“Prize de Paris” paints De Gaulle an invaluable French work

Ask almost anyone who teaches, has kids in school, or is exposed to our decrepit culture. They know how unfair, even shameful, the great history of America can be portrayed.

So, every now and then, we recommend a book – here, “Taking Paris: The Epic Battle for the City of Lights”, on the United States and other Allied Expeditionary Forces retaking Europe from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The book begins with the occupation of France by Germany in 1940. It ends the year following D-Day of June 6, 1944: the airmen, sailors and Allied soldiers who left England, landed in Normandy and liberated much of humanity under the yoke of Adolf Hitler. hell.

In “Taking Paris”, Bill Dugard documents the odyssey of the City of Light. Players include Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Hitler, and Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Erwin Rommel, and Charles de Gaulle – taking turns wielding ego, conflict and tragedy, then French recovery and romance.

WWII books often put FDR, Ike, and Churchill at their center. This volume naturally chooses de Gaulle: leader of the Free French Resistance during the war, head of its post-war government, founder and president of 1959-69 of the Fifth Republic, and father of armored fighting, called Le Grand Charles because it was .

In a 1934 book, de Gaulle extolled the movement of tanks with infantry instead of separating tanks and static troops. On reading, Hitler agreed, but the French brass did not, ignoring how if “France was to meet Germany on an equal footing, it must have the last engines of the offensive,” wrote TIME. Thus, during the German invasion of May 10, 1940, de Gaulle had innocently contributed to the birth of the Nazi blitzkrieg – a lightning war.

Six days later, Churchill awoke to a frantic plea from French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, who grated: “We have been defeated. Stunned, the British Prime Minister asked: “Surely it couldn’t have happened so soon? Churchill then asked, “Where is the strategic reserve?” – the last hope. The French replied: “None” – there is none. “None of this matters to de Gaulle,” noted “Capture of Paris”. “This attack is a matter of honor.” The defeat was intolerable. The worst was shame.

The son of a professor, the six-foot-five-inch de Gaulle, born in 1890, displayed a withered complexity. He conceded loving France but not the French, calling them “ungovernable” for having 227 types of cheese. Regal and inward-looking, he asserted that “Everyone who has done anything worthwhile and lasting has been lonely and alone” – yet able to stir up a notoriously demanding people.

The fluent writer and orator, even in German, had a bass voice – also courage, notes Dugard, who kept “the hatch of his tank open” even under an air assault. One assistant attributed such bravery to “his mastery of himself.” As Parisians left the capital in 1940, many of which were bombed by Stuka planes, de Gaulle crossed France in just six days. He then spoke on national radio, having “the honor of commanding a French armored division. We… dominated the battlefield from the start to the last hour, ”deeming the challenge and fate inseparable – his and that of France merged.

In May, 400,000 fleeing British and French soldiers reached the port of Dunkirk on the English Channel, rescued from destruction by an armada of citizens of 870 light warships and other vessels that have sailed 24/7 since Great Britain and back. However, on June 18, 1940, General Philippe Pétain, French hero of the First World War, surrendered to the head of a pro-Nazi regime. De Gaulle was stripped of his rank, sentenced to death in absentia and flew to London, “[one] end of life ”and another began: swearing to save France by defeating the Nazis to ensure“ the national stain washed away ”.

As Pétain relented, BBC Radio carried de Gaulle’s address to France, calling in “French officers in Britain,” he said, “and engineers and skilled workers in the arms factories. … To contact me. In a four-minute speech, the Resistance – Free France – stood up. That week, the BBC used de Gaulle to send “coded messages to agents in the field” to help “steal military documents, set up evacuation routes for downed Allied pilots” and find courage to simply listen, an act considered treason by the false French rule. .

“Ingeniously,” said “Taking of Paris”, “de Gaulle took control of France”, even going as far as the French protectorates to inflate the movement. In 1942, now at the African Theater, “the general [had] miraculously… become world famous, ”TIME read, putting it on its cover. Churchill marveled: “The Germans had conquered his country. He had no real hold anywhere. No matter. He defied everything. Always.”

For de Gaulle, wrote Dugard, it was only when Paris was free that the “conflict … would be over” – and only an Allied invasion could doom the Gestapo secret police, free the Jews and other prisoners and put an end to it. occupation. The German Rommel knew that his “only chance to stop the enemy was when he was struggling to land. It will be the longest day ”- either in Calais, where the Nazis expected an invasion, or in Normandy, where it happened.

De Gaulle spoke by radio again before the first wave of troops under Ike’s command crossed the Channel on June 5 and 6, 1944: “The supreme battle has begun. This is of course the battle for France – and the battle for France. On August 10, he returned there. Fourteen days later, French troops arrived in the open city, the Germans fled and thousands of Parisians returned. Two days later, de Gaulle led a tumultuous march on the Champs-Élysées.

Everywhere, Dugard’s prose sparkles. Rommel’s Afrika Korps uniform, “as [his] hood covered with sand of the car, is covered with a thin layer of Libya. Hitler’s plot to move the works from the Louvre to Berlin “will accomplish its goal of humiliating the French.” We also see the intimate side of de Gaulle, the general “rambling” of the youngest of his three children, Anne, born with Down’s syndrome, yet capable of icy objectivity.

The philosopher Montaigne wrote: “I love France so much that even its flaws are dear to me. De Gaulle did it. If only we could teach such loyalty to American institutions, which have forgotten how to love America.

Curt Smith is the author of 18 books, including the new “Memories from the Microphone”. He is the former Speechwriter for President George HW Bush, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Rochester and Bi-weekly Columnist for Messenger Post Media: [email protected]


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