Operation Catapult: Fort-de-France - Close Call
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On 18 July 1940, the French light cruiser Émile Bertin (seen here) arrived to Halifax, Canada, with 254 tons of gold from the Bank of France. After the French asked for an armistice with Germany, the cruiser sailed to Fort-de-France, Martinique. During her journey, she was shadowed by the British heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire until she escaped thanks to her superior speed.
Émile Bertin arrived in Fort-de-France on 21 July (a day before the Armistice) and joined the light cruiser Jeanne d'Arc and the aircraft carrier Béarn. When the little fleet learned of the attack of Mers el-Kébir, the French expected the same fate and prepared the defence. And they were right, the Royal Navy had sent the light cruisers HMS Fiji and HMS Dunedin to destroy the French ships in Fort-de-France.
But this part of Operation Catapult was cancelled after an American intervention. President Roosevelt wanted to prevent a fight and signed an agreement with the French. Their warships in Martinique were interned in the harbour of Fort-de-France, constantly under the surveillance of an American observer. The U.S. Navy regularly patrolled in the area in place of the Royal Navy which was totally fine with this agreement. In exchange, the small fleet would remain under the control of Vichy, would not be attacked and the French colony had an exclusive commercial agreement with the United States which would provide everything the colony needed to live.
Crews aboard French warships were strongly against joining the British to continue the fight, even before Operation Catapult, and when the United States entered the war, the Americans forced the French to remove the firing mechanisms off their ships. But the French colony remained loyal to the Vichy regime and in July 1942, the Americans cut all supplies to the Antilles. Orders to scuttle the fleet were given twice but stayed ignored. It's only in July 1943 that the French colony joined the government of Alger and French warships joined the Allied.