4-384 Editorial Note on Free French Forces

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: World War II

Editorial Note on Free French Forces

June 1940-June 1944

The best possible utilization of French manpower resources—Free French forces, the French Resistance, and French manpower released to Allied commands through the impending invasion of metropolitan French territories—represented an ever-present problem to Allied European and Mediterranean headquarters. “The French problem will always be with us,” wrote Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean theater, “for they do not seem to be on the level with themselves.” (Devers to Marshall, May 9, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Free French forces were created in England immediately following the collapse of France’s Third Republic government in June 1940; these units were commanded by Charles de Gaulle, a brigadier general and lately under secretary of war in the last cabinet of the Third Republic. General de Gaulle did not initially represent any organized French government, rather his activities were in direct confrontation to the armistice agreement reached between Germany and France. Allied landings in North Africa in 1942 resulted in additional Free French forces being created from former Vichy armed forces in France’s African colonies. These units were commanded by General Henri Giraud, appointed commander in chief of all French ground and air units in the territory on November 14, 1942, by Admiral Francois Darlan, head of the provisional French government in North Africa. (Marcel Vigneras, Rearming the French, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1957], pp. 9, 16.) The fusion of de Gaulle’s and Giraud’s forces on June 3, 1943, resulted from the creation of the French Committee of National Liberation (C.F.L.N., Comit

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