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"An Obscure Invasion" Topic


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892 hits since 2 Apr 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Apr 2018 9:42 a.m. PST

The islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon lie off the coast of Newfoundland. For some reason France retained control of them after the various wars with England in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the time of World War II they had a population of around 4,000. When France fell in 1940, the Vichy government assumed control of them along with most other French overseas colonies.

On Christmas Eve 1941 Free French Forces commanded by Admiral Muselier, on orders from General De Gaulle, invaded the islands and took control with no resistance. The French forces consisted of three corvettes, the submarine Surcouf, and several hundred French marines.

The only problem was that De Gaulle had not told either the British or the Americans that he was going to do that. The Americans, in particular, were outraged at the action. Not only did they consider it a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, but Secretary of State Hull had just days before signed an agreement with the Vichy government to leave any French possessions in the western hemisphere strictly alone. De Gaulle, naturally, was unmoved by the Americans' protests.

Eventually American and Canadian troops provided a garrison for the islands.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2018 10:36 a.m. PST

The French kept the islands for the fisheries. Off the Atlantic coast of Canada is (or was) some of the best fishing in the world, and you had to have some place to dry the catch before heading back to Europe. There's all kinds of fuss in the immediate aftermath of the AWI as the US is cutting deals to get New Englanders access to those waters.

But yes, one of the reasons de Gaulle wasn't much loved. He didn't control the resources of the French Empire, and he kept making it hard to cut deals with the people who did.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2018 10:46 a.m. PST

Whenever I hear conspiracy theories about how President X or Prime Minister Y had people killed, I ask them why FDR or Churchill never had de Gaulle killed.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Apr 2018 11:31 a.m. PST

I'm reading a biography of de Gaulle right now. There's no doubt that he had an arrogant and inflexible personality, but he's still a remarkable man. Fleeing France in 1940 he literally had nothing. No authority, no resources, no troops. And yet he made himself into the leader of the Free French and later of France itself through sheer will. And one of the most serious obstacle he had to overcome was to avoid being seen as some puppet of the British. Much of his difficult nature was due to that.

dragon602 Apr 2018 11:51 a.m. PST

And one of the most serious obstacle he had to overcome was to avoid being seen as some puppet of the British. Much of his difficult nature was due to that.
What explains his attitude after the war?

mjkerner Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2018 11:58 a.m. PST

I don't know, anybody who stuck it to the Vichy government couldn't have been all that bad.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2018 12:05 p.m. PST

There's no doubt that he had an arrogant and inflexible personality, but he's still a remarkable man. Fleeing France in 1940 he literally had nothing. No authority, no resources, no troops. And yet he made himself into the leader of the Free French and later of France itself through sheer will. And one of the most serious obstacle he had to overcome was to avoid being seen as some puppet of the British. Much of his difficult nature was due to that.

Well stated, Scott! A remarkable man indeed.

I ask … why FDR or Churchill never had de Gaulle killed.

Churchill was De Gaulle's greatest proponent. As soon as the French signed the armistice with Germany he began attacking the Vichy regime, and did everything he could to de-legitemize it and replace it with something else. To have something else he needed someone else, and no one except De Gaulle was up for the job.

FDR on the other hand was interested in engaging the Vichy regime. Until the Torch landings the US took no hostile acts towards Vichy or any of it's territories.

The negotiations surrounding French North Africa were a fascinating bit of nuance and back-room dealings. Here was De Gualle, roundly despised by most of the Vichy military command, with a little rag-tag force using borrowed and improvised kit moving with Monty's 8th Army from Egypt through Libya. And there was Darlan, with over 100,000 reasonably well equipped men under arms in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

FDR wanted the Vichy forces to join the allies, the British were ready to fight against the Vichy forces, De Gualle wanted the Vichy forces under his command, but was not willing to consider them under someone else's command, preferring to fight them so long as someone else did much of the fighting (as his force was WAY too small), and the Vichy commanders wanted to figure out what their options and patriotic duties were.

Not a simple, uncomplicated, us-vs-them, black-and-white scenario.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2018 12:18 p.m. PST

Interesting! The French still have a number of small colonies around the world that they treat like part of France proper- like St. Maarten on the French side

Legion 402 Apr 2018 3:56 p.m. PST

A bloodless invasion … well that is something you don't see everyday …

But an interesting bit of history I don't recall reading about before.

ptdockyard Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Apr 2018 8:07 a.m. PST

AFAIK, this was the only "action" the Surcouf ever saw

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Apr 2018 10:09 a.m. PST

Actually she saw a bit of 'action'. First, when after taking refuge in a British port after the fall of France, the British boarded and seized her, with four men (3 British, 1 French) being killed. Later, Surcouf escorted convoys across the Atlantic and was damaged by a German plane while in port. After repairs in the United States she was sent to the Pacific, but never arrived. The theory is that she collided with a merchant ship at night and sank with all hands.

But there is no record she ever fired her twin 8" in combat.

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