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Algeria and Operation Torch
How the Allies regained North Africa
The Battle of France, which took place in May and June of 1940, was the event that ultimately led to the German occupation of France and the establishment of the Vichy Regime. As German troops closed in from the East, the Italian military invaded France over the Alps.
During this time, colonial troops of French Algeria were sent to fight in Metropolitan France. Though the Nazis took control of the French government, Vichy France retained its geographic claims in North Africa, including Algeria. Despite the heavy influence the Nazis held over Vichy France, Allied sentiments grew strong in North Africa as refugees fled to many North African territories. By 1942, these sentiments had grown strong enough to resist Nazi occupation. Allied forces planned an invasion of North Africa titled Operation Torch. British and American forces organized terrestrial, naval, and aerial landings in North African cities including Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. Additionally, French and Jewish resistance fighters in Algiers arranged a coup against the axis powers.
Operation Torch began at midnight on 8 November 1942. Allied forces landed at three beaches, two west and one east of Algiers. Moving from naval to terrestrial offense was of little difficulty due to the relatively low opposition of French forces. The Allied forces, coupled with the resistance fighters, surrounded the estate of senior French Army Officer Alphonse Juin in an attempt to win his allegiance to the Allies. General Juin ultimately surrendered at 18:00 as additional Allied troops arrived into Algiers. This returned the city of Algiers to Allied control. Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed François Darlan as the French High Commissioner in North Africa, which ceded Algeria to the Vichy Regime. This was not well received by Charles de Gaulle, who, as the head of Free France, hoped to regain control of French territories in North Africa for the Free French Government.
Though Algiers was ceded to Vichy France, Allied support remained pertinent throughout much of the city. While de Gaulle had no legitimate power in North Africa, a large portion of the population of North Africa publicly supported Free France, pressuring Darlan to swear allegiance to Allied forces. Darlan was ultimately assassinated by French Resistance fighter Fernand Bonnier de La Chappelle. Henri Giraud succeeded Darlan and began replacing many Vichy officials in North Africa. The diminishing influence of Vichy French and Axis forces led to a significant increase in Allied support. Giraud and de Gaulle formed the Comité français de Libération nationale, comprised of members from the North African government and those from de Gaulle’s French National Committee. By November 1943, Charles de Gaulle was appointed head of the CFLN, as well as the de jure leader of the government of France. The U.S. and Britain officially recognized his leadership.
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Eisenhower, Dwight. Crusade In Europe, pp. 99–105, 107–110. New York: Doubleday, 1948.
Hostache, René. "Le CFLN, Gouvernement Provisoire De La France En Guerre." Charles-de-Gaulle.org.
Mackenzie, S.P. (2014). The Second World War in Europe: Second Edition. Routledge. pp. 54–55.
Trueman, C. N. Operation Torch. historylearningsite.co.uk. The History Learning Site, 19 May 2015.