ORGANISATION OF FRENCH FORCES IN MEDITERRANEAN THEATRE
(Capture of Corsica and Elba Excluded)
French High Command
Soon after the move of General de Gaulle from London to Africa the parties of de Gaulle (President of the Comité Nationale de la France Combattane) and Giraud (Civil and Military Commandant en Chef en Afrique Francaise) combined together on 3 June 1943 to set up a new provisional French government: Le Comité Francais de la Liberation Natuionale. In a decree dated 22 June the Committee arrogated to itself the general control of the French war effort on land sea and air.* The organisation, supply and administration of the
* The original is very vague: 'Le Comité … assure le direction générale de l'effort francais dans la guerre. Il dispose de l'ensemble des forces terrestres, navales et aériennes.'
French armed forces was entrusted to a Permanent Military Committee, headed jointly by de Gaulle and Giraud. (The remainder of the Cttee was to consist of the three COS and a secretarait.) The planning of operations was to ber carried out by the two Cs-in-C in conjunction with the Allied command.
This system of a dual presidency and a dual command (Giraud being
responsible for forces in North and West Africa and de Gaulle for all
other, including the French resistance) was obviously the product of
circumstances and could not continue for long. The capture of Corsica,
which was staged by Giraud virtually without the knowledge of the
National Cttee, brought matters to a head. Early in October 1943,
at the instigation of de Gaulle, government and command were
re-organised to curtail the independence of the military. De Gaulle
became sole President of the C.F.L.N. Le Comté de la
Défense Nationale, headed by a civil Minister, was set up
to administer the armed forces and command all those not allocated to
the command of the C-in-C (Giraud) by the C.F.L.N. Giraud now used the
tital of 'Commandant en Chef
des Forces Francaises' (previously it had been CenC des Forces Francaises en
Afrique du Nord et an A.O.F.) A further shift of power came
in December 1943 when de Gaulle was granted the powers formerly
allotteed to the French President in time of war. Finally on 4 April
1944 the C.F.L.N. ordered that de Gaulle as President, was to became
Chief of the Armed Forces (Chef des armées) and was to have the
final authority on all matters concerning the composition, organisation
and employment of these forces. He was to be assisted by the Cttee of
National Defence, of which the COS (Le Chef d'Etat-Major de
la Défense Nationale) was to be Lieut-Gen. Marie Emile Bethouart. The post of C-in-C ceased to exist and Giraud went into voluntary retirement. Thenforward S.A.C., General Wilson, dealt with General de Gaulle and his representatives. On the French side, most of the correspodence seems to have been carried out by General Bethouart.
At the Anfa conference in January 1943, the Allied Governments decided that a comprehensive programme for the re-equipment of the French Army should be started immediately. The material was to come from the Americans and Giraud obtained their promise for a swift rearmament of an army of about 300,000 men. With this he hoped to equip 12 American style divisions (including three armed), plus the necessary Army and Corps troops., For the build-up of this force the French were allocated 25,000 ship tons per months.
A French General went to Washington to act as a link with the Amn War Dept and in North Africa, at the orders of General Eisenhower, a Joint Rearmament Cttee was quickly set up. The Chairman of the Cttee was an American officer, the other members were drawn from the U.S. Army and Navy and the British Navy, and it included five French officers.
The French target force was in fact established as 11 divisions and was later reduced to 8 and 4 Groupes (regts) of Tabors. (See p. 5 for further details.) These formations were almost totally equipped by the Amns, noy only as regards arms and equipment but everything necessary for life in the field. Use also was made of Amn training facilities. The rearmament programme was intended by the C.C.S. to cover only the French expeditionary force. The equipment of troops meant solely for local security remained the responsibility of the French themselves.
Organisation of French Forces
Although the following information will probably not be of direct use, it may be helpful to have some knowledge of (i) the organisation of the French Army in the Mediterranean Theatre and (ii) the quality and character of their native troops:-
Base Units At Casablanca, Oran, Algiers, Bizerta, Ajaccio. For the reception and assembly of equipment and supplies, and forwarding of the same. Working for the F.E.F. and Sovereignty Troops. In May 1944 about 13,300 men. Territorial Troops (Force Territoriales*) HQs of the different territories; schools, hospitals etc. No combat
* Armée Territoriale, Armée de Territoire, Force Territoriales refer to Sovereignty Troops or Territorial organisations as a whole. 'Regions' of N. and W. Africa were sub-divided into 'Divisions Territoriales' which was a land area and not a fighting formation. Another possible source of confusion is the title 'XIX Army Corps'. In time of peace Algiers was the Home Station of this Corps, all others were in Metropolitan France. The Corps fought in Tunisia but its formations were afterwards absorbed into the Expeditionary Force and for a while the HQ ceased to exist. It was later revived again at Algiers.
troops except for a sort of Gendarmérie, but largely an administrative and supporting service for the F.E.F. and the Sov. Troops. In May 1944 about 45,250 in N. Africa and over 4,400 in W. Africa.
Sovereignty Troops (Troupes de Souverainété) All combat troops which remained permanently on home territory. The regt was the largest grouping. Arms, supplied by the French, were obsolescent. Duties consisted of internal security, prison guard, defence of the coast and frontiers,** air defence.
** The defence of N. Africa had originally been shared between the British, French and U.S. armies. After 5 US Army left Morocco the necessary forces were provided by the French although some British divs were available until Jan 1944.; After  a meeting at AFHQ in June 1944 was agreed that the ground defence of N. Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, French Morocco and the defence of the Spanish Moroccan border) should become entirely a French responsibility. The protection of Allied dumps and installations remained the concern of Allied Commanders.
Expeditionary Forces (Forces Expeditionnaires) Field combat troops intended for overseas service. The development of this Force is described in the next section.
(ii) Character of Native Troops
* The Goumier was normally armed with rifle or carbine. A Tabor (Bn) consisted of an HQ & heavy weapon Goum (81mm mortars & mgs) and three Infantry Goums. Total sterngth was 65 French Officers and NCOs and 859 native NCOs and ORs. 247 horses and mules. A Groupe de Tabors (Regt) consisted of an HQ and three Tabors. This HQ added 28 French, 283 natives and 73 animals, which would give a Regt total of nearly 3,100.
From the above it will be seen that the CEF was particularly suited to warfare in mountin country such as Italy. This was brought home to the Corps' Commander, General Juin,* when he visited General Clark near Salerno in late September 1943 and observed the tank of 7 British Armd Div locked nose to tail along the congested roads. He at once asked General Giraud
that at least two Groupes de Tabors should be added to the Corps which was then being formed, and that the mountain div, 4e DMM, should be included at a future date. Expereince of fighting in Italy strengthened his wish for an Alpine Corps, souples de légères', and on 4 April, before the summer offensive, he addressed General Clark a Memoir on the coming operation of the CEF in the Arunci Mountains. The area he pointed out, was devoid of roads except for two which were easily defendable. The Corps should take the to the mountains so that they could come at the enemy from their rear. The presensce of 'un petit corps de montagne (4e DMM et tabors) permet une tellemanouevre'.
Build up of the Expeditionary Force
On 18 November 1943 General Giraud, as C-in-C, issued an order laying down the organisation of the F.E.F. as from 12 November. It was divided into four parts (as this O.B. was largely theoretical, it is not worth quoting formations by name):-
The first part of Juin's force, which for the winter of 1943/4 made up the C.E.F. in Italy, began to embark at Oran and Bizerta on 19 November. The Men Div was not as yet included in it and the Spahi Bde never appeared. The Corps indeed possessed only two main formations: 2e DIM Brigadier Dody, which began to disembark at Naples towards the end of Nov., and 3e DIA Major-General de Monsabert which arrived about a month later. The whole force, including the support troops given above, number 65,000 men, 2,500 animals and 12,000 vehicles.*
* A detailed OB is given in AFHQ 2391/2 op cit. To giave an idea of the strength of French formations:
2 DIM = 15,283 men and 2,432 vehicles
3 DIA (swollen by over 1,000 Commandos) = 15,283 men and 2,432 vehicles
Each div included on regt of spahis, three regts of Tirailleurs, three bns of 12x105mm guns and bn of 12 x155mm guns.
Juin, with his COS, Brigadier Marcel Carpentier reached Naples on 24 Nov, but did not take up command at the front until 3 Jan 1944. In order to ease relations with the Americans he chose to retain the title of C.E.F. (Corps Expéditionaire Francaise) for his force, ahe himself used the title 'Commandant le C.E.F.' Juin indicates that this was a matter of delicacy - he himself being a full General of a year's standing and Clark only a temporary Lieut-General, but he may also have considered the fact that he possessed only a Corps HQ (according to a memo of the J.R.C.) and had command of only two divs.
Reorganisation of Feb 1944
Early in 1944 the French recognised that they could re-equip 11 divs and provide them with the necessary supporting troops. The revised programme which the J.R.C. drew up in Feb ran as follows:-
 Vol I Juin p. 237 & AFHQ 2391/2 (Troop List 1 FEC 8.11.43
 Juin p. 244
 Juin I p. 257
 Juin I p. 254
 Juin I p. 248
 AFHQ 1090/13 1.12.43
 De Gaulle p. 267 (Decree of 7.1.44)
 AFHQ 2391/2 (J.R.C. 15.2.44 & AFHQ Memo 29.2.44); AFHQ 1090/13 (CFND Decree of 1.7.44) and AFHQ 1090/13 (Fr. OBs of Inf and Armd Divs 20.1.44) & AFHQ 2391/2 (Memo 29.4.44)
(Reorganisation of Feb 1944 cont.)
All these HQ had been organised and all but one equipped in Feb 1944.
(These included a mechanized cavalry recce sqn)
Mtn Div: (combined inf and mtn div; pack arty):
(Roughly the same an Amn three bn type. Mechanized cavalry recce sqn included light tanks)
* Translated as Shock Bn. Almost 600 men.
C.E.F. Order of Battle for summer offensive, 11.5.44
|1re DMI (Brosset)
|2e DIM (Dody)
|3e DIA (de Monsabert)
|4e DMM (Seves)
|Trois Groupes de Tabors
||Estimated strength close on
10,000 to form a 'Corps de
These formations were backed by supporting arms and services with an Establishment strength of 54,289, which includesthe 10,000 Goums given above.
* Establishment figures are taken from a return of 21 July in AFHQ 1093/3: Situation des Effectives des Forces Expéditionnaires Francaises. Actual strengths at this date are also given.
C.E.F. after the fall of Rome
For the pursuit to the Arno General Juin, who took command of his sector on 11 June, had organised 'un corps de poursuite' under the orders of General de Larminat. This included 3e DIA (de Monsabert) and 1re DMI (Brosset) 2e DIM and 4e DMM were grouped NW of Rome ready to follow. De Larminat's appointment was probably a personal one and need not imply that another HQ had arrived. General de Gaulle had for some time been urging that a second Corps HQ should be sent to Italy in order to gain battle expereince before 'Anvil'. AFHQ had no objection to the attachement of individuals but felt that there were not sufficient French troops in Italy to justify a second HQ. When the Amn Official History comes out it will presumably clear up this point.
As the 'Anvil' troopss began to assemble near Naples Juin's troops were successively reduced. He handed over his command to the Britisih on 22 July and soon after left Italy. He had, as General Beaumon-Nesbitt wrote, commanded the Corps 'with great personal distinction', being 'invaraibly good-humoured, never ruffled and always accessible.' He had made the best of impressions on all Allied Commanders with whom he had come into contact. The
qualities which Juin himself demanded in a leader, and this perhaps shows another side to his character, were 'le rayonnement et le gôut de risque.'
Planning for 'Anvil'
The decision that a major assault should be made in the south of France had been taken by the CCS at the Sextant Conference in November 1943. The original Outline Plan was completed by the JPS of AFHQ before the end of the year and just before Eisenhower gave up his command of the Medn Theatre to General Wilson. Apart from the area of landing it was not materially altered. The plan envisaged an assault landing of two, and if resources allowed, three divs; five divs to be ashore by D + 5 or a total of 125,000 men. The force would be built up to ten divs of 450,000 men (reckoning roughly 14,000 men per div; the remainder would be supporting arms and services.) In April it was decided that D day for the operation would be roughly ten weeks after the first div began to refit. HQ Force 163 (US 7 Army) opened on 12 Jan 1944 in Bouzarea under a Brigadier of 5 US Army. On 1 March Major-General Patch was made Commanding General.
There were many fluctuations in planning, in April it even appeared that the whole operation might be called off except for a feint. Not until 2 July did the CCS finally decide that the assault should go forward, target date 15 August. Preparations for 'Anvil' however had steadily continued and by mid-July most of the assault and immediate follow-up divs had reached their mounting areas and were being refitted and trained.
Just before Eisenhower gave up his command, a meeting was held at General de Gaulle's HQ at which AFHQ COS, General Bedell Smith made known the plans of the CCS for a possibel operation on French soil. This would require all the French land and air force re-equipped with Amn equipment and all the French air forces re-equipped with British equipment which would be aailable at the time. 'The greatest part of the French forces' it was agreed 'would be employed as a French Army'.* To this General Eisenhower gave his consent.
The French do not appear to have been brought further into the planning until early March, when meetings too place between Generals Wilson, Devers (Deputy SAC) and Giraud, and a little later between Wilson and de Gaulle. There were two matters of some delicacy to be settled. The first, the nationality of the assault divs, passed off
* Apparently de Gaulle made the sending of further divs to Italy conditional upon this.
quite easily. Wilson stated that these must be American; they had previous experience of amphibious ops, whereas the French had none; moreover, because of the strong state of the fortifications the landings were likely to be the most hazardous yet tackled in the theatre and the problem of signals and other possible complications demanded a common language. Giraud recognised his arguments and only suggested strengthening the force with some specialist French units: a para regt, the Bn de Choc and a Commando bn.
Agreement was also reached on what French forces were to be used and where they were to be mounted. Wilson asked for two experience Corps HQs to command an eventual force of seven divs. Two daysa later Giraud informed him that these formations could be provided. There was to be no such quick settlement on the matter of command. Wilson insisted thatthe overall Commander should be American, both because of the initial role of their Army and because of the important part to be played by Allied air and naval forces. Giraud held out for a Frenchman, arguing that the bulk of the ground force - 7 out of 10 divs would be French, and that he alone would be able to make full use of the French Resistance Movement. What was doubtless the chief reason of all, a psychological one, was not then given but was put forward by General Gammell (Wilson's COS) in a memo on the 'Differences between the French Cttee and the Allied High Command': that 'the French regard it as essential to the regeneration of France that a French Army take part in its liberation, and that it be commanded by a Frenchman.' This man had indeed already been appointed as General de Gaulle informed Wilson, General de Lattre de Tassigny CG French Armee 'B'.
After conferring with de Gaulle, Giraud modified his request; General Patch should command the assault phase of 'Anvil' but at a later stage a separate French Army Command must be established. This point was taken up and pressed with considerable vigour by General de Gaulle after Giraud's retirement on 4 April.* In point of fact Wilson had never
* To give an edge to his argument, de Gaulle insisted that even in the minor operation against Elba, which was to be carried out from Corsica by the French Corps Commander General Martin, a French Army HQ should be included in the chain of command. In Dec 1943 Giraud had agreed that Martin should come under direct command of AFHQ. On 17 April AFHQ were informed that General de Lattre would command all French ground forces, excluding the C.E.F. in Italy, and that all communications must pass through him. The direct line between AFHQ and Corsica was cut.
been opposed to the introduction of a French Army Command at a later stage in operation and the source of the trouble
seems to have been that the French required a firm promise before planning had become sufficiently advanced. Thus it was not until the end of May that agreement was reached on the basis that de Lattre should command the initial French landings, under 7 Army, with a mixed Army/Corps Staff and that when the two French Corps were landed he should assume his Army Command, parallel to the U.S. 7 Army, under an Army Group Commander.
On 30 May the French were asked to provide a Planning Staff to co-operate with Force 163 at Algiers as from 10 June. General de Lattre was nominated to head them. On 14 June Wilson informed Alexander of the C.C.S.'s decision to go ahead with 'Anvil' and at the same time gave orders to the withdrawal of the first formations from the line, including two French Divisions. 'Anvil' troops were to come under command of 7 Army in Naples. The relief of the whole C.E.F. was completed before the end of July, Juin, as has been stated, handing over command on the 22nd. As his forces were withdrawn from the line they were absorbed in Armee 'B' commanded by General de Lattre.
Naples was the chief port for mounting both the assault and follow-up convoys though, in order to relive congestion and lend support to the cover plan of an attack on Genoa, Taranto and Brindisi were used for loading 1re DMI and 3e DIA, the two French follow-up divisions. Oran was second in importance to Naples and from here sailed two combat commands of 1re DB, one of which was to land on D day.*
* Main Distribution of the French Expeditionary Force (fighting troops and services) on 1 August was:
A few thousand were stationed at Algiers and a few hundred in Tunisia.
By early August all plans had been finished and the mounting of the three U.S. assault divs and the two French follow-up divs was well under way. The assault convoy was to sail on 13 August.
The strength of the French formations, roughly up to Establishment, on 1 August was as follows:
Supporting arms and Services totalled 95,353.
* This file also gives French Naval Strengths in Algeria and Tunisia from March 1943 to Aug 1944, and French Air Forces (incl AA) on 10.1.44.
Full references for published sources used:
Carpentier's book is more inclined to give the full script of operation orders and other battle details than is that of Juin's.
(Signed) D. F. Butler