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World War II: Operation Torch

After the invasion of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces, it became evident to both American and British governments that Hitler and Nazi Germany had to be defeated quickly. To do so speedily, the allies had to come together and fight side by side if victory was to be achieved. Operation Torch was the result as President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill came together to launch an amphibious military operation against North Africa. 1 The allies planned to launch an attack from here then proceed to Sicily and from there to Italy’s mainland.

This location was known as the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’ signifying its vulnerability to attack. 2 The battle was for control of the Mediterranean. As things were, Germany and Italy controlled the Mediterranean and most of Europe. The Soviet troops were also not holding up well to the Germans which made them believe that if something was not done quickly, Hitler would have control of Europe. Roosevelt was convinced that to win the war, the allies had to fight Germany in Europe at some point. As such, he agreed with the British strategy of invading North Africa. November 8, 1942 was the set date.

The troops landed in Morocco and Algiers, which were both under French rule, with little opposition. 3 At this time, France was divided due to the fact that it had been occupied by Germany and three-fifths of it had been given to Germany. During this time, a new French government was formed named Vichy. It is important to note that all French colonial possessions were free, even though France was occupied by Germany therefore the colonies were only partly loyal to France. The allies had to be cautious as they were not sure how their landing would be received on the North African shore.

4 On November 5, 1942, 1. HistoryNet. Com Operation Torch: Allied invasion of North Africa, retrieved 10 March 2008,< http://www. historynet. com/operation-torch-allied-invasion-of-north-africa. htm> 2. C Trueman, Operation Torch, History Learning Site, 10 March 2008, <http://www. historylearningsite. co. uk/operation_torch. htm> 3. HistoryNet. com, loc. cit. 4. R M Browning Jr. , Operation Torch: The Coast Guard and the Invasion of North Africa, United States Coast Guard, 10 March 2008, <http://www. uscg. mil/history/articles/OperationTorch. asp>

General Dwight Eisenhower arrived in Gibraltar which was his chosen headquarters for the operation. In the next few days, 100,000 soldiers, 400 aircrafts, 168 American pilots, fuel, ammunition and other critical supplies were to be stored in Gibraltar for the attack. 5 To get to their destination the Americans navigated the waters that were filled with dangerous U-boats on their way to England using the South Atlantic sea lanes as these were less guarded. The ships were loaded for combat on sea ports on the East Coast and did not disembark their equipment and troops until they arrived in Algeria and Morocco. 6

Operation Torch’s initial goal was to make sure that all major ports and airfields were captured. This then would allow for the continued operations of the allies on three fronts namely air, sea and ground. This would also ensure that the Germans had no control of this area. All this was to be achieved in 24 hours. 7 The three landing sites chosen were Oran, Casablanca and Algiers. In July 1942 the decision to attack North Africa had been reached and various taskforces were put together for the success of the amphibious landing. The taskforce landing in the West was commanded by Major General George Patton and had 35,000 US troops.

This taskforce landed in three places, Media, Safi and Rabat which were close to Casablanca. The central taskforce was led by Major General Lloyd Fredendal commanding 39,000 US troops, tasked with taking Oran and the Eastern taskforce commanded by General Ryder was to take Algiers with 10,000 US troops and 23,000 British troops. 8 France was considered an ally of Germany making these two countries legitimate targets. 60,000 French troops were present in Morocco as well as a small naval presence in Casablanca. Since the allies did not want to exhaust their resources on 5.

World War II Multimedia database, Operation Torch November 8,, 1942, retrieved 10 March 2009, http://www. worldwar2database. com/html/torch. htm 6. P R Caruana, Government of Gibraltar, 1998, retrieved 10 March 2009, http://www. gibraltar. gov. gi/latest_news/topical_speeches/operation_torch. htm 7. Browning, loc. cit. 8. ibid. fighting France unless they had to, they used a more diplomatic approach in their negotiations. Robert Daniel Murphy the American consul in Algiers and Mark Clark an American General of high rank were in charge of gaining the cooperation of the French army.

9 The landings were met with little French opposition which was considered little more than an inconvenience even though there were casualties. Although the French resistance was not enough to stop the landing, carrier based planes were needed to resolve the fighting. The resistance resulted in 556 Americans killed and 837 injured. British casualties were 300 and the French lost 700 soldiers. 10 General Patton’s main aim was to capture Casablanca with he did on the 10th of November with no opposition at all. 11 The landing crafts used for operation torch included a 36 foot, plywood boat with a square bow.

This was the original Higgins boat LCP large (L). Additionally the LCP ramped (R) was also used. This was a 36 foot metal boat that carried 36 troops. In addition to the two, An LCV metal boat was also used. It was a 36 footer that had a bow ramp larger than that of the LCP (R). Lastly, an LCM 50 footer made of heavy metal and carrying one tank was used. During the North African war the original plywood boats were dashed on the rocks causing much damage and were later used sparingly. The main challenge was that this was unfamiliar territory and in fact, much of the damage was done after boats followed blinkers right onto the rocks.

12 All aspects of the landings had been practiced over and over again and the US Coast Guard had the role of coordinating the landing. In Little Creek, Virginia, and Solomons, Maryland an Amphibious Force Training Center was built to facilitate training. In this newly built training 9. Trueman, loc. cit. 10. World War II multimedia database, loc. cit. 11. Trueman, loc, cit. 12. F E Dailey Jr. , Operation Torch: French Navy Resists as Jean Bart Duels US Battleships and Cruisers, 2009, retrieved 10 March 2009, <http://www. daileyint. com/seawar/seawar5. htm>

facility over 3000 Navy men and Coast Guard officers were trained on how to manage the landing craft. As there were differences in training between the two groups, this combined training was great as it allowed for a unified way of doing things which was essential for the success of the operation. 13 At Oran, it turned out that the investigations carried out concerning the beach were not accurate as the water was very shallow causing damage to the boats used for landing. At the same time, some French Navy Ships at Oran tried to attack the allies’ fleet and were quickly pushed back or sunk.

The French battleship known as Jean Bart fought the USS Massachusetts at Oran and lost. It was rendered immobile, completely crippled by the USS Massachusetts and was not fixed until after the war was over. Oran finally surrendered the next day November 9, 1942. 14 The three cities quickly fell and were captured by the allied forces. This was great for the allies as they could now begin the next phase of their amphibious operation to Sicily. There were several firsts with Operation Torch. It was the first time that the United States and Great Britain brought their forces together to fight the enemy.

It was also one of the largest amphibious landings attempted up until that time. This was also a first for Roosevelt who defied and overrode the advice of his army commanders, who were confident they could take France directly, and joined forces with Winston Churchill. 15 It served to unite the allies even more against their common enemy. There were also many things learned at this time. They discovered that the plywood boats were prone to holes and damage and later used metal boats more often. Although Germany was making progress in the occupation of Europe, Hitler, 13.

Browning, loc, cit. 14. Trueman, loc, cit. 15. ibid. distracted by his offensive action on the Soviet troops had neglected the French colonies, which was a grave mistake. Until then, Germany had been on the offensive, but after the success of operation torch Hitler and Nazi Germany were on the defensive. 16 It was also during this time that Dwight Eisenhower came into the limelight, having led a successful operation in North Africa. The great military coordination between the US forces and the British forces was also a factor that let to the success of the operation.

Making sure that the Navy and the Coast Guard trained together ensured that they both had the same instructions on how to coordinate the landing which was crucial for success. Although there was much German opposition awaiting the troops in Europe, Operation Torch was a resounding success for the allies. 16. Dailey, loc, cit. Bibliography Browning, RM Jr. , Operation Torch: The Coast Guard and the Invasion of North Africa, United States Coast Guard, 10 March 2008, <http://www. uscg. mil/history/articles/OperationTorch.

asp> Caruana, PR , Government of Gibraltar, 1998, retrieved 10 March 2009, <http://www. gibraltar. gov. gi/latest_news/topical_speeches/operation_torch. htm> Dailey, FE, Jr. , Operation Torch: French Navy Resists as Jean Bart Duels US Battleships and Cruisers, 2009, retrieved 10 March 2009, <http://www. daileyint. com/seawar/seawar5. htm> HistoryNet. Com Operation Torch: Allied invasion of North Africa, retrieved 10 March 2008, <http://www. historynet. com/operation-torch-allied-invasion-of-north-africa. htm>

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