North Africa Notes (1942-43)
As part of their offensive against the Axis powers during World War II, the Allies began an extensive military action against the Vichy French in North Africa. This operation commenced on November 8, 1942, and was named Operation Torch. Under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Allied armies occupied French Morocco and Algeria, and the Free French gained control of French West Africa. The success of Operation Torch was a major turning point in the course of the War, removing Axis control over extensive North African oil reserves, and providing the Allies with a base to launch their push into southern Europe.
The U.S. soldiers who fought in this campaign were paid in cash. The potential for enemy capture of the payroll cash supply was a real concern for Allied leaders. The solution to this concern was a distinct series of notes made to pay the troops, the so-called "North Africa notes." All military personnel serving in the North African campaign were paid with these special silver certificates, which had a distinct and unique yellow seal. This action was taken as a precaution; in the event of German capture of the money supply, all silver certificates with a yellow seal could be repudiated; the now-worthless captured money would be useless to any enemies.
After the successful North African campaign, the yellow seal notes were also used during the Sicilian campaign of 1943. Unlike the “Hawaii” notes, which were made for circulation among the general population in Hawaii, North Africa notes were distributed only to military personnel.
Aside from their unusual yellow seal, the North Africa notes are not clearly marked as to their purpose. They are the only silver certificates with yellow seals. North Africa notes come in one-, five-, and ten-dollar denominations. All of the one-dollar notes are from series 1935A, the five-dollar notes are from series 1934A, and the ten-dollar notes are from both series 1934 and 1934A. The plain series 1934 ten-dollar note is very scarce, but all other North Africa notes are readily available, usually in circulated grades.
Like with the "Hawaii" notes, many North Africa notes were saved as souvenirs by GIs. These notes make for an interesting relic of an epic struggle, a struggle that continues to have ramifications throughout the world, 70-plus years later.