THE JOURNEY OF
1940…The French Caribbean islands are ruled with an iron hand by Admiral Robert,
who vigorously applies the collaborationist policies of Maréchal Pétain.
Teenage youngsters of both sexes refuse to accept France’s capitulation. General de Gaulle’s radio message from London on June 18th, 1940 urging the French to resist, awakens the conscience of those for whom Vichy is synonymous with enslavement. Thus, thousands of young people from Martinique and Guadeloupe elect to join the General, who represents freedom, and who was known secretly to them as “General Micro”.
On makeshift vessels, they left in defiance of the often fatal violence of the Atlantic waters as well as the bullets of the Admiral’s police. Those who managed to survive came ashore on the neighboring British islands. After intensive training in the United States at Fort Dix NJ, they were sent to North Africa. Their battalion, which became part of the First Free French Division, disembarked in Italy and later, in France. Some made the Normandy D-Day landing.
Forgotten by history, the time has come at last for the survivors of this courageous
and perilous adventure to tell their story to the world.
Directed by: Euzhan Palcy
Written by: Euzhan Palcy
Music by: Fernand Marlu & Soft
French version / Narrator: Gérard Depardieu
Released in 2006
Running time: 88 minutes
DVD trilogy: 8 hours
Released in 2010.
THE JOURNEY OF THE DISSIDENTS
The Dissidents had been French-Caribbean teenages of both sexes from Guadeloupe & Martinique who in 1940 refused to accept France’s capitulation. They escaped their island
ruled with an iron hand by Admiral Georges Robert, who viciously applied the Pro-Nazi policies of Maréchal Pétain, the Vichy appointee. On rickety makeshift vessels, they left in defiance of the often-fatal violence of the Atlantic waters as well as the bullets of the Admiral’s police. Those who managed to survive came ashore in the “Free World” on neighboring British islands and then in the US where they were welcomed like heroes. They received intensive training at Fort Dix, Camp Edwards and Camp Patrick Henry. They wore proudly the US uniform with the Free French armband. As French blacks, they were welcomed like brothers in Harlem, Philadelphia and Boston. They enjoyed the American life even learning every single move at the Cotton Club !
There were almost 4,000 of these freedom fighters.
Subsequently they were sent to North Africa where their battalion became part of the First Free French Division who disembarked in Italy and later in France. Some made the Normandy landing at Ouistreham.
Their story is similar in some ways to that of the Tuskegee Airmen. While their cousins at arms were battling in the air, The Dissidents were battling on the ground as the famous anti-aircraft 21ème G.D.C.A battalion. They were on the front 360 days non-stop from the south to the north crossing the Rhine to chase the Nazis even into Germany.
However after the war, these daredevil soldiers were sent back to their respective islands where they remained unnoticed, their bravery not acknowledged.
It took almost 70 years to bring them out of the shadows — first recognized in 2009 in Martinique on behalf of President Nicolas Sarkozy and then in 2014 on behalf of President François Hollande with a full national recognition in mainland France from every national institution.
Euzhan Palcy made a film about them in 2006, The Journey Of The Dissidents, that created this awareness. President Hollande screened it on June 1, 2014 at the Elysée Palace as an introduction to the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy and Provence landings. It was the start of a national tribute by France to these forgotten heroes with tributes at The Elysée Palace, the Invalides by the military, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Panthéon, in schools and ending with the invitation to the ceremony at Ouistreham. President Hollande bestowed upon The Dissidents France's highest award — the Legion of Honor.
The Dissidents have dreamed for years to have a chance to thank America who welcomed and trained them so well to become these daredevil soldiers more than 70 years ago. They have dreamed for that long to come back to visit
A first step to reconnect with their American friends happened on June 4th, 2014 when both American Veterans and The Dissidents gathered in the Salon d’Honneur of the French National Assembly at the invitation of its President as part of the celebration of 70th Anniversary of the Normandy and Provence landings. When the story of The Dissidents broke, the whole room erupted in applause. Now Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was there to witness this moment.
June, 1, 2014
Presidential screening at the Elysee Palace
hosted by French President François Hollande as an introduction to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the WWII Normandy D-Day & Provence landings and the National Tribute of France to the Dissidents.
June, 18, 2011
Screening at Ecole Militaire (The French National Military School)
for the 71st anniversary of the June 18th, 1940 Call to the French People on
BBC radio by General de Gaulle urging them to join him to continue
the struggle against the Nazis.
June 17-18, 2010
Screenings for the official commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the June 18th, 1940 Call to the French People by General de Gaulle on BBC radio urging them to join him to continue the struggle against the Nazis. Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë offered the screening of the film on a giant screen at the Charlety stadium (headquarters of French Olympic Committee) before the broadcast of the World soccer cup games
France vs Mexico (June 17) and England vs Algeria (June 18).
May 9, 2006
Screening at the French National Assembly
hosted by President Bernard Debré.