The Relationship between the United States and France Since 1945
HIST 2203 NA-BS 1205


27 February 2004




The Relationship between the United States and France Since 1945
“Relations between the United States and France are beset in controversy. Controversy marks the alliances growing pains – expected when countries that once ruled the world for three centuries suddenly find themselves dependent on decisions being made 3,000 miles away in Washington” (Kissinger,33). More often than not, France has been an ally of the United States. They supported America in its fight for independence from the British, though their actual motivation may be debated. In turn, America supported France, and other European countries in both World Wars. During the Cold War, France aligned with the United States and the western allies against the ambitious eastern bloc nations led by the Soviet Union. Indeed, France depended on the United States to ensure its security during the Cold War years. At the same time, France resented the fact that its identity was tied to the United States. When the Cold War ended, France was less dependant upon American security and eager to re-establish its identity in the world apart from the United States. You might liken the Franco – American relationship since the end of World War Two as a “Marriage of Convenience”. Today, however, the marriage is becoming less convenient, especially from the French point of view. I will use the balance of this paper to explore the history of Franco-American relations since 1945 in an effort to better understand the state of those relations today.


Before World War Two, France was a respectable power, with colonies in Asia and Africa. When the war came to their door step, memories of the First World War were still fresh in the minds of French leaders. Their predications after the First World War were coming true. The French had predicted that any future war would be fought against Germany, and on French soil. At this time, America was still observing from the side lines as one European country fell to Hitler after another. America also had fresh memories of the First World War, and had no stomach to enter into another. The United States had officially declared itself neutral, it still supplied arms and other equipment to Britain and France through the “Lend – Lease” plan. This plan did little to help France, however. Nazi Germany took control of about half of France in 1940, including Paris. The ease with which Germany had taken France created a strong dislike for France by President Roosevelt, who attributed its quick surrender to degeneracy. “Roosevelt felt France should be punished for collaborating with the enemy”. Interestingly, British and American troops actually fought against French troops when they invaded Morocco and Algeria, France’s North African Colonies, in an attempt to stave off an imminent German Invasion (Bagby, 123).


By the time the Second World War had ended, France was weak. All that was left of its once vast empire were a few colonies. The Japanese had seized control of Indo-China during the war. After the war, Roosevelt had supported Vietnam’s independence from France and suggested an international trusteeship as a preliminary to independence.(188) France was seeking a global role and desperately sought American aid in maintaining its colonial rule of Indochina. “France saw itself as holding onto these colonies on behalf of the Western world.” France was taken back by the refusal of Roosevelt to back its struggle (Gordon). However, Roosevelt died in April 1945, and President Truman, who valued European support against the Soviets more than a free Vietnam, ignored Vietnams repeated appeals for cooperation. Truman gave the green light to France to return to Vietnam (Bagby, 188). Things didn’t go well for France, however. By 1954 the French were embattled with a determined army of Vietnamese guerillas. The defeat of a large French force in Dien Bien Phu signaled the possibility of Communist rule in Vietnam. At the request of the French government, The United States began discussing the possibility of sending aid (190). The United States offers to send Bombs for France to use against the Siege (Sardar, 96). To the French, this simply was not enough. They needed American troops. Before an agreement could be made, however, France had lost the battle of