Free France and the United States, 1940–42
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Even more than Britain’s, America’s policy towards the Free French during this early period was shaped by relations with Vichy. In late 1940 Admiral William Leahy, personal friend of Roosevelt and major military figure, was appointed ambassador to Vichy. He stayed until Laval’s return to power in April 1942, but even after this an American representative remained until Vichy finally broke diplomatic relations after the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942. The maintenance of relations with Vichy inevitably entailed a certain neglect of Free France, and this in turn led to a great deal of bitterness among the latter. An examination of the French literature on the subject shows how much this was felt by the French. In fact there is much that can be said on both sides because, although there was a great deal wrong with the Free French organization, particularly in the United States, there is no doubt that the Americans — and especially Roosevelt — frequently behaved in a very petty way. Both sides suspected each other of the worst motives: the Free French often accused the Americans of wishing to perpetuate Vichy, and the Americans suspected de Gaulle of wanting to establish a dictatorship in France. While neither side was right, there was some evidence to support both interpretations. One thing is certain: American policy towards both Vichy and Free France was much more nuanced and complicated than it has been traditionally viewed. It certainly merits a detailed examination based on recently released documents.
KeywordsUnited States Personal Friend American Policy Pearl Harbor Military Mission
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- 26.Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull (New York, 1948) 1135–6.Google Scholar
- 27.Hopkins in a private memorandum, Robert Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (New York, 1948) 484.Google Scholar
- 28.The best analysis of the events in New Caledonia is Kim Mulholland, ‘The Trials of the Free French in New Caledonia, 1940–1942’, in French Historical Studies (Fall, 1986).Google Scholar