French-American relations in the interwar period were marked by tension and disagreement. The Versailles Peace Conference revealed differences that would prove troublesome, disarmament and reparations in particular. The onset of the Great Depression would exacerbate these problems and create others. The rise of Hitler stimulated the Roosevelt administration to assist where it could, but the enormous French defeat, so unexpected in Washington, brought French-American relations to the point of crisis. This is the first study to combine elements of the interwar story with the fall of France, using the relationship between France and the United States as a lens to view larger issues of the day.
Zahniser examines domestic politics on both sides of the Atlantic and analyzes the contributions of such notables as Bullitt, Roosevelt, Gamelin, Reynaud, Morgenthau, Churchill, and Hitler. His study challenges the misleading diplomacy of Roosevelt and Bullitt, who professed a close relationship with France, all the while knowing that the US could do little to help if Hitler attacked. Military strategy, placing emphasis on mobility, armor, and air power, became the new goals of modern warfare. Roosevelt would decide to seek a third term in part because the French defeat signaled that great work remained to be done. Dictators would make long-range plans that would eventually bring them to ruin.
About the Author:
MARVIN R. ZAHNISER is Professor Emeritus of History at The Ohio State University.