This WWII newsreel contains two segments. The first, "France Flies Again" shows the hand-off of P-40 Warhawk aircraft to the Free French Air Force (French: Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres, FAFL), the air arm of the Free French Forces during the Second World War. The second segment shows the war in the Aleutians, including the assault on Attu and Kiska. This material was shot by Hollywood director John Ford and incorporated into the longer length film "Report from the Aleutians."
The Aleutian Islands Campaign was a struggle over the Aleutian Islands, part of the Alaska Territory, in the American theater and the Pacific theater of World War II starting on 3 June 1942. A small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska, but the remoteness of the islands and the difficulties of weather and terrain meant that it took nearly a year for a far larger U.S./Canadian force to eject them. The islands' strategic value was their ability to control Pacific Great Circle routes. This control of the Pacific transportation routes is why U.S. General Billy Mitchell stated to the U.S. Congress in 1935, "I believe that in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world. I think it is the most important strategic place in the world." The Japanese reasoned that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to launch aerial assaults against the West Coast.
A battle to reclaim Attu was launched on May 11, 1943 and completed following a final Japanese banzai charge on May 29th. On 15 August 1943, an invasion force landed on Kiska in the wake of a sustained three-week barrage, only to discover the Japanese had abandoned the island on July 29th.
The battle is known as the "Forgotten Battle", due to being overshadowed by the simultaneous Guadalcanal Campaign. In the past, many western military historians believed it was a diversionary or feint attack during the Battle of Midway meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from Midway Atoll, and was in fact launched simultaneously under the same overall commander, Isoroku Yamamoto. However, historians Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully have made an argument against this interpretation, stating that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect the northern flank of their empire and did not intend it as a diversion
The record of the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres over the course of the war is as follows:
*344 enemy aircraft brought down
*104 vessels sunk, set on fire or damaged
*hundreds of vehicles, locomotives and equipment of all kinds destroyed on all fronts.
On 17 June 1940, five days before the signing of the Franco-German Armistice, the first "exodus" (of 10 airmen) took flight from Bordeaux-Mérignac to England. Others rallied to General Charles de Gaulle from France and French North Africa during the period June 1940 to November 1942. A contingent of volunteers from South American countries such as Uruguay, Argentina and Chile was also created, as Free French officials recruited there personally.
All FAFL aircraft were to be identified differently from those of the Vichy French air force, which continued to use the pre-war tricolor roundel. In order to distinguish their allegiance from that of Vichy France, the Cross of Lorraine - a cross with two parallel horizontal arms, with the lower arm slightly longer than the upper one - was the symbol of Free France chosen by Charles de Gaulle. The cross could be seen in the same places on FAFL aircraft where the roundels used to be on all French military aircraft, that is, on the fuselage and on the lower and upper surfaces of the wings. The FAFL was formed with one “mixed” unit at RAF Odiham on August 29, 1940, under the command of Commandant (Major) Lionel de Marmier.