Did the UK & USA pursue an essentially ‘Italy & Vichy France First' policy from 1940?

May 2017
Did the UK & USA pursue an essentially ‘Italy & Vichy France First' policy from 1940?

To what extent did the Western Allies pursue an essentially ‘Italy & Vichy France First’ policy from mid 1940-43?

Firstly many thanks for the well considered and intelligent responses to my first thread-starter on this Forum about "which German advanced weapon had the best chance to be a 'game-changer'".

Like I explained it was a topic I originally raised on the Armchair General (ACG) Forum. It's interesting and refreshing to see how this site has a different approach and quite different 'feel' to discussions than ACG.

If I can be indulged further I'd like to hear from posters on another topic I raised on the ACG World War II Forum some time ago.
An 'edited' version (due to my err...umm...ahhh ..... propensity to be a little to cheeky:eek: on the old forum) of the topic thread-starter is presented below:

"As with all lodestar posts no apologies for this resurrecting this ‘ole provocation from my University days of 35 [now about 43] years ago

Basically this interpretation of the Western Allied land war effort in the years after the fall of France in mid 1940 proposes that far from pursuing the stated policy of defeating ‘Germany first’ they in reality concentrated nearly all their endeavours on knocking out the Italian ‘paper tiger’ and Germany’s vassal Vichy.

Essentially, the argument runs that the western allies, that is the British Commonwealth from July 1940 up to late 1942 and then the UK/US alliance, while technically at war with Nazi Germany, took the easy option of fighting and defeating the above two secondary Axis powers.

While for the Western allies the chief theater of land operations for much of the above period was of course North Africa and operations were for the most part pursued against Italian or Vichy French Forces.

The western allies fought the Germans in North Africa it was true, but seen in perspective and in comparison to the titanic struggle in Soviet Russia (and what else are you going to compare it to?) the Germans forces supporting the Italians were miniscule until the last stages of the campaign. Most Axis troops in North Africa were of course Italian not German.

Granted the British also fought a short disastrous campaign in April 1941 against the Germans by trying to support the Greeks and a intense and for the Germans, costly battle for the island of Crete a month later.
However, from mid 1941 to mid 1943 when they invaded Sicily, their only direct effort in land warfare against Germany outside the very small campaign opposing Rommel in North Africa was a ‘day outing’ by 2nd Canadian Division to Dieppe in August of 1942.

Apart, then from battling the Germans who were supporting the Italians in North Africa, most allied land and surface naval war operations were directed against either Italy or Vichy France.
These operations included :
. Attacking elements of the Vichy French fleet in July 1940 at Mers-el Kebir in Algeria and Dakar, West Africa.

. An attempt to secure Vichy controlled Dakar by British and Free French Forces in Sept 1940

. An invasion and occupation of Vichy controlled Syria and Lebanon in June 1941

. An invasion and occupation of Vichy controlled Madagascar in a campaign lasting from May to November 1942.

. Campaigns against Italian controlled Somalia and Ethiopia in 1941

. Naval battles in the Mediterranean against Italian Fleets in 1940-43.

. Operation Torch - the invasion of Vichy controlled Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia

. The Invasion of Sicily, held by mostly Italian forces in July 1943

All up methinks the western allies may be accused by some (the soviets to begin with!) of dragging their feet so far as waging major land war against the supposed ‘first’ enemy Germany from 1941 to late 43.

It took the immensely powerful (and don’t kid yourselves the British Commonwealth and USA were, in comparison the Axis forces they actually did face – immensely powerful) Western democracies three years (Sept 1940 to Sept 1943) to defeat a much derided supposedly pathetic Fascist Italy and even more dismal Vichy France.

Looking forward again to your input.

Regards 'Newbie'
Jan 2013
Toronto, Canada
This doesn't seem like a very controversial argument. Churchill talked about attacking the 'soft underbelly' of the Axis and Stalin spent most of 1943 complaining that the Western Allies weren't doing enough to creates a second front in Europe - he didn't count the Italian front.
Apr 2017
Britain and America spent those two and a half years building up an invasion force in England and training it. Crossing the channel with hundreds of thousands of troops is one of the riskiest operations in history, if it goes wrong it could take years to try again. So its not surprising they took time getting ready. Also they eliminated France/Italy's African/Mediterranean holdings so they could not threaten the allies flank, a basic war tactic. These campaigns only took small amounts of resources compared to other fronts. The invasion of Italy was practice for D-day, and helped to eliminate Italy as an axis ally. The concept that the western allies took a France and Italy first policy is like saying the Soviets took a Romania first policy.


Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
To answer your question diectly-Roosevelt appointed the pro Vichy Robert Murphy and Admiral Leahy to head up the USA diplomatic mission to Vichy France.
Leahy and Murphy were staunchly pro-Vichy /Petain.
When American Varian Fry started to help and organise an escape line for Jewish refugees from the Vichy 'ZONE LIBRE' -UNOCCUPIED FRANCE- he, Fr,y was turfed out back to America by Leahy /Murphy and their diplomats.
Go study Varian Fry to see what I mean.

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
@ lodestar

Can I suggest You to no longer use the "black colour" function for the text ? IDK about others, but for me it's horribly difficult to read.

Lord Fairfax

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
Changing trains at Terrapin Station...
@ lodestar

Can I suggest You to no longer use the "black colour" function for the text ? IDK about others, but for me it's horribly difficult to read.
Yes, I thoroughly agree with DT, black on dark blue is unreadable


Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
Maybe like Ayers Rock his script changes colour with the position of the sun?


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
Just left click on it and hold down, and it will all show up white on dark blue.
Dec 2011
N. Ireland
The British took the 'easy option' because they had no choice.

The British Army of 1941/2 was in no condition to invade France - witness their mediocre performance in N. Africa, Greece, etc. The US Army in 1941/2 was worse - witness their performance at Kasserine, etc. In fact, the Russian Army of 1941/2 was no better - it fought hard, but often very inefficient, and very costly battles, against a German Army superior in everything but numbers, and lost millions of men, thousands of tanks, and huge areas of land in the process.

It took the Allies until late 1942/43 to gain experience, how to fight, how to use their tanks and aircraft and men to the greatest effect. It was only in 1944 that the invasion of France a real possibility for the Western Allies, given the volume of ships, landing craft, air support, training, etc, needed to carry out such an operation.

They learned their trade in 1942/3, but still had a huge fight on their hands in Normandy, in spite of their numerical and materiel superiority by that time.