Sub-Saharan Africa 1942: Three French Empires
In November 1942 the Allies landed in Vichy French North Africa and defeated the Axis in Egypt, prompting Germany to occupy Vichy France. In Algiers, Vichy Admiral Darlan agreed to join the Allies, but as a representative of Vichy France not as part of the Free French. This move was accepted by the United States—which distrusted de Gaulle—and French West Africa, but rejected as treason by the Vichy government in occupied France. As a result three rival French factions briefly coexisted: Vichy France, Free France, and Darlan's High Commission of France in Africa.
23 Oct–11 Nov 1942 Second Battle of El Alamein▲
In late October 1942 the British Eighth Army under General Bernard Montgomery launched an all-out attack on Axis forces west of El Alamein, Egypt. After several days of heated battle, the Allies mounted Operation Supercharge early on the morning of 2 November, breaking through the Italo-German defenses and sending them into flight. However, despite suffering up to 59,000 casualties to the Allies’ 13,560, the Axis managed an orderly retreat under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.
8–16 Nov 1942 Operation Torch▲
On 8 November 1942 some 100,000 American, British, and Free French troops landed in Vichy French North Africa in Operation Torch. The landings were conducted simultaneously around Casablanca in French Morocco and around the French Algerian cities of Oran and Algiers. After a few days of Vichy French resistance, Admiral François Darlan—the commander of all Vichy French forces and who happened to be in Algiers at the time—agreed to cooperate with the Allies.
10–11 Nov 1942 Case Anton▲
In response to the Allied landings in Vichy French North Africa, Adolf Hitler ordered the occupation of Vichy France to prevent it or its fleet also falling into Allied hands. The Vichy Armistice Army offered little resistance and within a day German tanks had reached the Mediterranean coast, while Italy occupied Corsica. Although Vichy France objected to the violation of the armistice of 1940 and scuttled its fleet, it also disbanded its army and became a German puppet state under its Chief of State Philippe Pétain.
10 Nov 1942 Darlan deal▲
Vichy French Admiral François Darlan, who happened to be visiting Algiers at the time of the November 1942 Torch landings in Morocco and Algeria, quickly negotiated a deal with the invading Allies. In return for Allied recognition of Darlan as High Commissioner of France for Africa, Darlan ordered all French forces in North Africa to join the Allies. Despite denouncement of the deal by both Vichy France and Charles de Gaulle, his orders were obeyed, bringing an end to fighting in the region.
23 Nov 1942 French West Africa joins Allies▲
Pierre Boisson, the Governor General of French West Africa, agreed to accept the authority of François Darlan in Algiers and effectively break with Philippe Pétain’s Vichy French regime in German-occupied France. Boisson’s decision meant that French West Africa joined the Allies as part of Darlan’s High Commission of France in Africa rather than Charles de Gaulle’s Free France, cementing the rift between the two French factions. However, it was welcomed by the United States and Britain as it brought the strategic port city of Dakar—and much of the remaining Vichy French fleet—under Allied control.