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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Casablanca Conference

14 to 24 January 1943

Location: Casablanca, French Morocco
Players: Churchill, Roosevelt, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Generals Eisenhower and Alexander.
Outcome: The Allies agree to launch a joint bomber offensive on Germany, and declare that they seek unconditional surrender from Germany, Italy and Japan.

General Henri Giraud, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, and Winston Churchill at the Casablanca Conference
General Henri Giraud, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, and Winston Churchill at the Casablanca Conference©
In January 1943, the Allies held a conference codenamed Symbol in a hotel in the French Moroccan city of Casablanca. Churchill, Roosevelt and the Joint Chiefs of Staff attended, along with US Field Marshal Eisenhower and British Field Marshal Alexander. The aim of the conference was to decide future strategy: high on the agenda was an attack against the Germans in France.

Eisenhower had already proposed a landing in France, planning an operation that depended on massing US troops on British shores. Britain was not in favour of this plan, believing that the priority should be to grind down German military strength before meeting the Germans head on.

At Casablanca, the Americans pursued the question of a landing, also warning that the Pacific urgently demanded their attention. Britain tried to steer negotiations to the war in Italy, where the enemy was weakest, and the diversion of resources to the Russian front.

Stalin had been invited to attend the conference, thus making up the Russian third of the Grand Alliance (a term coined by Churchill in reference to a successful alliance led by his ancestor, the first Duke of Marlborough). However, Stalin was needed on home ground: his army was battling to hold Stalingrad, a turning point in the war between Russia and Germany.

In the absence of Russian representation, the Americans and British decided on the policy that Germany, Italy and Japan should surrender unconditionally. They also agreed that a combined bomber offensive against Germany would be launched from Britain.

The Casablanca Conference also brought together General Henri-Honoré Giraud and Brigadier General Charles de Gaulle, the two rivals for the leadership of French forces opposed to the Vichy regime. Churchill and Roosevelt demanded that they work together and - following lengthy negotiations - in June 1943 the two Frenchmen became the joint chairmen of the French Committee for National Liberation.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.


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