World War Two: North Africa (3-14); Axis Reaction – French Decision

The future course of the French forces in Northwest Africa was decided during the week which followed the Allied arrival. On 10 November 1942, the immediate needs of the Allied command, if it was to win the race for Tunisia, were a prompt decision by the French to terminate hostilities still prevailing at Oran and in western Morocco, and measures to prevent the Axis from gaining a bridgehead in Tunisia. Time was so precious that, despite uncertainty whether the French would continue to resist, submit to invasion, or actively assist the Allies, the Eastern Task Force, under General Anderson’s command, began its scheduled operation.

It started advancing toward Tunisia by land, sea, and air, accepting the risks of a line of supply which might become highly insecure if the negotiations then in progress should turn out badly for the Allies. The French leaders conferred with Allied representatives at Algiers and with Axis representatives in Tunis, at Vichy, and at Munich, where Hitler himself saw Pierre Laval.

At Algiers the Allied negotiators sought to persuade the French that the time had come to join forces with the Allies in order to liberate France in conformity with Allied grand strategy. But it was too much to expect of the French authorities, given the complexities of the situation in which they found themselves, that, even if so disposed, they could make an immediate decision in Algiers favorable to the Allied plan of action. They could expect retaliatory action by the Axis in continental France which would almost certainly include seizure of the unoccupied zone.

They therefore had to make at least a show of discharging France’s obligation, under the terms of the Franco-German armistice of 1940, to defend the African territories against Allied invasion. For the same reason they had to refer the Allied armistice proposals to the Vichy government.

Furthermore, since the unity of French forces in Africa was essential, and since the bulk of these forces was loyal to an oath taken to Marshal Petain, the military leaders in Algiers felt compelled to act at least nominally, and perhaps actually, with Petain’s approval. Finally, both they and the Allied command were faced with the political fact that deeply embedded antipathies and distrusts divided the French, complicating the relations between them and the non-European inhabitants of French North Africa, and strongly influencing the life of all segments of the population.

The Allies were not prepared to control this population except through the French. The first task of the Allied command was to effect the association of a military and political group among the French leaders which could take necessary measures with timely adroitness. Allied pressure for such a basis of Allied-French co-operation mounted with each day of negotiation.

Aside from the threat of Axis retaliation, what the French would do was dependent not only on what the Allies offered but on what the Germans and Italians were prepared to provide. Petain’s weak government in Vichy had to choose between passive neutrality and active collaboration with the Axis powers just as the regime in French North Africa had to choose between passive neutrality and active association with the Allied coalition. Control over Tunisia was as vital to the Axis powers as it was to the Allies. Hitler and Mussolini were even more eager than the Allies to gain the use of the French warships in support of the Axis cause. What could the Germans do?

Axis Efforts To Gain French Co-operation For a time after the Allied landings, the Axis leaders hoped for immediate active collaboration by the Vichy government, a relationship which would make available the French fleet based at Toulon, the essential ports of Bizerte and Tunis, and landing fields for the Luftwaffe perhaps as far west as Constantine. German military support, primarily air, was immediately offered to Vichy and accepted with the stipulation that the German planes operate from bases in Sicily and Sardinia. Kesselring was directed to give aid to the French in their fight in North Africa and soon planes were made ready to attack the Eastern Naval Task Force at Algiers, a strike which took place on 8 November at dusk. At the same time, the German Navy began preparations to send to Tunisia the 3rd Assault Boat Flotilla based in Sicily.

To establish liaison between Darlan and the Axis air forces in North Africa, a German officer, identified as a Captain Schuermeyer, started for Algiers by air on the afternoon of 8 November. When he landed at Setif in eastern Algeria late in the day, he found the intelligence from Algiers so unpromising that he went instead to Tunis, where he sought out General Barre. Barre had been put in command of the Eastern Defense Sector by Darlan’s order late that afternoon. In conformity with the standing orders for the defense of Tunis and eastern Algeria, he had disposed his troops in six group movements and issued orders to obstruct the entrance to the ports at Bizerte, Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax.

Ostensibly to make the proffered air support more effective, the Germans during the day demanded and received permission from Vichy to dispatch two liaison officers from Germany to Darlan and Esteva, and to send their air reinforcements via unoccupied France. The German demanded with increasing insistence the use of airports in Tunisia and the Department of Constantine as bases.

Vichy’s concessions did not allay Hitler’s chronic distrust, which the French deepened by not accepting at once his offer of an out-and-out military alliance against the Allies. To determine the French stand, Hitler on the morning of 9 November summoned Premier Pierre Laval to Munich for a conference, and gave a somewhat politer invitation to the Italian allies.

While the Germans were edging their way into Tunisia, the Italians were busily preparing to move into Corsica and to share in exploiting the concessions wrung from the French regarding North Africa. Marshal Cavallero initially opposed Italian participation in a Tunisian expedition, but by the evening of 8 November Axis preparations were in full swing to ship to Tunisia on 10 November ground troops, primarily Italians, supported only by such German specialized units as were immediately available in Italy. Kesselring also arranged to divert to Tunisia three or four of the heavy, newly developed 88-mm. antiaircraft guns intended for Rommel’s army.

Early on 9 November the Vichy government informed the Germans that French air bases in Tunisia and in the Department of Constantine were available to the Luftwaffe. Later in the morning the French qualified this concession by insisting that only German forces, no Italians, be sent to Tunisia. This French condition was reiterated at noon by Admiral Esteva, the Resident General, who reported to Vichy that two German liaison officers had arrived in Tunisia, accredited by Kesselring to Darlan, and bearing orders to arrange for the collaboration of German and Italian air units with the French defenders of North Africa.

Esteva protested to Vichy against this collaboration and particularly against the use of any Italian forces. Even before this message could be sent the first German planes were landing, and until darkness fighters, dive bombers, and air transports kept arriving at El Aouina airdrome, near Tunis. They brought German paratroopers and Kesselring’s headquarters guard to protect the landing ground. French troops ringed the field and kept the Germans there. But General der Flieger Bruno Loerzer, commanding general of II Fliegerkorps in Sicily, was driven through the cordon on a special visit to Admiral Esteva to obtain his guarantee of at least a passive French reception of German forces, wherever in Tunisia they arrived.

On the same evening, 9 November, Ciano arrived in Munich as Mussolini’s representative. Hitler received him immediately and together they reviewed the situation created by the Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria. Hitler believed that “the Americans” would try to invade Tunisia by land; therefore the Axis must secure an earlier hold there. The French, he said, had demanded that only German units should be sent into Tunisia, a proposal that was tantamount to refusing his demands, since Germany lacked sufficient materiel or manpower to meet these and other needs. Hitler intended to discover what Laval had to offer, but he had already sent to Tunisia two Stuka groups and one fighter group. Soon small German ground units would follow. If he could rush a few troops into Tunis in this fashion, stronger forces could come in later and improve the Axis position. By midnight 10-11 November, the German concentration on the borders of unoccupied France would be complete; if the French had failed him, the invasion would proceed at once. Ciano reported that the Italian position in these matters was the same as the German; Italian forces would be ready to occupy part of Southern France and to seize Corsica. Hitler remarked that the Axis position in Tunisia could be upheld only if a convoy could land heavy equipment, including some heavy tanks (Tigers) which were then on their way to Italy.

The Vichy government received with some misgivings, no doubt, professions by the Germans that their operations in Tunisia were designed to help the French to preserve control of their northwest African territories; they could hardly reconcile these explanations with Axis actions. Vichy representatives in Wiesbaden were assured by the German Armistice Commission on 9 November, for example, that the covetous Italians for the time being would not be permitted to establish military forces in Tunisia. But the Italian Air Force held fighter units in readiness for action there while the Germans were courting Vichy and the Tunisian authorities; on the morning of 10 November, the Italians finally sent a flight of twenty-eight Macchi 202 “fighters.”

{{Aufzeichnung ueber die Unterredung zwischen dem Führer und dem Grafen Ciano in Anwesenheit des Reichsmarschalls, und des Reichsaussenministets im Führerbau in Muenchen am 9. November]]

In a short conference later on the morning of 10 November, Ciano informed Hitler that the first Italian planes had arrived in Tunisia, and he proposed that, in view of the latest reports from North Africa, the Italians be allowed to occupy Corsica. Hitler agreed to this proposal and Mussolini was immediately notified.

On the afternoon of 10 November Hitler, Ciano, and Laval conferred. After Hitler and Laval had reviewed the course of German-French relations since 1940, Hitler posed the question: would France now make the ports of Tunis and Bizerte and all Tunisian air bases available to the Axis powers? If not, collaboration was at an end. Hitler demanded a definite answer from Laval. Laval nonetheless avoided the issue, saying that only Petain could make such a decision. When he reminded Hitler that the French could not agree to Italian participation in the Axi, occupation of Tunisia, Hitler answered that Germany and Italy were allies, and that France would have to accept this fact and allow troop units of both nations to enter. Soon after this fruitless conference, orders went out to Axis forces to occupy Vichy France on the next morning, and a formal directive was issued for the occupation of Tunisia.’

The policy of the Axis in Tunisia, as formulated by 11 November, was to bring in a strong military force in the ostensible role of protector of the French. To give the operation as German a character as possible, all Axis forces in Tunisia were to be under German control. The German field commander in Tunis, Colonel Harlinghausen of the Luftwaffe, soon to be replaced by an Army officer, was responsible to the Commander in Chief South, who was given complete command of the Tunisian bridgehead.

Because of the limited forces available, this bridgehead was to be established on defensible terrain having the shortest practicable line, one as far inland from the main supply ports as Axis forces could maintain. Friendly relations with the French command in Tunisia were to be cultivated. The Tunis Division would be disarmed in case its sympathies were doubtful, and its weapons used by German troops and, if necessary, by recruits from the Italian population of Tunisia. The French fleet was to be held at its base in Toulon while Axis submarines and bombing planes struck the Allied landing forces. All available sea and air transport was temporarily to be diverted from supplying Rommel’s army in order to rush new Axis units to Tunisia.

Allied retaliation against the privileged treatment of the Germans in Tunisia took the form of deterrent air strikes from Malta against the German aircraft at the airdrome near Tunis and the airlift from Sicily. The first of these raids was an attack on 10 November on EI Aouina airdrome of Tunis by nine planes of the 272nd Squadron, Royal Air Force, with considerable though temporary effect.

The Germans rendered French acceptance of the fiction of German friendliness completely impossible by violating the original armistice terms restricting German military control to northern France. At midnight, 10-11 November, they began to penetrate the previously unoccupied portion of metropolitan France in accordance with plans brought up to date during the preceding summer. (Operation ANTON) With motorized units in the lead, a total of more than ten divisions, two of which were armored, swept across southern France without meeting resistance. At the same time six Italian divisions marched into eastern France. The Vichy government was completely submerged by the Axis; it merely uttered feeble protests, and countenanced the anti-Axis French action in North Africa only by highly secret and rather vague communications from Marshal Petain to Admiral Darlan. The French Navy remained at the base in Toulon under close surveillance, the object of covetous attention from both Allied and Axis leaders.

Even after Axis occupations of the free zone and of Corsica, Axis troops and equipment pouring into Tunisia met no French resistance. Ground troops arrived daily by air and, beginning on 12 November, at frequent intervals by sea. The long and prodigious airlift begun on 9 November was to carry a total of 15,273 officers and enlisted men, and 581 tons of supplies by the end of the month. The transport vessels Catarina Costa and Ciud di Napoli arrived at Bizerte on the evening of 12 November with 340 men, 17 tanks, 4 guns, 55 trucks, 40 tons of ammunition, and 101 tons of fuel, a small beginning in the prolonged struggle to supply the Axis forces in the Tunisian bridgehead. By the end of November, 20 officers, 1,847 enlisted men, 159 tanks and armored cars, 127 guns, 1,097 vehicles, and 12,549 tons of supplies, comprising twenty-eight shiploads, were brought over.

Axis use of the ports of Tunis and Bizerte was made difficult by the actions of General Barre and Admiral Louis Derrien, commanding officer of the French naval forces in Tunisia and sector commander of all French forces in Bizerte. Both of these ports were blocked and their full use denied the Axis by sinking vessels in the harbor approaches. But these measures did not delay the Germans and Italians for long. With the aid of special Italian port engineers Bizerte was clear for use by 12 November, and Tunis by 15 November 1942. Thus the entrance to Bizerte was no longer blocked when the Italian transports approached. General Barre, at this point faced with a fait accompli, authorized German use of the Sidi Ahmed airfield near Bizerte as well as the port, in order to postpone a clash at arms.

The position of the Germans in Tunisia remained for a time weak and uncertain. They found it exceedingly difficult to ascertain what the French in that area would do when the Allies and the Axis actually came to grips. The French authorities were themselves subject to a series of highly confusing instructions. At first they adopted the position of total defense against all adversaries.

Next they accepted Axis planes and airborne troops. Then they were instructed from Algiers on 10 November, after Admiral Darlan’s first armistice agreement, not to resist the Anglo-Americans either. The next day, following telephoned instructions from Algiers, they were ordered to resist any Axis ships or landing forces but not airplanes unless they engaged in hostile acts, and not to resist any Allied ground, sea, or air forces. By midnight, authority of the leaders in Algiers was discredited by broadcasts from Vichy, and the policy became that of passive neutrality toward all foreign forces. Such passivity permitted the Axis build-up in Tunisia by air and sea to continue, and made certain that eventually French troops would have to retire from the area of combat or even to disband, or what was far more likely, to adhere to one side or the other in the forthcoming engagements.

The movements of General Barre’s Tunis Division were perplexing to Axis leaders. He had first been ordered from Algiers to dispose his troops, as well as others in the Constantine area who went under his command, in such a manner as to be able to defend Tunisia from all sides. Contrary orders from Vichy led him to remain passively neutral while the Germans and Italians began arriving.

Instructions simply to segregate his French force from all Axis troops were in turn modified by those from General Juin in Algiers to occupy defensive positions west of Bizerte and Tunis at specific places in the Tunisian hills and the Med jerda river valley. In defiance of Juin’s orders, Admiral Derrien retained at Bizerte one section of the Tunis Division (3,012 men) as well as the naval troops under his command to defend the coast and operate the coastal batteries.

In the presence of this force, Colonel Hans Lederer, appointed on 11 November as the German Army’s commander of the Tunisian bridgehead, decided that the small force at his command in Bizerte did not justify his following the example of Colonel Harlinghausen, who seized the key positions in Tunis with his troops after the bulk of the French forces had withdrawn from the city on the night of 13-14 November. Lederer’s decision was confirmed by Kesselring, who reserved for himself the right to order any action against the French in Bizerte.

Lederer had removed his headquarters from Tunis to Bizerte on 13 November, after consultations with Harlinghausen and the local German naval commander, Captain Loycke. The terrain near Bizerte was more favorable than that near Tunis for building up an initial bridgehead, and Bizerte was, moreover, to be the main supply port for overseas shipments arriving in Tunisia from Italy. But the withdrawal toward ground forces in Tunisia on 13 November were divided as follows: [NOTE 15-01T]Tunis (Colonel Harlinghausen), three companies of 1st Tunis Field Battalion, one company of paratroopers, one antiaircraft artillery company, 14th Company, 104th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, advance detachment of the 5th Parachute Regiment of the Hermann Gӧring Division (3 officers and 150 enlisted men) ; Bizerte (Colonel Bedja by General Barns’s headquarters and over 9,000 of his combat elements was watched by the Germans and Italians with concern. Air reconnaissance eventually confirmed what had been suspected, that the Tunis Division was facing east as if expecting a clash with the Axis troops, and retiring westward toward a junction with Allied columns approaching from Algeria.

During the second week of the race for Tunisia, the pressure on General Barre to oppose the Allies became even more insistent. Orders from Vichy to assist the Axis powers were not only renewed, but Vice Admiral Rene Platon, Secretary of State to the Chief of Government (Pierre Laval), himself came to Tunisia to see that they were received and understood.

[NOTE 15-01T: (Gruppen Lederer), the 5th Battery, 190th Artillery Regiment, one company of 1st Tunis Field Battalion, and personnel of the 4th Company, 190th Battalion, and personnel of the 4th Company, 190th Panzer Battalion, the 4th Battery, 2nd Artillery Regiment, the 557th Italian Assault Gun Battalion, and the 136th Italian Tank Destroyer Battalion. (2) Marinekdo 1 Italian, KT B, 14, 15 Nov 42. (3) Rpt by Colonel Mendel of CSTT, 0510, 14 Nov 42, in Journal de Marche de la Division de marche de Constantine (journal hereafter cited as DMC Jnl).]

While Admiral Esteva remained compliant and Admiral Derrien promised to continue to resist the Allies, emissaries trying to persuade General Barre found him elusive. When the Germans complained that roadblocks erected by his troops were barring the armed reconnaissance parties, Barre replied: “I protest energetically against the incursion of a German scout car followed by a truck carrying about 20 men, coming from Mateur in the direction of Beja [Bedja]. They broke through several roadblocks; it is reported that shots were exchanged on that account.” His troops were apparently instructed to fire on Axis units which attempted to pass through his lines. Such incidents confirmed the belief that Barre was in communication with the Allies and was waiting until he could operate with them against Axis troops.[“(1) XC Corps, KTB I. 16.-30.X.42. (2) The 1st Parachute Battalion (Br.) was at Bedja, 16-17 November, after an airdrop at Souk el Arba during the previous afternoon, and Blade Force was Coming eastward.]

Axis Military Planning

The Axis high command meanwhile continued to formulate strategy. German military intelligence calculated that the Allies had in Algeria three or four divisions and between fifteen and twenty thousand corps and army troops, and that the defection of the French forces in Morocco and Algiers had relieved the Allies of the necessity of defending their bridgeheads there. The Germans expected an early Allied advance on Tunisia, and they feared a thrust to the Sousse, Sfax, or Gabes areas which might sever Axis overland ties with the German-Italian Panzer Army and enclose the Tunisian bridgehead. Kesselring therefore proposed to build up a new front in Tunisia immediately, in line with policy previously decided upon. For this he estimated he would need three things: a new army approximately as strong as the German-Italian Panzer Army, although of a somewhat different composition; as long a period as possible in which the British Eighth Army would be engaged by Rommel at a substantial distance from Tunisia; and a secure line of transport from Italy.

To meet Kesselring’s requests, the OKW sent over a new German ground commander, and ordered to Tunisia three divisions, the 10th Panzer and the Hermann Gӧring Division from France and the new 334th Infantry Division, then being organized in Germany. To these were added an Italian corps headquarters and two Italian divisions, which Mussolini had already begun to transport to Tunisia. Rommel was again exhorted to withdraw as slowly as possible; Mussolini asserted that the fate of the Axis forces in Africa depended upon Rommel’s ability to delay the British as long as possible. A shuffle in command responsibilities was ordered to improve the shipping situation. None of these measures could be completely executed because of conflicting demands made by the rapidly worsening situation on the Eastern Front.

Even before the Allied landings, Kesselring and the OKW had been planning to clarify and simplify the complicated German chain of command in the Mediterranean. A beginning was made in October 1942, when Kesselring as Commander in Chief, South, became responsible for organizing the defense of all German-occupied coastal areas in the Mediterranean. This mission applied to the Balkans and Crete but not to the African areas controlled by Rommel’s forces. After the invasion, when he was saddled with the additional responsibility for the conduct of ground operations in Tunisia, Kesselring reorganized his headquarters. He created separate staffs for 0B SUED and Luftflotte 2 and further, within OB SUED, directed that Colonel Siegfried Westphal, the deputy chief of staff for operations, hold specific responsibility for the African theater, while General der Flieger Paul Deichmann, the chief of staff, remained responsible for overall theater matters.

All the men and materiel which could be spared for the Mediterranean from other fronts were needed by both Field Marshal Rommel’s German-Italian Panzer Army and the new command in Tunisia. Each faced the prospect of conducting a defensive campaign against an aggressive foe while hampered by shortages of all kinds. Rommel sought to protect the interests of his command by installing Generalmajor Alfred Gause in Rome as his deputy. To guarantee a unified German policy toward the Italian High Command, Hitler on 16 November ordered the subordination of General Gause and General von Rintelen, the German General at Comando Supremo, to Field Marshal Kesselring as Commander in Chief, South. Gause, under Kesselring’s control, was to prepare in southern Italy the army units intended for the Tunisian and Tripolitanian theaters and see to their timely arrival at ports of embarkation. No change was intended in the subordination of Rommel’s army to the Duce through Commando Supremo nor in the direct control over General von Rintelen by the Armed Forces High Command in “all matters outside the province of the Commander in Chief, South.”

When the Allied operations in Northwest Africa began, General der Panzertruppen Walther Nehring, the commander of the German Africa Corps (DAK), convalescing near Berlin from wounds he had received in Egypt on 31 August 1942, was ordered back to Rommel’s German-Italian Panzer Army, to prepare the proposed Marsa el Brega position. En route to his post, he reached Rome on 12 November, but there he was stopped. His orders had been canceled; he was sent instead to Tunisia to command a new corps to be formed there.

At Kesselring’s headquarters the field marshal told him exactly what was expected: the establishment of a bridgehead extending to the west at least as far as necessary for freedom of maneuver, and if possible as far as the Tunisian-Algerian border. Kesselring and the OKW considered the present commander inadequate and hoped that Nehring would be able to master the situation. Only a very few German troops were on the ground. A new headquarters was being organized. The mission would require resourceful improvisation by all manner of expedients for some weeks to come. Nehring after this briefing flew to Tunisia on 14 November, where he made a personal survey of the situation. He returned to Rome in the evening to receive his final instructions at OB SUED on the next day.

The initial Axis reaction to the Allied landings was a swift determination to challenge the Allies in Tunisia and a rapid improvisation of the means. Like the Allies, Germany and especially Italy were mindful of the campaign in Libya, but Hitler encouraged Mussolini to look also to the west. Operations in Tunisia would be supported, he wrote, by some of the best German divisions and some of the heaviest and most effective tanks in existence, for the objective of the operations in Tunisia must be an advance to the west which would destroy the Allied-French North African positions in the Mediterranean.

 [NOTE: MS # D-086 (Nehring). Nehring, then a colonel, had served at the opening of World War II as chid of staff of the XIX Army Corps. In 1940 he commanded the 18th Panzer Division as a brigadier general. He was promoted to major general and became acting commander of the German Africa Corps in February 1942. In July 1942 he was confirmed as commanding general of the Africa Corps and at the same time promoted to lieutenant general.]

Clark-Darlan Negotiations

What the Germans would do had not become wholly apparent to the French either in Vichy or Algiers as Darlan’s negotiations with the Allied deputy commander in chief began. When General Clark, accompanied by Robert Murphy and Captain Royer M. Dick (RN), met Admiral Darlan and his associates on Tuesday morning, 10 November, at the Hotel St. Georges to discuss the future relations between the Allies and the French in Northwest Africa, each negotiator was under great pressure. General Clark was in desperate need of putting an early stop to the hostilities between the French and the Allies, and of bringing about French armed resistance to the Axis forces entering Tunisia. He hoped to enlist the French fleet on the Allied side. Fighting in Algiers had been suspended for more than a day, but at 0855, as the conference opened, the final Allied attack was about to penetrate Oran, while on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, the three sub-task forces of General Patton’s command were at the climax of their interrelated operations, and Admiral Hewitt’s naval force, having destroyed many fine French warships, was a magnet for approaching enemy submarines. The commandant of the airdrome at Tunis had fled westward bringing word of the un-resisted arrival there on 9 November of a considerable number of Axis aircraft.

Were Axis forces to gain an easy foothold in Tunisia? To prevent it would require prompt and decisive countermeasures by the French armed forces. Admiral Darlan, on the other hand, had made known to the Allies that he would negotiate for all French North Africa if he could do so without associating with dissident French leaders, such as Generals Giraud and Mastro but when he proposed to Vichy the mild terms of an armistice which he believed would be acceptable to the Allies, he was instructed to refrain from negotiations without an express authorization. Further resistance to the Allies was obviously useless. But the choice between passive neutrality and active assistance to the Allies, including defense of Tunisian ports and airfields against the Germans, involved a political rather than a military decision. It should be determined by governmental authorities and be transmitted in the form of orders to the armed services. Co-operation with the Allies, if that should be the decision, would then become compatible with the oaths of loyalty and the professional obligations of the French forces.

General Clark’s approach to the issues was forthright and compelling: delay until the Vichy government came to a decision in a cabinet meeting that afternoon was completely inadmissible; Admiral Darlan must decide at once, issuing a cease-fire order for all French North Africa, or be taken into custody and held incommunicado; the Americans would then arrange matters with other French leaders. Shortly before noon, Darlan drafted and signed in the Marshal’s name directives to the chiefs of armed forces requiring them to break off all hostilities and to observe complete neutrality. The orders were reported by radio and also transmitted by courier planes. As previously narrated, Oran had already yielded, and Darlan’s orders were accepted in Morocco by General Nogues and Admiral Michelier and put into effect barely in time to save Casablanca from a destructive attack.

[“Record of Events and Documents From the Date That Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark Entered Negotiations With Admiral Jean François Darlan Until Darlan Was Assassinated on Christmas Eve, 1942 (hereafter cited as Record of Clark-Darlan Negotiations), p. 4. DRB AGO. This record is based on the verbatim notes kt’pt by one of General Clark’s staff . . ” (I) Record of Clark-Darlan Negotiations, pp. 9-11. (2) Rad 12572, Clark via NC ETF to NCXF for Eisenhower 10 Nov 42, CinC AF Diary, 10 NOV 42.]

A French decision to join the Allies in active resistance to the Germans and Italians remained in suspense, while even Darlan’s cease-fire order was jeopardized by events later on 10 November. Petain approved it but when Pierre Laval, en route to Munich to face Hitler and Count Ciano and their military entourage, learned of Darlan’s action, he persuaded Petain by telephone to withdraw his initial approbation and to disavow Darlan’s action. Darlan then replied to the Marshal, “I annul my order and constitute myself a prisoner.” But at Darlan’s own suggestion, the Allies put him under arrest before the orders of annulment could be issued. His powers were next transferred by Petain’s decree to General Nogues, and he declared himself unable to treat further with General Clark. It was left to those who had received his earlier order to reconcile the conflicting instructions with their sense of what they were bound in honor to do.

Night fell on 10 November with the Eastern Task Force preparing to steam along the coast east of Algiers, where French port commanders had instructions from Admiral Moreau in Algiers which conflicted sharply with those derived from General Juin. The former prescribed resistance to the Allies; the latter, friendly conduct toward the Allies and resistance to Axis forces if they attacked.

If 10 November brought a seesaw in the general situation in Algiers, the next day produced another. Clark sought to get from the French at least as much resistance to Axis occupation of Tunisian ports and airdromes as they had offered to the Allies before Darlan’s cease-fire order of the preceding day. He sought in addition full participation by the French in the anti-Axis effort, including the issuance of orders by Admiral Darlan to Admiral de Laborde at Toulon to bring the French fleet over to the Allied side. At first Admiral Darlan professed to be completely powerless as a result of Marshal Petain’s disavowal of his cease-fire order of the previous day. Then he received by a secret and personal channel of communication with Vichy a message that the disavowal had been made under constraint and was contrary to the Marshal’s actual wishes. “The Germans and Italians, as already noted, entered unoccupied France that night over the Marshal’s protests and in execution of plans long ready for such a situation.” Darlan thereupon directed General Juin to order the commanders in chief of ground and air forces, to resist the Axis in Tunisia. In the welter of radio broadcasts that day, Marshal Petain responded to German pressure exerted through Pierre Laval by publishing his disavowal of Admiral Darlan’s armistice and announcing his transfer of all authority in North Africa from Darlan to General Nogues. General Nogues in Morocco none the less accepted instructions from Darlan to report to Algiers on 12 November to confer with the French leaders.

In view of the Vichy broadcasts, some of General Juin’s subordinates questioned the authenticity of his pro-Allied orders and forced their suspension. General Clark stormed in protest to Admiral Darlan and General Juin against what looked like surreptitious cancellation of orders to the Tunisian French forces to resist the Germans.

His demands led General Juin to procure continuation of resistance in Tunisia wherever practicable without waiting for General Nogues’ orders. But the situation on 12 November depended on Admiral Darlan’s ability to persuade others to co-operate with General Giraud, with whom he was prepared to associate himself, and to convince General Nogues that he should join the combination in a secondary role.

General Giraud, after coming to a satisfactory understanding with General Eisenhower and Admiral Cunningham at Gibraltar, had arrived in Algiers before General Clark. It was agreed that Giraud was to be recognized as Commander in Chief of French forces and as Governor of French North Africa. He undertook to cooperate steadily with the Allied commander in chief. He expected, in case of a prolonged battle in Tunisia, that a small inter-allied staff would prepare plans for joint consideration and that, on a broad front requiring subordinate military zones, command in each zone would be exercised by an officer from the national force providing the largest number of troops there. Moreover, all orders to French forces would be issued by General Giraud.

[ In Tunisia, Admiral Darlan and General Juin were believed to be prisoners of the Americans. Interv, Marcel Vigneras with GC’n Juin, Rabat, 5 Dec 48. OCMH.]

This relationship was a substantial recession from his demand to be accepted as Inter-allied Commander in Chief, and to be given active command after the landings had been in progress for about forty-eight hours. The delay in arriving at this undertaking was prejudicial to his success although hardly responsible for his failure. For he did fail.

Darlan’s willingness to negotiate with the Allies for the suspension of hostilities was made known to General Eisenhower while Giraud was en route to Algiers from Gibraltar:” The Allies were faced with the prospect of two rival French leaders and were discovering that the bulk of the French armed forces were determined to follow orders in a legitimate chain of command. Whoever gained their support must speak with the authority of Marshal Petain.

Giraud appeared as a revolutionist, a dissident, however popular his cause, however patriotic his motives. Darlan wore the mantle of the Marshal. He made it fit him, even after public disavowal and condemnation by the Marshal, by recourse to the Marshal’s “secret thought.” He was following the instructions which Petain was supposed to have given him in 1940 in anticipation of a situation requiring such a double game against the Nazis, and, in so doing, he satisfied the requirements of many men in French North Africa who wished to fight for France without violating the obligations of honor.”

Giraud passed the night of 9-10 November with friends near Algiers and conferred with adherents who revealed how completely they had miscalculated the actual conduct of the French armed forces when faced with the test. The appeal in Giraud’s name over the radio early on 8 November had proved to be unavailing. General Mast and his associates were in seclusion. General Bethouart and others were under arrest. Giraud had lost the initiative. He was wholly unable to effect an extension of the truce from Algiers to the rest of French North Africa, let alone call for a return to active hostilities against the Axis, beginning in Tunisia, with any expectation of success. As a political leader he would depend upon Allied military support rather than on French approbation. “He would be more a Maximilian than a Juarez!”

After almost four days of deliberation, General Clark, with Robert Murphy’s assistance, brought about on 13 November a workable pattern of French organization for immediate collaboration with the Allies. Responsibilities were assigned as follows: Darlan, High Commissioner and Commander in Chief of Naval Forces; Giraud, Commander in Chief of Ground and Air Forces; Juin, Commander of the Eastern Sector; Nogues, Commander of the Western Sector and Resident General of French Morocco; Chatel, Governor General of Algeria. Active participation by the French in liberating Tunisia and then metropolitan France was to begin immediately, while detailed terms governing relations with the Allied Force were to be formulated hy subsequent negotiation. General Eisenhower, during a quick visit with Admiral Cunningham from Gibraltar, expressed his, Satisfaction. Such an understanding as this reflected two major factors: first, General Nogues had renounced Petain’s assignment to him of supreme authority in French North Africa and had advised the Marshal that it should remain with Darlan; second, General Giraud was accepted by the others despite his standing as a dissident officer. The agreement was put into force with enthusiasm and with much greater peace of mind as a consequence of a message by secret channel from the Marshal that Darlan’s leadership had his approval.

Among the Allied leaders in London, the atmosphere on 12 November was most hopeful, with talk by the Prime Minister of General Eisenhower’s returning from Gibraltar soon for a conference on general strategy. The Northern Task Force, which had been designated for a counterattack in Spanish territory, could be employed elsewhere; arrangements for accumulating troops in French North Africa might even be curtailed in order to attack new objectives: First reports of the Allied occupation impressed the Fighting French most favorably.

General de Gaulle appeared to welcome the appearance of General Giraud among the overt opponents of the government at Vichy. His broadcast on the evening of 8 November called on all French patriots to support the Allied operations to the full. On 10 November he proposed to send to North Africa a mission which might facilitate the creation of unity between General Giraud’s group there and his own. The proposal received the Prime Minister’s endorsement and the President’s qualified approval.

Receipt in London of news that the Allies had accepted association with Admiral DarIan produced an abrupt change in the prevailing optimism. A new face on the whole North African project emerged from the mists of censorship. Unity among the anti-Axis French was obviously impossible if Darlan were leading those in North Africa.

The Free French feared that the Allies would perpetuate in French North Africa and metropolitan France the very elements which had condemned General de Gaulle as a traitor. De Gaulle and his following could never bring themselves into association with such men. The General worked himself up to the point of sending an insulting communication which Admiral Stark refused to accept, and to the verge of a bitter public announcement from which he was restrained only by Mr. Churchill’s attentive persuasion and by the President’s declaration that the Allied arrangement with DarIan was merely a “temporary expedient.” After the understanding of 13 November in Algiers between the Allied and French military leaders had received the approval of the President, Prime Minister, and Combined Chiefs of Staff, and had been revealed to the public, the immediate response in the United States as well as the United Kingdom was a swiftly rising tempest of protest.

Learning of this reaction, General Eisenhower sent an eloquent message to General Marshall, the crux of which was its opening assertion that “existing French sentiment in North Africa does not even remotely resemble prior calculations, and it is of utmost importance that no precipitate action be taken which will upset such equilibrium as we have been able to establish.”

General Marshall employed this description in outlining the situation to a hurriedly summoned conference of press and radio commentators on the morning of 15 November. It assisted Secretary Stimson in pacifying some associates in the government next day, as well as helping dissuade Mr. Wendell Willkie from attacking the action in a public broadcast. Besides the many “star-gazing idealists” in the United States who resented the acceptance of Darlan, bitter critics in the United Kingdom also required political sedatives.’” On 17 November Mr. Churchill took cognizance of the fact that very deep currents of feeling had been stirred. He concluded that the arrangements with Darlan must not lead people to think that the Allies were ready to make terms with local quislings, especially as he believed that the understanding with Darlan could “only be a temporary expedient, justifiable solely by the stress of battle.” The President issued a public statement of American policy. He declared flatly that “in view of the history of the past two years no permanent arrangement should be made with Admiral Darlan.”

The President also pointed out that “no one in our Army has any authority to discuss the future Government of France and the French Empire,” and that “temporary arrangements made with Admiral Darlan apply, without exception, to the current local situation only'” He concluded, Reports indicate that the French of North Africa are subordinating all political questions to the formation of a common front against the common enemy, Darlan complained to General Eisenhower that the Allies evidently intended to use and then discard him, and that they were decreasing his usefulness by thus weakening his influence in French Africa. Yet he continued to negotiate detailed agreements governing future relations between the French colonies and the armed forces of the Allies, arrangements pertaining to civil administration, French shipping, and economic activity, and to enlist the support of French West Africa for his program of active warfare against the Axis powers: Aware of these facts Eisenhower in his messages reflected indignation at being drawn into a political morass at a time when the imminent battles in Tunisia were claiming close attention. The War Department stood firmly behind him, refusing to concur in the Department of State’s proposal that remedial measures in the French civil administration should be guided by principles which would terminate Allied acceptance of Admiral Darlan.

The North African Agreement

The first of the detailed arrangements between the Allies and the French was that embodied after somewhat protracted negotiations in the North African Agreement of 22 November, known from its signatories as the “Clark-Darlan Agreement.” Its preamble and twenty-one articles set forth the bases for co-operative action in the months to follow. Most of the statement of purposes was phrased in language taken from letters written, before the landings, by Mr. Robert Murphy as the President’s personal representative in French North Africa to Giraud and other friendly French officers.

The terms of many articles were from the draft armistice terms approved in advance of the operation by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. To avoid the appearance of diplomatic recognition of Darlan’s political status, the word “protocol” was dropped from the title, and General Eisenhower was urged to announce it unilaterally as an acceptable understanding with Darlan. The general plan provided for the closest possible co-operation in the effort to expel the Axis forces from North Africa, liberate metropolitan France, and “restore integrally the French Empire.” The French were to control their own forces and resources within the framework of general policies satisfactory to the Allied commander in chief.

They granted tax immunity and legal extraterritoriality to Allied personnel. The commanding general was authorized to designate as military areas the places he deemed to be “of importance or useful to the purposes set forth in the preamble.” Administration, public services, and public order in these areas would then come under his direct control. Allied military forces were to have unrestricted use of all telecommunication services, which were to be operated and maintained by the French. The fiction of a paramount American position in the campaign led to frequent reference to the Allied commander in chief as the Commanding General, U.S. Army, “with supporting forces.”

The North African Agreement was negotiated by Allied military leaders and approved by the President and the Combined Chiefs of Staff as a military measure. But from the outset, the nature of the Allied relationship to the Darlan administration was viewed in different lights by the Allied commander in chief, who was well aware of his dependence upon voluntary French aid, and by the President, who was inclined to think of French North Africa as conquered and occupied.

The public unrest over the Allied affiliation with Darlan in North Africa had somewhat abated by 22 November, when the actual detailed agreement with him was signed in Algiers. Brigadier General Walter Bedell Smith, chief of staff of AFHQ, reported from London on 24 November that the Prime Minister and Cabinet were giving the arrangement firm support. He then flew to the United States partly to help eliminate the resentment still prevailing there. Admiral Stark also wrote to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox a stalwart defense of the arrangement with Darlan. “I told DeGaulle,” he said, “that had I been in Eisenhower’s shoes I would have done exactly as Eisenhower has, and that I believe he [de Gaulle], as a soldier, would have done the same thing.”

Rearmament of French troops with modern arms had been promised successively to Mast at Cherchel, Giraud at Gibraltar, and General Eisenhower, on the advice of Admiral Cunningham and others at Gibraltar, submitted their agreement to the Combined Chiefs of Staff rather than act on his own responsibility. The President’s view appeared in a conference with the Joint Chiefs of Staff an 7 January 1943. Min in OPD Exec 10, Item 45.

Darlan’s group at Algiers.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff were now ready to make a small token shipment as soon as it could be conveyed. The extent and timing of additional transfers of arms would be dependent upon events and conditions. By 16 December, AFHQ created a Joint Rearmament Committee, which continued in service through the next two years, but during the next few months actual delivery of arms to the French was cut down by shortages in armament and shipping and by the preferential claims of the expanding American Army.

Following the agreement of 22 November, further negotiations led to accord on economic matters and to adherence by French West Africa to Darlan’s arrangement with the Allied commander in chief. On 3 December a “Provisional Arrangement” for the employment of French shipping was signed in Algiers. It confirmed the right of the Allies to convert the harbors of Oran and Algiers more fully to their own military uses, and it enlarged the global pool of shipping in the service of Allied operations.

The title “Provisional Arrangement,” was another concession to the President’s view that General Eisenhower’s authority was that of plenary military command over the whole area and that he should enter into no formal agreement or contract, but the General felt compelled to report that “it is impossible to exaggerate the degree to which, in carrying on the fight in Tunisia, we are dependent upon the good will and cooperation of the French.”

French West Africa Co-operates

Governor General Pierre Boisson of French West Africa and Togoland came to Algiers directly after the North African Agreement was completed and joined with Darlan and General Eisenhower in arriving at terms of collaboration by his colony with the Allies. French West Africa and Togoland were strategically located on the western bulge of Africa in a position important for transatlantic and north-south travel both by air and by sea. The port of Dakar had caused great concern to the Allies, for French warships, including the battleship Richelieu, harbored there, and airfields and coastal air bases in that area could be of great value. Boisson had denied use of the territory to Fighting French, British, and Axis nationals alike. On 8 November, Marshal Petain recognized this loyalty in declaring: “The attack on North Africa has taken place. Be ready for all emergencies. The Marshal and his government count on you.” On 22 November, Boisson and the military commander, General Jean Barrau, broadcast French West Africa’s adherence to Darlan, professing complete confidence that the step was in conformity with Marshal Petain’s actual desires.

Because earlier events in the war had created strong anti-British feeling in French West Africa, Boisson insisted upon negotiating only with Americans. It was therefore deemed impolitic to insist that Admiral Cunningham participate with Eisenhower, Boisson, and Darlan in arriving at an understanding. Instead, and with no concealment of the fact that British wishes in this matter were indistinguishable from those of the American government, General Eisenhower concluded an understanding which was transmitted in draft on 4 December for approval by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

With modification to meet the requirements of the British and the views of the President, it was announced unilaterally by General Eisenhower on 7 December. It was parallel in form and content with the North African Agreement of 22 November, but it had the further explicit provision (2c) that no measures would be taken by American, British, or Allied authorities which would result in any French troops combating other French troops. The understanding announced on 7 December was concluded with the expectation that, after Boisson returned to Dakar, he would receive a mission directly from the United States, headed by Rear Admiral William A. Glassford, Jr. (U.S.), to arrange for the Allied use of air, seaplane, and naval bases there.

The Glassford Mission was well received in Dakar. It arranged an understanding in conformity with its directive from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and with due regard to the needs of the British services. Existing military facilities became available to the Allies. They could thus exercise undivided control of sea communications from the United Kingdom to the Cape of Good Hope. Such substantial benefits to the Allied war effort remained subject to one nagging difficulty, that of inducing the Fighting French in Equatorial Africa to cease treating Boisson’s colonies as essentially hostile. An French Organization for Military Co-operation Long before the last stage of negotiations to establish the terms of co-operation in northwest Africa, the French had organized and begun to furnish active military assistance against Axis forces in Tunisia. The military chain of command over ground forces under Admiral Darlan’s regime placed General Giraud directly under Darlan. Giraud was Commander in Chief of Ground and Air Forces, responsible for their organization, training, and employment.

He was expected to co-ordinate the operations of French forces with those of the Anglo-American allies. In combined Army-Navy operations, he was to act through the Commander in Chief of Naval and Naval Air Forces in Africa (Admiral Jacques Moreau). His authority over military activities in French West Africa was to be exercised through the Commander in Chief of Armed Forces in that territory (General Barrau). His authority over French units in North Africa would be exercised through the Commander in Chief of Ground Forces (General Juin ) , Giraud looked ahead to creating a detachment of the French Army which would not only participate in driving the Axis from Tunisia but would go on to help liberate the French empire.

In the meantime, he ordered full mobilization in French North Africa and French West Africa and set about making maximum use of the French units already available. He prescribed as a system of command an arrangement which included the reciprocal subordination of small French or Anglo-American detachments to large units of another nationality in their respective zones of action but which depended primarily on orders emanating from his headquarters through a French chain of command. Co-ordination of French operations with those of the Allied Force would be insured, he declared, by the proximity of French and Anglo-American command groups and collaboration between them in arriving at decisions.

On 15 November, Giraud’s first directive to General Juin prescribed a covering role for French troops along a general line from Tabarka on the northern coast to Tehessa, behind which the Allied Force could concentrate for an attack against Bizerte. Juin, giving effect to this directive, divided his forces into a Covering Detachment and an East Saharan Command. In command of the first he put his corps commander, General Louis-Marie Koeltz, with headquarters at Constantine. Over the latter he retained General Delay, whose headquarters was at Ouargla, Algeria.

General Koeltz was able to adapt the measures already taken under the standing orders for the defense of French North Africa against attack from the east, to the requirements of his new orders. He designated key points along the forward line for the Covering Detachment: Tabarka, Souk el Arba, Le Kef, Tadjerouine and the nearby Sidi Amor Gap, Djebel Dir (1474) and passes east and south of Tebessa. The major elements under his command were the Tunisian Troops under General Georges Barre on the north and the Constantine Division under General Joseph Edouard Welvert on the southwest. A boundary between their zones of action ran along the road from Souk Ahras to Le Kef. Before long, he expected the Algiers Division (General Agathon Deligne) and the Algerian Light Armored Brigade (Colonel J. L. Touzet de Vigier) to come forward and assume sectors along the front.

None of these French units had sufficient modern weapons or equipment, including transport. All were below strength as a result of the conditions imposed by the armistice with the Axis powers. Cadres were ready for eventual expansion and the whole army was in need of modernization with materiel provided by the Allies in fulfillment of promises made to Giraud and his associates during the negotiations before the Allied landings. As pointed out earlier, Allied and Axis forces had already clashed in Tunisia long before the last stage of the political negotiations. The initial Axis reaction to the Allied landings and the ultimate decision by the French to take an active part in freeing Tunisia were followed by intensive efforts by both sides to gain the upper hand at Tunis and Bizerte before the winter rains began. The narrative now takes up the operations of the Eastern Task Force as it advanced toward Tunis.

SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West; by George F. Howe (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: North Africa (4-15); Drive on Tunis-First Axis Engagements

World War Two: North Africa (3-13); Occupation of Algiers


Today’s Extra for February 10: Doctors are Finally Prescribing Nature for Chronic Disease

Doctors are Finally Prescribing Nature for Chronic Disease

Think about how you feel after spending the day outside. Tired, maybe, but also deeply satisfied. Our relationship to nature is primal—we thrive on it. Spending time in green spaces is absolutely crucial to human wellness. Luckily, doctors are finally starting to realize how powerful nature can be—especially when it comes to those with chronic health issues. Yep, they’re even prescribing it.

Doctors in Scotland’s Shetland Islands are now issuing ‘nature prescriptions’ as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. And it’s not just doctors telling people to get outside and go hiking/biking/swimming or do some hardcore outdoor exercise. These aren’t high intensity prescriptions. Doctors are telling patients to get outside into forests, appreciate passing clouds, feel the exhilaration of wind on their face, skip stones on ponds, and go birdwatching.

Yes, birdwatching is now a doctor-issued prescription.

In the Shetland Islands, if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression or even diabetes, odds are you’ll get a nature prescription. Of course, doctors are not prescribing time in nature as a total alternative to traditional health care, but they’re prescribing nature supplementally.

Spending time in nature is a subtle treatment—compared to traditional meds, the only side effects are dirty fingernails and a feeling of profound serenity—but it really works.

Countless studies have shown that concentration improves, attention span increases, risk for depression decreases, stress hormones go down, inflammatory markers decrease, and blood glucose levels even drop. Nature is an incredibly powerful balancer of the body.

Scotland isn’t alone in accepting nature as a conventional medical treatment.

Even here in the U.S., there are big shifts happening in our relationship with nature. Some doctors in California have started prescribing nature to patients with profound financial or social struggles to help reduce stress and boost happiness.

Meanwhile, REI is donating $1 million to a new academic initiative called ‘Nature for Health‘ to fund research on how to get more people access to green spaces and to fully document the benefits that come with having easy access to green spaces. The study is focusing especially on underprivileged communities or in demographics who are generally underrepresented in the outdoor community.


But spending time in nature hasn’t hit the mainstream just yet. According to the EPA, the average American spends just seven percent of their life outdoors.

It’s clear that we all need more nature in our lives, but you don’t need to fly to Scotland to get yourself a prescription. Just step outside and empower your own health. It’s probably the most life-changing prescription you’ll ever get.



The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 10: HOW INSECTS PREDICT WEATHER



Next time you see an insect, check out what it’s doing! It could let you know something about the upcoming weather. Check out our weather proverbs about insects and other creepy-crawlies.


Observe ants, bees, fireflies, and you’ll see they give us cues about upcoming weather, too! Here is folklore from our Almanac archives:

  1. If ants their walls do frequent build, rain will from the clouds be spilled.
  2. Ants are busy, gnats bite, crickets sing louder than usual, spiders come down from their webs, and flies gather in houses just before rain.
  3. When bees to distance wing their flight, days are warm and skies are bright; But when their flight ends near their come, stormy weather is sure to come.
  4. Fireflies in great numbers indicates fair weather.
  5. When hornets build their nests near the ground, expect a cold and early winter.
  6. When cicadas are heard, dry weather will follow, and frost will come in six weeks.


This actually isn’t folklore. Crickets’ chirps are proven to measure temperature. They chirp more frequently in warm weather. The equation for calculating the temperature from a cricket involves counting the chirps for fourteen to fifteen seconds. Then, an amount is added to the count to calculate a temperature in Fahrenheit degrees.


Of course, spiders are not insects (which have six legs). They are arthropods. Observe their motion and their webs closely to gauge weather.

  1. When spiders’ webs in air do fly, the spell will soon be very dry.
  2. Spiders in motion indicate rain.
  3. When spiderwebs are wet with dew that soon dries, expect a fine day.
  4. Spiderwebs floating at autumn sunset bring a night frost, this you may bet.


Certainly, many of you may have heard of the woolly bear’s claim forecast winter weather (also called woolly worm). These caterpillars have black and brown bands; according to folklore, more black than brown indicates a harsh, cold winter while more brown than black points to a mild winter.


Observe reptiles as weather predictors, too!

  • The louder the frogs, the more the rain.
  • Frogs singing in the evening indicates fair weather the next day.
  • Hang up a snakeskin and it will bring rain.

Also, see how birds predict the weather.

Cows, sheep, cats, and mammals have their cues, too. See more about how animals predict weather.


Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac



Observe animals and you’ll see that they, too, have their own ways of predicting weather. Here are some animal weather proverbs and prognostics.


Perhaps the most folklore is about cows. Certainly, their bodies are affected by changes in air pressure.  This is also true of sheep, cats, and other animals.

  • If a cow stands with its tail to the west, the weather is said to be fair.
  • If a cow grazes with its tail to the east, the weather is likely to turn sour.

This is some true here. Animals graze with their tail toward the wind so that if a predator sneaks up behind them, the wind will help catch the scent of the predator and prevent an attack. The cow’s prediction might also be wrong during a hurricane


  • Expect rain when dogs eat grass, cats purr and wash, sheep turn into the wind, oxen sniff the air, and swine are restless.
  • If the bull leads the cows to pasture, expect rain; if the cows precede the bull, the weather will be uncertain.
  • When cats sneeze, it is a sign of rain.
  • When cattle lie down in the pasture, it indicates early rain.
  • When horses and cattle stretch out their necks and sniff the air, it will rain.



  • Woolly bear caterpillars are said to be winter weather predictors: The more brown they have on their bodies, the milder winter will be.
  • If the mole digs its hole 2½ feet deep, expect severe weather; if two feet deep, not so severe; if one foot deep, a mild winter.
  • When pigs gather leaves and straw in fall, expect a cold winter.
  • When rabbits are fat in October and November, expect a long, cold winter.



  • If sheep ascend hills and scatter, expect clear weather.
  • Bats flying late in the evening indicates fair weather.
  • Wolves always howl more before a storm.


Birds and insects may be the best weather predictors of them all.

Did you know that you can also predict the temperature by measuring how often crickets chirp?

Also, check out this great video to learn more about how animals predict the weather.

Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 10: WEATHER LORE: OBSERVING NATURE’S SIGNS



What weather is in store for us? Our ancestors lived close to the land and by observing the natural world they learned to predict what the seasons would bring.

Clouds, birds, animals, and plants all provided clues. Proverbs, sayings, folk predictions, and superstitions were passed down through generations of hunters, farmers, and fishermen who relied upon this weather lore to predict storms and the severity of the coming winter. The study of weather proverbs is known as paroemieology. Most are fanciful fun with no basis in scientific fact while others have been found to have a kernel of truth at their core.


Animal behavior has long been linked to weather. The thickness of their coats, amount of body fat, where they hide their food caches, and how they build their winter dens have all been used to predict winter weather. Native Americans looked to the beaver for clues about winter. They believed that the larger and stronger the beaver lodge, the harsher the winter to come.


“When you see a beaver carrying sticks in its mouth, it will be a hard winter—you better go south.” If skunks are overly fat, a cold winter is coming. When squirrels are scarce in autumn, it indicates a cold winter but if you see chipmunks in December, it will be a mild winter. If squirrels stash their nuts high in the trees, the snow will be deep. “When squirrels early start to hoard, winter will pierce us like a sword.”


Birds also have been used as indicators. It is commonly thought that if birds migrate early we’ll have a severe winter. If turkey feathers are unusually thick, look for a hard winter. When wild turkeys perch in trees and refuse to come down, snow is imminent.


“If the rooster moults before the hen, we’ll have winter thick and thin. If the hen moults before the cock, we’ll have winter hard as a rock.”


Even insects were observed to learn if they had any clues to offer about winter’s harshness. If bees build their nests in a protected spot such as inside a barn or shed, expect a hard winter.


As high as the hornets build their nests so will the snow be next winter. The wooly bear caterpillar (larva of the Isabella moth) has long been a favorite of backyard weather predictors.


The wider the brown band in the middle of the caterpillar, the milder the winter will be.


Plants were often used as weather predictors. Tough apple skins or thick onions skins meant a rough winter, as did thick flower buds. “Look for a heavy winter coat if the buds have heavy coats.” When corn husks are thicker and tighter than usual, a cold winter is forecast.


“Mushrooms galore, much snow in store. No mushrooms at all, no snow will fall.”

“When leaves fall early, fall and winter will be mild. When leaves fall late, winter will be wild.” If the leaves wither on the branches in October instead of falling, an extra cold winter is in store.


Heavy crops of acorns, rose hips, hawthorn and other berries mean a hard winter is ahead, while a bountiful walnut crop means a mild winter is coming. Thick nutshells predict a severe winter. “As high as the weeds grow, so will be the bank of snow.”

Long ago, Ben Franklin said, “Some of us are weather wise and some are otherwise,” and our fascination with weather continues to this day.

Weather folklore is far from infallible in its predictions but it is entertaining!


Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Holidays Around The World for Feb. 10: Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck

Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck

February 10

This feast is a commemoration in Malta of the shipwreck of St. Paul on the island in 60 c.e., an event told about in the New Testament. Paul, the story says, was being taken as a prisoner aboard ship to Rome where he was to stand trial. When storms drove the ship aground, Paul escaped and was welcomed by the “barbarous people” (meaning they were not Greco-Romans). According to legend, he got their attention when a snake bit him on the hand but did him no harm, and he then healed people of diseases. Paul stayed for three months in Malta, converting the people to Christianity (Acts 27:1-28:11). Paul is the patron saint of Malta and snakebite victims.

The day is a public holiday, and is observed with family gatherings and religious ceremonies and processions.

See also Mnarja
Malta National Tourist Office
65 Broadway, Ste. 823
New York, NY 10006
212-430-3799; fax: 425-795-3425
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 124

This Day In History, Feb. 10th: HMS Dreadnought Is Launched (1906)

HMS Dreadnought Is Launched (1906)

HMS Dreadnought was a Royal Navy battleship that revolutionised naval power. Her name and the type of the entire class of warships that was named after her stems from archaic English in which “dreadnought” means “a fearless person”.[1] Dreadnoughts entry into service in 1906 represented such an advance in naval technology that its name came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, the “dreadnoughts”, as well as the class of ships named after it. Likewise, the generation of ships she made obsolete became known as “pre-dreadnoughts”. Admiral Sir John “Jacky” Fisher, First Sea Lord of the Board of Admiralty, is credited as the father of Dreadnought. Shortly after he assumed office, he ordered design studies for a battleship armed solely with 12-inch (305 mm) guns and a speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). He convened a “Committee on Designs” to evaluate the alternative designs and to assist in the detailed design work.

Dreadnought was the first battleship of her era to have a uniform main battery, rather than having a few large guns complemented by a heavy secondary armament of smaller guns. She was also the first capital ship to be powered by steam turbines, making her the fastest battleship in the world at the time of her completion.[2] Her launch helped spark a naval arms race as navies around the world, particularly the German Imperial Navy, rushed to match it in the build-up to World War I.[3]

Ironically for a vessel designed to engage enemy battleships, her only significant action was the ramming and sinking of German submarine SM U-29, becoming the only battleship confirmed to have sunk a submarine.[4] Dreadnought did not participate in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 as she was being refitted. Nor did Dreadnought participate in any of the other World War I naval battles. In May 1916 she was relegated to coastal defence duties in the English Channel, not rejoining the Grand Fleet until 1918. The ship was reduced to reserve in 1919 and sold for scrap two years later.


Gunnery developments in the late 1890s and the early 1900s, led in the United Kingdom by Percy Scott and in the United States by William Sims, were already pushing expected battle ranges out to an unprecedented 6,000 yards (5,500 m), a distance great enough to force gunners to wait for the shells to arrive before applying corrections for the next salvo. A related problem was that the shell splashes from the more numerous smaller weapons tended to obscure the splashes from the bigger guns. Either the smaller-calibre guns would have to hold their fire to wait for the slower-firing heavies, losing the advantage of their faster rate of fire, or it would be uncertain whether a splash was due to a heavy or a light gun, making ranging and aiming unreliable. Another problem was that longer-range torpedoes were expected to soon be in service and these would discourage ships from closing to ranges where the smaller guns’ faster rate of fire would become preeminent. Keeping the range open generally negated the threat from torpedoes and further reinforced the need for heavy guns of a uniform calibre.[5]

In 1903, the Italian naval architect Vittorio Cuniberti first articulated in print the concept of an all-big-gun battleship. When the Italian Navy did not pursue his ideas, Cuniberti wrote an article in Jane’s Fighting Ships advocating his concept. He proposed an “ideal” future British battleship of 17,000 long tons (17,000 t), with a main battery of a dozen 12-inch guns in eight turrets, 12 inches of belt armour, and a speed of 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph).[6]

The Royal Navy (RN), the Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States Navy all recognised these issues before 1905. The RN modified the design of the Lord Nelson-class battleships to include a secondary armament of 9.2-inch (234 mm) guns that could fight at longer ranges than the 6-inch (152 mm) guns on older ships, but a proposal to arm them solely with 12-inch guns was rejected.[7][Note 1] The Japanese battleship Satsuma was laid down as an all-big-gun battleship, five months before Dreadnought, although gun shortages allowed her to be equipped with only four of the twelve 12-inch guns that had been planned.[8] The Americans began design work on an all-big-gun battleship around the same time in 1904, but progress was leisurely and the two South Carolina-class battleships were not ordered until March 1906, five months after Dreadnought was laid down, and the month after it was launched.[9]

The invention by Charles Algernon Parsons of the steam turbine in 1884 led to a significant increase in the speed of ships with his dramatic unauthorised demonstration of Turbinia with her speed of up to 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph) at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee at Spithead in 1897. After further trials of two turbine-powered destroyers, HMS Viper and HMS Cobra, coupled with the positive experiences of several small passenger liners with turbines, Dreadnought was ordered with turbines.[10]

The Battle of the Yellow Sea and Battle of Tsushima were analysed by Fisher’s Committee, with Captain William Pakenham’s statement that “12-inch gunfire” by both sides demonstrated hitting power and accuracy, whilst 10-inch shells passed unnoticed.[11]Admiral Fisher wanted his board to confirm, refine and implement his ideas of a warship that had both the speed of 21 knots (39 km/h) and 12-inch guns,[12] pointing out that at the Battle of Tsushima, Admiral Togo had been able to cross the Russians’ “T” due to speed.[13] The unheard of long-range (13,000 metres (14,000 yd))[14] fire during the Battle of the Yellow Sea, in particular, although never experienced by any navy prior to the battle, seemed to confirm what the RN already believed.[15]

Development of Dreadnought

Admiral Fisher proposed several designs for battleships with a uniform armament in the early 1900s, and he gathered an unofficial group of advisors to assist him in deciding on the ideal characteristics in early 1904. After he was appointed First Sea Lord on 21 October 1904, he pushed through the Board of Admiralty a decision to arm the next battleship with 12 inch guns and that it would have a speed no less than 21 knots (39 km/h). In January 1905, he convened a “Committee on Designs”, including many members of his informal group, to evaluate the various design proposals and to assist in the detailed design process. While nominally independent it served to deflect criticism of Fisher and the Board of Admiralty as it had no ability to consider options other than those already decided upon by the Admiralty. Fisher appointed all of the members of the committee and he was President of the Committee.[16]

The committee decided on the layout of the main armament, rejecting any superfiring arrangements because of concerns about the effects of muzzle blast on the open sighting hoods on the turret roof below, and chose turbine propulsion over reciprocating engines to save 1,100 long tons (1,100 t) in total displacement on 18 January 1905. Before disbanding on 22 February, it decided on a number of other issues, including the number of shafts (up to six were considered), the size of the anti-torpedo boat armament,[17] and most importantly, to add longitudinal bulkheads to protect the magazines and shell rooms from underwater explosions. This was deemed necessary after the Russian battleship Tsesarevich was thought to have survived a Japanese torpedo hit during the Russo–Japanese War by virtue of her heavy internal bulkhead. To avoid increasing the displacement of the ship, the thickness of her waterline belt was reduced by 1 inch (25 mm).[18]

The Committee completed its deliberations on 22 February 1905 and reported their findings in March of that year. It was decided due to the experimental nature of the design to delay placing orders for any other ships until the “Dreadnought” and her trials had been completed. Once the design had been finalised the hull form was designed and tested at the Admiralty’s experimental ship tank at Gosport. Seven iterations were required before the final hull form was selected. Once the design was finalized a team of three assistant engineers and 13 draughtsmen produced detailed drawings.[19]

To assist in speeding up the ship’s construction, the internal hull structure was simplified as much as possible and an attempt was made to standardize on a limited number of standard plates, which varied only in their thickness.


Inspiration for the Day for Feb. 10: Five Minutes to Happiness




Five Minutes to Happiness


If you aren’t a naturally happy person, take time each day to cultivate that which brings you happiness.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the rigors of modern life that we tend to forget that happiness need not come with stipulations. Happiness becomes something we must schedule and strive for–a hard-won emotion–and then only when we have no worries to occupy our thoughts. In reality, overwhelming joy is not the exclusive province of those with unlimited time and no troubles to speak of. Many of the happiest people on earth are also those coping with the most serious challenges. They have learned to make time for those simple yet superb pleasures that can be enjoyed quickly and easily. Cultivating a happy heart takes no more than five minutes. The resultant delight will be neither complex nor complicated, but it will be profound and will serve as a reminder that there is always a reason to smile.

So much that is ecstasy-inducing can be accomplished in five minutes. Alone, we can enjoy an aromatic cup of our favorite tea, take a stroll through the garden we have created, write about the day’s events in a journal, doodle while daydreaming, or breathe deeply while we listen to the silence around us. In the company of a good friend or treasured relative, we can share a few silly jokes, enjoy a waltz around the room, play a fast-paced hand of cards, or reconnect through lighthearted conversation. The key is to first identify what makes us dizzyingly happy. If we do only what we believe should bring us contentment, our five minutes will not be particularly satisfying. When we allow ourselves the freedom to do whatever brings us pleasure, five minutes out of 14 wakeful hours can brighten our lives immeasurably.

It is often when we have the least free time or energy to devote to joy, that we need to unwind and enjoy ourselves the most. Making happiness a priority will help you find five minutes every day to indulge in the things that inspire elation within you. Eventually, your happiness breaks will become an established part of your routine. If you start by pursuing activities you already enjoy and then gradually think up new and different ways to fill your daily five minutes of happiness, you will never be without something to smile about.

–Daily OM



This year, Chinese New Year (also known as the Lunar New Year) falls on Tuesday, February 5. Though this is a full month after the western celebration of the new year, this holiday marks the change from the year of the earth Dog to the year of the earth Pig.

Most notably, this year is all about devotion to friends and family. Pig years are great for spending time with those you love. Make sure you create space for meals with people who important to you!

Of course, the main thing to watch out for during Pig years is a tendency to overindulge. Keep your spending in check, and at all those meals with your friends and family, watch your portion sizes. Take steps to rid yourself of bad habits and addictions. Keep this in mind, and 2019 can be a very productive year for you. The earth element is practical and fiscally responsible. Take some time to set your goals and look into ways to procrastinate less and to release fears of failure and success. You will likely have increased willpower and focus for your most desired objectives.  Patience will be rewarded and so “slow and steady” wins the race. Chip away at your bigger goals by doing a little bit each day.  

But most of all, connections have the potential to grow stronger, and new, beneficial bonds can be made. Paying things forward, focusing on kindness, and being considerate to others will bring you opportunities this year.  


Unlike western traditions like champagne, noisemakers, and fireworks, the traditional ways to mark Chinese New Year tend to be more symbolic, such as wearing something to mark the opportunities coming your way or saying pleasant things to everyone you meet to bring luck to yourself and others.

This day that sets the tone for the rest of the year, so spend some time spreading kindness, offering compliments to others — as well as to yourself. (Sidenote: skip the chicken entree. It’s said if you eat chicken on Chinese New Year, you’ll spend the year scratching in the dirt for your money!)

Read to discover how your Chinese Zodiac sign interacts with the year of the Pig.




Rat sneaks in to steal Pig’s dinner, Pig chases Rat away.  

You need to be quick on your feet this year. But good news! No one’s quicker than lucky Rat. Everything you want is there for the taking but you need to make sure you’re first in line.  



Ox and Pig live happily on the farm together.  

A positive, happy year for Ox natives. The course you set yourself on last year now shows you it was the correct choice to make. The road ahead smooths out and you make great progress.  



Tiger and Pig face off and spar… guess who wins?  

It’s a little challenging this year as you seem to be hearing “no” more often than you generally like. However, even taking the smallest amount of action brings you great results. You’ll end the year with a win.  



Rabbits dine well on what falls outside the Pig’s pen. 

A lucky year for Rabbit as you are in harmony with the energy. Your sensitive, intuitive nature causes you to be in the right place at the right time. Finding supportive people to help you is easy this year.  



Mighty Dragon makes his presence known, Pig sleeps through the show. 

A somewhat irritating year for Dragon as all this lazy, indulgent energy doesn’t seem to benefit you and your goals. Fortunately, you can adjust. Soon you’ll see unexpected ways to profit.  



Snake threatens Pig, Farmer kills Snake.

A challenging year for Snake as Pig is the opposing sign. You are not getting much support this year even from those you love. But no matter, you have the power to accomplish many things especially when others underestimate your abilities.  



Horse paces in his pen, Pig is happy in his.

This is a year for making adjustments. Horse natives should not lock themselves into long contracts or rash promises. Give yourself the freedom to change and you will attract many opportunities.  



Pigs and Goats dine together.

A happy year for peace-loving Goat. You’re in harmony with the energy of Pig. You will receive a lot of interest in your projects and support for your plans. Let others know how they can help you.  



Monkey teases Pig, Pig doesn’t notice. 

A somewhat frustrating year for clever, energetic Monkey. Others nap when you want adventure and fun. The rest of the world may be shocked at your choices this year but you will prosper if you’re true to yourself.  



Rooster wakes the farm, life moves along pleasantly.

A harmonious year as you find projects and goals you’ve been working on for a while really start to show some results. There are many opportunities for you this year. Expand your circle of friends and you’ll benefit.  



Dog herds Pig, Pig ignores Dog .

This will be a much easier year for you. You’ve made some changes and wise choices. Now options will present themselves for your career as well as relationships. The road ahead is clear, obstacles are now gone.  



Pig enjoys the company of other pigs and the party begins.

It’s your year. This is the beginning of your 12-year cycle. Out with the old and in with the new. Let go of anything or anyone who’s been holding you back. As you release what you don’t want, you will be showered with new opportunities. Enjoy.  


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