When Roosevelt Planned to Govern France
The intriguing tale of an important but nearly forgotten episode in French-American relations
This book tells the story of a plan put forth by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II for an Allied military occupation of France in the aftermath of liberation, and of General Charles de Gaulle's efforts as self-appointed leader of the Free French Movement to thwart FDR's intentions. Charles L. Robertson frames the narrative as a mystery in which he plays the role of detective. He begins at a dinner party thirty years ago, where he first learned of the alleged plan from an elderly former aide to de Gaulle. Yet it wasn't until 2004, when he heard the same story repeated during the 60th commemoration of D-Day, that he set out to investigate whether it was true.
Many French are aware of this episode and believe, on the basis of later Gaullist officials' writings, that until the last moment a military occupation of their country was imminent. This view, across the years, has helped darken relations between France and the United States. Yet few if any Americans have ever heard of this plan, and in the event, no Allied military government of France was ever established.
How and why it never came to be, and why the French still believe it almost did, is the subject of this book. Robertson recounts how the president of the most powerful nation in the world was outmaneuvered in both his earlier plans for an occupation of France and his subsequent attempts to keep General de Gaulle from “seizing” power—in a France that ultimately, despite Roosevelt's intentions and expectations, regained its place among the victorious powers under de Gaulle’s leadership.
"The book’s primary strength is Robertson’s ability to, in clear prose, poke large holes in the exaggerated assertions put forward by many French historians, journalists, and former wartime participants about America’s plans to turn post-liberation France into a protectorate."—H-France Review
"[An] eminently readable book . . . Robertson's book is framed as a kind of detective story, and it is entertaining sleuthing that explains why, in the absence of any real basis in fact, the myth of American occupation was born and has had a long life in France."—American Historical Review
"This carefully researched study has exploited a wide range of secondary sources as well as primary sources . . . and the memoirs and biographies of participants on both sides of the Atlantic. . . . Robertson provides a lucid and useful summary of the contentious wrangling between the U.S. administration and de Gaulle's movement during the Second World War."—H-Diplo Review