De Gaulle to Brooke: 6/16/1942
This letter was written by General Charles de Gaulle and sent to Field Marshal Alan F. Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff under Churchill. It was written in response to a letter which Brooke wrote to De Gaulle only a day prior, on June 15th, 1942. In the letter, De Gaulle thanks Brooke for the kind thoughts he expressed regarding General Koenig and his men, the First Free French division, for their actions at the Battle of Bir Hakeim. He goes on to assure Brooke that the newly termed "Fighting French" are determined to see the fight through until the end of the war.
The letter was written mere days after the Battle of Bir Hakeim, in which Free French forces were able to gain a tactical military victory over German and Italian forces in North Africa. Bir Hakeim is notable as the first true "Free French" military victory of World War 2, described by Bimberg as "The epic great struggle of the Free French history of World War 2." A theme in this letter is De Gaulle's opportunism in the wake of a heretofore unprecedented event. Almost overnight, Free France had gone from a state in exile (non-universally recognized at that) to a legitimate military force capable of standing up to Axis forces. Realizing the importance of the moment and its ability to elevate the standing of the Free French in the eyes of the other Allies, De Gaulle uses specific terminology to craft an image of Free France which is both reborn through this battle and on equal footing with the other Allies, specifically Britain.
De Gaulle uses the term "Fighting French" in this letter to refer to Free French forces, a change made as a direct result of the Battle of Bir Hakeim. The use of a new, more aggressive term for his faction reveals a desire to seize the moment, one which is at once a re-branding and a rebirth of Free France. In a similarly conscious effort, De Gaulle refers to the United Nations (which existed then in concept, though would not be an official entity until after the war) to emphasize the sudden equality of Free France to the other Allies. Reference to the U.N. is particularly significant because Free France had not, in fact, signed the "Declaration by United Nations," the U.N.'s founding document, not having been invited to the conference at which it was agreed upon. De Gaulle also takes steps to fortify his specific relationship with Great Britain, making specific reference to British comrades at one point in the letter, highlighting them above other Allied nations.
Bimberg, Edward L. Tricolor over the Sahara: The Desert Battles of the Free French. 1940-1942. Vol 217. Westport, Greenwood Press, March 2002.
Boot, Max. Gang of Four. New York, New York Times Company, June 2009.
“Juillet 1942.” Fondation de la France Libre. http://www.france-libre.net/juillet-1942/, accessed 4 December, 2016.
“Marie-Pierre Koenig.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016, www.britannica.com/biography/Marie-Pierre-Koenig, Accessed 26 October 2016
“The battle of Bir Hakeim.” Chemins de Mémoire, Ministère de la Défense, http://www.cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr/en/battle-bir-hak2eim, Accessed 26 October 2016
“The 1st Free French Division (DFL).” Chemins de Mémoire, Ministère de la Défense, http://www.cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr/en/1st-free-french-division-dfl, Accessed 26 October 2016
Weiss, Thomas G. The United Nations: before, during and after 1945. London, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, November 2015
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