De Gaulle Si Franta

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    General de Gaulle and the Salvation of France, 1944-46Author(s): John C. CairnsReviewed work(s):Source: The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Sep., 1960), pp. 251-259Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL: .

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    COMING rather ate into the field of WorldWar II memoirs, General de Gaulle'svolumes have been denied the prize for sen-sational revelation. They are nevertheless ofimportance, ranking, by virtue of their au-thor's extraordinary position and his elegantif antique and contrived literary style, witha select few, such as those of Churchill. Thisthird installment in the tale of what thegeneral calls "mia dramatique entreprise"concludes his kind of one-man morality play,begun with L'appel and continued withL'unite.1 With Le salut (Paris, 1959), thebook reviewed in this article, the three vol-umes are seen-to adapt Balfour's celebratedjibe about the earlier war memoirs of DeGaulle's principal benefactor-enemy-as themost important chapters of his autobiog-raphy (until 1958) disguised as a history ofthe resurrection of France. But the disguisewhich seemed flimsy in L'unite breaks downaltogether in Le salut. Indeed it is as clearas anything can be, in the concluding pages(written before the recall to power), that hewas as unconvinced that salvation had beenachieved as he had become convinced that,for him and for his time, the moment andthe opportunity had passed away.The great theme here as before is thestruggle for recognition and status: for him-self as the embodiment of the legitimacy ofthe French state; for France as a great powerwithout which the world itself would makeno sense. In this great struggle the primefoe, of course, was in the White House. Ifin the late summer of 1944, when Le salutopens, the general was no longer so muchthe "poor man among the rich" that he hadbeen more than two years before,2 still "the

    1 Memoires de Guerre. Vol. I, L'appel, 1940-1942; Vol. II, L'unitd, 1942-1944; Vol. III,Le salut, 1944-1946 (Paris, 1955-59); translatedas War memoirs. Vol. I, The call to honour,1940-1942; Vol. II, Unity, 1942-1944; Vol. III,Salvation,1944-1946(London, 1955-60).

    2 Unity, p. 7.

    grey faces of the Allies"3 were unwelcomingas stone. For his part, De Gaulle remainedfar from discouraged: disenchantment couldgo no further. With allied armies on Frenchsoil, he was prepared to carry on the strug-gle with fresh weapons ("It is true that ourfield forces were operationally located withinthe western strategical system.... But quiteapart from the common interest of winningthe battle in the interests of everyone, therewas the French national interest. That wasmy affair" (p. 131).4 By October 23, 1944,the State Department and the White Househad conceded defeat; recognitions came tum-bling in to the Provisional Government ofthe French Republic-but "We naturallytook care not to thank anyone at all for thisformality carried out in extremis" (p. 44).The general's triumph was imperial: "I maysay to you," he told reporters on the 25th,"that the French government is gratified thatpeople are so good as to address it by itsname" (pp. 44, 339). And although manystorms still lay ahead of them, he andChurchill appeared to have buried the angrypast. "For youl" De Gaulle said to the oldman as they stood before Clemenceau's sta-tue, November 11, and the band played LePere la Victoire. "C'6tait justice," the me-morialist adds (p. 49). Yet the fundamentalsuspicions were scarcely obliterated. "I re-established friendly private relations withDe Gaulle," the prime minister wrote toFranklin Roosevelt five days later, addingwhat he thought best to omit from his mem-oirs, "who is better since he has lost a largepart of his inferiority complex."5 For this

    3 Ibid., p. 94.4 All page references in the text are to Lesalut.5 Churchill to Roosevelt, Nov. 16, 1944, For-eign relations of the United States. Diplomaticpapers. The Conferences at Malta and Yalta,1945 (Washington, 1955), p. 284 (Hereafter cited

    as Conferences at Malta and Yalta); cf. the samein Winston S. Chturchill, The second world War(6 vols.; London 1948-53), VI, Triumph and251

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    252 jOfIN C. CAIRNSremark he is now paid back: De Gaulle re-calls Churchill's wishing to meet Resistanceleaders at the Hotel de Ville, and comments,"Perhaps, too, he cherished the idea ofmeeting among them opponents of DeGaulle" (p. 51). The implication of courseis that no such opportunity arose. But infact Field-Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, in theprime minister's party, found that "the Re-sistance generals . . . did not think much ofthe part" De Gaulle had played. "They werevery bitter and had little use for him."6Thus the animosities and controversiessmouldered on.Here De Gaulle renews a controversyabout the Anglo-French talks on this occa-sion, suggesting that Churchill accepted hisview that France and Great- Britain shouldmake the peace, supported by the small pow-ers, while Russia and America would canceleach other out. The prime minister isquoted as saying that he knows how to leadRoosevelt along the right path, that theRussians will get indigestion from theirmany victims, and that France will be ad-mitted as a full partner: "Then nothingwill prevent us from working together. Untilthat point, let me handle things! (pp. 52-53)" This version, implying a political mis-judgment on the grand scale, squares ill withthe prime minister's assurances to Roose-velt. "I see statements being put out in theFrench press and other quarters," the letterof November 16 went on, "that all sorts ofthings were decided by us in Paris. You maybe sure that our discussions on importantthings took place solely on an ad referen-dum basis to the three great powers, andof course especially to you who have by farthe largest forces in France" (Naturally analmost identical letter to Stalin eliminatedtragedy, (Boston 1953), 251 (London, 1954), 219,although in both editions the date is given asNov. 15; Churchillto Stalin, Nov. 16, 1944,Cor-respondencebetween the Chairmanof the Coun-cil of the Ministers of the U.S.S.R. and thePresidentsof the U.S.A.and the PrimeMinistersof Great Britain during the Great Patriotic Warof 1941-1945 (Moscow, 1957), I, No. 351, simi-larly omits the unflattering qualification (Here-after cited as Correspondence).6 Arthur Bryant, Triumph in the West 1943-1946, based on the diaries and autobiographicalnotes of Field Marshal the ViscountAlanbrookeK.G., O.M. (London, 1959), pp. 327-28.

    this last clause).7 Conversations are alwaysdifficult to reproduce, especially long afterthe event; the evidence here will remain dis-puted. At the very least, however, DeGaulle's direct quotation of his visitor serveshis prime purpose: it reinforces the themeof an increasing recognition, no matter howunwilling, of himself and of France.A long account of the visit to Moscow,November-December 1944, fulfills the samefunction. And the general's triumph is themore impressive for the skill with which hedepicts the cunning and darkness of hishosts. The Russians appear anxious andexigent in the search for a Franco-Russianpact; De Gaulle is portrayed as calmly de-tennined to yield nothing, cutting Molotovdown when he dares to question the au-thority of the Provisional Government, re-jecting Churchill's insolent counter-proposal,made to Moscow alone, that a tripartiteAnglo-Franco-Soviet pact be concluded.8Here he presents himself as the sole genuinechampion of a freely-determined Polish re-gime, refusing point-blank in his talk withStalin, December 6, to accept any regula-tion of the Polish question short of a na-tional referendum (pp. 65-67). Yet in con-versation with De Gaulle earlier that day,Ambassador Harriman had not thought theFrench position so firm, and had urged DeGaulle to realize how disturbed Washingtonand London would be if France were togrant recognition to the Lublin Committeein return for a Franco-Soviet pact.9 The gen-eral's story, however, and the notes on themeeting made by his advisers, indicate thatthat evening and subsequently Stalin re-ceived no hint of French weakness (pp. 65-67, 368-72). Fairly or not, De Gaulle sug-gests that for his part Harriman showed anAmerican willingness to trust the Soviets,and states roundly that he was then andthere convinced that Great Britain and theUnited States would let the Soviet Union do

    7 Churchill to Roosevelt, Nov. 16, 1944, Con-ferences at Malta and Yalta, p. 284; Churchill,Triumph and tragedy (Boston) p. 251, (Lon-don), p. 219;- Churchill to Stalin, Nov. 16,1944, Correspondence, I, No. 351.8 See Churchill to Stalin, Dec. 5, 1944, Corre-spondence, I, No. 365.9 Herbert Feis, Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin: thewar they waged and the peace they sought(Princeton, 1957), p. 475.

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    GENERAL DE GAULLE AND THE SALVATION OF FRANCE 253as it wishe-d in the east (pp. 72, 73). All themore impressive, then, the last, faintly ghoul-ish encounter at the Kremlin on the bleaknight of December 9-10; his needling Stalinabout the Nazi-Soviet Pact;' his precipitate,freezing departure when Bidault assured himthat no agreement could be reached shortof recognition of the Lublin group; and thefinal Russian retreat, the return to theKremlin, and the signature shortly after 4a.m. "You've held firm," he quotes Stalin assaying. "Well done! I like doing businesswith someone who knows what he wants,even if he doesn't share my views." Andagain, "Count on me. If you, if France needsus, we'll share our last crumb with you"(pp. 73-79). Fortunately for De Gaulle, hehas no occasion here to recall the subse-quent rather mean-minded discussion ofhimself and France that Stalin had withRoosevelt two months later.'0 And yet anystudent must be aware of it when contem-plating the general's forthright depiction ofhis triumph.For Roosevelt might be urged by the StateDepartment and the Joint Chiefs of Staff totreat France "on the basis of her potentialpower and influence rather than on thebasis of her present strength,""l but thepresident interpreted this advice freely whereDe Gaulle was concerned. Harry Hopkins,sent to placate the general on the eve of theYalta Conference, found him unsusceptibleto softening up. Bidault had warned Hop-kins that De Gaulle would make "no effortto please,"12 a prophecy confirmed in thememoirs. The parting remark to Hopkinson January 27, 1945, we are told, was: "Ifyou would like relations between Americaand France put on a different basis, it's upto you to do the necessary. While waitingupon your choice, I send President Roose-velt friendly greetings on the eve of theconference which brings him to Europe" (p.84). This rapier thrust may not be in thenote drawn up by De Gaulle's secretariat(pp. 389-92) but it doubtless conveys whatHopkins carried away from the frosty inter-

    10 Conferences at Malta and Yalta, pp. 572-73.11 "Briefing Book Papers," Conferences at

    Malta and Yalta, p. 300.12 Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hop-kins, an intimate history (New York, 1948), pp.847-48; Edward R. Stettinius, Roosevelt and theRussians (Garden City, N.Y., 1949), p. 56.

    view. A letter from De Gaulle to Bidaultthat day-implying that until that momenthe had still hoped an invitation to Yaltamight be forthcoming-reads rather curi-ously in its advice to the foreign ministernot to show vexation in this matter. And.typically, it illustrates the pique of the in-jured outsider, prepared in his introversion,to witness the forbidden conference turn intoa disaster: "First, it is now too late to go ina suitable way. And then, we shall be muchmore free to deal later on with the Euro-pean imbroglio if we have not participatedin the impending bafouillage, which mayend up in rivalries among the 'partici-pants'" (p. 392).Another celebrated contretemps, thepresident's ill-considered and blundering in-vitation to De Gaulle to visit him in Algiers,is treated with suitable hauteur ("It is truethat for Franklin Roosevelt Algiers was, per-haps, not France. All the more reason to re-mind him of the fact" (p. 88)), but here De-Gaulle's pen is stayed by the shadow ofdeath: had it not intervened, he says,Roosevelt would have come to understandthe man he publicly branded a "primadonna." And he insists very handsomely thatfor all their difficulties, he never mistookthe president's measure (p. 89). Yet April 12changed little. It was an uphill fight afteras before. And if the allies invited a Frenchsignature on the instrument of surrender atthe Rheims school-house on May 7, therewas a lengthy wrangle over General de Lat-tre de Tassigny's signing in Berlin somedays later-a quarrel which De Gaulle doesnot present precisely as others have (pp. 176-77).13 Whether it was Vishinsky or Air Mar-shal Tedder, some ally was still disputingthe place of France.Peace brought its problems no less be-devilling than war. With the French deter-mination to retain Tende, La Brigue andVentimiglia along the Franco-Italian fron-tier, allied relations became strained to adegree. (". . . De Gaulle is also going madin North-West Italy," Brooke noted, June 5,1945, "issuing orders to General Doyen tofight sooner than retire.")14 Washington'sopposition, the general claims, was occa-

    13 John R. Deane, The strange alliance: thestory of our efforts at wartime co-operation wuithRussia (New York,1947), p. 177.

    14Bryant, p. 470.

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    254 TOHINC. CAIRNSsioned by a continuing American desire forhegemony (the realistic national goal whichRoosevelt had cloaked with idealism); Lon-don's by the desire to start a Franco-Ameri-can quarrel, under cover of which the long-standing British intrigue to force France outof the Middle East could be completed. DeGaulle claims to have been furnished withcopies of telegrams from Churchill to Tru-man which qualified him as an "'enemy ofthe allies'," pressed the president to beintransigent, and assured him that Frenchsources believed "'that it would not takemuch more to provoke the immediate down-fall of General de Gaulle'" (pp. 180-82).Since this is a serious charge, it is a pity hehas not reproduced these messages in full.As it is, the reader is tempted to concludethat either the general or his informantshave played somewhat loose with the mes-sage the prime minister sent Truman onJune 6: it advised the president not to pub-lish a warning to the French that failure towithdraw would involve the stoppage ofAmerican supplies. Publication, Churchillcabled, "would have led to the overthrowof De Gaulle, who after five long years ofexperience I am convinced is the worst en-emy of France in her troubles," and again,"one of the greatest dangers to Europeanpeace. No one has more need than Britainof French friendship, but I am sure that inthe long run no understanding will bereached with General de Gaulle."15 In theabsence of adequate texts, and in the silencewith which Sir Winston has chosen to cloakthe incident, one may feel that Truman'squotations are rather more accurate thanDe Gaulle's. Indeed, there is sometimes adiscerning casualness about texts in Le salut,as the excision of a softening phrase ("inthe broadest spirit of conciliation") fromDe Gaulle's letter of June 7 to Truman re-veals (pp. 539-40). Presumably this was thespirit in which General Juin was sent toField Marshal Alexander to regulate theItalian affair. Why then should it be harm-ful to the prestige of France to publish thefact-especially when others have alreadydone so?16

    15 Harry S. Truman, Memoirs (New York,1955), I, Yearof decisions, 242.16 Churchill, Triumph and tragedy (Boston),p. 568 (London), p. 494 prints the qualifyingphrase.

    But De Gaulle is not the only modestauthor. This same letter was printed byChurchill with other excisions-and forgood reason. For in it the general accusedthe British in so many words of manipulat-ing the Italian frontier problem to covertheir Syrian moves (a free hand for which,he now adds, Stalin and Roosevelt hadgiven them at Yalta [p. 185]). It was ofcourse that summer of 1945 that the MiddleEast struggle-the tale of which De Gaullehas related in his first two volumes-reachedits climax. If Major-General E. L. Spears,minister to Syria and Lebanon from Febru-ary 1942, one of De Gaulle's principal orig-inal benefactors,17 now the arch-opponentof French interests in the Middle East, hadreturned to London in December 1944, theForeign Office had had the bad taste to an-nounce that this "does not indicate anychange in British policy," and Spears him-self had the bad grace to continue pressinghis views in the public press.18 The cir-cumstantial evidence for De Gaulle's violentsuspicions was real. With the conclusion ofpeace in Europe he was convinced thatFrance's Arab and British opponents wereready to make an all-out attack on her in-terests (pp. 184ff). Bidault had felt it politicto say to Churchill in the November 1944talks, "We don't ascribe to the British thedark design of supplanting us in the Levant"(p. 358), but De Gaulle did not mince wordswith Ambassador Duff Cooper,19 and thememorialist here similarly feels no suchlimitations. And he presents himself as be-ing ultimately alone in fighting for therights of France, abandoned by the pro-British Quai d'Orsay, by the politicians andthe press.Without a full study of the public andprivate archives, it is impossible to arrive atany sure judgment about French and Britishpolicies in 1945. But if De Gaulle isstridently accusing, Churchill's memoirs areevasive. Duff Cooper wrote that Spears's "an-

    17 Major-General Sir Edward Spears, Assign-ment to catastrophe (London, 1954), II, Thefall of France, June 1940, pp. 311-23; De Gaulle,Call to honour, p. 86.18 George Kirk,, Survey of international af-fairs 1939-1946. The Middle East in the war(London, 1952), pp. 289, 304.19Alfred Duff Cooper, Old men forget (Lon-don, 1954), p. 351.

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    GENERAL DE GAULLE AND THE SALVATION OF FRANCE 255tagonismdto France was notorious" and "afatal impediment to improved Anglo-Frenchrelations." Churchill, always curiously blindto the complications and defects of his friend(where his advisers were not) 20, refused toact on the ambassador'srecommendations re-garding Spears, and the minister's ultimatewithdrawal in December 1944 was alwayspresented as a personal decision. When, thefollowing April, De Gaulle taxed DuffCooper with the continued malevolence ofBritish policy, the ambassador noted in hisdiary that "there is indeed much evidencein favour of" the French interpretation.21The stormy encounters of these two menand the course of the controversy are toldat length in Le salut, corroborating DuffCooper's diary. And if De Gaulle does notrecall the miserable little revenge he tookon Lady Spears' ambulance ("After all," thealready disenchanted Bidault remarked, "onedoesn't make war on women."),22 this is un-derstandable. For he had, as Harry Butchernoted of the June 14 dinner for Eisenhowerto which De Gaulle did not invite his Britishallies, "a mad on against the British-themess in Syria had temporarily strained re-lations."23 All in all, De Gaulle's argumentagainst British policy is powerful. On somepoints his charges have already been an-swered in the House of Commons and in the

    20See Major-GeneralSir John Kennedy, Thebusiness of war: the war narrative of .. . (Lon-don, 1957), p. 71; an account of the earlier dif-ficulties is in Spears, Assignment to catastrophe,passim, and a critical view in "Great Britainand the fall of France: a study in Allied dis-unity," The journal of nmodernhistory, XXVII(1955), 397-400.21Duf Cooper, pp. 321-23, 351ff.22 Ibid, pp. 355-56; Mary Borden [Spears],Journey down a blind alley (London, 1946), pp.293-96. In this book the Spears-De Gaulle quar-rel is rehearsedobliquely, passionatelyand sub-jectively. It is Lady Spears's account of theirruined love affair with France-"B. [Spears]will get no thanks, whatever happens, for whathe has done here-and the French of course,here and in Algiers, are out for his blood. Does

    it matter? Does he mind? No, not really. Buthe did love France, and when France went backon us, there was De Gaulle and the Free French,but now De Gaulle has done this and there isno one" (p. 235).

    23 Harry C. Butcher, My three years with Eis-enhower, the personal diary of .... (New York,1946), pp. 865-66.

    Churchill memoirs. But on others, they havenot.Undoubtedly part of the difficulty lay inWhitehall's loose control over its agents andthe essential lack of unified policy in theLevant, something of which is suggested bythe confused entry the Chief of the ImperialGeneral Staff made for May 28, 1945: "Evi-dently Eden wishes the military to step inonce the French and Syrians have started aproper row. Winston holds a different viewand considers that we should stand aside,watch our own interests and let the Frenchand Syrians cut each others' throats. Per-sonally I feel Winston is in this case right.If we step in now, we shall have to shoot upboth sides to stop the fight and shall in-crease our unpopularity with both. There isonly one spot to stop the trouble and thatis in Paris, by putting it across to De Gaullein no measured terms."24 But for the stu-dent, part of the difficulty lies in De Gaulle'ssuppression of some of the-known facts. Hestates that a British ultimatum was deliv-ered verbally by Churchill to AmbassadorMassigli on the evening of May 30, andthat, apprised of the fact, he telegraphedGeneral Beynet to cease fire on the Syrian'insurgents'. He then goes on to accuse theBritish of staging a public humiliation ofFrance the following day by reading in theHouse of Commons the text of a note to theFrench government which had not at thathour come into De Gaulle's hands (pp. 190-93, pp. 535-37). To be sure, Churchill's sub-sequent explanation of this device or crudeblunder as "an error in transmission" with-out "intentional discourtesy" was a flimsycover for the diplomatic rough-and-tumbleof the crisis. What De Gaulle does not recallis that on that afternoon of May 31 Edenwas in a position to tell the members thatDamascus had been reported shelled andbombed after the May 30 armistice was saidto have been arranged. Hence the cries of"Shame"-that spontaneous neo-Victorianreaction Englishmen reserve for policies theyeither do not understand or judge not worthtrying to. No doubt Eden's rather unctuousfurther explanation of the note was less thanpalatable. But there is something dishonestin the general's silence here on the Da-mascus situation. He does not deny thebombardment: he simply does not acknowl-

    24Bryant, p. 470.

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    256 JOHN C. CAIRNSedge it. He implies that the cease-fire oc-curred without incident. He does not evenhint at General Oliva-Roget's later declara-tion that he had not received the cease-fireorder until the morning of the 31st: "I hadno communication, no telephone, no liaison,no radio; the signals office was dead."25Whatever the ultimate verdict on all this,then, it is clear that the general's account isas studiously incomplete as are other per-sonal recollections. And all in all one tendsto fall back on Truman's reflection that itwas quite "a hornet's nest."26In the military field no less than in thediplomatic, De Gaulle had his troubles. TheAmericans failed to supply adequate arma-ments, although French feats of arms werethe equal of American and British, (pp. 31-35), and he does not alter the view ex-pressed in a press conference, October 25,1944, that technical problems explained onlypart of this situation (p. 338). "The Ameri-cans," he told Churchill, "are consideringarming our forces only to make them high-way-police. We have something else inmind" (p. 352). But even conceding the ac-curacy of the general's prevailing suspicions,one may feel that after fifteen years or sohe might have taken account of real difficul-ties and of cases where political decisionsfavorable to the French point of view werereversed on purely military considerations.27His discussion of the dispute over the Frenchrace for an occupation of Stuttgart in April1945 illustrates not only his single-mindedconcern with the symbols of prestige, legiti-mate enough, but his resolute incapacity foradmitting the validity of a contrary posi-

    25 Churchill, Triumph and tragedy (Boston),p. 564 (London), p. 491; Anthony Eden, May 31,1945, House of Commons, Parliamentary de-bates. 5th Series. Vol. 411, Cols. 378-80; Kirk,pp. 296-98.

    26 Truman, Year of decision s, p. 242; cf. Kirk,pp. 272-306.27 On the armaments problem see Marcel Vig-

    neras, Rearming the French ["United StatesArmy in World War I. Special studies," Vol.III] (Washington, 1957), pp. 319-72; on thequestion of the delayed transfers of administra-tive control of the liberated departments to theFrench civil authorities, see Roland G. Rup-penthal, Logistical support of the armies,['United States Army in World War 11. TheEuropean theater of operations," Vol. II] (Wash-ington, 1959) p. 379.

    tion. Nothing is said of the American argu-ment that the city was necessary to theSeventh Army's supply and communicationssystem. De Lattre's controversy with GeneralDevers, and De Gaulle's exchanges with Eis-enhower and Truman are presented in thetext as a French triumph (pp. 167-71). Thisis the stuff of which national legends aremade-but at the cost of twisting the evi-dence and making false quotations (e.g.,compare his "quotation" from Eisenhower'sletter of May 2 with the actual text printedin the documents, pp. 171, 495-96). The gen-eral's determination to seize every availableopportunity to force upon reluctant alliesthe recognition of France as a great poweris comprehensible and laudable. Certainlythe American outlook was. naive or worse("Landgrabbing,"Truman recalled, "wasoutof order." ". . . I repeat my regret that youfind it necessary to inject political considera-tion into a campaign in which my functionsare purely military. . . ." Eisenhower wrotethen-and later, "an extraordinary stub-bornness in matters which appeared inconse-quential to us"28). But for all this, timemight have broadened De Gaulle's point ofview. "He still feels," Duff Cooper hadnoted, April 27, 1945, "that he is being leftout of everything. I told him it was his ownfault."29 The mood here is still the moodof 1945, although dressed up with a victori-ous smile.The Strasbourg affair is also handled insuch a way as to make of it a triumph forFrance against her American ally's wrong-headedness. Indeed, De Gaulle does notshrink from baring his nationalism to thepoint of refreshing frankness-or indecency,depending on one's susceptibilities. Thus hestates that the von Rundstedt breakout inthe Ardennes caused him no surprise, and"I must even add that from the nationalpoint of view, I scarcely deplored those de-lays during which the importance andweight of France in the coalition increased"

    28 Truman Yearof decisions,p. 238;Vigneras,p. 362; Dwight D. Eisenhower,Crusadein Eu-rope (New York, 1948), p. 414.29 Duff Gooper,p. 351; on the whole incidentsee Vigneras,pp. 361-62, ForrestC. Pogue, TheSupreme Command ["United States Armny inWorld War II. The European theater of op-erations," Vol. IV] (Washington, 1954), pp.459-61; Eisenhower, pp. 412-13.

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    GENERAL DE GAULLE AND THE SALVATION OF FRANCE 257(p. 139): But if he could contemplate themilitary difficulties of his allies with a cer-tain equanimity, the proposed withdrawalfrom liberated Alsace hurried him into ac-tion. De Lattre was ordereol not to abandonStrasbourg, and his hint that perhaps prioragreement ought to be reached with the Su-preme Command brought a stinging rebukein the form of an icy telegraphic letter. Withthat, the general set off for Versailles to per-suade Eisenhower of the facts of life. Hisaccount of what happened there on Janu-ary 3, 1945, does not clear up an alreadydisputed evidence. In 1949 Churchill saidhe had flown to Versailles that day at DeGaulle's request; in his memoirs, however,he wrote, "I chanced to be at Eisenhower'sheadquarters at this juncture and he andBedell Smith listened to my appeal." Eisen-hower himself used the words "by chance."30De Gaulle admits having alerted the primeminister, but merely supposes that he hadthought he should go "probably to use hisgood offices." In short, the inference is thatthe triumph that day was De Gaulle's alone,although he acknowledges Churchill's sup-port. The prime minister's unbelievable"chance" appearance aside, it was not per-haps difficult to make Eisenhower's grasp ofthe Western state system seem elementary("'To make me change my military orders,'this excellent soldier said to me, 'you in-voke political motives.'-'Armies,' I answeredhim, 'are made to serve the policy of states'."(p. 148)). It is less easy to prove that aftertheir talk the supreme commander alteredhis orders in the sense desired by De Gaulle.The official American army account sug-gested something like compromise, and thediary of Brooke, who was present, says:"However, Ike had already decided to alterhis dispositions so as to leave the divisionspractically where they were...."31 Short ofa detailed study, then, the matter remainsuncertain. Suffice to say that the versionhere is incomplete, and if the general re-

    30 Pogue, p. 401, n. 122; Churchill, Triumphand tragedy (Boston),p. 281 (London), p. 245;Eisenhower,p. 363.31 Pogue, pp. 398401; Bryant, p. 374; cf.

    Butcher, pp. 737-38, where it is said that theorders were altered because Eisenhower wouldnot risk interruptionof his supply lines and thecivil unrest which might accompanya revoltagainst De Gaulle.

    calls his own threats to Eisenhower in theevent of the evacuation taking place, hedoes not mention Eisenhower's threats ofcutting off ammunition, supplies and foodunless his orders were obeyed-nor the un-pleasant reproach "that if the French Armyhad eliminated the Colmar pocket the situa-tion would not have arisen."32 In Le salutthe incident ends in the camaraderie of Eis-enhower's lamenting his difficulties in gen-eral and those with Field Marshal Montgom-ery in particular. "'Glory must be paid for,'I replied. 'and you are going to be the con-queror'" (p. 149).De Gaulle's own difficulties were not sosimple. If, excluded from the strategic plan-ning of the war, he clashed with the alliedscheme of things, it was partly because hehad to fight his way at home as well asabroad. The quaintly attractive and nar-cissistic theme of "de Gaulle, a somewhatfabulous personage, embodying in the eyesof all this prodigious liberation," fromwhom miracles were expected by an incon-stant and fickle people, runs through thevolume (p. 3). Against him were the eco-nomic troubles of the country, the paramili-tary organizations, the politicians ready tothrow him aside when he had saved themall, the Communists, "the melancholy ghostof the Third Republic"-personified byPresident Lebrun ("All in all, as chef del'Atat he lacked two things: qu'il f4it unchef; qu'il y e4t un Stat.") (pp. 22, 23).Clearly he disliked the atmosphere of lib-erated France: he felt himself losing control.Hence the device here of constant intima-tions of doom: the hero sensing that thegreat days were over and the kingdom ofsmall men, wrung from the grasp of misfor-tune by the extraordinary man, was aboutto render him incapable of further serviceto an ungrateful people in "the kind ofmonarchy I had so recently assumed." "Butthe French people are what they are, notsomething else. If they did not wish it so, noone would budge them" (p. 237). His con-sideration of the Conservative party's defeatin Great Britain illuminates his failure tocomprehend the democratic process: Church-ill's fall was the symbol of that "era ofthe mediocrity" that had come upon them(pp. 203-04).A spectacular blindness to some of the

    32 Eisenhower, Crusade,pp. 362-63.-

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    258 JOHIN C. CAIRNSsimpler (if unlovely) realities of his time wasnot the least of the characteristics of thisgreat man. His discussion of the problem ofjustice in the post-liberation era is disap-pointing and loftily unaware. The figureshe gives for those executed without dueprocess are nothing like the enormous, ifas yet unsatisfactorily reckoned, total (38).His laconic dismissal of the case of GeneralDentz, condemned to death (". . . I par-doned him at once" (p. 111), would lead noone to suppose that the unfortunate mandied in the most uncivilized circumstances,ill and uncared for after months in irons,in an icy cell with water running down thewalls, a few hours after making a last heart-breaking diary entry which in itself is a con-demnation of the nation he thought he hadserved.33 If it is less difficult to sympathizewith De Gaulle in regard to the case ofRobert Brasillach (he does not name him),about whom the neo-Vichy coterie of writershave never ceased wringing their hands-his was the most brilliant young pen inFrance-no one will find his defense of thedisgraceful Laval trial (pp. 250-51, pp. 617-18) very acceptable, and his declared inten-tion of liberating the old marshal after twoyears' imprisonment (p. 250) seems nowscarcely worth recalling. In effect, the gen-eral draws a veil over his state of mind inall this lamentable catalogue of inhumanityand the search for justice.Similarly, he tells little about the reasonsfor his departure in January 1946. He doesnot explain it: he merely sets the stage forit from the first pages of the book. Theleader communing with his people, predict-ing a proud future; the people turningaway toward the evil political shepherds (theportraits of Leon Blum, Edouard Herriotand Louis Marin are damning (pp. 258-61));the loss of contact; the final decision to re-treat into silence. A week at Antibes madeup his mind, he says. Having warned a fewministers, he staged the last drama on Sun-day, January 20, at the rue Saint-Dominique.Entering the room, he shook hands allround; no one sat down. "The selfish re-

    33 See the quotations from the Dentz diary inthe bitterlyhostile Jacques Isorni,"Une trag6dienationale et son metteur en scbne,"tcrits deParis (December 1959), pp. 5-6; Alfred Fabre-Luce, "Memoires O1yseens," Acrits de Paris (De-cember 1959), pp. 36-37.

    gime of parties has reappeared," he said. "Idisapprove of it. But short of establishingby force a dictatorship which I do not wishand which would doubtless end badly, I amimpotent to prevent this experience. There-fore I must withdraw" (p. 285). He thankedthem; no one spoke. He went away for whathe suggests he considered a final retirement.Or was there truth in the story Ernest Bevinhad that January "that de Gaulle was ridingfor a fall and that he wanted to go out nowin order to come back later with increasedpower?"34 At the time no one knew; thedelphic obscurity of the memoirs adds noth-ing. Some months later, in April 1946, agroup of politicians and civil servants werediscussing the matter over dinner at theTurkish embassy. "Logically," LUon Blumsaid, "he ought never to come back intopower. But will things turn out logically?"33For the record and for the dramatic pur-poses of this remarkable book-so full ofhuman touches ("Hello, Charlie!" the Broad-way crowds called [p. 215]), skillful evoca-tions, noble sentiments, ironic wit (AdmiralLeahy being decorated by De Gaulle [p.209]), and a beautifully contrived emergingtragic climax-the general chooses to showthe nation not bewildered and angry, but sor-rowing and withdrawn in its sadness. In thisclosing scene he almost abandons his am-bivalence toward a people alternately dis-played as in mystic communion with theleader and as given over to the facile waysof a decadent system. The great days wereover, he says, and Frenchmen knew that thegeneral had taken away with him somethingprimordial and historic which no politicalregime could embody. Yet if he offeredFrance a second chance in the Bayeuxspeech, he saw after 1952 that "the sickness"was too advanced to be cured short of theviolent convulsion he had always knownmust one day come. With so many storms be-hind and so many undreamt of ahead, hewas aware of the hopes directed toward "a

    84 Quoted in Duff Cooper, pp. 364-65. As fora plebiscitarydictatorship,De Gaulle evidentlyweighedthe prospectsseriously(Philip Williams,Politics in Post-war France [London, 1954], p.17, n. 7), although he appears to deny it andsays he was determined to leave "morally in-tact" (Le salut, pp. 237-39, 271, 273).

    35 Quoted in JacquesDumaine, Quai d'Orsay(1949-51) (Paris,1955), p. 104.

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    GENERAL DE GAULLE AND THE SALVATION OF FRANCE 259simple house" at Colombey-les-Deux-Eg-lises, intruding on the "bitter serenity" of itsoccupant. Walking the fields and forests, hewas sure at any rate that something re-mained: others would one Sdaydraw strengthfrom his example.So end his memoirs, far from the deathlyquiet and subsequent catastrophe of the1939-40 campaign, remote from the unre-lenting personal struggle with Roosevelt,Churchill and Giraud, in a mood of im-mense philosophic resignation ("And then,looking at the stars, I am imbued with theinsignificance of things" [p. 289]). But whowill believe that this smouldering will everabandoned its quest for the fairy princess?At all events, no new Las Cases will have tobe found; his services the general has al-ready performed himself. And no biographerwill have to write the final page. It is al-

    ready written in that strange blend oflyricism and confused images, moving if notalways comprehensible, which was affectedlong ago by the ambitious, talented andfrustrated colonel-"For the sword is theaxis of the world, and greatness cannot beshared."36-and which the self-created herodraws over what he has chosen to presentas a life without illusions: "Vieille Terre,ronge'e par les ages. . . . Vieille France, ac-cable'e d'Histoire. . . . Vieil homme, recrud'epreuves, detache des entreprises, sentantvenir le froid e'ternel, mais jamais las deguetter dans l'ombre la lueur de l'espe'r-ance!"UNIVERSITYOF TORONTO

    36 Charles de Gaulle, The army of the future(New York, 1941), p. 179.