Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

Part 17.5
Extract from ch.12, The Fall of the Rising Sun, Brendan Green


Operation MENAGERIE commenced on April 1st, some would say appropriately so. Many Allied decision-makers considered it a distraction. Nonetheless the sheer complexity and scale over-awed even the doubters for a time: it was the largest Franco-British amphibious operation of the war, in terms of men, ships and aircraft involved. Two large invasion convoys sailed, from Singapore and Kuching, carrying six divisions. The land-based air umbrella involved a thousand aircraft, mostly mounted from Malaya, while six aircraft carriers added over two hundred more. Japanese air power, by this point, no longer existed. ‘They did not even have enough fuel to fly kamikaze missions,’ noted Admiral Esteva.

In the short term the results exceeded expectations. The Allied fleet included six modern capital ships; as it became apparent that no naval threat existed, these added their firepower to that of the four older battleships supporting the landings. ‘It seemed as much a mystical celebration, a sublime enactment of the power of the Allies, as a military operation,’ wrote Admiral Godefroy. ‘The Japanese could only retreat or perish.’

...the Allies completed their encirclement of Saigon by the third week of April, but the city did not fall immediately. ‘The war in Europe had ended, but the Japs took no notice,’ wrote Montgomery. ‘The IJA had over 50,000 men holding the place, very short of everything including food, but had orders to fight to the last man, orders they obeyed literally.’

Montgomery would have preferred to mask the place and push north, but the French felt both a political and humane imperative to take the place quickly. ‘We feared that the entire civil population must perish in a prolonged siege,’ commented Admiral Esteva. The result was a month-long urban fight with extensive use of artillery. ‘Hard to see how waiting could have been any worse for the locals,’ said Mr. Bevin later, ‘a hellish business.’ Officially, Saigon fell on May 16th, but mopping up lasted for weeks. Out of the Japanese garrison, less than a thousand survived; the Allied troops, mostly British and Indian, suffered nearly ten thousand dead; no-one ever made an official count of civilian casualties.

By this time the Allies had already begun to exploit northwards, aided by subsidiary landings on the coast, one of which took Cam Ranh on May 8th. As they pressed on, Japanese resistance began to ebb, and for the first time in the war significant numbers of prisoners were being taken, initially mostly Koreans, but soon Japanese troops also. ‘We knew they were cracking up once that happened,’ commented General Montgomery…

The absence of IJN units from the South China Sea, and the fall of Okinawa, gave the admirals the opportunity they had been seeking. Both Paris and London wanted to strike directly at the Japanese home islands while they could, and in late May Godefroy took Force A north, refuelling at Manila on the way. Force A comprised Richelieu (flagship), Prince of Wales, Hood, Jean Bart, Indefatigable and Implacable. This was a small force by the standards of the mighty US Pacific Fleet, but big enough to make the desired statement. In late June this force raided targets in Kyushu, including the naval base at Kure, which USN aircraft had previously visited. Among other ships, the giant battleship Yamato lay there, immobile for lack of fuel, already badly hurt by USN bombs and torpedoes. ‘It was little more than target practice,’ wrote Sous-Lieutenant Passy, a French Navy veteran pilot, ‘we hit her six or seven times. One of our bombs appears to have started a fire which reached Yamato’s magazines.’ These, according to Admiral Yamamoto's subsequent investigation, had not been flooded due to previous damage to her pumps. ‘It set off the biggest explosion I have ever seen,’ Passy concluded. ‘So the Marine only sank one Japanese capital ship, but it was their biggest. We had obtained satisfaction for the many blows Japan had rained upon us.’

...As the summer progressed 12th Army made steady progress through Indochina, liberating Cambodia during June. At this point the political logjam in Thailand moved. Phibun bowed to the inevitable, and permitted the Regent to declare that Thailand had entered a state of ‘semi-neutral non-belligerent hostility’ to Japan. This concept was not something ever found in international law, but Bangkok took it to mean that they could release the men of Indian 4th and British 18th Divisions from internment. Japanese forces in Indochina no longer had the means to retaliate. Some of the men, despite their long internment, volunteered to join the closing battles.

A less favourable development emerged during the same period. British forces generally tried to cooperate with the Viet Minh in fighting the Japanese, but found as the liberated area grew, the Viet Minh began to show reluctance to hand over facilities to the returning French authorities. Sporadic fighting broke out, which increased and became of increasing concern to London, especially after the election of the Attlee Government. Mr. Bevin, the new Foreign Secretary, had serious doubts. ‘Here we are, fighting the Japs and then having to fight the people we’ve liberated from them, all for the sake of the French. Is this what the Union means?’ Parliament and the Press paid little attention to this initially, until the assassination of General Montgomery by the Viet Minh on July 18th, which unleashed a storm of disapproval of the Government’s Indochina policy. As a result, Bevin’s distrust of maintaining the Union into peacetime now solidified into opposition.

In parallel, de Gaulle also found the situation unsatisfactory. ‘Victory in Europe is gained - no further need for this unnatural state of affairs,’ he wrote. In July, following several weeks of parliamentary manoeuvres, M. Mandel resigned as Prime Minister, and de Gaulle replaced him. The stage was set for the Tuileries Declaration.

The final blows of the Pacific War came further north. After liberating southern Indochina, 12th Army paused. General Slim, now emerged from internment, took command, and renewed the offensive in late July, but had still not reached Hanoi when the atomic bombs shocked the Japanese Government into surrender... The situation was one of complete chaos on the political front. There were the Japanese to deal with, some of whom refused to surrender, the KMT Chinese took a keen interest in developments, and two distinct factions - the Viet Minh and the Viet Quoc - jostled for power. Looking back on events later, Mandel noted, ‘Arguably a window of opportunity existed for a stable political settlement, perhaps by co-opting the Viet Quoc, but de Gaulle had control of events by this point, and he showed a certain lack of imagination, and on this question allowed men with out-of-date ideas to guide him.’ The stage was therefore set also for the tragic conflict of 1946-55.
 
In general, as I've noted previously, I think that the changes of a FFO scenario, though substantial, are probably not enough to fundamentally change the contours of post-war developments on the grand scale
Though without the example of Vichy, and then what happened in Vietnam, France seems to be in a far stronger position for Algeria after 1956
 

iddt3

Donor
Though without the example of Vichy, and then what happened in Vietnam, France seems to be in a far stronger position for Algeria after 1956
I mean to do what exactly? Apartied on the Med? Sure they can physically bear the cost of oppressing the Algerians longer but the Algerians are never going to accept being 2nd class citizens in their own country, and the pied-noirs are never going to accept them as equals.
 
I mean to do what exactly? Apartied on the Med? Sure they can physically bear the cost of oppressing the Algerians longer but the Algerians are never going to accept being 2nd class citizens in their own country, and the pied-noirs are never going to accept them as equals.
If metropolitan France accepts them as equals, what the Pied Noirs can do to stop it? The next question is of course would metropolitan France accept them as equals and if it did would Algerians accept the option or still want independence? I frankly don't know and would be interested in the opinion of our French commentators.
 
If metropolitan France accepts them as equals, what the Pied Noirs can do to stop it? The next question is of course would metropolitan France accept them as equals and if it did would Algerians accept the option or still want independence? I frankly don't know and would be interested in the opinion of our French commentators.
The problem for any deal between Paris and the Algerian nationalists remains the same. Any deal that the nationalists can accept, the piers-noirs will not accept, and they can exert enough pressure on Paris, via metropolitan French opinion, to prevent Paris from making it work. In other words, in answer to the question "what the Pied Noirs can do to stop it" is "appeal to allies in Metropolitan France" and they will always find a hearing and strong support in some quarters. I doubt, though, if it would get to the same point as OTL, with the Fourth Republic being brought down and threats of a coup. I'd also like to think that the war - assuming there was one, which sadly still seems likely - would be less brutal, maybe no Setif massacre, that the Harkis might not get quite such a raw deal, etc. But that may be wishful thinking.
 
Part 17.6
Extract from Marianne and John, by Charles Montague, ch.20

During the war all sides had accepted the need to ‘put Libya on ice’, in Churchill’s words. Now the issue could no longer be delayed. Although there had been no decisive actions, debate about the future of Libya had gone on continually since 1941.

London had hedged its bets, but came to favour a complicated arrangement whereby Libya would remain formally united while having two major regional governments that would determine most matters. Cyrenaica would have a government in Benghazi which would be “informally” under the tutelage of an Anglo-Egyptian co-dominium, on the Sudan model. This proposal evidenced London’s desire to preserve favourable relations with Cairo. The proposal accepted that Paris would exercise informal French control over Tripolitania. London further proposed a figurehead monarchy in the shape of King Idries of the Senussi, an old ally.

Algiers - and later Paris - never accepted this idea. They favoured a formal Anglo-French power-sharing arrangement, under a Mandate patterned on the old League of Nations mandates (as in Palestine), with exclusive economic rights for Paris and London in the two halves. Preserving the unity of the country meant little, and the ultimate goal, barely concealed, was for the eventual separation of Libya into its two halves, with Tripoli being at least semi-dependent on Paris.

Negotiations had revolved endlessly around these points throughout 1941. From 1942, Washington began to take an interest, seeing the treatment of Libya as a test case for its vision of the post-war order, as well as realising the country’s economic and strategic potential. Washington did not come down firmly on either side, but in 1943 began to push for its own idea, which tried to take elements from both British and French positions while adding some elements of its own. The State Department liked the notion of preserving Libya’s formal unity, but took exception to creating a Senussi monarchy, partly out of republican antipathy to monarchs, and partly because Idries might not be acceptable to the people in Tripoli. The US suspected the motives of both powers, believing that they ultimately intended to take outright control of their respective halves, and so proposed a tripartite trusteeship with the goal of eventual independence.

London and Paris both objected to this view, pointing out that since they had done the actual fighting, they should have the main say. The conversations rarely developed well from this point. Washington in turn remarked that the French could hardly have taken Tripoli without American aid. Paris replied to this that France had paid in gold for those trucks…

So the interventions of the State Department had not advanced the conversation in practice while the war lasted. The end of the war changed the situation; the cessation of Lend-Lease meant that the ongoing transatlantic economic relationship had to be renegotiated on more commercial, peacetime terms. London and Paris both reassessed their priorities, and concluded that the future of Libya was an area where concession might make a useful bargaining chip, to get more favourable loan conditions. Finally, then, at the end of 1945, a UN tripartite trusteeship came into being, with the goal of establishing an independent, united Libya within ten years. All in all, the experience had not been a pleasant one for anyone concerned, breeding a good deal of frustration and resentment, which played its part in determining the wider course of relations between the various parties…
 
Part 17.7
Ibid, ch.21

…With the war over, de Gaulle and Bevin had become the driving personalities in Anglo-French relations; a circumstance that in itself portended ill for the Union. Although their personal relationship was not good, nonetheless they combined politically, as they had a common interest which made them co-dependent… The last-minute political manoeuvres in Paris and London to prevent the Tuileries declaration were futile. The matter had already been settled during the autumn conversations in the Quai d’Orsay and Whitehall. The Declaration merely formalised the matter - ‘just an opportunity to take photographs,’ de Gaulle said.

The Tuileries Declaration left the Union in existence formally, but evacuated it of much of its content. Britain and France would remain close allies, and would seek to align their diplomatic posture. Citizens of the two countries retained mutual preferential rights to trade and travel; but the Declaration recognised that exceptions could be made, and over time the exceptions became increasingly the rule. Many politicians on both sides of the Channel deplored this, but the fact was that public opinion in both countries considered the work of the Union to have ended. ‘It was a slow divorce, perhaps inevitable, largely unnoticed by the wider public,’ wrote Mr Attlee, ‘except at particular moments such as the Coal Crisis.’ By the end of the decade politicians rarely referenced the Union, though it was not formally ended until the Treaty of Caen in 1956. By this time French politicians looked more to a closer relationship with Germany, while the British regarded the transatlantic relationship as more vital. A few cooperative projects persisted, such as the Jaguar ballistic missile that served as the mainstay of British and French strategic rocket forces in the late 1950s; but even on this the two countries eventually took separate paths…

What, then, was the true value of the Union? Clearly a historic perspective must focus on its political role in helping to give the French Government the impetus to fight on in 1940. A French capitulation at one point looked all too likely. In all probability such a capitulation would not have affected the outcome of the war as a whole: the forces eventually arrayed against the Axis were simply too great even without France. Still, one can say for certain that many minor tragedies, and perhaps some major ones, were averted by the French decision to make a true trial of war. The last word should go to M. Mandel. ‘We had lost a battle in 1940, but not the war, and so long as we had meaningful assets, we knew we should go on. We paid a high price for honour, but in the end, think what a story we made.’

FIN​
 
Very interesting. Even after all that, it's somewhat inevitable that they'll have different considerations. But, for those 5 years, it was important, for both Marianne and John.
 
POSTSCRIPT


Readers might think it remarkable that the ATL European war lasts almost as long as OTL, and just as long in the Asia-Pacific. I have assumed that the invasion of North-West Europe is the decisive event of the war. I have further assumed that even in the more favourable circumstances of the ATL, owing to the unlikelihood of London being willing to make a decision in 1942 for a cross-Channel invasion in 1943, OCEAN (the ATL OVERLORD) would not occur before 1944. This then means, in practice, because of weather, May 1944. Yet a further assumption is then that the war could not be won the same year, mainly because the German reserves OTL used for the Battle of the Bulge would be enough to prevent this. (One can reasonably challenge all these assumptions. I believe they represent the most likely outcomes.) The final offensive into Germany could not occur before the return of adequate campaigning weather, no earlier than March 1945.

In the East, the Japanese regime had achieved many of its strategic goals in 1941-2. They had in fact realised their dream of empire, as they saw it. They would not give in until repeated heavy defeats dispelled that dream, and OTL it required A-bombs to do so. I see no reason that the regime would show any greater sense ATL.

The war therefore lasts about as long even in the happier circumstances created by France fighting on. The main difference is in the number and severity of the tragedies of war. There is even ATL very little the Allies could do about the Holocaust - though the Jews of North Africa and Rhodes certainly suffered less ATL. The biggest single tragedy butterflied by the essai en guerre is the Bengal Famine. Readers may come up with their own list of minor tragedies butterflied; in no particular order and from memory, I would mention: Mers-el-Kebir, the fall of Singapore and the Axis occupation of southern Greece & Crete - any of which would be major tragedies in any other context.

The big question that the French people would have to answer in the ATL is: France fought on; what good did it do for France? They could not know the answer. In terms of human losses, France would have suffered a somewhat harsher occupation (no Unoccupied Zone in 1940-2) and French forces would have fought many more battles, taking on a bigger share of the fighting (such as in Sicily, Sardinia, the Atlantic, and Greece). Against this France would not have suffered so many fratricidal conflicts. The ATL course of events averts operations CATAPULT, MENACE, EXPORTER, IRONCLAD, TORCH, along with many thousand casualties. The Tunisia campaign of 1942-3 - quite costly for the French army - is another factor to add to the calculation. The occupation of metropolitan France also would have been a month shorter, thanks to the Allies being able to invade in May 1944, as per the original intention. Overall the total French casualties (adding both military and civilian) would have been somewhat similar to OTL, probably slightly heavier, but with a wide degree of uncertainty.

So how would fighting on have benefited France? M. Mandel touched the essence of it in the quote that concludes the story. There would have been better stories to tell.
 
And that's all I wrote. Thank you to everyone who has commented, and to everyone who gave their Likes. (Part 1.2 seems to have been the most popular of all.) I have a few ideas for other stories to write, but nothing in hand at the moment. Some time I might revise or expand this story slightly, since there a few ideas I didn't use, partly out of a desire to get the thing finished. Until then, adieu.
 

iddt3

Donor
POSTSCRIPT


Readers might think it remarkable that the ATL European war lasts almost as long as OTL, and just as long in the Asia-Pacific. I have assumed that the invasion of North-West Europe is the decisive event of the war. I have further assumed that even in the more favourable circumstances of the ATL, owing to the unlikelihood of London being willing to make a decision in 1942 for a cross-Channel invasion in 1943, OCEAN (the ATL OVERLORD) would not occur before 1944. This then means, in practice, because of weather, May 1944. Yet a further assumption is then that the war could not be won the same year, mainly because the German reserves OTL used for the Battle of the Bulge would be enough to prevent this. (One can reasonably challenge all these assumptions. I believe they represent the most likely outcomes.) The final offensive into Germany could not occur before the return of adequate campaigning weather, no earlier than March 1945.

In the East, the Japanese regime had achieved many of its strategic goals in 1941-2. They had in fact realised their dream of empire, as they saw it. They would not give in until repeated heavy defeats dispelled that dream, and OTL it required A-bombs to do so. I see no reason that the regime would show any greater sense ATL.

The war therefore lasts about as long even in the happier circumstances created by France fighting on. The main difference is in the number and severity of the tragedies of war. There is even ATL very little the Allies could do about the Holocaust - though the Jews of North Africa and Rhodes certainly suffered less ATL. The biggest single tragedy butterflied by the essai en guerre is the Bengal Famine. Readers may come up with their own list of minor tragedies butterflied; in no particular order and from memory, I would mention: Mers-el-Kebir, the fall of Singapore and the Axis occupation of southern Greece & Crete - any of which would be major tragedies in any other context.

The big question that the French people would have to answer in the ATL is: France fought on; what good did it do for France? They could not know the answer. In terms of human losses, France would have suffered a somewhat harsher occupation (no Unoccupied Zone in 1940-2) and French forces would have fought many more battles, taking on a bigger share of the fighting (such as in Sicily, Sardinia, the Atlantic, and Greece). Against this France would not have suffered so many fratricidal conflicts. The ATL course of events averts operations CATAPULT, MENACE, EXPORTER, IRONCLAD, TORCH, along with many thousand casualties. The Tunisia campaign of 1942-3 - quite costly for the French army - is another factor to add to the calculation. The occupation of metropolitan France also would have been a month shorter, thanks to the Allies being able to invade in May 1944, as per the original intention. Overall the total French casualties (adding both military and civilian) would have been somewhat similar to OTL, probably slightly heavier, but with a wide degree of uncertainty.

So how would fighting on have benefited France? M. Mandel touched the essence of it in the quote that concludes the story. There would have been better stories to tell.
I would imagine it would help intangibly with postwar French unity as well - their pre-war political institutions did not collapse nearly as catastrophically. The Communist left would also be rather weaker in the context as well.

Still, Bravo on a great TL! What's next?
 

Driftless

Donor
I enjoy the TL's like this one, where the storyline unfolds from individual's points-of-view. You pick up the sense of very different personalities, plus you also get that sense of the individual is not omniscient - they can only see what is directly part of their immediate world and they can only guess at what might be happening in the larger world. They do not know with certainty what will happen tomorrow. That's realistic to me.

As others have noted: Well Done!
 
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