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The film begins with the following written statement: "This is the story of a Free French Air Squadron. It is also the story of France. For a nation exists not alone in terms of maps and boundaries, but in the hearts of men. To millions of Frenchmen, France has never surrendered. And today, she lives immortal and defiant, in the spirit of the Free French Air Force, as it carries her war to the skies over the Rhineland." Marshal Philippe Ptain signed an armistice on June 25, 1940. He headed the collaborationist Vichy government until 1944. The film is structured in a Chinese box-like series of flashbacks that was criticized by contemporary reviewers as a confusing device. Although the film was not a sequel to Warner Bros.' popular 1943 film Casablanca, it reunited many of the cast members of that film in a similar story about a seemingly cynical idealist. According to information in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, technical advisor Sylvain Robert was the vice-president of the Fighting French movement in Southern California and Jean Gabin was considered for the role of "Matrac." A July 26, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that some scenes were shot on location in Victorville, CA. A September 17, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item reports that a full-scale Merchant Marine vessel modeled after the French ship the Ville de Nancy was built by Warner Bros. for the film. The ship took three months to build.