War, Cooperation, and Conflict: The European Possessions in the Caribbean, 1939-1945

By Fitzroy André Baptiste | Go to book overview

14
The Ralliement of the French Caribbean to the Allied Nations

The successful execution of TORCH on November 8, 1942, was one of the great turning points in World War II. It marked the beginning of a momentum which, combined with developments in the Battle of the Caribbean/Atlantic and in the war in the Pacific and on the Eastern European Front, ultimately carried the Allies to victory over the Axis.

The immediate result of TORCH was the rallying of French North Africa to the Allies. Instrumental in this process was Admiral Jean Darlan, the commander in chief of all Vichy forces. He happened to be in Algeria visiting a sick son on the day of the Allied attack on Morocco. With Pétain's apparent approval, Darlan threw in his lot and that of French North Africa with the Allies. Proving the dictum that in war and in international relations morality is an expendable commodity, the United States now welcomed the collaboration of a man who had been one of the chief architects of the Vichy/Axis embrace.

For the Roosevelt administration, however, the " Darlan deal" fitted into the Vichy Gamble. Darlan, if even as a temporary expedient, was the new Weygand and the key in a strategy "to organize a committee of Frenchmen outside of the Free French Delegation" to assist in the final ralliement of France and the overseas empire to the Allied nations and, ipso facto, in the shaping of the postwar settlement. Without doubt the "Darlan deal" was an embarrassment to Washington, especially because both the British government and General de Gaulle's Fighting French National Committee bitterly objected to it. As such, the assassination of Darlan in Algiers on December 24, 1942, by a young French monarchist was a relief to all concerned. However, much to the chagrin of the British and de Gaulle, the Roosevelt administration turned to a new Weygand in the form of General Henri Giraud. A high-ranking French Army officer, Giraud was not associated with the defeatist France of mid-1940. His spectacular and well-publicized escape from Nazi incarceration in the pre-TORCH period had given him a certain heroic profile to Frenchmen inside and outside of France, which was fully occupied

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