Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

David E. Gardinier


Though the history of Franco-American military cooperation goes back to the American War for Independence, it has only been during the twentieth century that France and the United States have enjoyed a definite alliance. Such arrangement naturally arose from a realization of both nations' broadly comparable political and economic orientations. When this shared outlook has broken down in specific cases, such as Suez in 1956, or the American involvement in Vietnam a decade later, the result has been a setback, if only temporary, to continued good relations. To the ordinary man in the street, especially those with memory of World Wars I and II, it may often seem that France is quite a close ally of America. Franco-American bonhomie, and ringing cries of "Lafeyette, we are here!", might easily come to mind. Of course, the reality is somewhat different. The United States and France have dissimilar needs and desires, in a wide variety of areas ranging from geographic to political, from economic to cultural. That these specific interests should sometimes clash despite shared values is only to be expected.

A large amount of material has been written concerning the lapses in Franco-American relations for it is natural to study those instances where allies have a falling out. Perhaps less well known , but certainly every bit as important, are specific examples of the two nations' cooperation in foreign affairs, in particular, cases of military cooperation. Such joint action took place during the first Indo-China war (1945-1954), for example, but, more recently, the African continent has been the scene of combined French-U.S. military operations. One of the most interesting took place in Zaire in May of 1978.

The problem in Zaire was precipitated by local conditions and local issues, but Western powers had substantial interests in the affairs of that nation. While France's concerns were generally not similar to those of the United States, each was able to find common cause for military intervention. Such cooperation was, of course, limited in nature, and the Franco-American actions could hardly be compared to, say, the Anglo-Allied, D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. Nevertheless, a cooperative military venture, comprised of French troops and an American airlift (with Belgian participation as well), was launched in support of the Zairian government, with the aim of fending off a secessionist rebellion. The event is noteworthy in several respects, not least of which for the role America played in a traditionally French sphere of concern.

I have divided this essay into three main sections. The first deals with the background of French and American actions in Africa in general and Zaire in particular: political, economic, and cultural interests, and policies. The second section describes the Zairian crisis itself: its causes, its course, and the operations undertaken by France and the United States. The third and final section comprises an attempt to analyze this instance of Franco-American military cooperation/ intervention and explain its causes and effects.