740.0011 (E. W.)/11–742: Telegram

The Consul General at Algiers (Cole) to the War Department 85

[No. 670?] From Murphy. For Leahy. In accordance with the President’s directive of September 22 I conveyed the message to General Mast.86 I inquired whether he would be willing to transmit at once the information to General Giraud and also whether he would comment personally. His reaction was more favorable than I dared hope for the reasons that (1) he expressed genuine alarm over imminent Axis intentions to invade this area and (2) regarding the fragile political situation in France. Mast also told me bluntly that Giraud contemplates that we deal with him and not with Darlan. Mast has learned that Darlan is seeking to climb on the band wagon but in his opinion Darlan could not be trusted. I replied that we hoped that the French would demonstrate some unity, that Darlan is Commander-in-Chief of French armed forces, that French Fleet has its importance and that the Admiralty commands the ports and coastal batteries in French North Africa. Mast retorted that Giraud will command the Army which is loyal to him and not to Darlan and that the Navy in French North Africa would fall in line with the Army. I urged that success of the operation is the cardinal point and that we want the French to consolidate with us.

Mast’s principal concern is whether we are able to undertake a large scale operation now. I assured him that we are. He then inquired if the Axis attacks in advance of our plans whether we would react immediately and I said I felt confident we would by air but the rest is a technical problem for which I am not competent.

Mast then insisted that we despatch immediately, because time presses, 5 American officers from Eisenhower’s staff including a general officer to meet equivalent French officers at a point on the Algerian coast 150 kilometers west of Algiers on October 21. Full details regarding reception, hour and facilities will be telegraphed but he urges [Page 395] that men be selected immediately and be sent to Gibraltar. Officers should include following: one officer competent for operations, one for material, one for debarkation, and one Naval officer. They should arrive by submarine at night and will be received and housed in a private property. A stay of 48 hours is contemplated.

Mast also stated that urgent need of small arms especially submachine guns and grenades. This has been also subject of discussion with his subordinate group leaders. I informed them with emphasis that we have been waiting for days for their indication of places and time and that time is limited because of moon. They explained that they were awaiting my return from the United States. They promised to supply data for first deliveries by tonight late.

Mast stated gravest concern over Algiers situation which is menaced by early Axis action. He said there is evidence of arrival of German SS operatives bearing French passports and according to one reliable report Germans were recently given 500 blank French passports intended for use in this area. Mast warned me that American representatives in this area should be prepared to protect themselves against physical attack by Axis agents. I am also requested by Mast, whose representatives returned yesterday from visit to Giraud, to suggest to you the possibility that in the Torch87 operation some part of unoccupied France might be held by French Army if latter could be supplied by U. S. Mast said this idea is dear to Giraud’s heart and that latter has worked hard during past 4 months on a plan for combined action next spring in Europe and Africa. He appreciates the compelling reasons for earlier action but urges that you consider the possibility of including in Torch a plan of establishing a bridgehead in southern France before the Axis has the chance of organizing that area.

Then question which Mast raised is that of the command of Torch. This is question I have dreaded because of French susceptibilities. After long discussion he proposed the formula of a unified command under which Eisenhower would retain complete command of American forces. In this connection Mast emphasized that French command knowing all details of terrain would be necessary to enable our forces quickly to move through French North Africa to contact the enemy. Mast also referred to the massing of Axis forces on the Tunisian frontier and added that 250,000 Italian troops are lined up on the Italo-French frontier. I suggested this was a technical rather than a political matter but Mast stoutly insisted that it is a political point which must be settled in advance. Are you able to suggest a happy formula for this delicate point which would leave the command effectively with Eisenhower but permit the French to regard the operation as theirs and require them to lend us their maximum aid? Mast [Page 396] asserts that Giraud’s command will give us entry practically without firing a shot.

Also Mast states Giraud insists that Embassy at Vichy, Legation in Bern and other possible contacts be instructed that negotiations with Giraud are being channelized elsewhere. Giraud wishes to continue contact with U. S. via Mast in Algiers for reasons of safety.

Giraud’s departure from France was also discussed. Mast and his advisers believe that we should provide an American submarine to pick up Giraud and his party at night at a point on the French Mediterranean coast. Detailed information on this point will be supplied. They prefer to regard departure by plane only as a last resort. May I say that this is possible. Please inform Eisenhower. [Murphy.]

  1. Copy supplied by the Office of the Secretary of Defense under cover of letter of September 7, 1960.
  2. Ma;}. Gen. Charles E. Mast, Commander of French Algiers Division and representative of General Giraud in French Northwest Africa.
  3. Code name for Allied invasion of Northwest Africa.