REARMING THE FRENCH. By Marcel Vigneras. (1957, 1986, 1989; 444 pages, 5 tables, 6 charts, 1 map, 45 illustrations, bibliographical note, glossaries, index, CMH Pub 11-6.)
This volume tells how the French ground, naval, and air forces available for use against the Axis from mid- 1941 to the end of World War II were rearmed, trained, and committed to combat. The narrative focuses on the part played by the United States, especially by the War Department and the U.S. Army, since the commitment, while shared with the British, was largely American, and the rearmed units generally fought as part of larger American commands.
The undertaking was only one of many such American assistance efforts and not the greatest in terms of the volume of equipment involved. More American resources, for example, went to the USSR, the United Kingdom, and China (see Global Logistics and Strategy for these). But in the case of the French the forces receiving aid were emerging outside their national home base and therefore lacked the logistical support
normally provided by a zone of interior. In this and in other respects the French effort was thus a unique experience.
The volume's "Prologue" provides a brief review, with pertinent statistics, of the assistance similarly extended by France to an unprepared America in 1917-18. But the dramatic personae of the World War II story are the American President, the British Prime Minister, and their civilian advisers; the Joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff, the War Department General Staff, the Army Service Forces, and the agencies charged with direct responsibility for rearming and training the French; and finally the officials of the French High Command and French governmental authorities.
The controversy over the timing and extent of rearmament, in which the American, British, and French authorities were involved long before the Allied landings in North Africa and for months afterward, is one of the major themes of the book. The author deals with the establishment and implementation of the successive rearmament programs concurrently with the evolution of the decisions that made them possible. The programs aimed at rehabilitation of the forces raised in North Africa (Prologue, Chs. I-III, V-VII, IX) and in metropolitan France (Chs. XVIII-XXI), and included the air force (Chs. XII, XXII), the navy (Chs. XIII, XXII), and Sovereignty and Territorial forces (Chs. VII, IX). The part played by the United States in the Anglo-American effort to support the Resistance forces is also described (Ch. XVIII).
Rearming the French also describes in detail the organization, role, and activities of the various agencies involved in French rearmament and training: the Joint Rearmament Committee (Ch. XVII), the Joint Air Commission (Ch. XVII), the Rearmament Division of SHAEF (Ch. XXIII), and the French Training Section (Chs. XVII, XXIII). Also discussed are two major problems that were a source of continuing concern for the Allied high command: the difficulties encountered by the French in establishing a sound supply system of their own and the resultant persistent shortage of French service troops (Chs. VII-X, XX). Another was the training of the rearmed units (Chs. XIV, XXIII).
1. French political developments effecting the course of rearmament operations, in particular the tug of war between Giraud and de Gaulle (Chs. V, VI, IX) and the Stuttgart and north Italy incidents (Ch. XXI).
2. The part played by rearmed French units in combat operations (Ch. XI).
3. The abortive French attempt to organize and equip forces for the liberation of Indochina (Ch. XXIV).
4. The effect of Franco-American political relations (Ch. IX).
5. The language barrier (Ch. XIV).
6. Differences in national customs, food habits, and clothing sizes (Ch. XVI).
7. Requirements for liaison, armament, and training personnel (Ch. XIV).
8. Procedures for assignment and delivery of equipment (Chs. I, XX). (For a treatment at greater length, see both volumes of Global Logistics and Strategy.)
9. Surplus stocks and equipment shortages (Chs. VIII, X).
10. Control over rearmed units (Ch. IX).
11. Special supplies and miscellaneous equipment (Ch. XVI).
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