ALGERIA Successful Mission Shortly after 11 o'clock one morning last week, a gull-white Caravelle jet airliner accompanied by eight Mistral fighters in V formation came streaking in from the Mediterranean over the North African coast. A few minutes later at Maison-Blanche airport. Charles de Gaulle, clad in the undecorated suntan uniform of a brigadier general, stepped down onto the soil of Algeria—the first French Premier to show his face there since an Algiers mob greeted Socialist Guy Mollet with a shower of rotten tomatoes in February, 1956.
Before De Gaulle, as he well knew, lay a stern and pivotal mission. He hoped in time to end the Algerian Moslems' four-year-old war for independence. But first he had to end the threat of civil war posed by the insurgent French soldiers and settlers of Algeria. Only the day before, Leon Delbecque, dynamic leader of the rebel junta (TIME, June 9), his once boundless faith in De Gaulle shaken by his idol's failure to name a single insurgent leader to a government post, had appeared in Paris to warn the general that unless De Gaulle revamped his Cabinet, his trip to Algeria would end in disaster.
Sixty for Lunch. All along De Gaulle's hour-long route from the airport to the city of Algiers, thousands of Algerian French, urged on by cheerleaders, dutifully shouted "Vive De Gaulle!" But their loudest cheers were raised for Jacques Soustelle, right-wing firebrand, onetime Governor General of Algeria, who also rode in the procession. At De Gaulle's first stop in Algiers—to lay a cross of Lorraine wreath at the foot of the city's World War I memorial—beefy Jacques Soustelle, grinning with delighted embarrassment, was obliged to gesture his admirers to silence before De Gaulle could capture their attention. De Gaulle looked pained.
At lunch in De Gaulle's temporary headquarters—the Moorish Palais d'Etée, where Admiral Jean Darlan was assassinated 16 years ago—the insurgents stepped up their pressure. De Gaulle had expected 15 luncheon guests: instead, 60 self-confident members of the Algerian Committee of Public Safety showed up to urge the general to make Soustelle his Minister for Algeria. Then, in something audaciously close to an ultimatum, Paratroop General Jacques Massu spelled out what the insurgent leaders expected of De Gaulle:
Endorse Soustelle's policy to integrate Algeria into Metropolitan France; Eliminate "the vestiges of the system," i.e., dismiss from his Cabinet such moderate parliamentarians as Ministers of State Guy Mollet and Pierre Pflimlin; Recognize the 200-odd Public Safety Committees in France and Algeria as the backbone of his government.