CHURCHILL AND DE GAULLE by Francois Kersaudy
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On D-Day minus four, Churchill was finally persuaded to notify de Gaulle. ""As the first Allied paratroopers were already jumping over France,"" only Eisenhower was set to broadcast to the French: de Gaulle was standing majestically on protocol (and Churchill, fuming, was ready to exile him to Algeria). The misalliance between these two titans--each of whom, however, knew the other's worth--is recounted here (for the first time) with fresh documentation and in all its fine shadings. Kersaudy, a bilingual Sorbonne historian, first points up the parallels in their prewar careers: both were pariah-critics of their countries' weak, outmoded defenses; come war, both expected (and were expected) to take a leading part. But a crucial difference existed between Churchill's Francophile belief in French glory and de Gaulle's historic sense of England as France's enemy. So we see Churchill, now P.M., strive futilely to rally the faltering French, and recognize de Gaulle's similar resolve. We see their first misunderstanding arise from de Gaulle's overhasty assumption that Churchill has released the Reynaud government from its promise to go on fighting--in exchange (Perfidious Albion!) for assurances re the French fleet. But days later--as de Gaulle doesn't forget, either--it's Churchill's backing that enables him to launch the Free French movement. Much of what follows is detail on specific fallings-out: in Syria and Lebanon (about which American readers, at least, might be content to know less); over the North Atlantic islands of St. Pierre and Miquelin (an American-fostered brouhaha); and of course in North Africa. Again and again, Churchill and de Gaulle come ""close to a rupture."" On key issues, FDR's hostility toward de Gaulle (chiefly, from a vain hope of propitiating Vichy) forces the discomfitted Churchill to choose sides. With American ascendancy, Churchill is less and less able to take de Gaulle's part. (And the more de Gaulle is balked, the balkier he becomes.) With a dramatic range from opÉra bouffe (the ""shotgun wedding"" of Generals de Gaulle and Giraud) to throatcatching solemnity (de Gaulle's 1958 presentation, to the aged Churchill, of the Croix dÉ la LibÉration), a work of historical imagination--and some distinct interest to scholars.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum