The World War II Multimedia Database

For the 72 Million

The Torch Landings in North Africa, November 1942

For almost an entire year, the American forces in the Pacific took the lion’s share of equipment and men that America was trickling out of her factories and training camps. The goal of United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and United States Army General George C. Marshall and declared at the Atlantic Charter conference of 1941 was that the defeat of Germany would come first. But the United States Army existed only on paper as United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and Roosevelt signed their paper on the deck of the USS Augusta that October. Not only would the Americans need time to train and equip their army, the Battle of the Atlantic needed to be won in order for that army to cross the sea successfully to engage the enemy.

Not all of these problems were solved when the Americans decided to invade the North African French colonies in 1942. Driven by Stalin’s relentless pressure to open a second front in 1942, and by a desire to get into the fight, the Americans decided to land an Army in the rear of the Afrika Korps line of retreat from their loss at El Alamein.

The Americans skirted the dangerous U-boat infested sea-lanes to England and sailed their convoys through the less defended South Atlantic. In a bold move, the ships were combat-loaded in East Coast seaports and did not stop, disembarking their troops and equipment in Morocco and Algeria.

United States Army General Mark Clark was charged with gauging the level of French reaction to the American invasion. Traveling by UK submarine to the coast, he narrowly evaded capture by pro-Vichy units a number of times but was able to secure a supposed promise from French Vichy Admiral Jean Darlan that the French would not fight. Darlan did not actually have the authority to make such a statement, and in any case he was soon assassinated after signing a cease-fire on November 13.

When the Americans and British landed in several places, including Casablanca, Oran, Tangiers, and others, the reaction of the French colonial government was varied. At Oran, the USS Massachusetts fought a gun duel with the dry-docked French battleship Jean Bart. Jean Bart, immobile, was crippled by USS Massachusetts and not repaired until after the war.

The first major Anglo-American operation of the war was commanded by General Dwight D. Eisenhower form his base at Gibraltar. While it was successful, months of hard fighting against the Germans remained that would test both the Anglo-American alliance and the green American fighting men.

The stiff Vichy resistance cost the Americans 556 killed and 837 wounded. Three hundred British troops and 700 French soldiers were also killed.

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