De Gaulle’s Great Speech Of June 18, 1940—Learning About Charles De Gaulle
June 18, 1940 is the day that General Charles De Gaullemade the speech on the BBC from London that began French resistance to Nazi occupation. It is a great speech that is still recalled in France and in all places where the great events of World War II are remembered.
(Above–De Gaulle speaking on the BBC during World War II.)
De Gaulle left France in 1940 as an exile and came back four years later to lead France.
France and De Gaulle appeared to have been defeated in 1940, but they were not defeated.
A great two-volume of De Gaulle was written by Jean Lacouture. The first volume is called De Gaulle–The Rebel, 1890-1944. Here is a review of that book. The second volume is De Gaulle–The Ruler, 1945-1970.
De Gaulle’s war memoirs are justly well-regarded.
(Below—De Gaulle on the cover of Life Magazine in 1958.)
De Gaulle was neither a figure of the political left or right. His loyalty was to France and, sometimes, to the idea of putting on a grand performance on the world stage. He was often both serious and absurd at the same time
What could have been more absurd than the notion of one lone general banished to London after the Nazi overrun of France, coming back within a few years as the political master of France?
Charles De Gaulle is a subject that merits your further study. In studying the life of De Gaulle you will learn about French history, World War II, European and Cold War politics of the 1950’s and 60’s, and the bloody battle for Algerian Independence.
You’ll also learn about fighting and winning a fight that seemed at first, in the eyes of many at the time at least, hopeless.
Here is the great speech I referenced above. It is also called the Appeal of June 18—
The leaders who, for many years, were at the head of French armies, have formed a government. This government, alleging our armies to be undone, agreed with the enemy to stop fighting. Of course, we were subdued by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which made us retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point to bring them there where they are today.
But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!
Believe me, I speak to you with full knowledge of the facts and tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us to a day of victory. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of United States.
This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not finished by the battle of France. This war is a world-wide war. All the faults, all the delays, all the suffering, do not prevent there to be, in the world, all the necessary means to one day crush our enemies. Vanquished today by mechanical force, we will be able to overcome in the future by a superior mechanical force.
The destiny of the world is here. I, General of Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who would come there, with their weapons or without their weapons, I invite the engineers and the special workers of armament industries who are located in British territory or who would come there, to put themselves in contact with me.
Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance not must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on Radio London.
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