A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Casablanca Conference Convenes

Casablanca 1943: Behind FDR and Churchill are the Combined [US-UK] Chiefs of Staff: US Army Air Forces Chief Hap Arnold, Admiral Ernie King, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall; British First Sea Lord Fleet Admiral Sir Dudley Pound;  Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir  Charles Portal (later Viscount Portal of Hungerford); Chief of the Imperial General Staff and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sir Alan Brooke (later Viscount Alanbrooke); and Chief of Combined Operations Vice Admiral Louis Mountbatten (later Earl Mountbatten of Burma)

I've already foreshadowed the 70th anniversary of the Casablanca Conference in a couple of recent posts. 

Today marks the beginning of the Conference in the Anfa resort area on January 14, 1943. The Conference was in, but very much not of (or about), Morocco. Sultan Muhammad V was not among the participants. It was essentially an Anglo-American summit with a French subtext, as the Allies sought to reconcile the two hostile figures seeking to lead the French abroad: Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud. But the main purpose was to allow the Combined Chiefs of Staff of the UK and US to meet in purpose, as well as FDR and Churchill. Stalin had also been invited, but in late 1942 the Red Army had broken through at Stalingrad and surrounded the German VIth Army Group, which was now starving and cut off but ordered by Hitler to fight to the last man. Stalin felt he couldn't travel.

Some video:
The Conference is mainly remembered today for the US-British insistence on "unconditional surrender" by the Axis (which would cause some problems later on), and for the de Gaulle-Giraud meeting, shown in the photos at bottom, which I'll blog more about later as it occurred at the end of the Conference. It was the first Roosevelt trip abroad (excluding Canada) while in office and the first by any US President during wartime. It was also the first of the summits to be held in the Middle East (Cairo and Tehran would follow). Like them, it took place in a bubble isolated from the Moroccans all around it.
Giraud, FDR, de Gaulle, Churchill
Stiff handshake: Giraud meeting de Gaulle

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