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11-08-2015, 19:01

The Tunisian Campaign

The Americans overcautiously rejected a plan to land in Tunisia. The Germans seized the occasion, and the Allies were forced to undertake a Tunisian campaign which they might otherwise have avoided, so prolonging the African campaign. The Germans took advantage of the state of confusion into which the French had fallen at Tunis and at Bizerta, and formed a bridgehead. Their purpose was to save Rommel's Afrika Korps, which was retreating continuously westward before the British Eighth Army under Montgomery. The Allies decided not to capture Tunis and concentrated their attacks on the Italian and German troops. The Americans occupied the northern front, the French the middle and the British the southern front. Only a fraction of the Italo- German force embarked and escaped, while 250,000 Italians were captured at Cap Bon. Montgomery was supported by a token force of Free French troops from Chad under the command of Leclerc. The French army of the armistice thus satisfied its wish to regain a place in the Allied force, although it lacked equipment and could not avoid some sense of divided loyalties. It was gradually fitted out with American arms and retained for modern warfare, and was later given the chance to redeem the defeat of 1940, first in Italy and then in Provence. But France was not completely committed to the Allies and disunity among the French did not help. After the short mysterious command of Admiral Darlan, there was a long dispute as to whether he should be succeeded by General Giraud, who was backed by the Americans, or by General de Gaulle, who was favoured by the Resistance. The two candidates agreed to combine forces in a single army and to establish a joint command, the French Committee of National Liberation, from which General Giraud was gradually edged out. At Algiers, which was made the capital of the Free French, the Committee organized an immense effort to mobilize all the resources of the French Empire and to modify the colonies' status, to help the resistance inside France, to restore a republican constitution and repeal the laws of the Vichy government, to prepare to assume power in France and to execute sweeping reforms which would resuscitate France after the war. The Americans largely disapproved of this effort and they would recognize none but the defacto government in France.