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The AMGOT banknotes (France, 1944)

Last modified: 2017-05-28 by ivan sache
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AMGOT banknotes - Scans by Ivan Sache, 26 November 2005

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The AMGOT banknotes

The question of the administration of the liberated territories was addressed by the American and British powers before the ultimate assault against the Axis in June 1944. The American and British staffs set up AMGOT (Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories); AMGOT was a section of the staff, made of officers specifically trained to administration of civil affairs, mostly in the universities of Virginia (Charlottesville) and Yale.
The main duty of AMGOT was to prepare and set up an administration in the newly liberated territories in Europe and Asia. AMGOT was successful in Italy, Norway, Netherlands and Belgium; however, it was considered as illegitimate in Denmark and France. In those two countries, the official local claim was that the local administration was not to be replaced, since it had only be "hijacked" during the German occupation.

A main concern of AMGOT was the reestablishment of national currencies. AMGOT prepared accordingly a currency for each country before the liberation. The French banknotes should have borne the writing République française, but Roosevelt rejected the proposal, ironically claiming that it was impossible to predict the government France would adopt after the war, not necessarily a republic but maybe a kingdom or even an empire. This was, of course, a cutting remark targeting de Gaulle. Anyway, only the national motto Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité was written on the notes.
General de Gaulle rejected the AMGOT notes and called them forged currency. He wrote in his Mémoires de Guerre: "The troops and services which shall land soon are provided with a so-called French currency, made abroad and absolutely not recognized by the Government of the Republic." After the 6 June 1944 landing, the AMGOT notes caused a dispute that lasted several weeks. On 8 June, the Provisory Government of the French Republic warned the American and British governments, stating that "it shall not recognize any legal value to the labels released without its consent." However, the AMGOT notes were released in Normandy, where they were not really popular. François Coulet, first Commissioner of the Republic, called them "odd dollars decorated with a Tricolor flag", and mentioned that local people attempted to get rid of them as soon as possible, for instance when paying income tax. Coulet advised the banks to accept the notes in order to keep them out of trade. He complained about the situation at General Montgomery, who said on 9 July: "What the fuss with the notes we have brought? I have been told that people don't want them. People must accept them, we must force them to accept those notes. That is good money: that is our money!"
The AMGOT notes were used in France until the end of August 1944.

The French national flag is shown on the reverse of the AMGOT banknotes, which exist in two formats, nearly square for 2, 5 and 10 francs, with the same reverse; and rectangular for 50, 100 and 1,000 francs, with the same reverse. In the latter series, the flag can be omitted from the reverse and replaced with FRANCE. Such a banknote exists for 500 francs, but I have no evidence of the equivalent with the national flag (although very probable).
The AMGOT banknotes are often offered for sale on catalogues.

Source: Website of the Mémorial de Caen (page no longer online)

Ivan Sache, 26 November 2005

The size of the smaller denominations (2, 5 and 10 francs) was 3 by 2.625 inches. I just measured the note that was paid me just before the invasion. The inscription reads émis en France rather than France, République Française or Banque de France. According to Pick's catalog, these notes were printed in the US. I don't recall actually spending any during the Normandy campaign (I was busy with other matters). When I next received pay in francs (at the end of January), I was paid with Banque de France notes. I'm not certain, but I don't think I saw any of the invasion francs when I was in France from late January to early April and August 1945. Rather similar German notes were issued by the allies from 1944 to 1948 with the inscriptions Allierte Militärbehörde (Allied Military Authority) and Im Umlauf Gesetzt in Deutschland (Circulated in Germany). These were denominated in marks, rather than Reichsmarks or German Marks. Incidentally, the currency used by allied troops on late 1944 and early 1945 in Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands (I received pay in these too), though printed in the US, had the appearance of European notes, were fully authorized by their respective governments, had the standard warnings against counterfeiting the standard notations, etc. It is of course easy to see why Germany was different, but the question of France seems to reflect the lack of good relations between Roosevelt (and his advisors) and the Free French government.

Norman Martin, 26 November 2005