backed by a number of leading Frenchmen in Washington, including Jean Monnet , who later became an instrumental figure in the setting up of the European Coal and Steel Community that led to the modern European Union. Roosevelt directed Churchill to not provide de Gaulle with strategic details of the imminent invasion because he did not trust him to keep the information to himself.
French codes were considered weak, posing a risk since the Free French refused to use British or American codes. Nevertheless, a few days before D-Day, Churchill, whose relationship with the General had deteriorated since he arrived in Britain, decided he needed to keep him informed of developments, and on 2 June he sent two passenger aircraft and his representative, Duff Cooper to Algiers to bring de Gaulle back to Britain.
De Gaulle refused because of Roosevelt's intention to install a provisional Allied military government in the former occupied territories pending elections, but he eventually relented and flew to Britain the next day. Upon his arrival at RAF Northolt on 4 June he received an official welcome, and a letter reading "My dear general! Welcome to these shores, very great military events are about to take place! De Gaulle became worried that the German withdrawal from France might lead to a breakdown of law and order in the country and even a possible communist takeover.
De Gaulle was very concerned that an American takeover of the French administration would just provoke a communist uprising. Churchill then lost his temper, saying that Britain would always be an ally to the United States, and that under the circumstances, if they had to choose between France and the US, Britain would always choose the latter. De Gaulle replied that he realised this would always be the case.
The next day, de Gaulle refused to address the French nation as the script again made no mention of his being the legitimate interim ruler of France. It instructed the French people to obey Allied military authorities until elections could be held, and so the row continued, with de Gaulle calling Churchill a "gangster". Churchill accused de Gaulle of treason in the height of battle, and demanded that he be flown back to Algiers "in chains if necessary". De Gaulle and Churchill had a complex relationship during the wartime period.
De Gaulle did show respect and admiration for Churchill, and even some light humorous interactions between the two have been noted by observers such as Duff Cooper, the British Ambassador to the French Committee of Liberation. In Casablanca in , Churchill supported de Gaulle as the embodiment of a French Army that was otherwise defeated, stating that "De Gaulle is the spirit of that Army.
Perhaps the last survivor of a warrior race. In the years to come, the sometimes hostile, sometimes friendly dependent wartime relationship of de Gaulle and his future political peers reenacted the historical national and colonial rivalry and lasting enmity between the French and the British,  and foreshadowed the deep distrust of France for post-war Anglo-American partnerships. De Gaulle ignored les Anglo-Saxons , and proclaimed the authority of Free France over the metropolitan territory the next day.
Initially landing as part of Operation Dragoon , in the south of France, the French First Army helped to liberate almost one third of the country and participated in the invasion and occupation of Germany. As the invasion slowly progressed and the Germans were pushed back, de Gaulle made preparations to return to France. On 14 June , he left Britain for France for what was supposed to be a one-day trip. Despite an agreement that he would take only two staff, he was accompanied by a large entourage with extensive luggage, and although many rural Normans remained mistrustful of him, he was warmly greeted by the inhabitants of the towns he visited, such as the badly damaged Isigny.
Finally he arrived at the city of Bayeux , which he now proclaimed as the capital of Free France. Appointing his Aide-de-Camp Francois Coulet as head of the civil administration, de Gaulle returned to the UK that same night on a French destroyer, and although the official position of the supreme military command remained unchanged, local Allied officers found it more practical to deal with the fledgling administration in Bayeux in everyday matters.
At the beginning of July he at last visited Roosevelt in Washington, where he received the gun salute of a senior military leader rather than the 21 guns of a visiting head of state. The visit was 'devoid of trust on both sides' according to the French representative,  however, Roosevelt did make some concessions towards recognising the legitimacy of the Bayeux administration. Meanwhile, with the Germans retreating in the face of the Allied onslaught, harried all the way by the resistance, there were widespread instances of revenge attacks on those accused of collaboration.
A number of prominent officials and members of the feared Milice were murdered, often by exceptionally brutal means, provoking the Germans into appalling reprisals, such as in the destruction of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane and the killing of its inhabitants. Liberation of the French capital was not high on the Allies' list of priorities as it had comparatively little strategic value, but both de Gaulle and the commander of the French 2nd Armored Division, General Philippe Leclerc were still extremely concerned about a communist takeover.
De Gaulle successfully lobbied for Paris to be made a priority for liberation on humanitarian grounds and obtained from Allied Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower an agreement that French troops would be allowed to enter the capital first. A few days later, General Leclerc's division entered the outskirts of the city, and after six days of fighting in which the resistance played a major part, the German garrison of men surrendered on 25 August, although some sporadic outbreaks of fighting continued for several days.
General Dietrich von Choltitz , the commander of the garrison, was instructed by Hitler to raze the city to the ground, however, he simply ignored the order and surrendered his forces. It was fortunate for de Gaulle that the Germans had forcibly removed members of the Vichy government and taken them to Germany a few days earlier on 20 August; it allowed him to enter Paris as a liberator in the midst of the general euphoria,  but there were serious concerns that communist elements of the resistance, which had done so much to clear the way for the military, would try to seize the opportunity to proclaim their own 'Peoples' Government' in the capital.
De Gaulle made contact with Leclerc and demanded the presence of the 2nd Armoured Division to accompany him on a massed parade down the Champs Elysees , "as much for prestige as for security". In the event, the American General Omar Bradley decided that Leclerc's division would be indispensable for the maintenance of order and the liquidation of the last pockets of resistance in the French capital.
As his procession came along the Place de la Concorde on Saturday 26 August, it came under machine gun fire by Vichy militia and fifth columnists who were unable to give themselves up.
Later, on entering the Notre Dame Cathedral to be received as head of the provisional government by the Committee of Liberation, loud shots broke out again, and Leclerc and Koenig tried to hustle him through the door, but de Gaulle shook off their hands and never faltered. While the battle began outside, he walked slowly down the aisle.
Before he had gone far a machine pistol fired down from above, at least two more joined in, and from below the FFI and police fired back. A BBC correspondent who was present reported;. He is being received General de Gaulle walked straight ahead into what appeared to me to be a hail of fire It was the most extraordinary example of courage I have ever seen Paris outraged, Paris broken, Paris martyred, but Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the assistance of the armies of France, with the support and assistance of the whole of France!
The enemy is faltering but he is not yet beaten. He is still on our soil. It will not suffice that we, with the assistance of our dear and admirable allies, will have chased him from our home in order to be satisfied after what has happened. We want to enter his territory, as is fitting, as conquerors. It is for this revenge, this vengeance and this justice, that we will continue to fight until the last day, until the day of the total and complete victory.
That evening, the Wehrmacht launched a massive aerial and artillery barrage of Paris in revenge, leaving several thousand dead or injured. This he did 'not without some satisfaction',  and so, on 29 August, the US 28th Infantry Division was rerouted from its journey to the front line and paraded down the Champs Elysees. The same day, Washington and London agreed to accept the position of the Free French. The following day General Eisenhower gave his de facto blessing with a visit to the General in Paris.
Eisenhower, unlike Roosevelt, wanted to cooperate with de Gaulle, and he secured a last-minute promise from the President on the eve of D-Day that the Allied officers would not act as military governors and would instead cooperate with the local authorities as the Allied forces liberated French Territory. With the prewar parties and most of their leaders discredited, there was little opposition to de Gaulle and his associates forming an interim administration. In order not to be seen as presuming on his position in such austere times, de Gaulle did not use one of the grand official residences such as Hotel de Matignon or the presidential palace on the Elysee, but resided briefly in his old office at the War Ministry.
Living conditions immediately after the liberation were even worse than under German rule. Large-scale public demonstrations erupted all over France, protesting the apparent lack of action at improving the supply of food, while in Normandy, bakeries were pillaged. The problem was not French agriculture, which had largely continued operating without problems, but the near-total breakdown of the country's infrastructure.
Large areas of track had been destroyed by bombing, most modern equipment, rolling stock, lorries and farm animals had been taken to Germany and all the bridges over the Seine , the Loire and the Rhone between Paris and the sea had been destroyed. The black market pushed real prices to four times the level of , causing the government to print money to try to improve the money supply, which only added to inflation.
On 10 November , Churchill flew to Paris to a reception by de Gaulle and the two together were greeted by thousands of cheering Parisians on the next day. There is no French man or woman who is not touched to the depths of their hearts and souls by this. After the celebrations had died down, de Gaulle began conferring with leading Resistance figures who, with the Germans gone, intended to continue as a political and military force, and asked to be given a government building to serve as their headquarters.
The Resistance, in which the Communists were competing with other trends for leadership, had developed its own manifesto for social and political change known as the National Council of the Resistance CNR Charter, and wanted special status to enter the army under their own flags, ranks and honours.
Despite their decisive support in backing him against Giraud, de Gaulle disappointed some of the Resistance leaders by telling them that although their efforts and sacrifices had been recognised, they had no further role to play and, that unless they joined the regular army, they should lay down their arms and return to civilian life. Believing them to be a dangerous revolutionary force, de Gaulle moved to break up the liberation committees and other militias. The communists were not only extremely active, but they received a level of popular support that disturbed de Gaulle.
The president of the prewar Senate Jules Jeanneney was brought back as second-ranking member, but because of their links with Russia, de Gaulle allowed the Communists only two minor positions in his government. While they were now a major political force with over a million members, of the full cabinet of 22 men, only Augustin Laurent and Charles Tillon —who as head of Francs-Tireurs et Partisans had been one of the most active members of the resistance—were given ministries.
However, de Gaulle did pardon the Communists' leader Maurice Thorez , who had been sentenced to death in absentia by the French government for desertion. On his return home from Russia, Thorez delivered a speech supporting de Gaulle in which he said that for the present, the war against Germany was the only task that mattered. There were also a number of new faces in the government, including a literary academic, Georges Pompidou , who had written to one of de Gaulle's recruiting agents offering his services, and Jean Monnet, who in spite of his past opposition to the General now recognized the need for unity and served as Commissioner for Economic Planning.
Controversially, de Gaulle also appointed Maurice Papon as Commissioner for Aquitaine in spite of his involvement in the deportation of Jews while serving as a senior police official in the Vichy regime during the occupation. Over the years, Papon remained in high official positions but continued to be implicated in controversial events such as the Paris massacre of ,  eventually being convicted of crimes against humanity in In social policy, legislation was introduced [ by whom?
De Gaulle's policy was to postpone elections as long as 2. In mid-September, he embarked upon a tour of major provincial cities to increase his public profile and to help cement his position. Raymond Aubrac said that the General showed himself to be ill-at-ease at social functions; in Marseille and Lyon he became irate when he had to sit next to former Resistance leaders and also voiced his distaste for the rowdy, libidinous behavior of French youths during the Maquisard parades which preceded his speech.
During the tour, de Gaulle showed his customary lack of concern for his own safety by mixing with the crowds and thus making himself an easy target for an assassin. Although he was naturally shy, the good use of amplification and patriotic music enabled him to deliver his message that though all of France was fragmented and suffering, together they would rise again.
During every speech he would stop halfway through to invite the crowd to join him in singing La Marseillaise , before continuing and finishing by raising his hands in the air and crying "Vive la France! As the war entered the final stages, the nation was forced to confront the reality of how many of its people had behaved under German rule. In France, collaborators were more severely punished than in most other occupied countries.
Women who got this treatment were lucky as many others were simply attacked by lynch mobs. With so many of their former members having been hunted down and killed by the Nazis and paramilitary Milice, the Partisans had already summarily executed an estimated 4, people,  and the Communists in particular continued to press for severe action against collaborators. In Paris alone, over , people were at some time detained on suspicion of collaboration, although most were later released. Knowing that he would need to reprieve many of the 'economic collaborators'—such as police and civil servants who held minor roles under Vichy in order to keep the country running as normally as possible—he assumed, as head of state, the right to commute death sentences.
De Gaulle commuted of the 1, capital sentences submitted before him, including all those involving women. Many others were given jail terms or had their voting rights and other legal privileges taken away. It is generally agreed that the purges were conducted arbitrarily, with often absurdly severe or overly lenient punishments being handed down. Later, there was the question of what to do with the former Vichy leaders when they were finally returned to France. Three Vichy leaders were executed.
Joseph Darnand , who became an SS officer and led the Milice paramilitaries who hunted down members of the Resistance, was executed in October Fernand de Brinon , the third-ranking Vichy official, was found guilty of war crimes and executed in April The two trials of the most infamous collaborator of all, Pierre Laval , who was heavily implicated in the murder of Jews, were widely criticised as being unfair for depriving him of the opportunity to properly defend himself, although Laval antagonized the court throughout with his bizarre behavior.
He was found guilty of treason in May and de Gaulle was adamant that there would be no commuting the death sentence, saying that Laval's execution was "an indispensable symbolic gesture required for reasons of state". There was a widespread belief, particularly in the years that followed, that de Gaulle was trying to appease both the Third Republic politicians and the former Vichy leaders who had made Laval their scapegoat. The winter of —45 was especially difficult for most of the population. Inflation showed no sign of slowing down and food shortages were severe.
The prime minister and the other Gaullists were forced to try to balance the desires of ordinary people and public servants for a return to normal life with pressure from Bidault's MRP and the Communists for the large scale nationalisation programme and other social changes that formed the main tenets of the CNR Charter. At the end of the coal industry and other energy companies were nationalised, followed shortly afterwards by major banks and finance houses, the merchant navy, the main aircraft manufacturers, airlines and a number of major private enterprises such as the Renault car company at Boulogne-Billancourt , whose owner had been implicated as a collaborator and accused of having made huge profits working for the Nazis.
At de Gaulle's request, the newspaper Le Monde was founded in December to provide France with a quality daily journal similar to those in other countries. Le Monde took over the premises and facilities of the older Le Temps , whose independence and reputation had been badly compromised during the Vichy years. During this period there were a number of minor disagreements between the French and the other Allies. The British ambassador to France Duff Cooper said that de Gaulle seemed to seek out real or imagined insults to take offence at whatever possible.
In late October he complained that the Allies were failing to adequately arm and equip the new French army and instructed Bidault to use the French veto at the European Council. On Armistice Day in , Winston Churchill made his first visit to France since the liberation and received a good reception in Paris where he laid a wreath to Georges Clemenceau. The occasion also marked the first official appearance of de Gaulle's wife Yvonne, but the visit was less friendly than it appeared.
De Gaulle had instructed that there be no excessive displays of public affection towards Churchill and no official awards without his prior agreement. When crowds cheered Churchill during a parade down the Elysee, de Gaulle was heard to remark, "Fools and cretins! Look at the rabble cheering the old bandit". With the Russian forces making more rapid advances into German-held territory than the Allies, there was a sudden public realisation that the Soviet Union was about to dominate large parts of eastern Europe.
In fact, at the Cairo and Tehran Conferences in Britain and America had already agreed to allow Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to fall under the Soviet sphere of influence after the war, with shared influence in Yugoslavia. De Gaulle and his Foreign Minister Bidault stated that they were not in favour of a 'Western Bloc' that would be separate from the rest of Europe, and hoped that a resurgent France might be able to act as a 'third force' in Europe to temper the ambitions of the two emerging superpowers, America and Soviet Union.
In his memoirs, de Gaulle devoted 24 pages to his visit to the Soviet Union, but a number of writers make the point that his version of events differs significantly from that of the Soviets, of foreign news correspondents, and with their own eyewitness accounts.
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De Gaulle wanted access to German coal in the Ruhr as reparations after the war, the left bank of the Rhine to be incorporated into French territory, and for the Oder-Neisse line in Poland to become Germany's official eastern border. De Gaulle began by requesting that France enter into a treaty with the Soviet Union on this basis, but Stalin, who remained in constant contact with Churchill throughout the visit, said that it would be impossible to make such an agreement without the consent of Britain and America.
He suggested that it might be possible to add France's name to the existing Anglo-Soviet Agreement if they agreed to recognise the Soviet-backed provisional Polish government known as the Lublin Committee as rightful rulers of Poland, but de Gaulle refused on the grounds that this would be 'un-French', as it would mean it being a junior partner in an alliance. Though the treaty which was eventually signed by Bidault and Molotov carried symbolic importance in that it enabled de Gaulle to demonstrate that he was recognised as the official head of state and show that France's voice was being heard abroad, it was of little relevance to Stalin due to France's lack of real political and military power; it did not affect the outcome of the post-war settlement.
Stalin later commented that like Churchill and Roosevelt, he found de Gaulle to be awkward and stubborn and believed that he was 'not a complicated person' by which he meant that he was an old-style nationalist. At the end of French forces continued to advance as part of the American armies, but during the Ardennes Offensive there was a dispute over Eisenhower's order to French troops to evacuate Strasbourg , which had just been liberated so as to straighten the defensive line against the German counterattack. By early it was clear that the price controls which had been introduced to control inflation had only served to boost the black market and prices continued to move ever upwards.
By this time the army had swelled to over 1. De Gaulle was never invited to the summit conferences of Allied leaders such as Yalta and Potsdam. He never forgave the Big Three leaders Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin for their neglect and continued to rage against it as having been a negative factor in European politics for the rest of his life. After the Rhine crossings , the French First Army captured a large section of territory in southern Germany, but although this later allowed France to play a part in the signing of the German surrender, Roosevelt in particular refused to allow any discussion about de Gaulle participating in the Big Three conferences that would shape Europe in the post-war world.
Churchill pressed hard for France to be included 'at the inter-allied table', but on 6 December the American president wired both Stalin and Churchill to say that de Gaulle's presence would "merely introduce a complicating and undesirable factor". At the Yalta Conference in February , despite Stalin's opposition, Churchill and Roosevelt insisted that France be allowed a post-war occupation zone in Germany, and also made sure that it was included among the five nations that invited others to the conference to establish the United Nations.
Second French Empire
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