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9 - Rhine and Danube

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2024

Douglas Porch
Affiliation:
Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
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Summary

The war ended for the 1ère Armée more with a whimper than a bang. While Sixth Army Group had succeeded in eliminating the Colmar Pocket, morale in the 1ère Armée at the end of a tough winter campaign was low, especially as soldiers felt that the French population had disengaged from the war. Operation Cheerful saw the French army invading Germany as part of the Sixth Army Group, directed by de Gaulle to seize objectives to force the Allies to designate a zone d’occupation française. The liberation and occupation of Germany had witnessed a recurrence of violence inflicted on the civilian population by French soldiers as in Italy, earning for the French the nickname “Russians of the West.” De Gaulle’s post-Liberation celebration of victory sought to diminish the role of the Allies and the 1ère Armée, while celebrating that of the resistance and Leclerc’s 2e DB. None of this served either to repair French civil–military relations, badly damaged by the war, or to acknowledge the role played by the empire in France’s liberation, all of which stored up future tensions. Incorrigible to the last, de Lattre settled into an extravagant lifestyle at his headquarters in Lindau, which flouted the conditions of post-war austerity, and caused de Gaulle to recall him to France. Committed to the retention of empire as a symbol of French grandeur, de Gaulle insisted that France reclaim its Indochinese “balcony on the Pacific.” However, the fact that the French colonial infrastructure had been obliterated by the Japanese, allowing Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, with Chinese complicity, to fill Vietnam’s political vacuum would have made it difficult in the best of circumstances for a debilitated France to reassert its sovereignty in Southeast Asia. France’s return to its far-away colony was hobbled by an absence of a viable policy for Indochina, a situation worsened by political instability in Paris following de Gaulle’s surprise January 1946 resignation, a dysfunctional command tandem in Saigon that yoked two headstrong commanders in d’Argenlieu and Leclerc, each with different priorities, and political concessions made by France’s negotiators led by Salan under pressure from Leclerc to catch the tides to launch Operation Bentré – the reoccupation of Vietnam north of the 16th parallel.

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Resistance and Liberation
France at War, 1942-1945
, pp. 537 - 586
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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  • Rhine and Danube
  • Douglas Porch, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
  • Book: Resistance and Liberation
  • Online publication: 05 January 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009161152.010
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  • Rhine and Danube
  • Douglas Porch, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
  • Book: Resistance and Liberation
  • Online publication: 05 January 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009161152.010
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Rhine and Danube
  • Douglas Porch, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
  • Book: Resistance and Liberation
  • Online publication: 05 January 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009161152.010
Available formats
×