This is a translation of chapter II of a (French) book - in two volumes - I recently acquired, about the French Expeditionary Force (F.E.C.), written by Lt.Col. Georges Boulle and published by the Historical section of the French Military HQ Ground Forces. The chapter deals with the early engagement of the F.E.C. in the western Abruzzo mountains in the winter of 1943/44. In 1940, France operated three separate armies: the largely white Armée Métropolitaine, which defended the homeland, L’Armée d’Afrique, which recruited in French North Africa (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) and La Coloniale, which included soldiers from France’s other territories. With the Armée Métropolitaine defeated, discredited and imprisoned in 1940, it was Juin’s very un-European Armée d’Afrique and La Coloniale, the all-volunteer Legion Etrangère (Foreign Legion) of non-French mercenary soldiers, and Berbers from Morocco who would fight in Italy and then go on to help liberate France The F.E.C. was predominantly composed of units of the L’Armée d’Afrique, a lightly equipped, 135.000-man army, made up mainly of territorials but led by regular French officers, which had been permitted by the 1940 armistice terms for the defense of the French colonies in North Africa (1). After the 'Liberation' of North-Africa, this Armée d’Afrique was to be expanded to a 265.000-man strong force, consisting of eight infantry and three armoured divisions, reorganized and rearmed according to US Army standards under the Anfa Agreement, reached by President Roosevelt and General Giraud on 24 January 1943 at Casablanca. In the course of June and July 1943, most of the units ready, three infantry and one armoured division, two Groups of Moroccan Tabors and several non-divisional support units, were assembled near Oran where they formed the Premier Corps de Debarquement (1st C.de D.). In August 1943 the 1st C. de D. was subdivided into two separate groups that were able to operate independently in different theaters of operation. The First Group comprised the 2nd Moroccan and 3rd Algerian infantry divisions, with the 3rd and 4th Groups of Moroccan Tabors and support units. By order of 18 November 1943 the First Group was redesignated 1e Armee Francais or Armée A under command of General Juin. Under this designation the force was attached to the 15th Army Group and embarked for the Italian Theater of operations on 20 November 1943. It was on request of General Juin that the designation 1e Armee Francais, with regard to General Clark, under whose command the French force was placed, was changed into "French Expeditionary Corps" (F.E.C.) on 3 January 1944, the day the corps became operational; in French it is Corps Expéditionnaire Francais (hence: C.E.F.). General Giraud (left, commander of the French troops in North Africa) and General De Gaulle (leader of the Free French) pose with the Western Allied leaders at Casablanca. During the Casablanca Conference (January 1943) the decision was made to expand and rearm the French regular Army in North Africa; the Anfa agreement, named after the Anfa Hotel in a suburb of Casablanca where the conference was held. Relations between the two French Generals, who met at Casablanca for the first time since 1940, were strained, to say the least. De Gaulle wanted neither to share any power with Giraud, nor to give any impression of collaborating with the tarnished men of Vichy, with whom Giraud had dealt. Later in the same year, Giraud and de Gaulle became co-presidents of the French Committee of National Liberation, but Giraud lost support and retired in frustration in April 1944 (photo courtesy: Casablanca Conference by Granger). The 2nd Moroccan Division, together with the 4th Tabor Group, was the first contingent of the F.E.C. to arrive by ship in Italy. Sailing from Bizerte and Oran in North Africa, it disembarked at Naples in November 1943. The rest of the French forces would not arrive until the end of December 1943. Dor the time being the 2nd Moroccan Division was attached to 6th US Corps. This situation lasted until the French Expeditionary Corps (FEC), under General Juin, completed its assembly and became operational on January 3rd, 1944. On that date General Juin and his Corps took over the 6th US Corps' sector on the right wing of the 5th US Army. Juin' s command consisted of the 2nd Moroccan and 3rd Algerian Infantry Divisions (the latter still missing two battalions of the 4th Tunisian Tirailleur Regiment), supported by two Groups of Moroccan Tabors (G.M.T.), the 3rd, 4th G.M.T (each the equivalent of a Brigade). Each of the infantry divisions had a theoretical strength each of 16,840 men (41% of them French Metropolitains or troops recruited from mainland France). The French build up continued during the period of Feb - April 1944. The French strength grew with the arrival of the 4th Moroccan Mountain Division and the 1st Free French Division (renamed 1ère Division motorisée d'Infanterie), as well as another Group of Tabors, the 1st G.M.T. These latter units however arrived too late to have an active share in the French winter campaign. They participated in the Spring offensive of May 1944. For operations in Italy, the Allies still had to be convinced of the French as an effective and loyal force and initially envisaged the French very much in a supporting role, or even as reserve or garrison troops. The Americans were concerned that training standards were below those of the US Army. The performance of the 2nd Moroccan Division at the Mount Pantano and Mainarde very much impressed the Americans, and the Allies' low opinion of the French quickly changed. The FEC would prove to be one of the Allies' most effective formations. This was partly due to the terrain, which held few surprises to troops recruited from the mountainous regions of North Africa. But the French soldiers were also well led and well suited to the sort of battles that the terrain created, where initiative and exceptional bravery were of such vital importance. The French were commanded by hard-driving officers who knew that the re-establishment of French military reputation lay in their hands. This leadership, as shall be seen, depended largely on the officers putting themselves at the front of the fighting, with inevitable consequences. This is a first acquaintance, as far as I am concerned, with the particularly difficult struggle in mountainous Italy and with the operations of French Moroccan and Algerian units. During the period described the French participated in what later would be known as the 'Winter Line Campaign' and the 'First Battle for Monte Cassino'. As the French study occasionally tends to be a bit summary, I added additional information from other sources (texts within [...], Quotes or seperate posts on small unit actions, entitled: "Close up"). PS. I'm a complete novice to the Italian battlefields, so please bear with me ... Sequence of the actions described: 1. First actions: Defile of San Michele: the outflanking movement in the north (14 - 15 Dec 1943): A winter in the Abruzzo Mountains - French Expeditionary Corps - Italy (21 Nov 1943 - 3 Feb 1944) 2. The fight for mount Pantano (16 - 18 Dec 1943): A winter in the Abruzzo Mountains - French Expeditionary Corps - Italy (21 Nov 1943 - 3 Feb 1944) 3. The fall of the Mainarde (19 - 28 Dec 1943): A winter in the Abruzzo Mountains - French Expeditionary Corps - Italy (21 Nov 1943 - 3 Feb 1944) 4. The January offensive: Monna Casale & Costa San Pietro (1 - 12 Jan 1944): A winter in the Abruzzo Mountains - French Expeditionary Corps - Italy (21 Nov 1943 - 3 Feb 1944) 5. The January offensive: Acquafondata - San Elia (13 - 20 Jan 1944): A winter in the Abruzzo Mountains - French Expeditionary Corps - Italy (21 Nov 1943 - 3 Feb 1944) 6. First attempt to break the Gustav Line: M.San Croce (21 - 24 Jan 1944): A winter in the Abruzzo Mountains - French Expeditionary Corps - Italy (21 Nov 1943 - 3 Feb 1944) 7. Second attempt to break the Gustav Line: Battle for the Belvedere (24 Jan - 5 Feb 1944): A winter in the Abruzzo Mountains - French Expeditionary Corps - Italy (21 Nov 1943 - 3 Feb 1944) A scheme of the Abruzzo mountain ranges which formed the scene of the operations of the French Expeditionary Corps in Dec 1943 and Jan 1944 (courtesy: "Le 8e RTM - Un hiver dans les Abruzzes, 1943 - 1944"). See also: De Tunis a Rome (starting at 21:41) http://archives.ecpad.fr/etapes-vers-la-victoire-n1-de-tunis-a-rome/ and: La nouvelle armée française dans la campagne d'Italie - INA - Jalons devient LUMNI ! (1) The 1st D.M.I., which would not be deployed in Italy until May 1944, actually had the highest percentage of Europeans of any unit at fifty-seven percent. The primary reason behind this large number was the two battalions from the Foreign Legion and the one battalion of naval marines. The 2nd D.I.M. and 3rd D.I.A. each had approximately forty-one percent. The 4th D.M.M. had the lowest numbers of Europeans at thirty-three percent. Being organized as a mountain division, it required a larger number of Africans (and the mules they handled) to transport all the matériel needed by a modern unit to fight an enemy without easy access to re-supply. The remainder of the corps was only thirty-five percent European. Overall, the FEC was sixty percent African (Source: Gaujac, Le Corps Expeditionnaire Français En Italie, 31).