U.S.–Vichy Relations: Diplomacy, Democracy and Collaboration, 1940-1942


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Hood College History


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In 1937, U.S. Ambassador to France, William C. Bullitt, wrote that “the United States, like God, helps those who help themselves.” In doing so he previewed the principle that defined U.S. diplomatic policy toward both the Third Republic in its final days and the Vichy Government that replaced it. For France, the war began with the Battle of France on 10 May 1940 with the German invasion. On 18 May, Marshal Philippe Pétain joined French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud’s council, and by 12 June two opposing camps had taken hold in the French cabinet. Pétain had expressed agreement with those in the government who favored seeking an armistice. The other camp, with the fall of Paris looming, favored the government fleeing to French North Africa to carry out the war from there. Instead, the Third Republic, which had governed France since 1870, fell in the following days, the French sought an armistice, and Marshal Pétain ruled “the so-called Free Zone in the south” located at Vichy, his government is known as the Vichy regime. Within the terms of the armistice, was the demand that “the French government assist the German authorities,” and that “French officials... ‘collaborate faithfully’” with the Germans. Despite Vichy’s collaboration with Nazi Germany, and a clear American aversion to Nazi principles, the United States of America carried out diplomatic relations with the Vichy regime from 1940 until 1942.