Casablanca: Syntactic Ambiguity

I was SUPPOSED to be writing a paper on WWII Allied conferences, but like most everything, I was influenced by the movie I was watching: Casablanca. So, instead of a discussion on Allied conferences and their impact on how the various Allied leaders worked together, I got this:

The various Allied conferences during the Second World War created a kinship among the various leaders, notably Churchill and Roosevelt. However, these conferences were more than just ‘get to know you’ meetings… they were a place for the various Allied leaders to amass and strategise. Two particular conferences show the type of strategising that went on, often secretively, and behind the scenes: the Second Washington, and Cherchell conferences, both of which dealt directly with the campaign in North Africa.

June 1942… Washington, DC: Roosevelt and Churchill meet after a hastily arranged conference schedule. The purpose was to lead several military staff conversations in regards to the Soviet Union, and a possible second front. Roosevelt and the American military staff wanted a second front in France, but Churchill and the British military staff argued that France simply was not feasible, yet. The idea of attacking Italy was floated by Churchill, but pushed to the wayside for the moment. Instead, the participants decided on something more immediate: the invasion of Vichy French territories in North Africa. It would come to be known as Operation Torch.

21 October 1942… night time: Major General Mark Clark arrives in Cherchell, Algeria to hold a secret pow-wow with Vichy French commander Charles Mast. Mast promises Clark that when the Allied invade Vichy French territory, his troops would not oppose the landings.

8 November 1942… Morocco, North Africa: Operation Torch is a go. Mast kept his promise, his troops were ordered not to oppose the Allied landings. Unfortunately, the entire Vichy French army did not stand down, and the Allies mistake of assuming they would created a situation which made the invasion far more costly than originally anticipated. However, Operation Torch would prove itself a success, and immensely useful to popular culture.

26 November 1942… Hollywood Theatre, New York: the premier of a new Hollywood Romantic Drama. Casablanca, staring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Berman and Paul Henreid, would become an American film legend. Originally slated for release in the spring of 1943, Casablanca’s producers made the decision to time the release with the initiation of Operation Torch. Originally limited in it’s theatre release, the movie went into general release on 23 January 1943, the day before the ending of the conference in Casablanca between Churchill and Roosevelt. It’s impact was not what Hollywood had hoped, ending 1943 as the seventh best-selling film. The Office of War Information prohibited screenings of the film in North Africa, afraid that it would enrage the Vichy supporters and create unnecessary conflict. Ironically, regardless of it’s less than stellar performance at the box office, Casablanca has become an iconic film about love and loss during the Second World War.

Allied conferences during the Second World War were incredibly important as a means of communication, strategy planning and connection between the various Allied powers. The conferences would also prove to impact the world of Hollywood. What began as an idea to invade Vichy French North Africa, and create a solid foundation for a possible invasion of Italy, would lend itself to one of the greatest films of the 20th Century. Little did Roosevelt and Churchill know, on a weekend in June 1942, that they would be marking their places in both military and film history.


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