"De Gaulle and Churchill - The Cordial Disagreement" - François KERSAUDY

Continuing the discussion from Operation Torch : De Gaulle & Churchill:

However, this unnatural association with one of the main architects of collaboration will provoke growing indignation in Great Britain; the press protests vigorously, the Parliament is agitated, the governments in exile in London complain bitterly, the SOE reports that the news of the agreement with Darlan "provoked violent reactions in all our clandestine networks in occupied territory, and in particular in France, where it had the effect of a bomb ". At the BBC and the Political Warfare Executive, almost all the staff employed in the French sections resigns, and even within the British government, several ministers openly declared themselves hostile to President Roosevelt’s policies in North Africa. Anthony Eden is one of them, and he never misses a chance to let it be known.

Churchill, meanwhile, remains true to his promise to support President Roosevelt through thick and thin. Besides, how could one win the war without close collaboration between Great Britain and the United States? By his own admission, he remained “the ardent and enterprising second” to the President; he therefore strongly rejects all the criticisms addressed to the President’s North African policy, and this ends up creating in him a state of mind that he himself will try to define in his Memoirs: “I saw that the public opinion rose up against me. It was painful to me to note that the success of our immense operation and the victory of El-Alamein were eclipsed in the minds of many of my best friends by what appeared to them to be a negotiation despicable and sordid with one of our worst enemies. I found their attitude unreasonable, for it did not take sufficient account of the difficulties of the struggle and of the lives of our soldiers. Their criticism being sharper, I conceived of it anger and some contempt for such a lack of proportion.”
Although Churchill would not like to admit it, his reaction to criticism of American policy also takes a more unexpected form, drawing him further and further away from General de Gaulle … and bringing him closer to Admiral Darlan ! Thus, on November 26, he declares to Eden that “Darlan has done more for us than de Gaulle”; two days later, Oliver Harvey notes in his diary that “the Prime Minister is increasingly sympathetic to Darlan”. Considering that in the past Churchill has called the Admiral a villain, a miserable man, a scoundrel, a traitor and a renegade, and that he just declared less than a fortnight ago that Darlan "should to be shot ", one is forced to conclude that the Prime Minister does not always have a very sure judgment. But the most surprising is undoubtedly the speech he will deliver during a secret session of Parliament less than two weeks later.
This speech will be considered one of the best the Prime Minister has given, and understandably so; there is a brilliant account of the obstacles encountered by Operation Torch in its early days, an extraordinary portrait of Marshal Pétain whom he describes as an incorrigible and antediluvian defeatist, and finally a rather marked apology for Admiral Darlan, who will startle more than one parliamentarian. But for obvious reasons, no one ever wanted to publish what Churchill said about General de Gaulle during this session; if we remember the warm words of the Prime Minister towards the leader of Free France less than a month earlier, we cannot fail to be surprised by the tenor of the comments that will follow:

"I must now say a few words about General de Gaulle. In 1940, acting on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, I explicitly recognized him as the leader of all the Free French who would rally to him in support of the Allied cause. Since then, we have scrupulously honored all our commitments to him, and we have done everything in our power to help him. We fund his movement. We have helped him in his undertakings. But we have never recognized him as representing France. We have never admitted that he and those who follow him can have a monopoly on the future of France because they were far-sighted and courageous at the time of surrender. As for me, I have lived for over thirty-five years in close spiritual relationship with an abstraction called France […] and I still do not believe that this is an illusion. I do not believe that de Gaulle embodies France, and even less that Darlan and Vichy embody France. France is something bigger, more complex, more imposing than all these isolated expressions. I tried as much as possible to collaborate with General de Gaulle, taking into account the many problems he encountered, his difficult character and the narrowness of his views. In order to support his movement during the occupation of French North Africa by the Americans and to console him and his friends for being kept away from the undertaking, we accepted that the General Legentilhomme, appointed by him, be proclaimed high commissioner for Madagascar - although this only adds to the difficulties we have in pacifying this small island which, curious as it may seem, is much more favorable to Darlan. At present, we are trying to rally Djibouti to Free France. This is why I consider that we have been in all respects faithful to our commitments to General de Gaulle, and we will persist in this way to the end. However, you would be wrong to believe that General de Gaulle is an unwavering friend of England. On the contrary, I believe he is one of those good Frenchmen whose hearts have long been marked by centuries of war against England. On his return from Syria in the summer of 1941, he passed through the French colonies of Central and West Africa, where he became the apostle of Anglophobia. On August 25, 1941, he gave an interview to the Chicago Daily News correspondent in Brazzaville, in which he implied that England coveted France’s African colonies, and added that "England is afraid of the French fleet. In fact, England made a sort of war-time deal with Hitler, in which Vichy served as an intermediary. " He explained that Vichy served Hitler by keeping the French people in subjection, and also served England by refusing to hand over the French fleet to the Germans. Those were very ungrateful words, but we refrained from taking any public position on the subject.
Again this year, in July, General de Gaulle expressed the desire to visit Syria. Before I gave my consent to this trip, which I could very well have prevented, the General had promised to behave well; but upon his arrival in Cairo, he began to play the matadors, and in Syria, he never ceased to stir up disturbances between the British military and the civil administration of Free France, while announcing the intention of France to administer Syria, […] although we have agreed that the Syrians can enjoy their independence after the war, and even, as much as possible, during the war.
I continue to maintain good personal relations with General de Gaulle, and I am helping him to the best of my ability. I feel compelled to do so, because he stood up against the men of Bordeaux and their dishonorable surrender at a time when France had lost all will to resist. However, I would not recommend you to base all your hopes and your confidence on this man, and even less to believe that at the present time, our duty would be to entrust to him the destinies of France, for as long as it is in our power. Just like the President […] we strive to take into account the will of the entire French nation, rather than isolated manifestations of this will, however honorable they may be. "

General de Gaulle will never hear of this vengeful diatribe, and it is indeed preferable. But he did not fail to note a very clear change in attitude on Churchill’s part in recent weeks, as he confided to Mr. Trygve Lie, Norwegian Foreign Minister. The latter will also note in his report: "De Gaulle was also unhappy with Mr. Churchill; he mentioned that he had seen him four times since the agreement with Darlan, and that each time, the Prime Minister had shown himself a little more submissive to the Americans. "

It is true that General de Gaulle cannot forgive the Americans for having re-established the Vichy administration in North Africa; during his speeches on the radio, he keeps repeating that the France Combattante, which wants to be the guarantor of the honor of France, cannot have any trade with a collaborator and a notorious traitor. Moreover, despite Roosevelt’s antagonism and Churchill’s increasingly faltering support, General de Gaulle has no shortage of allies in his crusade against the “provisional expedient”: he has received countless telegrams from French resistance organizations, affirming their allegiance to de Gaulle and their irreducible opposition to Admiral Darlan; he has the full support of all the governments in exile in London, who fear above all that the Americans will collaborate with Mussert, Degrelle, Nedic and other quislings after the liberation of their own countries. In addition, de Gaulle can count on the discreet but extremely active support of Anthony Eden, who understands the political, moral and psychological consequences of the American initiative much better than Churchill; the support and understanding of the British Foreign Minister will also represent an invaluable asset for the France Combattante until the end of the war. Finally, de Gaulle benefits from another support which, to be less discreet, is no less effective: that of the British press, which continues to violently denounce the agreement concluded with Darlan; in mid-December, even the Times entered the fray, and points to “grave concerns over Darlan’s past and his current ambitions.”

The press campaign against the “provisional expedient” also begins to gain momentum across the Atlantic, especially when we learn that the Gaullists and the Jews are again being persecuted in North Africa, and that the same goes for the French officers who helped the Allies during the landing; the men of Vichy, the collaborators, the anti-British and anti-American officers have returned to their posts, while a large number of German and Italian agents cross the Algerian and Moroccan borders without hindrance… In the United States, the press and the FDR opponents begin to worry; it is clear that his soothing statements about the “provisional expedient” have not had the discounted effect, especially since Admiral Darlan seems to maintain the upper hand in Algeria and Morocco. It is true that Roosevelt has declared “in private” that he will get rid of him soon, while making it known publicly that he “is ready to receive General de Gaulle in case he comes to Washington”. But it would take much more than that to calm the political storm that arose over Washington at the end of 1942.


At this time, however, admiral Darlan’s position in North Africa was not as solid as it seemed. It is because Marshal Pétain has disowned him, the Gaullists attack him, the Giraudists hate him, the English despise him, the Americans have called him a temporary expedient, and very many factions in Algiers are plotting against him. Among these factions, we find the monarchists gathered around the Count of Paris, who thinks he can ascend the throne in the event that Admiral Darlan should disappear; however, the Count of Paris is in contact with several other factions in Algiers, in particular the clergy and the Gaullists. An emissary of the France Combattante, general d’Astier de La Vigerie, will also land on December 20 in Algiers, where he will have a stormy interview with admiral Darlan; but at the same time, he made contact with other circles, in particular those of the monarchists and the clergy.
Four days later, general d’Astier left Algiers and returned to London, where general de Gaulle was increasingly exasperated by the turn of events in North Africa. At times, he even gives in to discouragement; six days earlier, he confided to Charles Peake that he was considering renouncing and dissolving the France Combattante. It is difficult to say whether the General was speaking seriously, but on December 24 the question had already lost all importance; that day, we learn that admiral Darlan was assassinated in Algiers by a young man named Fernand Bonnier de la Chapelle.

Few attacks have been greeted with as much public indignation and secret relief as the assassination of admiral Darlan on Christmas Eve 1942. President Roosevelt, who hastens to condemn the attack, sees it in spite of everything. a very acceptable solution to the delicate problem of the temporary expedient. Of course, there is no question of the Count of Paris taking the place of admiral Darlan; What would American voters say if the President of the United States helped restore the monarchy in France? On the other hand, when he learned shortly after that general Giraud had been appointed High-commissioner and civilian and military commander-in-chief for French Africa by an imperial council made up of Boisson, Châtel, Noguès and Bergeret, President Roosevelt had all reasons to be satisfied; unlike Darlan, Giraud did not compromise with the Germans; moreover, he is an excellent soldier, he is hardly interested in politics, and has no connection with general de Gaulle. Moreover, his appointment is not entirely due to chance; Churchill later wrote that “the American authorities exerted indirect but decisive pressure for general Giraud to gain supreme political power […] in North Africa”. However, in case the populations of North Africa need competent administrators, President Roosevelt is careful to provide them. This is how Marcel Peyrouton, Ambassador of Vichy in Argentina, has just been approached by the State Department to exercise the functions of Governor General of Algeria. It is true that he was Minister of the Interior of Vichy, but the President does not stop at these details; moreover, he intends to put some order in French affairs in mid-January, when he meets Churchill in Casablanca.
Behind a mask of virtuous indignation, Winston Churchill is just as satisfied as Roosevelt with the turn of events; having sided with the President in the agreement with Darlan, Churchill, too, had to endure countless criticisms directed against American policy in North Africa. But now, as he writes in his Memoirs, “Darlan’s murder, however criminal, has spared the Allies the embarrassment of having to continue their cooperation with him, leaving them all the advantages that the admiral had been able to provide them during the crucial hours of the Allied landings”. Churchill is also very satisfied with the appointment of general Giraud as Darlan’s successor: the opportunity has finally come to unite the French from London and the French from North Africa, and to form “a French nucleus, solid and united”, which will undoubtedly be less intransigent than the Committee of London and its irascible president. Moreover, Churchill learned with pleasure that general de Gaulle was quite ready to come to an understanding with general Giraud, which seems to remove the last obstacle to a union between the French.
While qualifying Darlan’s assassination as a “heinous crime”, general de Gaulle is not unhappy with the turn of events either; the main obstacle to the establishment of a unified French authority has just been removed. In addition, de Gaulle was quite prepared to give general Giraud the command of all the French fighting forces; on December 25, he sent Giraud a telegram which ended with these words: “I suggest that you, my General, meet me as soon as possible in French territory, either in Algeria or in Chad. We will study the means which would make it possible to group together, under a provisional central power, all French forces inside and outside the country and all French territories likely to fight for the liberation and salvation of France.” General de Gaulle is aware that Giraud is supported by Roosevelt, and that the latter has no particular sympathy for the France Combattante; but de Gaulle must precisely go to Washington on December 26, where he will have a meeting with President Roosevelt from which he expects the best results.

However, nothing will go as planned. De Gaulle could not leave England on the agreed date, “because of bad weather”, and on December 27, he received a note from Washington informing him that President Roosevelt asked him to postpone his trip; general Giraud did not reply to the telegram addressed to him, and on December 27, de Gaulle also had an interview with Churchill which left him with a painful impression, as he confided in Soustelle. Churchill told him bluntly that he would not oppose US policy in any way, even if Washington turned all of North Africa over to Giraud alone. Finally, when general Giraud decides to respond to de Gaulle on December 29, his response turns out to be most disappointing: "Because of the deep emotion that caused in the civilian and military circles of North Africa the recent assassination, the atmosphere is currently unfavorable for a meeting in us. "

General de Gaulle has no illusions; Roosevelt’s attitude, Churchill’s declarations, Giraud’s response, the latest events in North Africa where many Gaullists have just been arrested, all this seems to indicate that Giraud is seeking to exclude the France Combating from North Africa, with the support of the Americans and the connivance of the English. General de Gaulle’s reaction was not long in coming: he appealed to public opinion; after a first radio address on December 28, de Gaulle published the following press release on January 2, 1943: "The inner conclusion is constantly growing in North Africa and French West Africa. The reason for this confusion is that the French authority has no base there after the collapse of Vichy, since the great national force of ardor and experience that is the France Combattante, and which has already put back into the war and in the Republic a large part of the Empire, is not officially represented in these French territories. […] The remedy for this confusion is the establishment in North Africa and in FWA, as in all the other French territories of overseas, of a provisional and enlarged central power, having for foundation the national union, for inspiration the spirit of war and liberation, for laws, the laws of the Republic, until the nation has made to know her will. This is the tradition of French democracy. […] On December 25, in agreement with the National Committee and with the Defense Council of the Empire, I proposed to general Giraud to meet me immediately in French territory to study the means of achieving this goal. I believe, in fact, that the situation in France and the general situation of the war do not allow any delay. "
This press release, which reveals general de Gaulle’s efforts to achieve unity and general Giraud’s delaying attitude, is extremely embarrassing for the British government. Churchill will try in vain to delay publication; Sir Alexander Cadogan, however, will obtain a slight modification: “France Combattante […] is kept away from these French territories”, will finally be replaced by: "France Combattante […] is not officially represented in these French territories. " But even in its toned-down form, the press release will be like a bombshell; it even set off an impressive series of chain reactions, both in Britain and in the United States.

President Roosevelt and the State Department expected that the disappearance of admiral Darlan would put an end to the violent press campaign, which, since mid-November 1942, had not ceased to denounce the machiavellianism and the immorality of the American policy in North Africa. Alas! General de Gaulle’s public and private statements after December 25 were published by the British press and immediately picked up by the American press, triggering on both sides of the Atlantic an immense current of sympathy towards the General and his “gallant Fighting French”, at the same time as a veritable wave of indignation against the North African policy of President Roosevelt. And the State Department soon receives a veritable deluge of insulting letters, which far exceeds anything that we had seen at the time of the Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon affair.

Once again, it was Secretary of State Cordell Hull who reacted most violently to the flood of criticism; taking the offensive himself, he accuses His Majesty’s government of encouraging, even of inspiring, the attacks against Washington which appeared in the British press. And on January 5, he drew up the following report, in his usual bushy style: “In the absence of Lord Halifax, I visited Sir Ronald Campbell on December 31, and told him that many of them us in government were beginning to worry seriously about the consequences of what appears to be British policy in matters such as the Darlan affair, and how this is exploited by the British radio and press which are associated with the De Gaulle’s publicity. I said that this kind of propaganda was aimed directly at pitting public opinion against the government of the United States, was perfectly harmful, and aroused the resentment of many people in the United States who were more interested in operations to drive the Axis out of Africa than in the pettiness of personal political rivalries between the French.”
The Foreign Office receives a second message on January 7, which seems to indicate that Mr. Hull’s judgment is starting to change somewhat: “I told Lord Halifax […] that all this fanfare about De Gaulle’s political aspirations came at a time when the battle for control of much of Africa and the western Mediterranean had grown in importance, and was diverting American and French commanders from their duties by forcing them to go in the rear to restore calm and discuss De Gaulle’s political aspirations. I concluded by saying that if the English persisted in supporting De Gaulle’s undertakings aimed at establishing his political supremacy at the expense of the smooth running of the operations in Africa, this would not fail to create differences between our two countries.”

President Roosevelt is also worried about these violent press campaigns directed against him, but, as a consummate politician, he is especially concerned about the damage they could cause to his reputation as a Democrat. And although he has no intention of contributing to reconciliation between the French, the President comes to believe that it is no longer possible to exclude entirely general de Gaulle from North Africa; he therefore asked Robert Murphy to devise some sort of merger plan that would allow the General to be associated with the administration of North Africa - by giving him a subordinate function, of course. In the meantime, Mr Cordell Hull continues to visit British diplomats to vent his indignation: “I maintain,” he told Sir Ronald Campbell on 7 January, "that when the most shameless partisan politics are an obstacle so obvious to the smooth running of the North African campaign, it is high time that the British government began to take serious offense. "

Winston Churchill now finds himself in a most delicate situation: on the one hand, he attaches crucial importance to the pursuit of his privileged relations with the United States, and he would without displeasure see de Gaulle leave center stage; but things are not so simple: in 1940, Churchill made a commitment to support the General, and he cannot go back on his engagements now. A few other more delicate problems have been grafted onto this: the Darlan affair has considerably increased the prestige of the General, who enjoys very broad support in France; in Great Britain, the vast majority of public opinion, to say nothing of parliamentary opinion, also supports general de Gaulle. Any measure taken against him would therefore weaken the Resistance in France, but also the position of the Prime Minister. There is no question of muzzling the press, although the Foreign Office is doing everything in its power to prevent interventions that are too favorable to de Gaulle in Parliament. Finally, the situation in North Africa has become highly worrying on January: all the civil servants loyal to Vichy have returned to their posts, the collaborators have returned, the Gaullists are in prison, the all too famous Legionary Order Service hold the population in respect, the legislation of Vichy is still in force, and all the communications with Vichy are maintained … In England, the press rebels and criticizes more and more openly the British government, which tolerates this situation and covers American politics.
Faced with this situation, Churchill has no choice; on the advice of Mr. Eden, he continues to call for the establishment in North Africa of a single authority, made up of the London Committee and the Giraud administration. As he wrote to Eden: “It is impossible at the present time to completely deprive the French of any form of national representation.” Churchill and Eden will therefore endeavor to promote an interview between de Gaulle and Giraud, and Mr. Harold Macmillan, who has just been appointed resident minister at the Allied headquarters in Algiers, has been asked to do the same. After that, His Majesty’s Government can only assure the British press, public opinion and Parliament that they are sparing no effort to promote the union of French movements in North Africa, while striving to mitigate the chronic gaullophobia of US Secretary of State Cordell Hull. On January 8, Anthony Eden will also summon the American chargé d’affaires to inform him of the British response to the two telegrams from Mr. Hull. And Eden will write later:
"I told him that these two telegrams contained a number of points which I had to dispute, and that I was afraid that Mr. Hull had not understood the feeling of British public opinion on these delicate French affairs. I did not see what Mr. Hull was referring to when he spokes of British government figures associated with the De Gaulle publicity. Such figures did not exist. Moreover, we spent most of our time trying to moderating General de Gaulle’s activities and publicity. Mr. Hull’s allegations that we are associated with any propaganda aimed at raising public opinion against the United States government are even less likely. […] Regarding the second telegram […] I said that it seemed to me that general Eisenhower had returned from the front because of the assassination of Darlan, and not to discuss the political aspirations of general de Gaulle. Anyway, […] we had only one objective in this French affair, and that was to do everything possible to bring the French together to participate in the fight against the Axis. We were not particularly favorable to de Gaulle, nor did we insist that the leading role be devolved to him in the event of the reunification of the various French factions. We would hardly make any difficulty in accepting the leader who would be appointed by the Free French or by the French from North Africa. For the rest, we had done everything to prevent the press from spreading too much about this affair […]. But the task had not been easy. The English people liked neither Darlan nor Vichy, and the government could not change that state of mind. The only way to work things out was to agree on a firm policy to get out of this French mess.

It is therefore clear that this question will be discussed in Casablanca, where Churchill and Roosevelt will go in the greatest secrecy with their staffs to discuss their next strategic initiatives. "

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Roosevelt arrived in Casablanca on January 14, a day after Churchill. The conference is to be held on Anfa Hill, which has been entirely requisitioned by the US military. The general staffs will meet in a modern hotel, while elegant villas surrounded by tropical gardens have been made available to the Prime Minister and the President. In fact, Roosevelt did not come to Casablanca to discuss French politics; he asked Robert Murphy to agree with Harold Macmillan to draw up a draft agreement before the start of the conference, while he himself would deal with the more important issues. General Eisenhower, who spoke with Roosevelt on the day of his arrival, wrote in his memoirs: “He was optimistic and full of spirit, almost playful, and I conclude that he owed this state of mind to the atmosphere of adventure that hovered over the entire Casablanca conference. Having managed to free himself for a few days from most of the government’s duties, he seemed to draw extraordinary moral energy from the fact that he had been able to secretly escape Washington to come and participate in a historic meeting in a territory where, just two months before, the battle was still taking place. Although he spoke of the seriousness of the problems posed by the war to the Allies, his interventions were, in general, devoted to the distant future, to post-war tasks, including the fate of the liberated colonies and territories. Above all, he wondered whether France could regain its former prestige and power in Europe, and on this point was very pessimistic. As a result, his mind was preoccupied with ways to ensure that control of certain strategic points in the French Empire, which France, he thought, would no longer be able to retain.”
Robert Murphy’s account amply confirmed General Eisenhower’s impressions: “President Roosevelt set the tone for the conference by repeatedly expressing his delight at having managed to evade Washington’s constant political obligations for a time. His mood was that of a schoolboy on vacation, which explains the almost frivolous way in which he approached some of the difficult problems he had to deal with. In this magical suburb of Casablanca, with its languorous climate and exotic atmosphere, two global problems were dealt with at once; in a large banquet hall at the Anfa Hotel, British and American military leaders discussed overall military strategy […].”

The second project under discussion is not quite a global problem, but it threatens to become one; in his first meetings with Churchill, Murphy and Macmillan, President Roosevelt learned that in England, the press, Parliament and public opinion continued to be outraged aloud by the aftermath of the Darlan affair and the imprisonment of the Gaullists in North Africa. But there is much more: Roosevelt has been given the latest excerpts from the American press, and almost all of them denounce his North African policy in the most sarcastic tone; worse still, some of the columnists who have strongly supported his liberal policies in the past have become in this matter his fiercest detractors. Roosevelt immediately understood the danger, and willy-nilly, he resigned himself to discussing French policy with Churchill as part of his requisitioned villa. At the same time, he sent Cordel Hull the following telegram: “I hoped that we could avoid political discussions at this time, but I realized when I arrived here that the American and English newspapers had made a real mountain of a molehill, so that I will not return to Washington until I have settled this matter.”
Indeed, President Roosevelt is determined to find a solution to the thorny problem of French unity – a solution that satisfies the French, or at least calms American opinion. But as we have seen, the mood of the President is that of “a schoolboy on vacation”, and he will approach this delicate matter with the lightness that borders on frivolity. The solution he proposed with Churchill was as follows: “We will call Giraud the groom and I will bring him from Algiers. As for you, you will bring the bride, de Gaulle, from London, and we will arrange a shotgun wedding.” All this is disarmingly simple: it is enough to bring the two Frenchmen to meet, to persuade them to unite, and Roosevelt like Churchill, posing as volunteer matchmakers, will thus silence all their critics…
His Majesty’s Prime Minister is somewhat surprised. No doubt he feels that the problem is more complicated than that, or perhaps he remembers that general de Gaulle never sees with a very good eye the interference of the Anglo-Saxons in French affairs. Moreover, the prospect of having to sponsor the “bride” does not excite him: the Americans have always overestimated the influence he could exert on de Gaulle. On the other hand, Roosevelt would not understand if he refused to bring the General; and besides, didn’t de Gaulle himself express the desire to meet Giraud? Anyway, Roosevelt knows how to be persuasive, and Churchill, returning in the early morning of his second day of discussions with the President, mutters before Inspector Thompson, his bodyguard: “We will have to marry these two in one way or another!” And the next day, January 16, he sent general de Gaulle the following telegram: “I would be happy if you came to join me here by the first available plane – which we will provide. I have, in fact, the possibility of organizing a meeting between you and Giraud in conditions of complete discretion and with the best perspectives. It would be useful if you brought Catroux, because Giraud will want to have someone with him, probably Bergeret. However, conversations would take place between the two main Frenchmen, unless it was appropriate to proceed otherwise. Giraud will be here on Sunday and I hope the weather will allow you to arrive on Monday.”
The “groom”, Giraud, arrived in Anfa on 17 January. He first visited President Roosevelt, with whom he had a cordial meeting*.

General Giraud asked Roosevelt to provide him with weapons and equipment to equip an army of 300,000 men, and the President agreed. Roosevelt was not very favorably impressed by Giraud: “I am afraid that we have relied on a rotten board. He’s a poor administrator, he’ll be a poor leader.”

The President told him that he would like to see him at the head of the military organization, “with de Gaulle as his deputy and a third person as political leader in French North Africa.” An hour later, Giraud also visits Churchill in the nearby villa, and their conversation gives us an interesting glimpse into the Prime Minister’s concerns at the moment:
Churchill: “How glad to see you again! How far we have come since Metz. But you haven’t changed.”
Giraud: “Neither do you, Mr. Prime Minister.”
Churchill: “It’s true, I’m solid. And yet it’s hard. But whisky preserves. Are you taking a whisky?”
Churchill speaks of the French fleet in Alexandria, then of Mers el-Kébir.
Churchill: “Let’s leave that, would you. The past is the past. Let’s move on to the future. Did you get anything from De Gaulle?”
Giraud: “Nothing.”
Churchill: “Me neither. That surprises me. He should be there. I gave him all the means to come. He makes the wrongheaded, as if by chance. He is not convenient, your comrade de Gaulle. Do you know him?”
Giraud: “I had him under my command, in Metz.”
Churchill: “Are you good together?”
Giraud: “Not bad.”
Churchill: “That’s some guy. I will never forget that he was the first, if not the only, foreigner who did not despair of England in June 1940. I would be very keen, in the interests of France and in the interests of all of us, to see your agreement. He would leave London. He would come back to settle in Algiers next to you. That would be perfect.”
Giraud: “Of course.”
Churchill: “For that, he has to come. I will telegraph to him that you are already here. He must not be long in coming now. In the meantime, you will settle your military matters with the General Staff. Come and see my maps.”

In London on 16 January, de Gaulle still did not know that Churchill had left England. He is waiting to receive a new invitation to visit Washington. As for Giraud’s reply to his second telegram, it was as unsatisfactory as the first; on the pretext of “previous commitments”, general Giraud apologized for not being able to meet de Gaulle before the end of January. But de Gaulle felt that he was in a position of strength: the myth of Vichy independence had just been dispelled by the events of November 1942, the Foreign Office increasingly supported the France Combattante, the French Resistance was now in close contact with general de Gaulle, public opinion in North Africa was turning more and more to him, and general Giraud had a well-established reputation for political incompetence. Only de Gaulle can represent the Republic, and the spirit of the French Resistance. The only possible solution was therefore to set up an enlarged national committee in Algiers with de Gaulle as president, while Giraud became commander-in-chief of the army; there is no other way. “The Americans,” the general told Hervé Alphand, “will notice this within a fortnight.” But there is still no letter from president Roosevelt; on the other hand, Anthony Eden asks the General to come and see him on the morning of January 17.
The meeting took place at the Foreign Office around noon, in the presence of Sir Alexander Cadogan. Eden tells the General that he has a highly confidential communication to make to him from the Prime Minister, who is in North Africa; after which he gave him Churchill’ s telegram inviting him to Casablanca. And Mr. Eden will note in his report:
“He reads the telegram silently, until he arrives at the name of General Bergeret after which he exclaims: ‘Ah, they will even bring that one,’ or something like that. Having finished his reading, the General does not express the slightest satisfaction. He stated that he had wished to meet general Giraud immediately after the assassination of admiral Darlan, but that general Giraud had refused to do so. Now the timing is not so good. Nor was he very enthusiastic about meeting general Giraud under the auspices of the two great allies. He would be too encouraged to make concessions, when he well knows that he must not make them.”
Mr. Eden then explained to the General the advantages of such an meeting, and he added that “the Prime Minister had the greatest difficulty in organizing it.”
“General de Gaulle,” Mr Eden continues in his report, “tells me that he understands that the initiative may come from the Prime Minister, but that on the other hand, our interests and his interests are not necessarily identical. We never wanted to understand that the only real force in France at the moment is the France Combattante. Apart from it, there is only Vichy. General Giraud, who is suspended somewhere in between, represents nothing. Sir A. Cadogan and I dispute these statements, and we ask general de Gaulle whether or not he is prepared to come to an agreement with general Giraud. He replied that he was prepared to meet general Giraud at Fort-Lamy for a one-on-one meeting […]. According to de Gaulle, it is now for Giraud to rally to the France Combattante […]. I would point out to him that since the Prime Minister and the President of the United States have agreed to organize this meeting, it seems inconceivable to me that he, de Gaulle, could refuse to take part in it. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister explained to the President the situation of general de Gaulle, and the latter now has the opportunity to explain it himself, which is precisely what he intended to do during his trip to the United States.
General de Gaulle replies that this is a completely different question. If the President wishes to see him, he can always visit him in America, but how can we invite, him, to come and meet anyone on French soil? […] General de Gaulle pointed out that if the victory was won on behalf of the Vichy men, France would not have gained much from this war. He insists that general Giraud represents little, and repeats that it would be very embarrassing for him to be brought to an agreement with Giraud in the presence of two foreign statesmen. […]. In the end, the General promises to reflect and come back to see me this afternoon, or to send me his answer at 3:30 p.m.”
It did not take long for general de Gaulle to make up his mind. He later wrote in his memoirs: “My reaction was unfavorable. No doubt, Mr. Eden was suggesting to me that Roosevelt was also in Morocco, where the Allied leaders were holding a conference to decide on their common plans. But, then, why didn’t Churchill tell me? Why didn’t he give other objects to the invitation than a meeting with Giraud? Why was this invitation made to me in his name alone? If I had to go to Anfa to be in a competition as the ‘foal’ of the British, while the Americans would hire theirs, that would be an unseemly, even dangerous comedy.”
Without consulting the Committee, de Gaulle returned to the Foreign Office at 5 p.m., and delivered Mr. Eden a message for the Prime Minister – a polite but firm refusal:
“Your message, which was delivered to me today at noon by Mr Eden, is quite unexpected to me. As you know, I have telegraphed Giraud several times since Christmas to urge him to meet me. Although the situation has since evolved in a way that now makes an agreement less easy, I would gladly meet Giraud on French territory, where he wants and as soon as he wants, with all the desirable secrecy. I am sending him an officer for direct liaison. I highly appreciate the feelings that inspire your message and I thank you very much for it. Let me tell you, however, that the atmosphere of a very high allied areopagus around Giraud-de Gaulle conversations and, on the other hand, the sudden conditions in which these conversations are proposed to me do not seem to me to be the best for an effective agreement. Simple and direct meetings between French leaders would, in my opinion, be the most likely to provide a really useful arrangement. I would like to assure you, once again, that the French National Committee in no way separates the best interests of France from that of war and the United Nations. It is for this reason that, in my opinion, a rapid and complete recovery of the internal situation in French North Africa is necessary under conditions consistent with the maximum effort for war and the success of our principles. I telegraph, once again, to Giraud to renew to him, once again, my proposal for an immediate meeting, a proposal to which I have not received from him, so far, any precise answer.”

In Anfa, we receive this telegram on the morning of January 18. Churchill is mortified; the General’s refusal is already embarrassing in itself, but received in the presence of Roosevelt, it takes on the appearance of a personal affront; the fact that the President seems to consider all this as a kind of joyful competition to organize a " shotgun wedding " is not made to fix things… The day before, in fact, Roosevelt sent Eden the following message: “I brought the groom. Where is the bride?” Now Roosevelt is joking about the General’s refusal, and Robert Murphy will write that he “took some pleasure in Churchill’s downfall.” He suggests that Churchill is a “bad father”, unable to be respected by his “enfant terrible”, and this image seems to amuse him enormously. On the other hand, the humor of the situation completely escapes Churchill, and he is furious. But neither the President nor the Prime Minister really examined the reasons for the General’s refusal; it is that the discussion is at a much lower level:
Roosevelt: “You have to bring your enfant terrible.”
Churchill: “De Gaulle is on his high horses. I can’t get him to move from London. The Joan of Arc complex, you understand…”
Roosevelt: “Who pays for de Gaulle’s food?”
Churchill: “Well,us.”*
Roosevelt: “Why not cut off his food? Maybe he will come…”

*Of course, things are not that simple. In 1943, the merchant navy and French Equatorial Africa provided Great Britain with significant resources, which largely compensated for the subsidies it paid to Free France.

Churchill returned to meditate in his own villa, and Roosevelt, who was not afraid to rehash his jokes when he found them good, sent Cordel Hull the following telegram:
“We brought the groom, Giraud, who was quite willing to conclude the marriage, and certainly in the terms we would have dictated to him. However, our friends could not bring the bride, the capricious “lady de Gaulle”. She has taken umbrage of our projects, does not want to see any of us, and does not seem willing to share Giraud’s layer. Under these conditions, we will do our best, and I believe I can bring something pretty good out of all this. Giraud gives me the impression of a man who wants to fight, and who is hardly interested in political issues.”
In fact, general Giraud visited the President that same evening at around 6 p.m., and Churchill joined them soon after. Giraud wrote in his memoirs: “At this moment came M. Churchill. […] He throws his hat on the sofa and, grumbling, declares that general de Gaulle is having difficulty coming, he does not know under what pretext. Under these conditions, he telegraphed to London that he did not accept such an attitude, and that general de Gaulle had to choose between his coming here and the subsidies that the British Treasury pays to the National Committee. If he refused to travel to Casablanca, the initial agreement made in 1940 between him and His Majesty’s Government would be annulled. Mr. Roosevelt approves of this attitude.”
Churchill therefore returned to his villa, and set out to write the following instruction to Mr. Eden:
“Deliver from me the following telegram to general de Gaulle, if you deem it appropriate. “I am authorized to state that the invitation to you to come here came from the President of the United States as well as from me. I have not yet spoken of your refusal to general Giraud who has only come with two staff officers and is waiting here. The consequences of this refusal, if you maintained it, would, in my opinion, be very unfavorable both for yourself and for your movement. First of all, we are in the process of making arrangements for North Africa on which I would have been happy to consult you, but which will otherwise be settled in your absence. These provisions, once decided, will be supported by Great Britain and the United States. Your refusal to come to the proposed meeting will, I believe, be almost universally blamed by public opinion and will be a peremptory response to any possible claim on your part. Of course, there can be no question of you going to the United States shortly if you now reject the President’s invitation. All my efforts to iron out the difficulties that have arisen between America and your movement will have definitely failed. It will certainly no longer be possible for me to take them back as long as you remain at the head of this movement. His Majesty’s Government should also reconsider its position towards it as long as you remain its leader. If, with full knowledge of the facts, you again reject this unique opportunity, we will try to continue our journey without you, as best we can. The door is still open.”
I leave you free to make such changes to this message as you may consider desirable, provided that they do not alter its seriousness. The difficulty is that we cannot appeal directly to the French National Committee, because of the secrecy that surrounds our deliberations. For days I have been fighting for de Gaulle, and I am taking all possible steps to bring about lasting reconciliation between the French. If he rejects the opportunity offered to him today, I believe that his replacement at the head of the Free France movement will become an essential condition for the support of His Majesty’s government in the future. I hope that you will pass that on to him to the extent that you deem appropriate. You should bully him quite harshly, and do so for his own sake.”

In London, Anthony Eden received this telegram on the morning of 19 January. He summoned the Cabinet for 5 p.m. and read it out. The entire Cabinet agreed that de Gaulle is strongly supported by the English press and public opinion, and that any attempt to force his hand would be very unwelcome in the country. It is also noted that any break with de Gaulle would be a mortal blow to the French Resistance. The Cabinet therefore decides to moderate the tone of the message; we will replace: “we are in the process of making arrangements for North Africa on which I would have been happy to consult you”, which seems a little cavalier, by: “We would have been happy if you had participated in the conversations”, which seems more democratic; it is deleted: “His Majesty’s government will also have to review its position towards it as long as you remain its leader”, which is too threatening, and the end of the message, considered too insignificant, is replaced by a more classic diplomatic formula: “If, with full knowledge of the facts, you reject this unique opportunity, the consequences can only be extremely serious for the future of the movement of the France Combattante.”
Anthony Eden then asked the General to come and see him at the Foreign Office, but de Gaulle replied that he had other commitments. Shortly after 6 p.m., René Pleven visited Lord Strang; he confided to him that the General expected the tone of the Prime Minister’s new note to be very harsh, and feared that he would not be able to contain himself when he became aware of it. Eden therefore made the General carry Churchill’s telegram in its moderate version…
The General, “without noting what the message contained threatening and which, after many experiences”, no longer “impressed him much”, nevertheless decided that the communication was serious enough to be transmitted to the National Committee. At the Committee meeting the next day, he showed little enthusiasm for the idea of going to Anfa, where he would be “subject to all kinds of pressure”, and could “perhaps not even speak with Giraud alone”. However, several members of the Committee, in particular Catroux and Pleven, strongly supported this trip, and the whole Committee ended up recommending to the General to accept the invitation, if only “to hear the suggestions that would be made”. On the afternoon of 20 January, de Gaulle finally agreed, not without the greatest reluctance. “I will go to Morocco,” he told Soustelle, “to go to Roosevelt’s invitation. I wouldn’t have gone there for Churchill alone…”
At 5 p.m., de Gaulle went to Anthony Eden’s house, informed him that he agreed to go to Anfa, and gave him the following message to the Prime Minister:
“It seems to me, by your second message, that your presence there and that of President Roosevelt are intended to achieve with general Giraud certain arrangements concerning French North Africa. You would suggest that I take part in the discussions, adding, however, that the arrangements will eventually be reached without my participation. So far the entire Allied enterprise in French North Africa has been decided, prepared and executed without any official participation of the France Combattante and without me having been able to have any way to be informed directly and objectively of the events. […] The decisions that have been taken outside the France Combattante with regard to North and West Africa and, on the other hand, the maintenance in these regions of an authority based on Vichy, have led to an internal situation which, it seems, does not fully satisfy the Allies and which I can assure you does not satisfy France in any way. Now, you and President Roosevelt are asking me to take part unexpectedly, on this subject, in talks of which I know neither the program nor the conditions, and in which you lead me to discuss suddenly with you problems which in all respects involve the future of the French Empire and that of France. I acknowledge, however, that, despite these questions of form, however serious they may be, the general situation of the war and the provisional state of France do not allow me to refuse to meet the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of His British Majesty. I therefore agree to go to your meeting. I will be accompanied by General Catroux and Admiral d’Argenlieu.”
On January 21, in Anfa, the conference comes to an end, and the Chiefs of Staff agreed on the new strategy to follow: after the liberation of Tunisia, the next objective will be Sicily. The Americans would have preferred a landing in France as early as 1943, but they eventually bowed to British strategists. As for Churchill, he has another reason to be satisfied; that evening, in the President’s villa, Elliot Roosevelt was talking to his father, when the Prime Minister entered; and the President’s son will note this: “Winston entered hopping. “I wanted to tell you, he announced with a broad smile, for de Gaulle… It seems that we will still manage to get him to come here to participate in our discussions.” Franklin Roosevelt didn’t say anything for a while, and then he walked to his bedroom: “Congratulations, Winston. I was sure you would succeed.””

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On January 22, at 11 a.m., general de Gaulle’s plane landed in Fédala, near Casablanca. The General was accompanied by Catroux, Argenlieu, Palewski and Hettier de Boislambert. At the airport, they are received in great secrecy by Colonel de Linarès, Mr. Codrington, and the American general Wilbur, whom de Gaulle once knew at the Ecole Supérieure de Guerre. The General’s first impressions are clearly unfavorable: there is no guard of honor, but we see everywhere American sentinels; he is driven to Anfa in an American car, housed in a city requisitioned by the Americans, where the service is provided by American soldiers, while the entire sector is surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by American sentries – all this in French territory… “In short,” wrote the General, “it was captivity.” Worse still, “a kind of outrage”.
De Gaulle was therefore in a murderous mood when he went to the lunch given in his honor by general Giraud; the first words he addresses to the latter are also sarcastic at will: “Hello, my General. I see that the Americans are treating you well.” After which he explodes: “Well, what? I have, four times, offered you to see us and it is in this wire enclosure, in the middle of foreigners, that I must meet you? Don’t you feel that what is abhorrent from a national point of view?”
General de Gaulle wrote that the meal still took place in a cordial atmosphere. In any case, he started badly: having learned that the house was guarded by American sentinels, de Gaulle refused to sit at the table before they had been replaced by French soldiers. After the meal, there is no longer any question of cordiality; Giraud repeatedly declared that he was in solidarity with the “proconsuls” Noguès, Boisson, Peyrouton and Bergeret, and that although he was determined to fight the Germans, he had nothing against the Vichy regime. As for de Gaulle, he declares quite clearly that he came against his will, and that he refuses to discuss under the aegis of the Anglo-Saxons; he also has some very harsh words for Churchill and Roosevelt. We separate very coldly, without making another appointment, and general de Gaulle returns to his villa.
In the late afternoon, de Gaulle, who had stayed at home on a calculated reserve, was visited by Mr Macmillan, who eventually persuaded him to visit Churchill, who lived in one of the neighboring villas. Churchill summed up the following interview in three words: “an icy meeting.” De Gaulle, for his part, will be more explicit: "In approaching the Prime Minister, I tell him with vivacity that I would not have come if I had known that I would have to be surrounded, on French soil, by American bayonets. “It’s an occupied country!” he exclaimed”. And Churchill explodes in turn. “I made it very clear to him,” he wrote, “that if he persisted in being an obstacle, we would not hesitate to break with him once and for all.” Which, in Churchillian French, gave exactly this: "Si vous m’obstaclerez, je vous liquiderai ! "
“Being both softened,” general de Gaulle continued, "we got to the bottom of things. The Prime Minister explained to me that he had agreed with the President on a draft solution to the problem of the French Empire. Generals Giraud and de Gaulle would be placed jointly as chairman of a leading committee, where they, along with all other members, would be equal in all respects. But Giraud would exercise supreme military command, due in particular to the fact that the United States, having to provide equipment to the reunified French army, intended to settle the question only with him. “No doubt,” said Mr. Churchill, “my friend general George could complete you as the third president.” As for Noguès, Boisson, Peyrouton, Bergeret, they would keep their position and enter the Committee. “The Americans, indeed, had now adopted them and wanted them to be trusted.”
I replied to Mr. Churchill that this solution might seem adequate to the level – which is indeed very estimable – of the American sergeant majors, but that I did not imagine that he himself would take it seriously. As for me, I was obliged to take into account what remained to France of its sovereignty. I had, he could not doubt, the highest regard for himself and for Roosevelt, without however recognizing them any kind of quality to settle the question of power in the French Empire. The Allies had, apart from me, against me, established the system that worked in Algiers. Apparently finding only mediocre satisfaction, they now planned to drown the France Combattante. But this one would not lend itself to it. If she were to disappear, she would prefer to do so with honor.
Mr. Churchill did not seem to grasp the moral side of the problem. “See,” he said, “what my own government is. When I formed it, once, designated as I was for having fought for a long time against the spirit of Munich, I brought in all our notorious Munchers. Well! They follow up hard, to the point that today they are not distinguished from others.” – “To speak like this,” I replied, “you must lose sight of what happened to France. As for me, I am not a politician who tries to make a cabinet and find a majority among parliamentarians.” The Prime Minister asked me, however, to reflect on the project he had presented to me. “Tonight,” he added, “you will confer with the President of the United States and you will see that, on this issue, he and I stand in solidarity.”
Lord Moran, Churchill’s doctor, described in his diary the end of the interview: "When they finally left the small living room of our villa, the Prime Minister remained for a moment in the entrance contemplating the Frenchman who crossed the garden with great strides, with pride. Then Winston turned to us and said with a smile:
– His country has abandoned the struggle, he himself is only a refugee, and if we withdraw our support, he is a finished man. Well, look at him! No, but look at him! One would think Stalin, with two hundred divisions behind him. I did not spare him. I told him straight that if he didn’t be more cooperative, we would let him down.
“And how did he take it?” I asked.
“Oh,” replied the Prime Minister, “he paid little attention to it. My advances as well as my threats have not produced the slightest reaction.”
That evening, President Roosevelt gave a dinner in honor of the Sultan of Morocco. Churchill is not at his best on this occasion: “He was scowling,” will wrote Hopkins, “and seemed bored firmly.” The complete absence of alcohol at this dinner may have something to do with it. After the meal, Churchill announced to Roosevelt that he “led the hard life to de Gaulle.” He suggested that Roosevelt not meet the General until the next morning, but on Hopkins’ advice, the President decided to receive him that evening as planned.
Thus, late in the evening, de Gaulle met President Roosevelt for the first time. Harry Hopkins notes that the General “arrived with a cold and stern air.” Elliot Roosevelt, who is also present, adds: “He enters with great strides […] giving us the impression that his narrow skull was surrounded by lightning.” The President, dressed in white and sitting on a large sofa, is all smiles and asked de Gaulle to take a seat at his side. The General later wrote: “That evening we stormed with good grace, but we stood, by mutual agreement, in a certain imprecision about the French affair. He, drawing with a light dotted line the same sketch that Churchill had drawn with a heavy stroke to me and gently suggesting to me that this solution would be necessary because he himself had solved it.” And he added: “[Roosevelt] was quick to bring his mind to mine, using charm, to convince me, rather than arguments, but attached once and for all to the side he had taken.”
This is also the impression that the President’s son gets, who reports the following words: “I am sure that we will succeed in helping your great country to reconnect with its destiny,” says my father, playing all his charm. His interlocutor is content to emit a growl for any answer. “And I assure you that my country will be honored to participate in this undertaking,” adds my father. “I’m glad to hear you say it,” replies the Frenchman in an icy tone.
But these are just trivialities. Elliot Roosevelt is no longer there when the serious discussions begin, because the President wanted to talk to de Gaulle one-on-one – which does not prevent one of the President’s aides-de-camp, Captain Mac Crea, from taking some notes, “from a rather uncomfortable observation point, he himself wrote, a slot in a slightly half-open door”… The President begins by saying that the whole purpose of the discussions with Churchill is to organize the rest of the war, and to agree on the choice of new theaters of operations. He then evokes the political situation in North Africa, and declares most seriously in the world that he “supposes that the collaboration of general Eisenhower with admiral Darlan caused some astonishment to general de Gaulle”. Nevertheless, Roosevelt “fully approved of general Eisenhower’s decision in this matter, and things were moving in the right direction, when the admiral died inadvertently.” Regarding the exercise of sovereignty in North Africa, “none of the candidates for power has the right to claim that he alone represents the sovereignty of France. […] The Allied nations that are currently fighting on French territory are doing so for the liberation of France, and are in a way exercising a political mandate on behalf of the French people.” In other words, France is equated with a young child who absolutely needs a guardian. “The only thing that could save France,” concludes the President, “is the union of all its good and loyal servants to defeat the enemy, and once the war is over, victorious France will again be able to exercise its political sovereignty over the Metropole and the Empire.”
From his improvised observation point, behind the half-open door, Captain Mac Crea has some difficulty following the conversation: “General de Gaulle was speaking too low for me to hear anything,” he confessed, “and so I cannot report any of his words.” In fact, de Gaulle delicately but firmly indicated to the President that “the national will had already fixed its choice and that, sooner or later, the power that would be established in the Empire, then in the Metropole, would be the one that France wanted”.
But several other witnesses also attended this conversation “one-on-one”, as Harry Hopkins noted: “In the middle of the conference, I noticed that all the members of the secret service assigned to the protection of the President were standing behind the curtain above the gallery of the living room, and behind the doors that gave access to the room; I even saw a machine gun in the hands of one of them. […] Leaving the room, I went out to talk to the people of the secret service, in order to find out what was happening; I found them all armed to the teeth, and equipped with about a dozen machine guns. I asked them why. They replied that they believed they had to take all necessary precautions so that nothing happened to the President. We hadn’t done all this circus when Giraud met the President, and it reflected the atmosphere around de Gaulle in Casablanca. The spectacle of the secret service in arms seemed incredibly funny to me, and never could a Gilbert and Sullivan play have matched it. Poor General de Gaulle, who probably knew nothing about it, was kept at gunpoint throughout his visit.”
But the president of the United States and the head of France Combattante take great care to avoid all outbursts, and after half an hour they separate, satisfied and relaxed. On the way back, de Gaulle confided to Hettier de Boislambert: “You see, today I met a great statesman. I think we got along well and understood each other.”

Nothing similar would happen during the second meeting between de Gaulle and Giraud the next morning; the latter, as could be expected, pronounced himself in favor of the Anglo-American solution, and repeated that politics did not interest him. De Gaulle tries to explain to him that he has compromised himself politically by affirming his loyalty to the Maréchal, and tries to convince him to join the France Combattante. But Giraud required supreme power, and demanded that it be the France Combattante that rallied to him. In the end, we only agree to establish a connection between the two movements, and we separate in an icy atmosphere.
It is quite clear at this point that Churchill and Roosevelt failed in their efforts to unite the two opposing factions. But it must be remembered that this is not really President Roosevelt’s goal; he only wants to give everyone – and especially American public opinion – the impression that he has succeeded in reconciling Giraud and de Gaulle, thereby silencing his many critics, in the United States as elsewhere. But all that is needed is a judiciously drawn up communiqué, signed by the two French generals. Roosevelt spent part of the night writing it, with the help of Robert Murphy and Churchill. The latter would undoubtedly have preferred a genuine reconciliation between the two generals; but it now seems impossible, and besides, he, Churchill, also has a public opinion to appease… The press release will therefore do the trick. We finally agree on the following text: de Gaulle and Giraud proclaim themselves to agree on “the principles of the United Nations”, and announce their intention to form a joint committee to administer the French Empire in the war. The two generals will be the co-chairs. This draft communiqué is submitted to Giraud and de Gaulle. Giraud accepts from the outset; de Gaulle remains to be convinced.

General de Gaulle is in a very bad mood. He has just learned that Roosevelt held the day before to the Sultan of Morocco “a language that did not fit well with the French protectorate”; he also learned that in a meeting with Giraud, Churchill arbitrarily set the value of the pound sterling in North Africa at 250 French francs, instead of the 176 francs previously fixed. It is also said that Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to recognize general Giraud “the right and duty to act as manager of French, military and economic and financial interests.”* To crown it all, de Gaulle has just been informed that the conference ended within twenty-four hours – while at no time was the General informed or consulted about future operations plans…

*Far from endorsing this formula, Churchill did not even see it. When he becomes aware of it at the beginning of February, he will have it substantially amended.

The leader of the France Combattante is still ruminating all these “affronts” when Robert Murphy and Harold Macmillan come to submit to him the draft communiqué established during the night. And de Gaulle wrote in his memoirs: “No doubt the formula was too vague to commit us too much. But it had the triple disadvantage of coming from the Allies, of implying that I was renouncing what was not simply the administration of the Empire, and finally of giving the impression that the entente was realized when it was not. After taking the unanimously negative opinion of my four companions, I replied to the messengers that the expansion of French national power could not result from foreign intervention, however high and friendly it might be. However, I agreed to see the President and the Prime Minister again before the dislocation scheduled for the afternoon.”
Churchill was also in a very bad mood: de Gaulle refused to come to Anfa; when he finally came, he refused to get along with Giraud, then he refused the Anglo-American plan of reconciliation between the French, and now he refuses even to sign a communiqué intended to mitigate the effects of all his refusals! He, His Majesty’s Prime Minister, was literally flouted in the presence of the President of the United States, by a man whom everyone considers his obligated and his creature. The General’s behavior is inexcusable… For Churchill, the fact that de Gaulle may be right is only an aggravating circumstance. The Prime Minister is not only in a bad mood; he is out of his mind.
The farewell visit that the head of Free France will pay to Mr. Churchill will therefore be a very lively one. Churchill preferred not to say anything about it in his memoirs. De Gaulle wrote: “My meeting with Mr. Churchill was, by his own fault, extremely bitter. Of the whole war, it was the harshest of our encounters. In a vehement scene, the Prime Minister addressed bitter reproaches to me, where I could see nothing but the alibi of embarrassment. He told me that on his return to London he would publicly accuse me of having prevented the entente, would set against me the opinion of his country and appeal to that of France.” Churchill added that if de Gaulle did not sign the communiqué, he would “denounce him in the House of Commons and on the radio.” To which de Gaulle replied that “he is free to dishonor himself”. “I confined myself to replying to him,” de Gaulle wrote, “that my friendship for him and my attachment to the English alliance made me deplore the attitude he had taken. To satisfy America at all costs, he espoused a cause that was unacceptable to France, disturbing to Europe, regrettable to England.” On this, de Gaulle goes to visit the President in the neighboring villa…
Meanwhile, Harry Hopkins, after seeing Macmillan, told the President that de Gaulle refused to sign the communiqué. “He was not satisfied with it,” Hopkins wrote, “but I urged him not to disavow de Gaulle, even if he misbehaved. I was convinced – and still am – that Giraud and de Gaulle wanted to work together; I therefore asked the President to be conciliatory and not to mistreat de Gaulle too much. If he needed to be bullied, I told him, let Churchill take care of it, since the Free France movement was financed by the English. I say to the President that, in my opinion, we would be able to get the two generals to agree on a joint statement, and a photo where we would see them together. Giraud arrived at 11:30 am. At that time, de Gaulle was at Churchill’s house. Giraud wanted confirmation of the promises made to him about deliveries to his army, but the President sent him back to Eisenhower. The conference went very well. Giraud agreed to collaborate with de Gaulle. Giraud comes out. De Gaulle and his entourage enter, de Gaulle calm and self-confident – I liked him – but no joint communiqué, and Giraud will have to be under his command. The President expresses his point of view in very energetic terms and strongly urges de Gaulle to come to an agreement with Giraud, in order to win the war and liberate France.”
“The President expressed to me,” de Gaulle wrote, “the sorrow he felt at the fact that the understanding of the French remained uncertain and that he himself had not been able to get me to accept even the text of a communiqué. “In human affairs, he says, you have to offer drama to the public. The news of your meeting with general Giraud, in a conference where I find myself, as well as Churchill, if this news were accompanied by a joint declaration of the French leaders and even if it were only a theoretical agreement, would produce the dramatic effect that must be sought” – “Let me do it, I replied. There will be a statement, although it cannot be yours.”
“At that moment,” Hopkins noted, “the secret service called me on the phone to warn me of Churchill’s arrival. The latter spoke with Giraud from whom he took leave. Churchill came in and I brought Giraud back, convinced that, if the four of them could be reunited, we could reach an agreement. This was happening when it was close to noon, the time when the press conference was to be held. The President was surprised to see Giraud, but he did not let anything appear.”
And de Gaulle continues: “Then came Mr. Churchill, General Giraud and their retinue, finally a host of military leaders and Allied officials. As everyone gathered around the President, Churchill repeated aloud against me his diatribe and threats, with the obvious intention of flattering Roosevelt’s somewhat disappointed self-esteem.”
Robert Murphy, who is also present, will also evoke the diatribe of the Prime Minister: “Churchill, whom the stubbornness of de Gaulle has infuriated, waves his finger in front of the figure of the General. In his inimitable French, his dentures slamming furiously, he shouts: ‘Mon Général, il ne faut pas obstacler la guerre.’”
The President, de Gaulle wrote, “felt sorry not to notice him, but, by contrast, adopted the tone of the best grace to present me with the final request that was close to his heart.” Would you accept, at least, he said, to be photographed at my side and alongside the British Prime Minister at the same time as general Giraud?” – “Willingly, I replied, because I have the highest esteem for this great soldier.” – “Would you go,” asked the President, “to the point of shaking hands with general Giraud in our presence and in front of the objective?” My answer was, “I shall do that for you.” Then Mr. Roosevelt, enchanted, was carried into the garden where were in advance, prepared four seats, pointed cameras without number, lined up, pen in hand, several rows of reporters."
And Hopkins notes in his diary: “I don’t know who was more stunned, the photographers or de Gaulle, when the four of them went out, or rather all three, since the President was carried to his chair. I admit that he was a rather solemn group. The cameras began to turn. The President asked de Gaulle and Giraud to shake hands. They got up and executed. Some of the operators could not record the scene, so the generals started again. Then the French and their retinue left. Churchill and the President sat under the hot African sun – thousands of miles from their country – talking to the press correspondents about the conduct of the war.”
It was on this occasion that Roosevelt made his famous statement on “unconditional surrender.” But general de Gaulle has already returned to his villa. Before flying to London, he wrote a statement that began: “We saw each other. We caused…” There is, however, a concrete element: a permanent link will be established between the two generals. Finally, both affirm their faith in the victory of France and in the triumph of “human freedoms”. Despite the unfortunate “Joan of Arc affair”*, de Gaulle returned to London convinced that he had made an impression on the President. Shortly after his return to London, he wrote to general Leclerc: “My conversations with Roosevelt were good. I have the impression that he has discovered what the France Combattante is. This can have great consequences afterwards.” General de Gaulle may be deluding himself here – at least as much as President Roosevelt himself, when he imagines that Anfa’s staging contributed to the solution of the problem of French unity. Indeed, the President seems to have allowed himself to be caught up in the illusion that he himself created, and he thinks he has found a way to maneuver general de Gaulle…

*During their first meeting on January 22, Roosevelt told de Gaulle that he could not recognize him as the sole political leader of France, because he had not been elected by the French people. To which de Gaulle replied that Joan of Arc had derived her legitimacy only from her action, when she had taken up arms against the invader. On the morning of January 24, when Macmillan reported to Roosevelt that de Gaulle had proposed to Giraud to be Foch, while he, de Gaulle, would be Clémenceau, the President exclaimed: “Yesterday he wanted to be Joan of Arc, and now he wants to be Clémenceau…!” Roosevelt then told Hull that de Gaulle had told him: “I am Joan of Arc, I am Clémenceau!”; then he will entrust to the ambassador Bullitt that he said to de Gaulle: “General, you told me the other day that you were Joan of Arc and now you say that you are Clémenceau. Which of the two are you?” To which de Gaulle would have replied: “I am both.” Then, the President will tell that he retorted to de Gaulle: “We must choose; you still can’t be both.” When history reaches the ears of Vice-Consul Kenneth Glow, it was further amplified: “President Roosevelt confided to de Gaulle that France was in such a critical military situation that it needed a general of Napoleon’s caliber.” But I’m that man," de Gaulle replied. “Financially,” the President continues, “France is in such a state that it would also need a Colbert” – “But I am that man,” de Gaulle said modestly. Finally, the President, concealing his astonishment, declares that France is so politically devastated that it would need a Clémenceau. De Gaulle stands up with dignity and says: ‘But I am that man!’" When the press seized on the story, de Gaulle also became Louis XIV, Foch, Bayard, etc. Before leaving Anfa, General de Gaulle will hear some of the first versions. They won’t make him laugh at all…

Churchill, on the other hand, no longer has any illusions about this. If the Anfa conference was a great success for British strategists, it was on the other hand a bitter failure for the Prime Minister; his personal intervention in French affairs ended in a diplomatic rout, the memory of which will remain engraved in his memory for a long time. At the end of the conference, Churchill and Roosevelt went to Marrakech. That evening, during the dinner, the American Vice-Consul Kenneth Pendar inquired about general de Gaulle. “Churchill seemed upset,” Penda writes, “and said to me a typical Churchillian answer: ‘Oh, let’s not talk about that one. We call him Joan of Arc, and we are looking for bishops to burn him.’” But this time again, if Churchill is all to his fury against general de Gaulle, he does not lose sight of the vital interests of France; so, after complaining bitterly about general de Gaulle to the American vice-consul, Churchill turned to Hopkins and said, “Well, Harry, when you go back, make everyone understand that it is important to send weapons here as quickly as possible. This is the only way to strengthen the French.” It is true that Churchill never ceases to evoke France with tears in his eyes, and that he confided to his private doctor two days earlier: “De Gaulle is the soul of this army. It may be the last survivor of a warrior race.”
Basically, Churchill still had the same admiration for de Gaulle; but he also begins to hate him seriously. It is true that the Prime Minister is not resentful, but in this case, he will make an exception. As for de Gaulle, he returned to London “outraged by the way the Prime Minister treated him”. This means that relations between France Combattante and its British ally are likely to be very turbulent during the next few months.

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