Postcards and stamp showing US troops marching down the Champs-Elysees, without stopping, on August 29, 1944, 3 days after Paris was liberated by the Parisians and Free French forces.
In any case the Parisians greeted the marching US soldiers with delight. Most of them did not know that these troops had just arrived and were marching through and out of town. I insist on this because the Resistance/FFI and Parisian civilians were heroes who sacrificed their lives to liberate Paris and their courage should be recognized and remembered. (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)
France is certainly very grateful to the US and Allied Forces for liberating their country and Europe, but the city of Paris was liberated by the French - this is history that does not minimize in the least all the hard work and sacrifices of the Allies. In France the liberation is not remembered with the image of the US Army marching on August 29, but with General Leclerc and the 2nd Armored Division, who accepted the surrender of Nazi General von Choltitz on August 25, 1944 - the date recognized as the liberation of Paris. Below are Parisians with Leclerc tanks and, on 26 August, celebrating.
Our house in a suburb of Paris, where I spent my teenage years, was on General Leclerc street.
I was interested to find out why President Franklin D. Roosevelt had such an aversion for General de Gaulle (some even call it a pathological hate.) I read many historic documents, non-fiction books, archives, etc. It is difficult to write about all this in just a couple of sentences. FDR wished to only deal with an "elected" government and had recognized the Vichy government. FDR regarded de Gaulle as a conceited young general and "apprentice dictator." FDR had great admiration for General Philippe Petain (1856-1951) a French national hero from his victory at the Verdun battle in WWI and appointed premier of France in June 1940. It was hard for FDR to believe that Petain had turned German collaborator. Petain, aged 83, capitulated to Hitler and formed a puppet government. His government collaborated with Nazi Germany and moved to Vichy (approx. 400 km/250 miles from Paris,) taking orders from Hitler. De Gaulle resigned and flew to London where, singlehandedly he established the "Free French" government in exile and, on 18 June 1940, started his radio calls to the Resistance and French people. Vichy convicted de Gaulle to death in absentia. This was a problem for both Roosevelt and Churchill - who should they work with? Churchill chose de Gaulle and Roosevelt Petain.
After FDR refused to meet with de Gaulle because he had not been "elected" by the French people, de Gaulle wrote a long eloquent letter to him in October 1942, in French, explaining his goals for the freedom of France. In it he explained that, sometimes, people who have not been "elected" could still accomplish much for a country, using Joan of Arc as an example, and he added that once free, the French people could elect who they liked. The letter was translated in English by FDR's Francophobe translators. Through the Freedom of Information Act the letter was made public not so long ago. It showed that it had been translated in such a way to make de Gaulle sound as if he was saying that he was Joan of Arc. FDR did not answer the letter at the time (but made constant jokes about Joan-of-Arc-de-Gaulle.) FDR's cabinet kept working with members of the Vichy government until late 1943 and refused to coordinate with the Free French established in London by de Gaulle - it had been recognized by 37 other countries. FDR did not give de Gaulle the date of the Allied landing in North Africa (French territory at the time,) and FDR's cabinet told him of Mussolini's surrender 4 days late. Even though de Gaulle was in charge of the Resistance and Free French army he was denied access to intelligence by FDR. The Normandy landing was not shared with him until the last minute. Anyone would believe that this was a deliberate insult to General de Gaulle.
On November 22, 1942, US General Mark W. Clark of the combined Allied command had Admiral Darlan, the Vichy government representative, sign a treaty which placed "North Africa at the disposition of the Americans" and made France "a vassal country." Not many people know on this side of the pond that, because of his intense dislike of de Gaulle, Roosevelt wished to govern France after the war and make it a protectorate of the USA. A 1943 letter released to the British Government in 2000 shows this. In that letter of May 8, 1943, Roosevelt said to Churchill "I am more and more of the opinion that we should consider France as a militarily-occupied nation and governed by British and American generals ... We would keep 90% of the [Vichy] mayors and a large percentage of the lesser bureaucrats of the cities and departments. But the important posts would remain the responsibility of the military commander, American and British ... Perhaps [General Charles] de Gaulle can become governor of Madagascar." President Roosevelt wished to promote obedient and docile French General Giraud and take power away from General de Gaulle. FDR knew that only de Gaulle could prevent him from making France a vassal of the US after the end of the war.
Anthony Eden, prime minister of England 1955-1957, wrote in his diary of March 1944 that FDR's absurd and petty dislike of de Gaulle blinded him from making rational policy toward France, and wrote scathingly that FDR planned to "create a bizarre amalgam called "Wallonia" which would include parts of Belgium, Luxembourg, Alsace, Lorraine and the north of France." FDR considered France a power in decay that should not regain its independence after the war, wished to dismember it and create this new state of Wallonia (maybe a compulsory 51st US State?) This project of FDR is not known in the US but it is in France. I read this on an English newspaper a couple of year ago "...a 1943 study commissioned by then US President Franklin Roosevelt envisaged the creation of a "greater Wallonia" that would have incorporated not just French-speaking Belgium, but also Luxembourg, Alsace-Lorraine and the two northernmost department of France." President Roosevelt also thought that a new military alliance such as the United Nations should emerge, but with only the USA, Britain and Russia - France would not be invited to join. Below is President Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower en route for Italy and the book I just finished reading on FDR's plans for France.
As early as 1941-42, to keep de Gaulle out of power, Washington planned a military rule for France, the same as for defeated Italy, Germany and Japan. It would have been governed by the "Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories" or Amgot. Hundreds of US officers, administrators, attorneys, military policemen, scientists and physicians were trained secretly for that purpose at the School of Military Government, in Charlottesville, Virginia. A new French currency called "Flag Money" was printed in the US to be used after the Normandy landing (and was used for a couple of months until forbidden by then President de Gaulle.) The currency was similar to US dollars with a French flag, but without the word "republic." Zone Handbooks on France had been printed detailing all the areas of France, and covering local politics, the economy, geography and even up to movie theatres to show only American movies. Civil servants and US war tribunals would have been used in French courts. France would have gone from a "hard German occupation" to a "US military occupation." (French people were forced to use that money and were outraged.) This was averted by General de Gaulle's rapid arrival in Paris at the liberation and immediately installing his legal provisional government.
FDR had even been thinking that since there would be no sovereign government of France, General Eisenhower would be appointed "Governor of France" or "Pro-Consul" such as Paul Bremer was for over a year during the occupation of Iraq in 2003-04, where this US government program was implemented (you can see the results now ...) As late as May 1944 President Roosevelt would not recognized de Gaulle as the head of the Free French Government (who had thwarted his plans) but was made to recognize it in late October 1944. FDR's irrational Francophobia was a problem for Eisenhower who needed to finalize his battle strategy for the rest of the war with the Free French Army and Resistance, directed by de Gaulle (who FDR told him not to contact.) De Gaulle who had a great memory never forgave the US for trying to take France over and for the years worked against him - behind his back. He felt France was treated like an enemy rather than an ally. In the collective memory of the French people this US offense was narrowly avoided by the fast and adroit actions of General de Gaulle, but it sure made for darker relation with the US. How would America have felt if, after France and Lafayette helped Washington (by bringing a force of 45,000 men to fight with Washington's 8,000 soldiers,) France had decided to military occupy the country, placed a puppet French governor, and printed French money to be used instead of the US dollar? just think on that.
At the request of President Roosevelt, General de Gaulle was purposely left out of the Yalta Conference in early 1945. When President de Gaulle opted out of NATO in 1966, wishing France to become free from the superpowers' influences, the US government started a media campaign of anti-French sentiments, which was successful and still is, unfortunately (even the New York Times takes part in it often.) De Gaulle wished for an independent France and was concerned that the USA would try to take it over one way or another. However, in April 2009, French President Sarkozy re-integrated France into NATO.
If General de Gaulle had not swiftly installed the Provisional French Government at the liberation of Paris - who would have taken over? Even though FDR assiduously undercut him and tried to meddle in French affairs de Gaulle had a great admiration for him. At the death of President Roosevelt de Gaulle led the nation in mourning for a week. In 1962 he told columnist Cyrus Sulzberger: "Franklin Roosevelt was a great man, although I did not agree with him, as your know. He led the United States into war and through the war until victory. He was a man of quality." The city of Paris has a metro station named in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I cannot recall reading that there is any underground station, or bus station, in the US named after General de Gaulle, maybe there is one?
General de Gaulle was always surprised when the US media or people here would say that he was anti-American. He affirmed that he was just defending the interests of France, just like Franklin D. Roosevelt would defend the interests of his country. I tried to remember if, while at school in Paris, my friends would talk negatively about the US. I remember that they did, but 90% of what they did not like about the US was their treatment of their black citizens and Native Americans - that was the major reasons for their disapproval. De Gaulle was often rigid and intractable but his deep love for France cannot be denied. He wanted Frenchwomen and Frenchmen to keep sovereignty of their country and lead the liberation of Paris. With him, the Parisians, the coordination of the FFI and the French 2nd Armored Division, they succeeded.