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What happened in Setif; why did US troops respond?

Discussion in 'Non-World War 2 History' started by davidbfpo, Dec 16, 2020.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Birth certificates a 20 paces?
     
  2. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    ;)
     
  3. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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  4. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo New Member

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    It appears that the by May 1945 the Allied (UK & US) presence in Algeria was for rear area units, so no combat troops. Plus the only recorded base in Setif itself was British, very likely the RAF, who had several maintenance units (MU) in Algeria maintaining and repairing aircraft, American and British, from the campaign in Italy.

    I get the impression that there were few, if any shared Anglo-US bases. Oddly, well to me in 2020, is that not one American serviceman is buried in Algeria, they are all in a cemetery in Tunisia; whereas the British and Commonwealth dead are buried in a small number of cemeteries, none are near Setif and some died in 1946.
     
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  5. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo New Member

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    This post is an update on the research so far.

    Background

    Alistair Horne described Setif, Algeria, as “A Town of No Great Interest,” in his book ‘A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962’:

    To my astonishment US military forces were still present locally and Andrew Hussey wrote:

    From pgs. 152-156 in 'The French Intifada: The Long War between France and Its Arabs' by Andrew Hussey, pub. 2014. Professor Hussey has responded, and his account is based on three sources:

    One book is 'La guerre commence en Algérie' by Mohammed Harbi (Published 1954), and summarised (in English) by him here: Massacre in Algeria

    The second book is 'Le 8 mai 1945 en Algérie' by Ainad Tabet (Published 1985 or 1987) and no English translation was found.

    A third book is 'Algeria: France's Undeclared War' by Martin Evans (Pub. 2012), well reviewed and a copy is nearby, albeit in a university library.

    Research

    It appears that by May 1945 the Allied (UK & US) presence in Algeria were rear area units, in a safe area (leaving aside criminality).

    The only recorded base in Setif itself was British, used by the RAF, who had several maintenance units (MU) in Algeria maintaining and repairing aircraft, American and British, from the campaign in Italy. See: RAF Maintenance Unit 162 based at Setif and Blida 1943-5 and a few other scattered references to British Army units having been there.

    To my astonishment one account (written by Anthony Clayton, in 1992) cites an eyewitness, a South African officer commanding an infantry company in Setif town; from the 44th Infantry Battalion of the South African Air Force (converted from a Light Anti-Aircraft role in April 1944, then posted to Algeria to guard facilities and prevent theft). A slight mention of their history appears in: History

    See ‘The Setif Uprising of May 1945’ (pgs. 1-21) See: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09592319208423008?needAccess=true

    Dr. Clayton in his book ‘The Wars of French Decolonization’ (published 1994) refers on pgs. 30-33 to events in Setif; specifically, he refers to reinforcements being flown in and the use of half-tracks to move around in.

    From: The Wars of French Decolonization

    Clayton’s article in a footnote, reliant on a French military document refers to: Royal Air Force aircraft, acting under local command, flew 75 Légion Etrangère to Sétif

    The only Allied air transport unit identified as present in Algeria was South African too, the 28th Squadron, equipped with C-47 Skytrain (or DC-3 Dakota which could carry twenty-seven soldiers) and Anson aircraft (a smaller aircraft), for general transport duties throughout North Africa.

    From: No. 28 Squadron (SAAF) during the Second World War and The South African Air Force

    I get the impression that there were few, if any shared Anglo-US bases. Nor can I identify any US military bases in Algeria, let alone at Setif or in that region of French North Africa (now Algeria). Any pointers would be helpful!

     
  6. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Thanks for the update. Strange there were no official US bases in that bit of Algeria, but maybe that's the problem.
    Recently watched an Anthony Quinn movie called Lost Command, about French paras in Indo-China, then Algeria. One of them, an Arab trooper played by George Segal, deserts and forms a resistance group after his family are murdered and their home destroyed by French troops. Wondered if that was an oblique reference to the business at Setif.
     
  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo New Member

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    GRW,

    It is clear in my reading that loyalties changed after Setif; yes, may be for a minority and so the Lost Command theme fits. I was astonished that B&W footage exists of the post-protest French action. Some of the clips are hard to identify. This appears at the start to be accurate:
    Needless to say the Algerian media have many film clips and there is a short film too - of the firing on the Setif protesters.
     
  8. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Hadn't seen that clip before. Shocking.
     
  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    In some times and countries human life was not worth a dime. Just read about Idi Amin among other things. His troops did not even use bullets. The people were in lines and the one before used a hammer to crack the skull of the one before in line. Quite handy.
     
  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo New Member

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    I have for the moment stopped online research as so little is available. With Google Translate I have looked at a number of French references, none appear to comment on a non-French role in Setif on VE-Day 1945. There are many YouTube film clips, only a few appear to be on the VE-Day events.

    The puzzle about next to nothing on the US military presence in Algeria by May 1945 remains, so I have reached out to two American historians.

    Hopefully soon university and other libraries will be open, where I can locate two books by British authors and one by an Algerian author.
     
  11. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    A few years ago when I was looking for the Fillon family in Setif, I posted on a local version of Ancestry.com. Might be worth trying to see if anyone knows anything.
     

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