Recipient of the 1999 Outstanding Master's Thesis Award - Second Place.
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Open Access Thesis
When World war II began in September 1939, polls indicated that most Americans believed it did not pose a threat to the United States and opposed any involvement by a ratio of 27-to-1.
President Franklin Roosevelt perceived that the power of Nazi Germany and its ideals posed a threat to American democracy. He presented the war to the American public as a moral struggle as well as one for security. The President publicized this view most notably in his Four Freedoms speech and in the Atlantic Charter. Both statements defined the moral goals of basic human freedoms and national self-determination.
Most Americans embraced the moral goals of the war when the United States went to war in December 1941. Those goals were challenged when American forces under General Dwight D. Eisenhower invaded French North Africa on November 8, 1942. French North Africa was then controlled by the quasi-fascist French government located in Vichy. To save lives, and to speed conquest of the area, Eisenhower secured the surrender of the French forces from Admiral Jean Francois Darlan, a Vichy official. Darlan's fascist background seemed to contradict Roosevelt's moral crusade.
News of the "Darlan Deal" provoked a public outcry. Dozens of editorials appeared in American and British newspapers criticizing Eisenhower's action. Most of these editorials argued that deals with fascists violated the moral basis for the war. Other fascists, it seemed, might also be accommodated in the future. Eisenhower was also accused of betraying the Free French, under General Charles de Gaulle, who had challenged Vichy for the loyalty of the French people.
Roosevelt attempted to quiet criticism by referring to Darlan as a "temporary expedient" who would ultimately answer to the French people. This explanation met temporary acceptance, but skepticism increased as time passed.
Darlan's assassination on December 24, 1942 allowed Roosevelt to renew the Allied commitment to destroying fascism. The Darlan Deal played a large role in Roosevelt's pledge to accept nothing less than Unconditional Surrender from the Axis powers at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943.
Year of Submission
Year of Award
Department of History
1 PDF file (v, 184 pages)
©1998 Brian Fiderlein
Fiderlein, Brian, "The morality issue: How Darlan influenced the Allied unconditional surrender pledge in World War II" (1998). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 655.