All my life I have cherished a certain idea of France, that is inspired by feeling as well as by reason. . . My instinct tells me that providence created her for triumphs and disasters. If, in spite of this, France behaves in a mediocre fashion, I feel that there has been an error, due to the mistakes of the French [people] rather than the character of the nation. The positive side of my mind is convinced that France is true to herself only when she stands in the first rank; that only great enterprises can neutralize the ferment of disunity which her people carry in their veins... France cannot be France for me without grandeur. France is not France unless she is great...
Charles de Gaulle, War Memoirs (Vol. I, "The Call")
The leaders who, for many years, were at the head of French armies, have formed a government. This government, alleging our armies to be undone, agreed with the enemy to stop fighting. . . But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!
. . . .
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. Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished. . .
Charles deGaulle “The Call” Radio London, 18 June 1940
The 1940 collapse was the hour of the famous World War I French military commander Henri Phillippe Pétain (hero of Verdun) and his longtime protege, the then generally unknown Charles deGaulle, a tank general, and recently, a junior government minister. The two had once been very close: DeGaulle had named his son, Phillippe, for his mentor, Petain.
By 1944 of course, it was Pétain's pro-German regime that was the farce, and deGaulle's exile provisional government that had the support of the bulk of French public opinion. DeGaulle's public standing increased despite his erstwhile allies Roosevelt and Churchill, who thought to use the France Libre movement for their own purposes and planned to undercut deGaulle by establishing an allied-run occupation regime in liberated France. DeGaulle also had to contend with communist elements in the resistance, who had their own plans for liberated France. All these schemes were scuttled when Paris fell that August, and that city's inhabitants gave deGaulle a tumultuous welcome: his walk down the Champs-Elysées was truly one of the finest triumphs any man could ever receive and completed the work he began in June of 1940.