Operation Torch

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Contents

Operation Torch
Part of the North African Campaign of the Second World War
Operation Torch - map.jpg
A map showing landings during the operation
Date8–16 November 1942
Location
Result Allied victory
Territorial
changes
Anglo-American occupation of Morocco and Algeria
Free France control of French West Africa
German and Italian occupation of southern France
Belligerents

Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom

Flag of Free France (1940-1944).svg  Free France

Naval only
Canadian Red Ensign (1921-1957).svg  Canada
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia

Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Vichy France

Naval only
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Dwight D. Eisenhower
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg George S. Patton
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Lloyd Fredendall
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Andrew Cunningham
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Kenneth Anderson
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg François Darlan
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Charles Noguès
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Frix Michelier
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Ernst Kals
Strength
Ground forces: 107,000 troops
33,000 in Morocco
39,000 near Algiers
35,000 near Oran
Naval activity:
350 warships
500 transports
Total: 850
Ground forces:
125,000 troops
210 tanks
500 aircraft
many shore batteries and artillery pieces
Naval activity:
1 battleship (partially armed)
10 other warships
11 submarines
Germany: 14 submarines
Italy: 14 submarines [1]
Casualties and losses
United States:
526 dead
United Kingdom:
574 dead
All Other Allies:
756 total wounded [2]
1 escort carrier (HMS Avenger (D14)) sunk with loss of 516 men
4 destroyers lost
2 sloops lost
6 troopships lost
1 minesweeper lost
1 auxiliary anti-aircraft ship lost
Vichy France:
1,346+ dead
1,997 wounded
several shore batteries destroyed
all artillery pieces captured
1 light cruiser lost
5 destroyers lost
6 submarines lost
2 flotilla leaders lost
Germany: 8 submarines lost by 17 November
Italy: 2 submarines lost by 17 November [3]

Operation Torch (8-16 November 1942) was an AngloAmerican invasion of French North Africa during the Second World War. It was aimed at reducing pressure on Allied forces in Egypt, and enabling an invasion of Southern Europe. It also provided the ‘second front’ which the Soviet Union had been requesting since it was invaded by the Germans in 1941. The region was dominated by the Vichy French, officially in collaboration with Germany, but with mixed loyalties, and reports indicated that they might support the Allied initiative. The American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commanding the operation, planned a three-pronged attack, aimed at Casablanca (Western), Oran (Center) and Algiers (Eastern), in advance of a rapid move on Tunis.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of more than 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

French North Africa collection of territories in North Africa controlled by France

French North Africa was a collection of territories in North Africa controlled by France during the 19th and 20th-century colonial era, centering on French Algeria. At its height, it comprised most of the Maghreb.

The Western Task Force encountered unexpected resistance, as well as bad weather, but Casablanca, the principal French Atlantic naval base, was captured after a short siege. The Center Task Force suffered some damage to its fleet, trying to land in shallow water, but the enemy ships were sunk or driven off, and Oran surrendered after heavy fire from British battleships. The Eastern Task Force met less opposition because the French Resistance had staged a coup in Algiers, and the Allies were able to push inland and compel surrender on the first day.

The success of Torch caused the commander of French forces in the region, Admiral Darlan, to order full co-operation with the Allies, in return for being retained as High Commissioner, with many Vichy officials keeping their jobs. But Darlan was assassinated soon after, and De Gaulle’s Free French gradually came to dominate the government.

François Darlan French admiral

Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan was a French admiral and political figure. He was admiral of the fleet and Chief of Staff of the French Navy in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. After France signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in 1940, Darlan served in the pro-German Vichy regime, becoming its deputy leader for a time. When the Allies invaded French North Africa in 1942, Darlan was the highest-ranking officer there, and a deal was made, giving him control of North African French forces in exchange for joining their side. Less than two months later he was assassinated.

Operation Torch was the first mass involvement of US troops in the European–North African Theatre, and saw the first major airborne assault carried out anywhere by the United States.

Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of World War II major theatre of operations during the Second World War

The Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre was a major theatre of operations during the Second World War. The vast size of the Mediterranean and Middle East theatre saw interconnected naval, land, and air campaigns fought for control of the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe. The fighting in this theatre lasted from 10 June 1940, when Italy entered the war on the side of Nazi Germany, until 2 May 1945 when all Axis forces in Italy surrendered. However, fighting would continue in Greece – where British troops had been dispatched to aid the Greek government – during the early stages of the Greek Civil War.

Background

The Allies planned an Anglo-American invasion of north-western Africa/MaghrebMorocco, Algeria and Tunisia, territory nominally in the hands of the Vichy French government. With British forces advancing from Egypt, this would eventually allow the Allies to carry out a pincer operation against Axis forces in North Africa. The Vichy French had around 125,000 soldiers in the territories as well as coastal artillery, 210 operational but out-of-date tanks and about 500 aircraft, half of which were Dewoitine D.520 fighters—equal to many British and U.S. fighters. [4] These forces included 60,000 troops in Morocco, 15,000 in Tunisia, and 50,000 in Algeria, with coastal artillery, and a small number of tanks and aircraft. [5] In addition, there were 10 or so warships and 11 submarines at Casablanca.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Maghreb Major region of North Africa

The Maghreb, also known as Northwest Africa or Northern Africa, Greater Arab Maghreb, Arab Maghreb or Greater Maghreb, or by some sources the Berber world, Barbary and Berbery, is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. It additionally includes the disputed territories of Western Sahara and the cities of Melilla and Ceuta. As of 2018, the region has a population of over 100 million people.

Morocco Country in North Africa

Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a sovereign state located in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction. The capital is Rabat and the largest city Casablanca. Morocco spans an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi) and has a population of over 35 million.

The Allies believed that the Vichy French forces would not fight, partly because of information supplied by American Consul Robert Daniel Murphy in Algiers. The French were former members of the Allies and the American troops were instructed not to fire unless they were fired upon. [6] However, they harbored suspicions that the Vichy French navy would bear a grudge over the British attack on Mers-el-Kebir in 1940. An assessment of the sympathies of the French forces in North Africa was essential, and plans were made to secure their cooperation, rather than resistance. German support for the Vichy French came in the shape of air support. Several Luftwaffe bomber wings undertook anti-shipping strikes against Allied ports in Algiers and along the North African coast.

Consul (representative) diplomatic rank

A consul is an official representative of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the people of the two countries.

Robert Daniel Murphy American diplomat

Robert Daniel Murphy was an American diplomat.

Algiers City in Algiers Province, Algeria

Algiers is the capital and largest city of Algeria. In 2011, the city's population was estimated to be around 3,500,000. An estimate puts the population of the larger metropolitan city to be around 5,000,000. Algiers is located on the Mediterranean Sea and in the north-central portion of Algeria.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was given command of the operation, and he set up his headquarters in Gibraltar. The Allied Naval Commander of the Expeditionary Force would be Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham; his deputy was Vice-Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who would plan the amphibious landings.

Senior US commanders remained strongly opposed to the landings and after the western Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) met in Washington on 30 July, General George Marshall and Admiral Ernest King declined to approve the plan. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a direct order that Torch was to have precedence over other operations and was to take place at the earliest possible date, one of only two direct orders he gave to military commanders during the war.

Allied plans

A map of Allied convoys heading from the British Isles to North Africa. Operation Torch.jpg
A map of Allied convoys heading from the British Isles to North Africa.

Planners identified Oran, Algiers and Casablanca as key targets. Ideally there would also be a landing at Tunis to secure Tunisia and facilitate the rapid interdiction of supplies travelling via Tripoli to Rommel's forces in Libya. However, Tunis was much too close to the Axis airfields in Sicily and Sardinia for any hope of success. A compromise would be to land at Bône (Annaba) in eastern Algeria, some 300 miles (480 km) closer to Tunis than Algiers. Limited resources dictated that the Allies could only make three landings and Eisenhower — who believed that any plan must include landings at Oran and Algiers — had two main options: either the western option, to land at Casablanca, Oran and Algiers and then make as rapid a move as possible to Tunis some 500 miles (800 km) east of Algiers once the Vichy opposition was suppressed; or the eastern option, to land at Oran, Algiers and Bône and then advance overland to Casablanca some 500 miles (800 km) west of Oran. He favoured the eastern option because of the advantages it gave to an early capture of Tunis and also because the Atlantic swells off Casablanca presented considerably greater risks to an amphibious landing there than would be encountered in the Mediterranean.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff, however, were concerned that should Operation Torch precipitate Spain to abandon neutrality and join the Axis, the Straits of Gibraltar could be closed cutting the entire Allied force's lines of communication. They therefore chose the Casablanca option as the less risky since the forces in Algeria and Tunisia could be supplied overland from Casablanca (albeit with considerable difficulty) in the event of closure of the straits. [7]

Marshall’s opposition to Torch delayed the landings by almost a month, and his opposition to landings in Algeria led British military leaders to question his strategic ability; the Royal Navy controlled the Strait of Gibraltar, and Spain was unlikely to intervene as Franco was hedging his bets. The Morocco landings ruled out the early occupation of Tunisia. Eisenhower told Patton that the past six weeks were the most trying of his life. [8] In Eisenhower's acceptance of landings in Algeria and Morocco, he pointed out that the decision removed the early capture of Tunis from the probable to only the remotely possible because of the extra time it would afford the Axis to move forces into Tunisia. [9]

Intelligence gathering

In July 1941, Mieczysław Słowikowski (using the codename "Rygor"—Polish for "Rigor") set up "Agency Africa", one of the Second World War's most successful intelligence organizations. [10] His Polish allies in these endeavors included Lt. Col. Gwido Langer and Major Maksymilian Ciężki. The information gathered by the Agency was used by the Americans and British in planning the amphibious November 1942 Operation Torch [11] [12] landings in North Africa.

Preliminary contact with Vichy French

To gauge the feeling of the Vichy French forces, Murphy was appointed to the American consulate in Algeria. His covert mission was to determine the mood of the French forces and to make contact with elements that might support an Allied invasion. He succeeded in contacting several French officers, including General Charles Mast, the French commander-in-chief in Algiers.

These officers were willing to support the Allies but asked for a clandestine conference with a senior Allied General in Algeria. Major General Mark W. Clark—one of Eisenhower's senior commanders—was dispatched to Cherchell in Algeria aboard the British submarine HMS Seraph and met with these Vichy French officers on 21 October 1942.

With help from the Resistance, the Allies also succeeded in slipping French General Henri Giraud out of Vichy France on HMS Seraph—passing itself off as an American submarine—intending to offer him the post of commander in chief of French forces in North Africa after the invasion. However, Giraud would take no position lower than commander in chief of all the invading forces, a job already given to Eisenhower. When he was refused, he decided to remain "a spectator in this affair".

Battle

A map showing landings during Operation Torch. OPERATION-TORCH-OVERVIEW.png
A map showing landings during Operation Torch.

The Allies organised three amphibious task forces to simultaneously seize the key ports and airports in Morocco and Algeria, targeting Casablanca, Oran and Algiers. Successful completion of these operations was to be followed by an eastwards advance into Tunisia.

A Western Task Force (aimed at Casablanca) was composed of American units, with Major General George S. Patton in command and Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt heading the naval operations. This Western Task Force consisted of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 3rd and 9th Infantry Divisions—35,000 troops in a convoy of over 100 ships. They were transported directly from the United States in the first of a new series of UG convoys providing logistic support for the North African campaign. [13]

A shipment of 116 Supermarine Spitfires sent by sea was assembled in just 11 days at RAF North Front, Gibraltar. Many of these Spitfires served with the United States Army Air Forces, including the aircraft in the foreground, EP 365 (308th FS, 31st Fighter Group). Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vs assembled by the Special Erection Party in Gibraltar for Operation Torch, 1942.jpg
A shipment of 116 Supermarine Spitfires sent by sea was assembled in just 11 days at RAF North Front, Gibraltar. Many of these Spitfires served with the United States Army Air Forces, including the aircraft in the foreground, EP 365 (308th FS, 31st Fighter Group).

The Center Task Force, aimed at Oran, included the U.S. 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, and the U.S. 1st Armored Division—a total of 18,500 troops. They sailed from the United Kingdom and were commanded by Major General Lloyd Fredendall, the naval forces being commanded by Commodore Thomas Troubridge.

Torch was, for propaganda purposes, a landing by U.S. forces, supported by British warships and aircraft, under the belief that this would be more palatable to French public opinion, than an Anglo-American invasion. For the same reason, Churchill suggested that British soldiers might wear U.S. Army uniforms, although there is no evidence that this tactic was implemented. [14] (Fleet Air Arm aircraft did carry US "star" roundels during the operation, [15] and two British destroyers flew the Stars and Stripes. [14] ) In reality, the Eastern Task Force—aimed at Algiers—was commanded by Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson and consisted of a brigade from the British 78th and the U.S. 34th Infantry Divisions, along with two British commando units (No. 1 and No. 6 Commandos), totaling 20,000 troops. During the landing phase, ground forces were to be commanded by U.S. Major General Charles W. Ryder, Commanding General (CG) of the 34th Division and naval forces were commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Harold Burrough.

U-boats, operating in the eastern Atlantic area crossed by the invasion convoys, had been drawn away to attack trade convoy SL 125. [16]

Aerial operations were split into two, east of Cape Tenez in Algeria, with British aircraft under Air Marshal Sir William Welsh and west of Cape Tenez, all American aircraft under Major General Jimmy Doolittle, under the direct command of Major General Patton.

P-40s of the 33rd Fighter Group were launched from U.S. Navy escort carriers and landed at Port Lyautey on November 10. Additional air support was provided by the carrier USS Ranger, whose squadrons intercepted Vichy aircraft and bombed hostile ships.

Casablanca

American ships preparing to land off Safi during Operation Blackstone American ships landing during Operation Torch, November 1942 (26688233893).jpg
American ships preparing to land off Safi during Operation Blackstone

The Western Task Force landed before daybreak on 8 November 1942, at three points in Morocco: Safi (Operation Blackstone), Fedala (Operation Brushwood, the largest landing with 19,000 men), and Mehdiya-Port Lyautey (Operation Goalpost). Because it was hoped that the French would not resist, there were no preliminary bombardments. This proved to be a costly error as French defenses took a toll on American landing forces.

On the night of 7 November, pro-Allied General Antoine Béthouart attempted a coup d'etat against the French command in Morocco, so that he could surrender to the Allies the next day. His forces surrounded the villa of General Charles Noguès, the Vichy-loyal high commissioner. However, Noguès telephoned loyal forces, who stopped the coup. In addition, the coup attempt alerted Noguès to the impending Allied invasion, and he immediately bolstered French coastal defenses.

A flyer in French and Arabic that was distributed by Allied forces in the streets of Casablanca, calling on citizens to cooperate with the Allied forces. Operation Torch - message from the president of United States to the citizens of Casablanca.jpg
A flyer in French and Arabic that was distributed by Allied forces in the streets of Casablanca, calling on citizens to cooperate with the Allied forces.

At Safi, the objective being capturing the port facilities to land the Western Task Force's medium tanks, the landings were mostly successful. [17] The landings were begun without covering fire, in the hope that the French would not resist at all. However, once French coastal batteries opened fire, Allied warships returned fire. By the time General Ernest Harmon's 2nd Armored Division arrived, French snipers had pinned the assault troops (most of whom were in combat for the first time) on Safi's beaches. Most of the landings occurred behind schedule. Carrier aircraft destroyed a French truck convoy bringing reinforcements to the beach defenses. Safi surrendered on the afternoon of 8 November. By 10 November, the remaining defenders were pinned down, and the bulk of Harmon's forces raced to join the siege of Casablanca.

At Port-Lyautey, the landing troops were uncertain of their position, and the second wave was delayed. This gave the French defenders time to organize resistance, and the remaining landings were conducted under artillery bombardment. With the assistance of air support from the carriers, the troops pushed ahead, and the objectives were captured.

At Fedala, weather disrupted the landings. The landing beaches again came under French fire after daybreak. Patton landed at 08:00, and the beachheads were secured later in the day. The Americans surrounded the port of Casablanca by 10 November, and the city surrendered an hour before the final assault was due to take place.

Casablanca was the principal French Atlantic naval base after German occupation of the European coast. The Naval Battle of Casablanca resulted from a sortie of French cruisers, destroyers, and submarines opposing the landings. A cruiser, six destroyers, and six submarines were destroyed by American gunfire and aircraft. The incomplete French battleship Jean Bart—which was docked and immobile—fired on the landing force with her one working gun turret until disabled by the 16-inch calibre American naval gunfire of USS Massachusetts, the first such heavy-calibre shells fired by the U.S. Navy anywhere in World War II. Two U.S. destroyers were damaged.

USS Lakehurst (formerly Seatrain New Jersey), after discharging medium tanks at Safi, Morocco. Seatrain Lakehurst after discharging tanks at Safi North Africa.png
USS Lakehurst (formerly Seatrain New Jersey), after discharging medium tanks at Safi, Morocco.

Oran

The Center Task Force was split between three beaches, two west of Oran and one east. Landings at the westernmost beach were delayed because of a French convoy which appeared while the minesweepers were clearing a path. Some delay and confusion, and damage to landing ships, was caused by the unexpected shallowness of water and sandbars; although periscope observations had been carried out, no reconnaissance parties had landed on the beaches to determine the local maritime conditions. This helped inform subsequent amphibious assaults—such as Operation Overlord—in which considerable weight was given to pre-invasion reconnaissance.

The U.S. 1st Ranger Battalion landed east of Oran and quickly captured the shore battery at Arzew. An attempt was made to land U.S. infantry at the harbour directly, in order to quickly prevent destruction of the port facilities and scuttling of ships. The operation—code named Operation Reservist —failed, as the two Banff-class sloops were destroyed by crossfire from the French vessels there. The Vichy French naval fleet broke from the harbor and attacked the Allied invasion fleet, but its ships were all sunk or driven ashore. [18]

French batteries and the invasion fleet exchanged fire throughout 8–9 November, with French troops defending Oran and the surrounding area stubbornly. Heavy fire from the British battleships brought about Oran's surrender on 9 November.

Airborne landings

Torch was the first major airborne assault carried out by the United States. The 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, aboard 39 C-47 Dakotas, flew all the way from Cornwall, Britain, over Spain, intending to drop near Oran and capture airfields at Tafraoui and La Sénia, respectively 15 miles (24 km) and 5 miles (8 km) south of Oran. [19] The operation was marked by communicational and navigational problems owing to the anti-aircraft and beacon ship HMS Alymbank broadcasting on the wrong frequency. [20] Poor weather over Spain and the extreme range caused the formation to scatter and forced 30 of the 37 air transports to land in the dry salt lake to the west of the objective. [21] Of the remainder aircraft, one pilot became disoriented and landed his plane in Gibraltar. Two others landed in French Morocco and three in Spanish Morocco, where another Dakota dropped its paratroopers by mistake. A total of 67 American troops were interned by Franco's forces until February 1943. Tafraoui and La Sénia were eventually captured, but the role played by the airborne forces in Operation Torch was minimal. [20] [22]

Algiers

Resistance and coup

As agreed at Cherchell, in the early hours of 8 November, 400 mainly Jewish French Resistance fighters [23] staged a coup in the city of Algiers. Starting at midnight, the force under the command of Henri d'Astier de la Vigerie and José Aboulker seized key targets, including the telephone exchange, radio station, governor's house and the headquarters of 19th Corps.

Robert Murphy took some men and then drove to the residence of General Alphonse Juin, the senior French Army officer in North Africa. While they surrounded his house (making Juin effectively a prisoner) Murphy attempted to persuade him to side with the Allies. However, he was treated to a surprise: Admiral François Darlan—the commander of all French forces—was also in Algiers on a private visit. Juin insisted on contacting Darlan, and Murphy was unable to persuade either to side with the Allies. In the early morning, the local Gendarmerie arrived and released both Juin and Darlan.

Invasion

American soldiers land near Algiers. Near Algiers, "Torch" troops hit the beaches behind a large American flag "Left" hoping for the French Army not fire... - NARA - 195516.jpg
American soldiers land near Algiers.

On 8 November 1942, the invasion commenced with landings split between three beaches—two west of Algiers and one east. Under overall command of Major General Charles W. Ryder, Commanding General of the U.S. 34th Infantry Division, British 11th Brigade Group from the British 78th Infantry Division, landed on the right hand beach, U.S. 168th Regimental Combat Team, from the 34th Infantry Division, supported by 6th Commando and most of 1st Commando on the middle beach while the U.S. 39th Regimental Combat Team, also from the U.S. 34th Division, supported by the remaining 5 troops from 1st Commando landed on the left hand beach. The British 36th Brigade Group from the British 78th Division stood by in floating reserve. [24] Though some landings went to the wrong beaches, this was immaterial because of the extremely low level of French opposition. All the coastal batteries had been neutralized by French resistance, and one French commander openly welcomed the landing Allies. The only fighting took place in the port of Algiers, where in Operation Terminal, two British destroyers attempted to land a party of U.S. Army Rangers directly onto the dock, in order to prevent the French destroying the port facilities and scuttling their ships. Heavy artillery fire prevented one destroyer from landing, but the other was able to disembark 250 Rangers before it too was driven back to sea. [18] The landed troops pushed quickly inland and General Juin surrendered the city to the Allies at 18:00.

Aftermath

Political results

A plaque commemorating Operation Torch at the American War Memorial in Gibraltar. Operation Torch plaque persp.png
A plaque commemorating Operation Torch at the American War Memorial in Gibraltar.

It quickly became clear that Giraud lacked the authority to take command of the French forces. He preferred to wait in Gibraltar for the results of the landing. However, Darlan in Algiers had such authority. Eisenhower, with the support of Roosevelt and Churchill, made an agreement with Darlan, recognizing him as French "High Commissioner" in North Africa. In return, Darlan ordered all French forces in North Africa to cease resistance to the Allies and to cooperate instead. The deal was made on 10 November, and French resistance ceased almost at once. The French troops in North Africa who were not already captured submitted to and eventually joined the Allied forces. [25] Men from French North Africa would see much combat under the Allied banner as part of the French Expeditionary Corps (consisting of 112,000 troops in April 1944) in the Italian campaign, where Maghrebis (mostly Moroccans) made up over 60% of the unit's soldiers. [26]

When Adolf Hitler learned of Darlan's deal with the Allies, he immediately ordered the occupation of Vichy France and sent troops to Tunisia.

The Eisenhower/Darlan agreement meant that the officials appointed by the Vichy regime would remain in power in North Africa. No role was provided for Free France, which was supposed to be France's government-in-exile, and which had taken charge in other French colonies. This deeply offended Charles de Gaulle as head of Free France. It also offended much of the British and American public, who regarded all Vichy French as Nazi collaborators, and Darlan as one of the worst. Eisenhower insisted however that he had no real choice if his forces were to move on against the Axis in Tunisia, rather than fight the French in Algeria and Morocco.

Though de Gaulle had no official power in North Africa, much of the population now publicly declared Free French allegiance, putting pressure on Darlan. Then, on 24 December, Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle, a French resistance fighter and anti-fascist monarchist, assassinated Darlan. (Bonnier de La Chapelle was arrested on the spot and executed two days later.)

Giraud succeeded Darlan but like him replaced few of the Vichy officials. He even ordered the arrest of the leaders of the Algiers coup of 8 November, with no opposition from Murphy.

The French North African government gradually became active in the Allied war effort. The limited French troops in Tunisia did not resist German troops arriving by air; Admiral Esteva, the commander there, obeyed orders to that effect from Vichy. The Germans took the airfields there and brought in more troops. The French troops withdrew to the west, and within a few days began to skirmish against the Germans, encouraged by small American and British detachments who had reached the area. While this was of minimal military effect, it committed the French to the Allied side. Later all French forces were withdrawn from action to be properly re-equipped by the Allies.

Giraud supported this but also preferred to maintain the old Vichy administration in North Africa. Under pressure from the Allies and from de Gaulle's supporters, the French régime shifted, with Vichy officials gradually replaced, and its more offensive decrees rescinded. In June 1943, Giraud and de Gaulle agreed to form the " Comité français de Libération nationale " (CFLN), with members from both the North African government and from de Gaulle's "French National Committee". In November 1943, de Gaulle became head of the CFLN, and de jure head of government of France, recognized by the U.S. and Britain.

In another political outcome of Torch (and at Darlan's orders), the previously Vichyite government of French West Africa joined the Allies.

Military consequences

Toulon

One of the terms of the Second Armistice at Compiègne agreed to by the Germans was that southern France would remain free of German occupation and self-governed from Vichy. The lack of determined resistance by the Vichy French to the Allied invasions of North Africa and the new de Gaulle policies in North Africa convinced the Germans that France could not be trusted. Moreover, the Anglo-American presence in French North Africa invalidated the only real rationale for not occupying the whole of Metropolitan France—it was the only practical means to deny the Allies use of the French colonies. The Germans and Italians immediately occupied southern France and German troops moved to seize the French fleet in the port of Toulon, beginning on 10 November. The naval strength of the Axis in the Mediterranean would have been greatly increased if the Germans had succeeded in seizing the French ships, but every important ship was scuttled at dock by the French Navy before the Germans could take them.

Tunisia

After the German and Italian occupation of Vichy France and their unsuccessful attempt to capture the interned French fleet at Toulon (Operation Lila), the French Armée d’Afrique sided with the Allies, providing a third corps (XIX Corps) for Anderson. Elsewhere, French warships—such as the battleship Richelieu—rejoined the Allies.

On 9 November, Axis forces started to build up in Tunisia unopposed by the local French forces under General Barré. Wracked with indecision, Barré moved his troops into the hills and formed a defensive line from Teboursouk through Medjez el Bab and ordered that anyone trying to pass through the line would be shot. On 19 November, the German commander—Walter Nehring—demanded passage for his troops across the bridge at Medjez and was refused. The Germans attacked the poorly equipped French units twice and were driven back. However, the French had taken heavy casualties and, lacking artillery and armor, Barré was forced to withdraw. [27]

After consolidating in Algeria, the Allies struck into Tunisia. Elements of the British First Army under Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson came to within 40 miles (64 km) of Tunis before a counterattack at Djedeida thrust them back. In January 1943, German and Italian troops under Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel—retreating westward from Libya—reached Tunisia.

The British Eighth Army in the east—commanded by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery—stopped around Tripoli to allow reinforcements to arrive and build up the Allied advantage and to repair the port there. In the west, the forces of the First Army came under attack at the end of January, being forced back from the Faïd Pass and then suffering a reversal at Sidi Bou Zid on 14–15 February. Axis forces pushed on to Sbeitla and then to the Kasserine Pass on 19 February, where the U.S. II Corps retreated in disarray until heavy Allied reinforcements halted the Axis advance on 22 February. Fredendall was replaced by George Patton.

General Sir Harold Alexander arrived in Tunisia in late February to take charge of the new 18th Army Group headquarters, which had been created to take overall control of both the Eighth Army and the Allied forces already fighting in Tunisia. The Axis forces again attacked eastward at Medenine on 6 March but were easily repulsed by the Eighth Army. Rommel counselled Hitler to allow a full retreat to a defensible line but was denied, and, on 9 March, Rommel left Tunisia to be replaced by Jürgen von Arnim, who had to spread his forces over 100 miles (160 km) of northern Tunisia.

The setbacks at Kasserine forced the Allies to consolidate their forces and develop their lines of communication and administration so that they could support a major attack. The First and Eighth Armies then attacked the Axis in April. Hard fighting followed, but the Allies cut off the Germans and Italians from support by naval and air forces between Tunisia and Sicily. On 6 May, as the culmination of Operation Vulcan, the British took Tunis, and American forces reached Bizerte. By 13 May, the Axis forces in Tunisia had surrendered. This opened the way for the Allied invasion of Sicily in July.

Later influence

Despite Operation Torch's role in the war and logistical success, it has been largely overlooked in many popular histories of the war and in general cultural influence. [28] The Economist speculated that this is because French forces were the initial enemies of the landing, making for a difficult fit into the war's overall narrative in general histories. [28]

The operation was America’s first armed deployment in the Arab world since the Barbary wars and, according to The Economist , laid the foundations for America’s post-war Middle East policy. [28]

Orders of battle

Western Task Force – Morocco

Ground and naval commanders for Western Task Force
George S. Patton and Rear Admiral H. Kent Hewitt cropped.jpg
Maj. Gen. George S. Patton and Vice Adm. H. Kent Hewitt aboard CA Augusta

Vice Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, USN [29]
Major General George S. Patton, USA
Northern Attack Group (Mehedia)

Center Attack Group (Fedhala)

Southern Attack Group (Safi)

Central Task Force – Oran

Ground and naval commanders for Central Task Force
Lloyd fredendall.jpg
Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall
Rear Admiral Troubridge 1945 IWM A 28419 cropped.jpg
Commodore Thomas Troubridge

Commodore Thomas Hope Troubridge, RN [30]
Major General Lloyd R. Fredendall, USA
Approx. 39,000 officers and enlisted

Eastern Task Force – Algiers

Ground and naval commanders for Eastern Task Force
Charles W. Ryder2.jpg
Maj. Gen. Charles W. Ryder
Vice Admiral Sir Harold Martin Burrough A20779.jpg
Rear Adm. Sir Harold M. Burrough

Rear Admiral Sir Harold M. Burrough, RN [31]
Major General Charles W. Ryder, USA
Approx. 33,000 officers and enlisted

French Army – Morocco

French Army – Algeria

See also

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References

Notes

  1. I sommergibili dell'Asse e l'Operazione Torch.
  2. Atkinson, Rick. (2002). An Army at Dawn. p. 159
  3. Granito and Emo. Navi militari perdute, Italian Navy Historical Branch, page 61-62.
  4. Watson 2007 , p. 50
  5. "The Stamford Historical Society Presents: Operation Torch and the Invasion of North Africa"
  6. Playfair et al. 2004, pp. 126, 141–42.
  7. Eisenhower 1948 , pp. 88–89
  8. Smith, Jean Edward (2012). Eisenhower in War and Peace. New York: Random House. pp. 214–15. ISBN   978-0-679-64429-3.
  9. Eisenhower 1948 , p. 90
  10. Tessa Stirling et al., Intelligence Co-operation between Poland and Great Britain during World War II, vol. I: The Report of the Anglo-Polish Historical Committee, London, Vallentine Mitchell, 2005
  11. Churchill, Winston Spencer (1951). The Second World War: Closing the Ring. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. p. 643.
  12. Major General Rygor Slowikowski, In the Secret Service: The Lightning of the Torch", The Windrush Press, London 1988, s. 285
  13. Hague 2000 pp. 179–80
  14. 1 2 Peter Mangold, 2012, Britain and the Defeated French: From Occupation to Liberation, 1940–1944, London, I.B.Tauris, p. 159.
  15. J. D. Brown, 1968, Carrier Operations in World War II: The Royal Navy, London, Ian Allan, p. 93.
  16. Edwards 1999 p. 115
  17. Howe 1993, pp. 97, 102.
  18. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p. 175.
  19. Playfair et al. 2004, pp. 146–47, map 19.
  20. 1 2 Lane Herder, Brian (2017). Operation Torch 1942: The invasion of French North Africa. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 42. ISBN   9781472820556.
  21. Playfair et al. 2004, p. 149.
  22. Haskew, Michael E. (2017). The Airborne in World War II: An Illustrated History of America's. McMillan. p. 44. ISBN   9781250124470.
  23. Documentary film presenting the dominant role of Jewish resistance fighters in Algiers
  24. Playfair et al. 2004, p. 126, 140–41, map 18.
  25. Eisenhower, Dwight. Crusade In Europe, pp. 99–105, 107–10. New York: Doubleday, 1948.
  26. Paul Gaujac, Le Corps expéditionnaire français en Italie, Histoire et collections, 2003, p. 31
  27. Watson 2007 , p. 60
  28. 1 2 3 R.B.S. (9 November 2017). "Remembering Operation Torch on its 75th anniversary". The Economist . Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  29. Morison 1947, pp. 36-39
  30. Morison 1947, p. 223
  31. Morison 1947, p. 190

Bibliography

War Official reports
War correspondent report
Academic works
General

Further reading