Operation Flagpole (World War II)

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Operation Flagpole
Part of Operation Torch
Operational scope diplomatic, operational
Location Gibraltar, Algeria
Planned October 16, 1942
Planned by AFHQ
Objective secure cooperation of Vichy France officers in French North Africa
Outcome successful
Major General Mark Clark

Operation Flagpole was part of the run-up to Operation Torch, the planned Allied invasion of North Africa during World War II. It involved arranging for and carrying out a top-secret high-level meeting between U.S. General Mark W. Clark, representing the Allies, and Général Charles E. Mast, the leader of a group of pro-Allied Vichy France officers in French North Africa, to secure their cooperation with the invasion.

Planning[edit]

On October 16, 1942, a meeting was held in Operation Torch's staff headquarters at Norfolk House in London. Among those present were:

Eisenhower informed the group that the War Department had forwarded an urgent cable from U.S. diplomat Robert D. Murphy of the American consulate in Algeria requesting the immediate dispatch of a top-secret high-level group to meet with Général Charles E. Mast, the military commander of Algiers and the leader of a group of pro-Allied officials in French North Africa.

The objective of this secret mission, code-named "Operation Flagpole", was to reach an agreement through Mast and his colleagues to have Général Henri Giraud, a key pro-Allied French army officer, step forward and take command of French military forces in North Africa, and then arrange a ceasefire with the Allied invasion force. Other alternatives, such as Jean Darlan and Charles de Gaulle, had been rejected by the British and American governments for a variety of political reasons.

Clark would be Eisenhower's personal representative, with Lemnitzer as the top invasion planner, Hamblen as the invasion's logistics expert, and Holmes serving as translator. Wright would serve as the liaison with the French Navy, with the specific objective of convincing the French to have their fleet anchored in Toulon join the Allied cause.[1]

Execution[edit]

HMS Seraph

The group flew in two Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses bombers to Gibraltar, operational headquarters for the invasion, and on October 19, they boarded the British S class submarine HMS Seraph, Lieutenant Norman Limbury Auchinleck "Bill" Jewell, RN, commanding. Seraph carried collapsible canoes, submachine guns, walkie-talkies, and other supplies, as well as three British Commandos.

Seraph transported Clark's party to the small fishing village of Cherchell, about 82 miles (132 kilometers) west of Algiers. After midnight on the evening of October 21, the sub surfaced and set Clark's mission ashore, where they met with Mast and Murphy. Wright met with Capitaine de vaisseau Jean Barjot and learned that the French Navy was opposed to U.S. entry into North Africa, although the army and air force supported it. As a result of the meetings, Clark secured the agreement of the French.

On October 24, Clark's mission returned to the Seraph after some inadvertent delays, and later met a seaplane that flew them back to Gibraltar, arriving back in London on October 25.[2][3]

Aftermath[edit]

Operation Flagpole was followed by Operation Kingpin, in which Général Giraud, code-named "Kingpin", was released from French "Zone libre" confinement and brought to Gibraltar .

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Murphy p.138-140
  2. ^ Murphy p.140-154
  3. ^ HMS "Seraph" on British Submarines of World War Two
Bibliography