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Editorial Note on de Gaulle’s Visit to Normandy
President Roosevelt wished General Marshall to make it clear to General Eisenhower that the Allied military commanders must not regard Charles de Gaulle or the representatives of the Vichy government as the only two alternatives available to the French people for political leadership. “I am perfectly willing to have deGaulle made President, or Emperor, or King or anything else,” wrote President Roosevelt, “so long as the action comes in an untrammeled and unforced way from the French people themselves.” He recognized that “it is awfully easy to be for deGaulle and to cheer the thought of recognizing that Committee as the provisional government of France, but I have a moral duty that transcends ‘an easy way’. It is to see to it that the people of France have nothing foisted on them by outside powers.” (Roosevelt Memorandum for General Marshall, June 2, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected]. For previous discussion, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-384 [4: 452-53].)
On June 13 the U.S. Chiefs of Staff reported that the British War Cabinet supported General de Gaulle’s desire to visit the Normandy beaches. General Eisenhower’s staff agreed only if de Gaulle’s visit was confined to the British sector, that all arrangements be made by British authorities, and that General de Gaulle “must not make any broadcast or public statement while he is in France.” (Marshall, King, and Arnold to Roosevelt, Radio No. S-53809, June 13, 1944, NA / RG 107 [SW Safe, French].) Churchill informed Roosevelt on June 14 that he agreed to General de Gaulle’s visiting the British sector. “The responsibility for it is mine,” wrote Churchill. “I hope you will not think I was wrong.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, ed. Warren F. Kimball, 3 vols. [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984], 3: 185-86.)
On June 14 President Roosevelt wrote to Marshall: “It is my thought that we should make full use of any organization or influence that de Gaulle may possess and that will be of advantage to our military effort provided we do not by force of our arms impose him upon the French people as the government of France. After all, over 99 percent of the area of France is still in German hands. Therefore there does not appear to be any objection to de Gaulle’s visit to France as arranged by the British government without consulting the U.S.” (Roosevelt to Marshall, June 14, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), p. 484.