Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 18, 2014
Charles de Gaulle made his Appeal of 18 June.

Charles de Gaulle made his Appeal of 18 June

June 18, 1940: Charles de Gaulle makes his Appeal of 18 June. The official start of World War II was September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. It took slightly more than a month for the country to fall to Germany’s control. Germany’s victories were swift and decisive and when Hitler turned his sights on France, it was felt he may have finally met his match. During the World War I, France had been one of the Triple Entente powers and the Alsace-Lorraine area was known as the Western Front. Trench warfare held the invaders at bay but at tremendous cost. Weaponry had not yet advanced enough although use of chemical warfare had left over 190,000 French casualties. France remained free.

So with this second invasion, it was assumed that France would once again be able to stand up to Germany. Weaponry, especially the tank, had improved greatly. In just one month and twelve days, France fell. The French Third Republic was replaced by Vichy France. Marshal Philippe Petain, a World War I hero, signed an armistice with Nazi Germany against the wishes of de Gaulle. Petain collaborated with Germany for the formation of the Vichy government. This allowed France to not be divided between Axis powers, but also placed 2 million French soldiers as forced laborers for Germany. The Vichy government also helped round up Jews and “undesirables” for disposal. Although some saw this as a way to keep French autonomy and territorial integrity, it was only achieved by capitulation to complete German oversight.

De Gaulle escaped to London on June 15 and became the leader of the Free French Forces and the French Resistance. It is thought this speech was the impetus behind the Resistance, but it was heard only by a few Frenchmen. De Gaulle’s June 22 speech on the BBC was much more widely heard. Either way, this speech is considered to be one of the most important speeches in French history. The British government was not thrilled with letting de Gaulle speak over their airwaves, but a determined Winston Churchill gave special permission. It was feared the speech could antagonize Petain into an even closer alliance with Germany.

The speech was not recorded but there is a transcript available. This was found in the Swiss intelligence archives where it was published on June 19 for their own use. De Gaulle spoke of the leaders of the French government being in contact with Germany and stopping the fighting. The basic differences between the two wars were the planes and the tanks, but even more telling were the tactical uses the Germans put them to. Sacrificing the nation to stop the fighting wasn’t de Gaulle’s idea of victory. He reminded the French people that both the British and US governments would support them militarily and economically. He vowed that all was not lost for France; she was not alone; the flame of French resistance would not be extinguished.

This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country.

This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France.

This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day.

Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it. – all from the Appeal of 18 June speech by Charles de Gaulle

Also on this day: Mental Institutions and Being Governor – In 1959, Governor Earl Long was committed to a mental institution.
Taxi! – In 1923, the first Checker Cab rolled off the assembly line.
One Woman – No Vote – In 1873, Susan B. Anthony was found guilty of trying to vote.
What Was Up There? – In 1178, five monks observed an astronomical phenomenon.


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