France 1944-1949
Foreign Policy

A stamp issued by the Free French administration for liberated Algeria. It features the cock (lat. Gallus), an ancient symbol for Gaul (lat. Gallia) and the Cross of Lorraine, with two crossbars.

WW II : Free France

Immediately before the surrender of the French Forces to Germany, a young, recently promoted French general, CHARLES DE GAULLE, arrived in London where he founded the FRENCH NATIONAL COMMITTEE. De Gaulle denounced Petain as a traitor and vowed to continue fighting the Germans. He departed for BRAZZAVILLE, where he organized a Free Frebch administration.
The governors of French Equatorial Africa recognized De Gaulle's administration; France's other colonies followed Vichy. Over time, the colonies in the Caribbean and in the Pacific switched their allegiation to the Free French. In Syria it took an Anglo-Free French invasion and a bloody fight (1941).
Things started to change when the United States entered the war. With the Allied landing in North Africa, entire French West Africa, Morocco and Algeria fell and came under Free French administration (Nov. 1942). Madagascar was brought in line in a short campaign.

Morocco and Algeria, with their considerable minorities of French immigrants, were a critical base for the Free French Forces to recruit; soon they reached a strength of 500,000 men.
In May 1943, the NATIONAL RESISTANCE COUNCIL was formed which declared it's allegiance to Charles de Gaulle's Free French administration.

In October 1943, German forces evacuated CORSICA; the Free French moved in, France's first province to be liberated.
Free French forces participated in the allied invasion of Normandy (D-DAY), June 6th 1944. On August 25th, Free French General LECLERC marched the first Allied troops through liberated Paris.

For Charles de Gaulle, diplomatic questions were more important than military ones. The first object was for his Free French administration to gain recognition as the sole organization representing the French in exile/overseas. The second object had to be to fully gain recognition of France being an ally (Free France) rather than an enemy (Vichy).
This object required to treat the Vichy administration as illegitimate, it's representatives as criminals. In consequence, they were dealt with very harshly.
Over time the de Gaulle succeeded. While France was not represented in the Conferences of Cairo and Yalta, France was treated as one of the victorious powers as it was granted a share in the occupation of both Germany and Austria and a seat among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The only part of the French Empire not under control of the Free French administration at the time of the German surrender on May 8th 1945 was French Indochina, still held by the Japanese. The Japanese organized declarations of independence by puppet governments. When the Japanese surrendered, some of their arms ended up in the hands of future independence fighters; trouble lay ahead.

Timeline of French Foreign Policy 1939-1945 (i.e. that of Free France), from France Diplomatie
Normandie 1944, richly illustrated, detailed French language website on the invasion of Normandy
La Chapelle en Vercors, illustrations and brief French-language comments on the liberation of La Chapelle en Vercors, July 1944
Memorial de la Liberation de Paris, Timeline on the liberation of Paris, in French
La Liberation du Tarn (the Liberation of Tarn) in French
DOCUMENTS Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Charles de Gaulle in London, July 1940; Charles de Gaulle
Maquis de Vabre, French-language website offering documents on the liberation of France 1944
Acte de Capitulation, 7 mai 1945, posted by CRDP Champagne-Ardenne, facsimile and French translation; click here for further documents related to the event
The Appeal of June 18th 1940, from, has more docs.
REFERENCE Roger Price, A Concise History of France, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1993, pp.249-268
Andrew Shennan, Profiles in Power : De Gaulle, Harlow : Pearson 1993 [G]
Article : Fighting French, in : Americana Annual 1943 p.288 (on events of 1942) [G]
Article : France, in : Americana Annual 1945 pp.296-302 (on events of 1944) [G]
Article : France, in : Americana Annual 1946 pp.297-304 (on events of 1945) [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on September 25th 2006

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