"Whatever happens, the flame of French Resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished." - General Charles de Gaulle, radio broadcast from London, June 18, 1940
"A great man? Why, he's selfish, he's arrogant, he thinks he's the center of the universe...you're right, he's a great man!" - Winston Churchill on General Charles de Gaulle
The French Army crumbled swiftly under the powerful blows delivered to it in 1940 by Nazi Germany's confident Wehrmacht. Launching a massive feint into Belgium to lure mobile French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) away from the actual point of attack, the weakly protected Ardennes Forest, the Germans struck past the Maginot Line. In a lightning campaign, Heinz Guderian's panzers punched through to the coast, dividing Allied forces with a steel cordon across France and forcing the evacuation of the BEF from the port of Dunkirk.
French morale collapsed very quickly in the face of the Third Reich's onslaught. The French population had not yet recovered from World War I's immense bloodshed, and many French preferred surrender to a second decimation of their young men. Accordingly, the Germans seized the northern French territories directly, while permitting Marshal Petain, an elderly war hero and right-wing fanatic, to found a rump state centered on Vichy. History dubbed the quasi-independent client state's government the Vichy Regime.
Not all French people proved willing to surrender to the Nazi invaders, however.
©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors