Operation Torch

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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
Result Allied victory
Anglo-American occupation of Morocco and Algeria
Free France control of French West Africa
German and Italian occupation of southern France

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 Alphonse Juin
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
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) 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. The French colonies in the area were dominated by the Vichy French, formally aligned with Germany but of mixed loyalties. Reports indicated that they might support the Allies. The American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commanding the operation, planned a three-pronged attack on Casablanca (Western), Oran (Center) and Algiers (Eastern), then a rapid move on Tunis.


The Western Task Force encountered unexpected resistance and 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 ships when trying to land in shallow water but the Vichy French ships were sunk or driven off; Oran surrendered after bombardment by 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 Admiral François Darlan, commander of the Vichy French forces to order co-operation with the Allies, in return for being retained as High Commissioner, with many other Vichy officials keeping their jobs. Darlan was assassinated soon after and the Free French gradually came to dominate the government. Torch was the first mass involvement of US troops in the European–North African Theatre, and saw the first major airborne assault carried out by the United States.


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.

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.

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".


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), together with the RAF Regiment providing 5 squadrons of infantry and 5 Light anti-aircraft flights, totalling 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 Royal Navy 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 10 November. Additional air support was provided by the carrier USS Ranger, whose squadrons intercepted Vichy aircraft and bombed hostile ships.


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.

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. 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] The commander of Reservist, Capt. F. T. Peters, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for valour in leading the attack through Oran harbour in the face of point blank fire. [19] French batteries and the invasion fleet exchanged fire throughout 8–9 November, with French troops defending Oran and the surrounding area stubbornly; bombardment by 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 in England, over Spain, 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. [20] The operation was marked by communicational and navigational problems owing to the anti-aircraft and beacon ship HMS Alynbank broadcasting on the wrong frequency. [21] 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. [22] Of the other 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. [21] [23]


Resistance and coup

As agreed at Cherchell, in the early hours of 8 November, the Géo Gras Group, 400 mainly Jewish French Resistance fighters staged a coup in the city of Algiers. [24] 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 the 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 a hostage) Murphy attempted to persuade him to side with the Allies. Juin 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 Juin and Darlan.


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 on three beaches—two west of Algiers and one east. Under the command of Major-General Charles W. Ryder, commanding general of the U.S. 34th Infantry Division, the 11th Brigade Group from the British 78th Infantry Division, landed on the right hand beach, the US 168th Regimental Combat Team, from the 34th Infantry Division, supported by 6 Commando and most of 1 Commando on the middle beach while the US 39th Regimental Combat Team, also from the US 34th Infantry Division, supported by the remaining 5 troops from 1 Commando, landed on the left hand beach. The 36th Brigade Group from the British 78th Infantry Division stood by in floating reserve. [25] Though some landings went to the wrong beaches, this was immaterial because of the lack of French opposition. All the coastal batteries had been neutralized by the French Resistance and one French commander defected to the Allies. The only fighting took place in the port of Algiers, where in Operation Terminal, two British destroyers attempted to land a party of US Army Rangers directly onto the dock, 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 US troops pushed quickly inland and General Juin surrendered the city to the Allies at 18:00.


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. [26] 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. [27]

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


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.


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. [28]

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. [29] 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. [29]

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. [29]

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 Rear Adm. H. Kent Hewitt aboard CA Augusta

Vice Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, USN [30]
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 [31]
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 [32]
Major General Charles W. Ryder, USA
Approx. 33,000 officers and enlisted

French Army – Morocco

French Army – Algeria

See also

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The Tunisian campaign was a series of battles that took place in Tunisia during the North African campaign of the Second World War, between Axis and Allied forces. The Allies consisted of British Imperial Forces, including Polish and Greek contingents, with American and French corps. The battle opened with initial success by the German and Italian forces but the massive supply interdiction efforts led to the decisive defeat of the Axis. Over 250,000 German and Italian troops were taken as prisoners of war, including most of the Afrika Korps.

Henri d'Astier de La Vigerie was a French soldier, Résistance member, and conservative politician.

Military career of Dwight D. Eisenhower

The military career of Dwight D. Eisenhower began in September 1915, when Eisenhower was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He rose through the ranks over the next thirty years and became one of the most important Allied generals of World War II, being promoted to General of the Army in 1944. Eisenhower retired from the military after winning the 1952 presidential election, though his rank as General of the Army was restored by an act of Congress in March 1961.

78th Infantry Division (United Kingdom) British army division

The 78th Infantry Division, also known as the Battleaxe Division, was an infantry division of the British Army, raised during World War II that fought, with great distinction, in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy from late 1942–1945.

José Aboulker Algerian resistance leader

José Aboulker was a French Algerian Jew and leading figure in French Algeria of the anti-Nazi resistance in World War II. After the war, he became a neurosurgeon and a political figure in France, who argued for the political rights of Algerian Muslims.

Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle French murderer

Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle was a member of the French resistance during World War II. He assassinated Admiral of the Fleet François Darlan, the former chief of government of Vichy France and the high commissioner of French North Africa and West Africa, on 24 December 1942.

Bernard Karsenty, was a member of the French Resistance during World War II. He was a leader of the Algiers putsch of 1942.

The military history of Algeria covers a vast time period and complex events. It interacts with multiple military events in the region for independence and stability.

The French 19th Army Corps was formed in 1873. Anthony Clayton writes that the title of the 19th Army Corps was given to the Army of Africa in 1873. Antoine Chanzy commanded the corps between 1873 and 1879, at which time the commander also held the post of Governor of Algeria.

The French State, popularly known as Vichy France, as led by Marshal Philippe Pétain after the Fall of France in 1940 before Nazi Germany, was quickly recognized by the Allies, as well as by the Soviet Union, until 30 June 1941 and Operation Barbarossa. However France broke with the United Kingdom after the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. Canada maintained diplomatic relations until the occupation of Southern France by Germany and Italy in November 1942.

Events from the year 1942 in France.

Run for Tunis

The Run for Tunis was part of the Tunisia Campaign which took place during November and December 1942 during the Second World War. Once French opposition to the Allied Operation Torch landings had ceased in mid-November, the Allies made a rapid advance by a division-sized force east from Algeria, to capture Tunis and forestall an Axis build up in Tunisia and narrowly failed. Some Allied troops were fewer than 20 miles (32 km) short of Tunis by late November but the defenders counter-attacked and pushed them back nearly 20 miles (32 km), to positions which had stabilised by the end of the year.

Operation Kingpin was part of the run-up to Operation Torch, the planned Allied invasion of North Africa during World War II. It was a successor to Operation Flagpole, in which a secret meeting between U.S. General Mark W. Clark and diplomat Robert Murphy, representing the Allies, and General Charles E. Mast, the leader of a group of pro-Allied Vichy France officers in French North Africa, was arranged to secure their cooperation with the invasion. In Operation Kingpin, French General Henri Giraud, code-named "Kingpin", was released from confinement and brought to Gibraltar to meet with Operation Torch commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Clark in order to secure his cooperation with the invasion.

Charles Mast French soldier

Emmanuel Charles Mast was a major general who participated in the liberation of North Africa in 1942 and was Resident General of France in Tunisia between 1943 and 1947.

Géo Gras Group

The Géo Gras Group was a French resistance movement that played a decisive role during Operation Torch, the British-American invasion of French North Africa during WWII.



  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. "Frederick Thornton Peters - the Canadian Virtual War Memorial - Veterans Affairs Canada". 20 February 2019.
  20. Playfair et al. 2004, pp. 146–147, map 19.
  21. 1 2 Lane Herder, Brian (2017). Operation Torch 1942: The invasion of French North Africa. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 42. ISBN   9781472820556.
  22. Playfair et al. 2004, p. 149.
  23. Haskew, Michael E. (2017). The Airborne in World War II: An Illustrated History of America's. McMillan. p. 44. ISBN   9781250124470.
  24. Documentary film presenting the dominant role of Jewish resistance fighters in Algiers
  25. Playfair et al. 2004, p. 126, 140–41, map 18.
  26. Eisenhower, Dwight. Crusade in Europe, pp. 99–105, 107–10. New York: Doubleday, 1948.
  27. Paul Gaujac, Le Corps expéditionnaire français en Italie, Histoire et collections, 2003, p. 31
  28. Watson 2007 , p. 60
  29. 1 2 3 R.B.S. (9 November 2017). "Remembering Operation Torch on its 75th anniversary". The Economist . Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  30. Morison 1947, pp. 36–39
  31. Morison 1947, p. 223
  32. Morison 1947, p. 190


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Coordinates: 35°05′06″N2°01′44″W / 35.085°N 2.029°W / 35.085; -2.029