Destination Casablanca: Exile, Espionage, and the Battle for North Africa in World War II

Destination Casablanca: Exile, Espionage, and the Battle for North Africa in World War II

by Meredith Hindley


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This rollicking and panoramic history of Casablanca during the Second World War sheds light on the city as a key hub for European and American powers, and a place where spies, soldiers, and political agents exchanged secrets and vied for control.

In November 1942, as a part of Operation Torch, 33,000 American soldiers sailed undetected across the Atlantic and stormed the beaches of French Morocco. Seventy-four hours later, the Americans controlled the country and one of the most valuable wartime ports: Casablanca.

In the years preceding, Casablanca had evolved from an exotic travel destination to a key military target after France's surrender to Germany. Jewish refugees from Europe poured in, hoping to obtain visas and passage to the United States and beyond. Nazi agents and collaborators infiltrated the city in search of power and loyalty. The resistance was not far behind, as shopkeepers, celebrities, former French Foreign Legionnaires, and disgruntled bureaucrats formed a network of Allied spies. But once in American hands, Casablanca became a crucial logistical hub in the fight against Germany—and the site of Roosevelt and Churchill's demand for "unconditional surrender."

Rife with rogue soldiers, power grabs, and diplomatic intrigue, Destination Casablanca is the riveting and untold story of this glamorous city—memorialized in the classic film that was rush-released in 1942 to capitalize on the drama that was unfolding in North Africa at the heart of World War II.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610394055
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 10/10/2017
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 599,134
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Meredith Hindley is a historian and senior writer for Humanities, the quarterly review of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, Salon, Christian Science Monitor, and Barnes and Noble Review. Hindley received her PhD from American University.

Table of Contents

Maps vi

Prologue xi

Part I Collaboration and Resistance

1 The Faraway War 2

2 The Twilight 8

3 The Fall of France 13

4 Rebel for the Republic 20

5 Two Men and a Mission 27

6 The Evacuees 31

7 A Painful Surprise 40

8 Acts of Kindness 46

9 The Refugee Club 52

10 Keep Your Enemies Closer 58

11 Mon Legionnaire 63

12 Definition and Concentration 70

13 The President's Secret Envoy 76

14 The Agreement 82

15 Visa Problems 91

16 Absent Without Leave 98

17 The Apostles 108

18 On the Road to Missour 117

19 The French Conscience 124

20 Generals on the Ledge 130

21 Up to the Neck and In to the Death 134

22 Calling Station Lincoln 141

23 Robin Hood, Tweedledum, and Tweedledee 148

24 Sympathy and Chivalry 154

25 Of Locusts and Missed Ships 165

26 Resistance in Jeopardy 171

27 A Nerve-Wracking State of Uncertainty 178

28 Ms. Baker Comes to Casablanca 183

29 Ballade of the Second Front 188

30 Lieutenant Colonel MacGowan 193

31 Baggage Compartment 198

32 We Need a Hero 204

Part II Torching Morocco

33 Zigzagging 214

34 Robert Is on Time 222

35 The Best Laid Plans 227

36 San 233

37 Fédala 239

38 Off the Coast of Casablanca 244

39 The American Consulate 253

40 Mehdia and Port Lyautey 259

41 Vichy 264

42 Convergence 266

43 Lowering the Flag 274

44 Aux Armes, Citoyens! 280

45 The Return 287

46 Gentlemen's Agreement 291

47 Algiers 300

48 The Darlan Deal 306

49 Crooks and Turncoats 314

Part III "Men Pass, France and Morocco Remain"

50 Aftermath in the White City 320

51 Cheerful and Effective Cooperation 328

52 Hope and Delay 335

53 Loyalty 340

54 Air Commodore Frankland and Don Quixote 346

55 Round Up the Usual Suspects 351

56 The Work Begins 356

57 To the Bitter End 361

58 Uneasy Lies a Head That Wears the Crown 366

59 The Horse Race 373

60 Unconditional Surrender 378

61 The Club Scene 384

62 Leadership 390

63 Emptying the Camps 395

64 Why Have You Not Left? 403

65 I Leave Morocco My Heart 408

Conclusion 414

Postscript: Film Versus History 424

Acknowledgments 427

Notes 430

Bibliography 473

Index 481

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Destination Casablanca: Exile, Espionage, and the Battle for North Africa in World War II 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
The_Dread_Pirate_Roberts More than 1 year ago
Meredith Hindley’s “Destination Casablanca” succeeds on so many levels that I had trouble deciding to where to begin this review. With so much attention having been paid in recent years to WW II action in mainland Europe and the Pacific, especially through feature films and TV mini-series that reach huge audiences (Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor, The Pacific) it’s gratifying to see the spotlight turned on a lesser-known theater of operations. Casablanca, a port city on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, in the northwest corner of Africa, became an important place in the world in the aftermath of the fall of France, when the French military and government capitulated to Nazi Germany, compromising with their conquerors by establishing a collaborationist Fascist government in the south of France in exchange for giving up Paris and the north. Refugees from France, and indeed all parts of Europe that had fallen under the Nazi jackboot, gravitated to Casablanca as a waypoint on the road, hopefully, to better situations, only to find themselves subject to a mini-version of Nazi Germany under the Fascist Vichy government. One of my favorite things about reading this book was learning more about the dynamics of the internal political struggle between Vichy and the Free French. The extent to which Vichy France, and Vichy-controlled French North Africa, emulated the fascist Nazi regime which conquered France in a matter of weeks in the summer of 1940 was eye-opening, as was learning about the plight of the refugees who just wanted to get out of Casablanca, only to find themselves interned – along with Moroccan residents who were deemed undesirable by the Vichy government – and often forced into labor camps. The complexities of the political situation with regard to the opposing forces with the French government and military form a fascinating part of the narrative, and one which Ms Hindley does a very thorough job of laying out. Questions of left-wing and right-wing politics, not to mention national honor (often thrown up as a mask to hide personal ambition) complicated the situation. The French wanted to retain their North African colonies, and the local Fascists saw emulation of their Nazi conquerors as a path to appease Germany and forestall any question of an Axis invasion. The British, and especially Churchill, were sympathetic to France’s wish to retain their empire holdings, but impatient with their appeasement of and capitulation to, the Nazi regime, which was seen as cowardice. The French, especially the Vichy government, seemed to regard the British as more of an enemy than the Germans, an attitude with deep roots in the two countries’ shared history, exacerbated by the unfortunate attacks by the Royal Navy on French Navy vessels in Mediterranean ports when the French dithered and delayed over he question of moving the vessels to safe ports that were out of reach of the German Kriegsmarine. The espionage (and sabotage) exploits of Allied sympathizers and the (mostly) American diplomats/spies who worked to undermine the fascist regime and prepare to support the role North Africa would play in the Allied pursuit of the war effort against the Nazis is another fascinating area that is explored in “Destination Casablanca”. Once the decision is made to open a second front against the Nazis in North Africa, Casablanca is cast in the role of a key port and supply depot for the Mediterranean Theater, and the short b