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The Longest Reach


cluding two powerful battleships: the Jean Bart at Casa- blanca and the Richelieu further south on the Atlantic coast at Dakar, Senegal.

Even beating the French militarily carried its own risks. The French gendarmes and soldiers maintained tight con- trol over the native peoples all across North Africa. As much as many of the American officers might dislike the French colonial system, they still did not want to fight their way ashore and then find themselves dealing with a series of na- tive rebellions. They needed the French to keep order while they got on with the war against the Germans.

In the frantic months of the late summer and early au- tumn of 1942, Allied preparations for the North African campaign moved swiftly along two tracks. While the military prepared for the landings on the assumption that they would have to fight the French, diplomats worked just as hard to try to avoid French resistance and, instead, secure French cooperation.

The United States had maintained diplomatic relations with the Vichy regime even after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war had brought America into the conflict. Robert D. Murphy, counselor at the American Embassy in Vichy, worked hard to convince Pétain to cooperate with the Germans only as much as the French were required to by the agreement that ended the fighting in 1940. He succeeded in convincing the French not to turn their fleet over to the Germans and not to permit the Germans to station their forces in French territories in Africa. He also tried to set the groundwork so that at the ap- propriate time, the French military would join the Allies in fighting the Germans.

All this diplomatic effort came to a head in the latter half of 1942 as the time for the North African operation ap- proached. At that time, most of the French in North Africa were loyal to Pétain and felt he was doing the best he could for France under difficult circumstances. General Charles de Gaulle, who had set up a Free French government based in Britain, was neither liked nor trusted by most of the French in North Africa. The Allied goal thus became to win over those loyal to Pétain and convince them that aiding the

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