French General Charles de Gaulle and Henri Honore Giraud review
The show of unity was for the cameras only. The early months of 1943 pitched the triangular relationship into its lowest ebb. In the privacy of the White House, the President poured scorn on the Free French leader.
The third man was the American President, Franklin Roosevelt. De Gaulle caused Roosevelt more trouble and more infuriation than any other person in the Second World War. To his extreme embarrassment, Churchill found himself caught in the middle of an extraordinary arms length duel between the President, who was the most powerful man in the world, and the French general.
His unauthorised action infuriated the American government and Roosevelt began to see de Gaulle as an untrustworthy nuisance. The dispute deepened during the British and French invasion of French North and West Africa in late 1942, Operation 'Torch from which Roosevelt insisted that de Gaulle be excluded.
Eventually de Gaulle, realising that he could not break with Roosevelt and Churchill, relented and, at Roosevelt's prompting, agreed to shake hands publicly with Giraud at a press conference in Casablanca.
Reynaud knew that de Gaulle was an unequivocal fighter, and he dispatched him to London to plead with Churchill to send the full might of the Royal Air Force's Fighter Command across the Channel to help in the battle to save France.
The story of this tangled, triangular relationship began in June 1940. The Nazi Blitzkrieg had crushed Belgium and Holland. German forces had forced the withdrawal of nearly half a million British and French troops from Dunkirk.
At Roosevelt's instigation, Giraud replaced him as French leader, but even the President, despite his hostility to de Gaulle, realised that there needed to be unity between the Free French and the former Vichy forces now under Giraud's command.
Now Hitler's spearheads were rolling towards Paris. The French government was divided but its Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud, remained determined to resist the Nazis. On e appointed to his cabinet a recently promoted and junior brigadier-general, Charles de Gaulle, as Under Secretary for Defence.