As WW II Free France's man in N.Y.C., diplomat Aglion had a ringside view of FDR's testy relations with de Gaulle. War, he...


ROOSEVELT AND DE GAULLE: Allies in Conflict: A Personal Memoir

As WW II Free France's man in N.Y.C., diplomat Aglion had a ringside view of FDR's testy relations with de Gaulle. War, he believes, provides fertile turf for ""disorganization, ambition, petty squabbles, and small-minded recriminations,"" and his detailed, often wry account of such behavior makes for entertaining but also sobering history. The two leaders had quite different agendas. Roosevelt used expediency to hasten the war along; his State Department treated the Vichy Government as legitimate well into 1942, wanting to keep France's navy and colonial empire neutral. De Gaulle, a renegade general who'd long opposed the Maginot Line strategy, wanted to lead a France-in-exile with an army to fight alongside the US and U.K. Churchill gave him a home and recognition, while the BBC gave him a microphone to rally the fractured empire. As a minor diplomat in Lebanon stung by his country's nearly instant surrender, Aglion heeded the radio call and was shipped to the US to recruit the sizable French population here to de Gaulle's cause. But he found three competing Free France ambassadors, an apt introduction to the confusion that would occupy him for five years. Though the US press and public warmed to Free France immediately, many French here remained wary of de Gaulle, even calling him an amateur dictator, and Roosevelt strongly disliked his nationalistic, imperious nature. De Gaulle's eventual choice for Washington ambassador, Adrien Tixier, proved to be a bag of worms. Aglion's duties ranged from aiding prominent refugees to starting a paper; from sugar-coating some of de Gaulle's less diplomatic comments to untangling the large mess caused by the defection to Free France of sailors from a ship under the military command of de Gaulle's rival-in-exile, General Giraud. In the end, of course, against Roosevelt's best or worst intentions, de Gaulle did return to France as the country's new leader. At times the deeper issues get lost in the maze of diplomatic infighting, but on the whole Aglion is a fine chronicler. (An earlier, French version of the book won the history award of the Academie Francaise in 1984.)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1987