ALLIES AT WAR: The Bitter Rivalry Among Churchill, Roosevelt, and de Gaulle

Simon Berthon, Author
Simon Berthon, Author . Carroll & Graf $26 (356p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0949-6
Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Hardcover - 345 pages - 978-0-00-711622-5
Hardcover - 356 pages - 978-0-7867-1135-2
Paperback - 282 pages - 978-1-909869-09-7
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Berthon's narrative accompanies his forthcoming PBS telecast about Charles de Gaulle's struggles—once France fell to the Nazis in 1940—to play the modern Joan of Arc. Aged 49 and a one-star general for only three weeks, he had flown to London five days before Paris was surrendered. Legally, Marshal Pétain's collaborationist regime at Vichy represented France, but de Gaulle almost singlehandedly established the exile "Free French" to continue the war from England and some of the colonies. In Berthon's view, de Gaulle had four enemies—Germany, Vichy, a skeptical Churchill and a hostile Roosevelt. This hostility, fed by at best half-truths from Roosevelt's rightist links to Pétain—ambassador Admiral Leahy, State Department adviser Charles Murphy and Secretary of State Cordell Hull—more than by Churchill, shackled and even undermined de Gaulle. Berthon describes vividly the wartime climate of duplicity and distrust: Churchill tried to "straddle the two Frances"; de Gaulle compensated for his powerlessness with haughty pride; Roosevelt (for whom "France had lost all right to...respect by her abject failure in 1940") excluded de Gaulle from all decisions affecting France. Relations worsened in victory, when the French embraced de Gaulle and reality forced British/U.S. recognition of his legitimacy. In Berthon's opinion, Churchill equivocated, and U.S. players were villainous. Though he makes little of de Gaulle's postwar promotion of the myth of mass French resistance to fascism, his wartime de Gaulle is convincingly heroic. None of the three leaders comes off well—which may give the book a controversial edge. 8 pages of b&w illus. (Oct.)

Forecast:The three-part TV series is scheduled to run in 2002; in the meantime, the book is a History Book Club selection and should have broad appeal to readers of WWII titles.

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