The US Naval Station Argentia, located in Placentia Bay, a sheltered harbor on Newfoundland Island, was the unlikely setting for one of the most pivotal summit meetings of the 20th century. The meeting took place on August 9, 1941. World War II was in its second year, and the British had won the Battle of Britain but were still encircled by German U-boats, and the British fleet was being decimated in the North Atlantic. In North Africa, a contest of armor was underway as Axis and Allied armies fought for control of Egypt, while Britain and her Commonwealth allies stood alone against the mighty German Wehrmacht.
Roosevelt, however, pictured a very different post-war world than his British counterpart, Winston Churchill. When he and Churchill met at what came to be known as the Atlantic Conference, Churchill’s pleas for US manpower and aid were accepted, but only under clear conditions. If the US was to come to the aid of Britain, it would be for the purpose of defeating the Germans and the Japanese and not to support the insupportable institutions of empire. Britain and, by extension, France and Portugal, the only remaining major European shareholders in foreign empire, would have to commit to decolonization as a basic prerequisite of substantial US assistance.
Like the British, the French too were a major imperial power with a great deal to lose from such a monumental change, but their view of the global chessboard was somewhat different. France lay under German occupation, and an armistice had been signed on behalf of the French nation by Marshall Philippe Pétain, commencing the era of Vichy France. In London, meanwhile, the firebrand French General Charles de Gaulle urged a continuation of the resistance, believing the French mainland to be only a small part of the picture. France was much more than just France. De Gaulle established the Free French movement in Britain, based on the loyalty and the ongoing Free French control of a majority of her overseas territories. The Free French movement and the Free French army based themselves in Francophone Africa. The saga of the Free French movement would impact the war in both North Africa and Europe, but most specifically, it would serve to radically redefine the French view of itself and her relationship with her overseas territories. Most importantly, it would set the tone for a style of decolonization very different from the British, and perhaps not surprisingly, things would not go smoothly, especially with the geopolitics of the Cold War affecting matters.
French Indochina: The History and Legacy of the French Empire’s Colonialism in Southeast Asia analyzes the colonization of Southeast Asia and what happened as a result of the decolonization. You will learn about the French in Southeast Asia like never before.