Battle of Gabon

World War II in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa 1940.1108

Battle of Gabon

World War II, East African campaign, Madagascar campaign (8 November 1940)

Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

While the rest of French Equatorial Africa declared for the Free French in August 1940, Gabon remained loyal to the collaborationist Vichy French. In October Charles de Gaulle ordered its invasion, conquering Gabon for Free France in a month-long campaign.

Main Events

Tripartite Pact

Joachim von Ribbentrop of Nazi Germany, Galeazzo Ciano of the Kingdom of Italy, and Saburō Kurusu of the Empire of Japan signed the Tripartite Pact in Berlin, capital of Germany. The 10 year Pact recognized the right of Germany and Italy to establish a new order in Europe while Japan did so in Greater East Asia; it also compelled the contracting Powers to come to the aid of any one of them should they be attacked by a Power not presently involved in either World War II in Europe or the Sino-Japanese War (implicitly making it a defensive pact against the United States and the Soviet Union).

Gabon Campaign

On 12 October 1940 Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle authorized plans for the invasion of the Vichy French-controlled colony of Gabon, sending troops from Cameroun across the border to capture the Gabonese town of Mitzic - 100 km inland - on the 27th and Lambaréné on 5 November. However the main invasion took place on 8 November, when Free French Legionnaires and colonial units landed off the colonial capital of Libreville. With the loss of his capital, Vichy French Governor Georges Pierre Masson persuaded his remaining forces to surrender at Port Gentil four days later. Masson - who had actually declared for de Gaulle on 29 August but immediately been forced to backtrack by the arrival of a Vichy naval squadron - committed suicide.

Battle of Libreville

On 7 November 1940 the Vichy French submarine Poncelet detected Free French and British naval forces arriving off the coast of Vichy-controlled Gabon, but was damaged and forced to scuttle by Walrus biplane strikes before it could sink any Allied ships. Free French Legionnaires and colonial troops from Senegal and Cameroun landed to the north and south of Libreville the following night, immediately facing heavy fighting as they began converging on the Gabonese capital. Despite the resistance, Libreville fell within the next two days.

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