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Editorial Note on the Darlan Agreement
November 10-17, 1942
Searching for a French military leader who possessed the prestige and authority to order local defense forces in North Africa to disregard orders from the Vichy government and not to resist the TORCH landings, Anglo-American leaders finally settled upon General Henri Giraud, former commander of the French Seventh Army. Several important North African commanders were known to be his adherents. What role would be played by Admiral Jean Darlan, commander in chief of the Vichy armed forces, had not been clearly ascertained, however. Shortly before the landings were to commence, Giraud was smuggled out of France to Gibraltar, where he raised numerous questions regarding Allied policy and his own role in North Africa; thus he delayed reaching North Africa during the crucial early hours of the invasion. Eisenhower’s headquarters became convinced that military developments required them to deal with Admiral Darlan, who happened to be in Algiers when Allied troops stormed the beaches. Darlan’s November 10 cease-fire order was not accepted by all local French commanders and was repudiated by the Vichy government; heavy fighting continued in certain areas, especially around Casablanca. By November 13 Mark Clark and Robert Murphy had worked out a draft agreement with Darlan regarding French organization and collaboration with the Allies; this was soon approved by Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Combined Chiefs of Staff, (Howe, Northwest Africa, pp. 77-80, 249-52, 262-67; Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 95-132; Murphy, Diplomat Among Warriors, pp. 115-43; Papers of DDE, 2: 665-710.)
On Sunday, November 15, Marshall held an off-the-record press conference at which he defended the arrangements that had been made in North Africa, The following day Secretary Stimson spent considerable time reassuring various Roosevelt administration members, and that evening Assistant Secretary McCloy informed him that Wendell Willkie planned to attack the Darlan agreement in a radio address later that night. Stimson telephoned the Republican party leader and insisted that if he “criticized the Darlan agreement at this juncture, he would run the risk of jeopardizing the success of the United States Army in North Africa and would be rendering its task very much more difficult,” (November 16, 1942, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 41: 45-47].) Willkie struck out the phrase that Stimson found most objectionable, but did warn against selling out United States principles. (New York Times, November 17, 1942, p. 20.) This was only the beginning of the criticism that was to be aimed at the agreement that outraged not only Charles de Gaulle and his supporters but also a broad spectrum of opinion in the United States and Great Britain.
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 439-440.