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Free French Appeal

The fall of France in early WWII was a serious blow to the French war effort, leaving it short on resources and operating as a government in exile. However, it did not mean an end to the war as while the country itself might have been lost, its people continued to fight. French forces either escaped to Britain or continued to fight in the colonies and seas. This resistance was developed by Charles de Gaulle, a French general who would rally the surviving French forces and would serve as their de facto leader. All of that began on this day 84 years ago.

Broadcast of June 18

On June 18, 1940, General Charles de Gaulle delivered a broadcast from London that would become one of the most significant speeches in modern French history. This appeal, known as “L’Appel du 18 Juin,” or the Appeal of June 18. This was widely considered the beginning of the French Resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II. De Gaulle’s impassioned words galvanized a nation in despair and laid the foundation for the Free French Forces.

By mid-June 1940, France was in turmoil. German forces had swiftly overrun the country, and the French government, led by Marshal Philippe Pétain, was negotiating an armistice with Germany. This would lead to the creation of Vichy France, a puppet state under Nazi rule.

Amid this chaos, General Charles de Gaulle, a relatively obscure brigadier general who had been recently appointed as Undersecretary of National Defense, fled to London. Determined not to accept defeat, de Gaulle sought to rally the French people to continue the fight against the Axis powers.

Initially, de Gaulle’s message reached only a limited audience. The French media, under German control, ignored it, and many French citizens were unaware of his call to arms. However, as the Vichy government’s collaboration with the Nazis became evident, more people began to seek alternatives to get their information, and de Gaulle’s broadcasts gained traction.

Hearing his words, many French citizens took up arms in resistance against Germany, sabotaging their occupation in whatever ways they could. This laid the cornerstone of the Free French Forces, who played a crucial role in the Allied victory Not only did he rally the French people, but he also allowed them to remain an official part of the allies and not be treated similarly to other Nazi collaborators. His broadcasts, which continued throughout the war, kept the spirit of resistance alive. All of that started with this one broadcast.

These words were immortalized here.

“The destiny of the world is here. I, General de 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.”

– Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces
Broadcast of June 18

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