A chronicle of the political intrigues and interactions between Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Charles de Gaulle during the crisis years of WWII.
Writing a companion to his joint BBC/PBS television series of the same name, producer Berthon presents a printed compilation of his historical research. He opens his argument by suggesting that de Gaulle’s vision of himself as a Joan of Arc figure destined to redeem France from its quick military capitulation to the Nazi regime directly conflicted with Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s attempts to construct a coalition capable of defeating the German forces. Berthon shows how Churchill admired de Gaulle’s quixotic refusal to accept the political authority of the Hitler-friendly Vichy government and embraced him as a true French patriot. He also demonstrates how Roosevelt pursued a conflicting policy of recognizing the Vichy government in hopes that strong American support would pull its leaders away from Hitler. Berthon reveals Churchill’s consternation at being torn between de Gaulle, whose spirit he genuinely admired, and Roosevelt, whose military support he needed even more dramatically. He details how de Gaulle, out of a sense of righteous French outrage, stubbornly refused to subordinate himself to the great Anglo-Saxon powers and shrewdly established his political power in the grassroots of the French underground. This mutual exasperation among Churchill, Roosevelt, and de Gaulle, Berthon ultimately argues, established a basic distrust that would weaken France’s relationship with the English-speaking powers in the aftermath of the war.
For general history readers who want to delve deeper into the relationships among the WWII leaders, and those whose appetites are whetted by the TV series. (8 pages b&w photos)