French Freedom Papers

De Gaulle to Ismay: 12/29/1941

Letter Context

Written on December 29, 1941, this letter finds General Charles de Gaulle writing to Major-General Sir Hastings Ismay, K.C.B., D.S.O. in order to described his desired strategy for Free French forces.  Specifically, de Gaulle is strategizing troop movements between North Africa, Equatorial Africa, the Middle East, and the Eastern Front.  The importance of this letter becomes more clear when considering the date of this letter: this letter precedes Operation Torch by slightly less than a year, meaning that much of North Africa was still largely occupied by Axis forces (especially Italian forces in Tripolitania).  Through this letter, we see de Gaulle’s clear strength as a military strategist: although the Free French’s major victories of Operation Torch had yet to pass, this shows tactical maneuvering which would prevent complete Axis control of Africa and which would pave the way for Operation Torch a year later.  By carefully planning the number of troops to send between the different fronts, we see that de Gaulle is hoping to protect French colonial claims in North Africa and Equatorial Africa while also protecting the interests of the Allied Forces.  By writing to Major-General Sir Hastings Ismay, de Gaulle is passing his strategy along to Winston Churchill to keep the Allied Forces aware of Free French troop movements.  The biggest historical importance of this letter is to showcase de Gaulle’s writing as a military strategist, whereas we had previously seen letters showcasing de Gaulle’s strength at employing rhetorical strategies to build the mythology around himself and around Free France.

Letter Summary

De Gaulle plans to move forces from Syria to the Eastern Front in the U.S.S.R.; however, this plan depends on whether French colonial possessions in North Africa or the Middle East become threatened, in which case troops would be redirected accordingly.  Aside from this strategizing, he asks Major-General Sir Hastings Ismay to convey this information to Winston Churchill (for whom Ismay is the military assistant, at this time).


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