Paper Prepared in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G–2, Intelligence, Department of the Army1


Evaluation of North African Manpower Potential

As of 1 August 1952 there were approximately 93,000 North Africans in the French Army, which represents 13 percent of the total Army strength. Air Force and Navy strengths are not known to G–2.
According to French standards for colonial troops, there are a total of 2,290,000 physically fit natives of military age in French North Africa, distributed as follows: Morocco—940,000; Algeria—950,000; Tunisia—400,000.

The North Africans are among the finest fighting men in the French Army, and in small unit combat operations in Indochina are rated second only to the Foreign Legion. The French, in recruiting North Africans, generally prefer Berbers to Arabs because they believe [Page 145] that the Berber makes the better soldier. Qualitatively, the Moroccan Berbers (Goums) are the best, the non-Berber Moroccans are next, the Algerians are third and the Tunisians come last. While the Tunisians are not up to the level of the other North Africans, they still make very satisfactory soldiers. In Indochina, there are 15 Moroccan, 12 Algerian and 2 Tunisian infantry battalions out of a total of 92. Of the 8 armored battalions in Indochina, 2 are Moroccan. Moroccans comprise 4 of the 19 artillery battalions in that theater. We believe that North Africans are capable of performing all tasks except the most technical ones in the combat arms, including armor, artillery and engineers. However, in order to reach the same level of proficiency as European troops they require at least twice the time in training.

The French Forces in North Africa are so organized that the technical services are composed almost entirely of Europeans; they also man most of the heavy equipment. Furthermore, with rare exceptions, all officers above the grade of captain are Europeans. Less than 1 percent of the officers in the French Army are North Africans.

For security reasons, the French are reluctant to exploit fully the ability of the North Africans, hence it is difficult to assess their potential and/or limitation to perform highly skilled, “technical” jobs. The French do not want native-dominated armored or artillery units in North Africa because they might be difficult to control in case of widespread disorders.

The following statement by the United States Army Attaché, Tangier, Morocco, illustrates both the potential of North African troops and the French reluctance to train them:

“The support platoons of the 12th Regiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique, the only medium tank unit in Morocco, are Moroccans and it was stated by the Regimental Commander that they became very satisfactory drivers of everything to include half-tracks, but did not drive tanks. It is believed none are in any of the tank crews, another example of the reluctance to use Moroccans in any technical specialty. This practice is universal in the French Forces of Morocco.”

This is also true in Algeria and Tunisia.


There are three major factors which might adversely affect the reliability and loyalty of North African troops: (1) Active support of the nationalists by the native leaders, the Sultan of Morocco and the Bey of Tunis; (2) assumption of control by the younger and more violent factions of the nationalist parties; and (3) Communist success in subverting the population. The nationalists are capable of producing violence and mob action at will and on very short notice.

At the present time North African troops are believed to be completely reliable. In the event of hostilities, however, the native troops in North Africa could pose a grave security problem for the French. [Page 146] In general, the Berbers are much more friendly to the French than are the Arabs, and the French count heavily on them in time of trouble.

With regard to disorders or uprisings, two hypothetical cases may be considered:

A simple widespread disorder among the populace, caused by hunger, Communist plotting, political agitation by native nationalists (which would be unorganized and relatively ineffective) or any similar activity affecting stability. Should disturbances reach such a stage that troops would be required to assist the police, it is believed that all troops could be relied upon with complete confidence. There might be isolated cases of infractions of discipline, but no mass disloyalty.
The other extreme situation which might impose a strain upon the loyalty of the native troops and affect their fighting value, would be that of a general mass uprising organized and led by the nationalist parties and with the sponsorship of the Bey in Tunisia and the Sultan in Morocco. If such should be the case, it is very doubtful if the native infantry units (Tirailleur) would be completely reliable. At present there is a critical shortage of French noncommissioned officers in these units. Therefore, unless this deficiency is remedied, the control and reliability of these troops would be adversely affected in time of trouble. On the other hand, the Goums are completely loyal and probably could be counted on in any eventuality.

There are now approximately 74,000 French nationals in units in all of North Africa. A breakdown by area is not available.

It is estimated that the following numbers of non-native North Africans are fit for military services: Morocco—50,000; Algeria—200,000; Tunisia—45,000; total—295,000.

  1. A memorandum by Ruth Torrance, of the Division of Research for the Near East, South Asia, and Africa, to Bernard Dorr, Acting Chief of the Military Liaison Branch, Division of Acquisition and Distribution, dated Dec. 2, 1952, informed him that UNP had requested an evaluation of North Africa’s importance to France as a source of native manpower. In a memorandum dated Dec. 3, Dorr transmitted the request to Col. Harvey H. Smith, Chief, Production Division, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G–2, Department of the Army. The source text, marked “Special Handling Required. Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals”, was attached to a memorandum by Smith to Dorr, dated Dec. 18. Smith’s memorandum stated that the attachment was an answer to Dorr’s request of Dec. 3, that had been prepared by the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G–2, Intelligence. Documentation on this topic is in Department of State file 320.