Clark, representing the U.S. Army, and
Brig. Gen. Charles Mast, spokesman for
General Henri Giraud, met secretly in
Cherchel, seventy-five miles west of Algiers.
The subject of their conversations was a momentous one-the imminent re-entry of
French North Africa into the war. General
Clark, acting on instructions from
President Roosevelt, gave positive assurances to General Mast that the United
States would furnish the equipment necessary to outfit the North African forces.
Clark's commitment was timely, for
Anglo-American forces were about to land in northwest Africa. More important, it heralded an event of great significance: the forthcoming assumption, by the United
States, of direct responsibility for reequipping the French armed forces. The
British had been discharging this responsibility by maintaining the small band of
Frenchmen stubbornly fighting on their side and under their control since mid-1940.
Before World War II had ended, the
Americans had fully equipped and trained eight French divisions in North Africa,
partially outfitted and trained three more in
France, furnished equipment for nineteen air squadrons, and carried out an extensive rehabilitation program for the French Navy.
They had supplied some 1,400 aircraft,
160,000 rifles and carbines, 30,000 machine guns, 3,000 artillery guns, 5,000 tanks and
These instructions were relayed in Msg R-2080,
Gen George C. Marshall to Lt Gen Dwight D.
Eisenhower, 17 Oct 42, CM-OUT 5682. (See
Bibliographical Note.) "Clark . . . should state . . .
the U.S. will furnish equipment for French Forces which will operate against the Axis."
self-propelled weapons, and 51,000,000
rounds of ammunition.
An occurrence of historic import was thus re-enacted in reverse. Twice France had similarly undertaken to assist an unprepared
America at war. In 1781, in addition to sending an expeditionary corps to help the young colonies in their fight for independence,
France supplied weapons and matériel to the infant Continental Army. Much later, in World War I. France, herself at war with Germany, again provided matériel to the American Expeditionary Forces
(A.E.F.) sent to the European continent.
In that second episode, the nature and extent of the help rendered were vastly different from what they were to be in World
War II. Yet the parallel is striking enough to warrant, for the sake of historical comparison,
a brief account of the aid extended by the French to the American forces in