10th July 1940 - Pétain grabs power

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,960
San Antonio, Tx
And with all do respect, de Gaulle as "British puppet" it's nothing more than Vichy Propaganda reminiscent.

But besides that, what You said in the post about the international recognition of the Vichy regime is exactly what I was talking about: France, after loosing it's field army actually surrendered. Tied entirely it's hands.

It's enough to compare the faith of the Dutch navy to the one of the French Navy: Dutch lost almost entirely it's désuet Navy fighting the enemy . Dutch submarines had sunken more ships than US and British navies together in the same period of time in Western Australian waters for example. Dutch state left itself the possibility to do something, so it could contribute (at their level) to the fight.

French saw their fleet prevetively sunk by its former allies, leaving the Free French in the posture of beggars.

Sorry, for me, the French "solution" was really the worse one to choose.
Agreed. The actions of the French with all of its colonial advantages appeared to just fritter them away in a rancorous and mean-spirited fashion. Why? Their fleet could and should have sailed away from both North Africa and Metropolitan France (Oran). France did itself no favors during the early part of WW2 when it clearly could have. In the end, there was only DeGaulle to save France’s honor and, fortunately for France, he did that.
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,960
San Antonio, Tx
I would say that not leaving in the idea not letting the people at the mercy of the occupier is a lure.

King Leopold III decided to remain with his army, he ended as a POW in a golden German cage, without any possibility to do anything for his people. The only real effect of his decision to not take refuge in UK after the redition of the Belgian army is that his decision had provoked after the war maybe the worse political and constitutional crises in the history of Belgium. For example.
It’s a terrible dilemma for a royal to remain instead of escaping. The Dutch and Norwegian Royal houses made their ways to London and later the US and Canada. Maybe others did as well, I don’t remember. In both instances it worked out well in the end. Probably Leopold should have left as well but he chose not to but I would not impute any bad motives to that.He wasn’t a collaborator after all.
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,960
San Antonio, Tx
Well, there are far more English works translated into French that the other way round.

For a long time the defeat of 1940 was such a stain of shame in the French psyche, that people prefered not to talk about, sustained by both a lack of knowledge and will to look into the details on the period and the sometimes jingoistic portrayal of the French in the British/American popular culture ("the French are such cowards, but we are so extraordinary and perfect") that the French were also fed through cinema, cartoons etc.

In the same way, British and American popular culture have shaped public knowledge and understanding through, for example, films glorifying the allied battles of the war and the victory of 1945, more often than not brushing aside inconvenient truths or the complexity of history.
One good example might be the fairly recent "Dunkirk" film, which ignores almost entirely the role played by French troops defending the perimeter to the end, when they were the ones who actually made the whole thing possible.

The books presenting a more nuanced representation of May-June 1940 only appeared in the last 10/15 years in France. Before that, few people really knew about what really happened and school books only mentioned the 1940 defeat in a few lines, basically saying "The French army collapsed in just 6 weeks and surrendered, then Pétain was appointed head of state." Until then, the only representation we had of our soldiers came from British/American representations, so a rather negative one.

On a personal note, I must say that have no problem with looking at hard facts about my own country and its history.
I am only interested in knowledge and understanding the intricacies of historical truth.
Emotional, jingoistic posturing is irrelevant to me and represents the worst kind of pollution to the study of History.
The French army that marched north out of Africa and joined the British in is fight against the Germans in the Western Desert may not be very well known but heck, if I know about it, many must. I also believe that had France been Britain and the French were in the British Isles instead, we would be clucking about how the British army let the French expeditionary force down. Although, I must say, French politics t the time was just horrible.
 
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royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,960
San Antonio, Tx
Ok, I might give it another try then, just for the sake of optimised objectivity ;)

And although I agree that an Eastwood-type two-film approach would suit the event perfectly, I doubt the French version would get much hype beyond a few history buffs! My guess would be that almost nobody would be interested, the general public has been used to not caring for too long.
Hey, it was a good movie. Just because it focused on the British doesn’t make it a bad one anymore than Saving Private Ryan was bad because it focused on a small American unit.
 
Nov 2010
1,326
Bordeaux
Hey, it was a good movie. Just because it focused on the British doesn’t make it a bad one
No but it's more a question of elegance and faiplay, I'd say.
Without the French troops covering Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo = Kaputt
No "miracle" of Dunkirk", no "spirit of Dunkirk", no British national pride about all the rest, no 80 years of patriotic cinema on the whole thing afterwards, etc
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,960
San Antonio, Tx
No but it's more a question of elegance and faiplay, I'd say.
Without the French troops covering Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo = Kaputt
No "miracle" of Dunkirk", no "spirit of Dunkirk", no British national pride about all the rest, no 80 years of patriotic cinema on the whole thing afterwards, etc
The easy way to “solve” this non-existent problem, is to make your own movie and then have the British complain about it. I should add that the French valiantly defended the British beach head and that thousands of French troops were saved at the same time, but also bears mention that several British units fought alongside the French and had the honor of spending the next 4-5 years in German camps.
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,960
San Antonio, Tx
If you read the OP, you will see that "Pétain grabbing power" is not an overstatement.

And you are confusing two different things here. The Cease-fire and Armistice terms and the Constitutional vote that was highjacked by Pétain later on.

The vote of the Assembly took place AFTER the terms of the Armistice had been agreed on and signed.
And the fact that most people in the Pétain government and in High Command were all agreeing on the new situation is not a surprise, considering they were all in favour of killing secular parliamentary democracy in France, and that Pétain had selected them precisely for that reason.
My readings on this are far from complete, but as I understand it, Pétain was “supposed” (by whom?) to set up a new government with a new “constitution”. The French got a government ruled by decree with no representation. I understand as well that Pétain never had any intention of forming a real government where rule-by-decree was the only choice. The mystery to me is what really motivated Pétain to behave in this way? He must have been sure in his own mind that “this” was the future of Europe where dictators ruled by fiat.
Nolan's "Dunkirk" was on the telly last night, and I stumbled on it which led to a re-watching.

It really isn't that bad, actually. ;) I said something like this in another thread, but the main lacunae about the French at Dunkirk in that film is really only that it is so heavily focused in the British it leads to the conclusion that a similar film could (should?) have been made for the French, akin to Eastwoood's Iwo Jima diptych. The French are there after all, just off screen for the most part.

Having rewatched it, the French are really there at the opening as the British soldiers keep running away, getting shot stupidly, until the main character manages to pass through the perimeter, held by French troops. And they are waiting, looking like they know what the are doing, and as he moves away the shooting starts behind him. So clearly the metonymic effect of the sequence is to say that the French army is holding the perimeter, fighting the Germans.

This is then born out directly in exposition at a later point when a soldier delivers the message that the French have been pushed back on the perimeter, leading to panicky feelings on the part of the senior UK colonel, assuaged by the conclusion that the perimeter still holds (still implicitly the French). And finally, as the senior officers set off in the last launch, Branagh's senior admirals person stays behind explicitly to wait for the French, i.e the ones we saw holding the perimeter initially, and heard about midway, who have been holding off the Germans all this time. So the French are being referenced, and in a consistent and relatively representative manner relative what they were doing historically.

Of course all that is more evident for those who know a bit about how the Dunkirk pocket worked.

The relative failure is the somewhat myopic focus on the Brits. But again I'm not sure it would have made for better cinematography if it had been cutting back and fort to the French on the perimeter? I do think it could be a bit of a lost opportunity to not make it a Eastwoodian diptych though. I'd love to have a second Dunkirk that starts the same as the one we got, but when the British soldier moves through the French perimeter this films stays with a French rifle company, so we learn who those guys are, and what their role is. Could end up as a film with rather more direct fighting sequences too. ;)

The bit about the French in the pocket that there's no explanation of in "Dunkirk", that I can mostly object to, is that the French army had its own embarkation points, where entire French units were taken off with their gear and officers and all, away from the British.

But comparing Nolan's "Dunkirk" to the Churchil-flic "Darkest Hour", and the total dumbing down that made of Dunkirk (suggesting the British garrison at Calais was what was stopping the Germans at Dunkirk, and presenting a map-room picture that completely suppressed there even being a French army), "Dunkirk" really isn't bad. It's just not focusing on the French.
This is a reasonable critique.
 
Nov 2010
1,326
Bordeaux
My readings on this are far from complete, but as I understand it, Pétain was “supposed” (by whom?) to set up a new government with a new “constitution”. The French got a government ruled by decree with no representation. I understand as well that Pétain never had any intention of forming a real government where rule-by-decree was the only choice. The mystery to me is what really motivated Pétain to behave in this way? He must have been sure in his own mind that “this” was the future of Europe where dictators ruled by fiat.
Pétain was supposed to set up a new gorvernment and present a new constitution project to the National Assembly, with a mandate given by the President of the French Republic and as per the constitutional laws in place at the time.

Did Pétain think everything through, with a clear vision for the future of Europe? Not sure, there isn't much to confirm that in the archives or his personal papers.
What is true though, is that he was an ambitious - yet discreet and patient - man, hated the Republic, parliamentarianism, political parties, socialism, liberal democracy, jews, and so on.
He just saw the defeat of 1940 and the ensuing political chaos and collapse as the opportunity of a lifetime to achieve what he had been dreaming of for 20 or 30 years.
what transpires from many, if not most, of Vichy's political decisions is a focus on French home affairs and the clinging to illusory sovereignty in the hope to convince the population that France was still the master of its own destiny, regardless of the bigger picture and the long term future.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,447
SoCal
Indeed. I asked the Archives of the State Department for some info, but they said most of the archives related to Europe 1939-1940 were destroyed in december 1941...
The US State Department said that?

Also, I've got a question that's about Petain but not directly related to the topic of your post here: During his rule, just how much of a personal initiative did Petain take in governing and just how much was he a mere figurehead for Pierre Laval?