Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Book review - The Murder of Admiral Darlan.

Peter Tompkins' 272 page The Murder of Admiral Darlan was published in 1965. It covers the time leading up to the Allied landings in North Africa and the immediate aftermath during World War II. The focus of the book is the French role and their internal power struggles.

Leading up to the landings Admiral Jean Darlan was appointed chief of all French military forces by the Vichy government. Despite several conspiracies to prevent it, fighting broke out when the Americans and British landed. Darlan equivocated and tried to play both ends against the middle but eventually swung over to the Allies.

The result was a power struggle between the Free French and the left over Vichy officials. Darlan was assassinated during the showdown. Who exactly was behind the assassination was not clear at first. In typical French fashion it never became totally clear and the punishments for those involved were not consistent.

Tompkins seems to know the players in the drama well. That is probably because he was stationed in North Africa during the landings. Unfortunately I found the book hard to follow. It seemed like there was a lot of backtracking at times. It was not clear if that was a literary device or due to the complicated plots and counter-plots as the French quarreled among themselves.

If the reader is a true student of World War II, or of France, The Murder of Admiral Darlan will probably be of interest. For the rest of us it might be better passed over for other material.

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