Free French

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The Forces Françaises Libres or Free French Forces were the army of the Comité National Français or French National Committee, the French government-in-exile formed in London with Allied assistance by Charles de Gaulle during World War II in September 1941. They fought against the European Axis powers (Germany and Italy) in Africa and Europe until the war's end in May 1945. They also fought against the Vichy French in Syria and Iraq.

As Pétain's new Vichy government prepared to sign an armistice on 22 June 1940, de Gaulle flew to London and on 18 June. [1] De Gaulle's forces by November 1940, numbered 35,000 troops and twenty warships; several overseas colonies including Syria had rallied to his banner, although his forces were defeated in September in an attempt, with British aid, to seize Dakar, Senegal.

In London in Sept. 1941 de Gaulle formed the free French National Council, with himself as president. It was an all-encompassing coalition of exhilees, ranging from conservative Catholics like himself to Communists.[2] By early 1942, the "Fighting French" movement, as it was now called, gained rapidly in power and influence; it overcame Vichy in Syria and Lebanon, adding to its base. In November 1942 the Americans invaded French North Africa. They favored General Henri Giraud, the High Commissioner of North Africa. But de Gaulle seized power from Giraud, who resigned in late 1942. De Gaulle took supreme command of all French forces in April 1944. Meanwhile, all the French colonies except Japanese-occupied Indochina came under Gaullist control, as did Corsica.

De Gaulle in was exasperated at the Americans, who were more willing to work with Vichy or Giraud than with him:

The United States, delighting in her resources, feeling that she no longer had within herself sufficient scope for her energies, wishing to help those who were in misery or bondage the world over, yielded in her turn to that taste for intervention in which the instinct for domination cloaked itself.[3]

It turn Franklin D. Roosevelt distrusted him. De Gaulle removed French forces from the planned invasion of Normandy in June 1944. He was not at D-Day and was excluded from all the top-level conferences. The British and American, gave his regime de jure recognition and allowed his armies to enter France and to be the first to enter Paris after the Germans fled in August 1944. French armies, 1.3 million strong, under de Gaulle as provisional president, thereupon fought alongside the British and Americans.


  1. Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac, La France Libre de l'appel du 18 juin a la Liberation (Paris: Gallimard, 1996)
  2. The Communists were controlled by Moscow, which was allied with Germany in 1940. They came into opposition only when Germany invaded Russia in June 1941. De Gaulle's policy became one of friendship directly with Moscow.
  3. The War Memoirs of Charles de Gaulle,(1959) vol. 2, p. 88