Nov 8

Operation Torch: November 8-11, 1942

Thursday, November 8, 2012 1:00 AM

 

“IN ORDER to forestall an invasion of Africa by Germany and Italy, which, if successful, would constitute a direct threat to America across the comparatively narrow sea from western Africa, a powerful American force equipped with adequate weapons of modern warfare and under American command is today landing on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of the French colonies in Africa.

“The landing of this American army is being assisted by the British Navy and Air Forces, and it will in the immediate future be reinforced by a considerable number of divisions of the British Army.

“This combined Allied force, under American command, in conjunction with the British campaign in Egypt, is designed to prevent an occupation by the Axis armies of any part of northern or western Africa and to deny to the aggressor nations a starting point from which to launch an attack against the Atlantic coast of the Americas.

“In addition, it provides an effective second front assistance to our heroic allies in Russia.”

With these few words President Roosevelt announced the landing of American troops on African soil on Sunday, 8 November 1942.

This announcement to the American people was accompanied by one in French, broadcast in the early hours of 8 November, of which the English translation is as follows:

“My friends, who suffer day and night under the crushing yoke of the Nazis, I speak to you as one who was with your army and navy in France in 1918.

“I have held all my life the deepest friendship for the French people-for the entire French people. I retain and cherish the friendship of hundreds of French people in France and outside of France. I know your farms, your villages and your cities. I know your soldiers, professors and workmen. I know what a precious heritage of the French people are your homes, your culture and the principles of democracy in France.

“I salute again and reiterate my faith in liberty, equality and fraternity. No two nations exist which are more united by historic and mutually friendly ties than the people of France and the United States.

“Americans, with the assistance of the United Nations, are striving for their own safe future as well as the restoration of the ideals, the liberties, and the democracy of all those who have lived under the tricolor.

“We come among you to repulse the cruel invaders who would remove forever your rights of self-government, your rights to religious freedom, and your rights to live your own lives in peace and security.

“We come among you solely to defeat and rout your enemies. Have faith in our words. We do not want to cause you any harm.

“We assure you that, once the menace of Germany and Italy is removed from you, we shall quit your territory at once.

“I am appealing to your realism, to your self-interest and national ideals.

“Do not obstruct, I beg of you, this great purpose.

“Help us where you are able, my friends, and we shall see again the glorious day when liberty and peace shall reign again on earth.

“Vive la France eternelle!”

 

Operations in North Africa long antedated our entry into World War II. They had been limited, however, to Egypt and Libya. Their exten­sion to preclude any Axis action in Morocco had been under discussion by the British high command for some time prior to 7 December 1941. The plan originally contemplated a landing of about 55,000 men in the vicinity of Casablanca. Upon our entry into the war the plan underwent several expansions. It was first enlarged to provide for landings not only near Casablanca but at Mehdia-Port Lyautey and Safi as well. It was thereafter further expanded to include the occupation of the entire North African coast as far as Tripolitania. This occupation would facilitate the safeguarding of Mediterranean convoys, thus enormously shortening the route to the Middle East and saving considerable tonnage previously employed in the long passage around the Cape of Good Hope.

The various stages through which the project passed need not be examined. Agreement in principle was readily reached. The United States was to have charge of both the military and naval operations on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Casablanca, therefore, became an essen­tially American objective. Oran and Algiers, two cities the occupation of which was contemplated, were to be captured by a joint British and American force, of which the British were to supply all the naval units except a few transports. The landing forces were to be partly American, partly British. Logistics presented a formidable problem, but by July 1942, a plan was formulated providing in detail for an offensive in North Africa under American command, prior to December 1942.

The strategical purposes of the operations were stated by the Combined Chiefs of Staff to be as follows:

(I) Establishment of firm and mutually supported lodgments in the Oran-Algiers-Tunis area on the north coast, and in the Casablanca area on the northwest coast, in order that appropriate bases for continued and intensified air, ground and sea operations might be readily available.

(2) Vigorous and rapid exploitation from lodgments obtained in order to acquire complete control of the entire area, including French Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, to facilitate effective air and ground operations against the enemy, and to create favorable con­ditions for extension of offensive operations to the east through Libya against the rear of Axis forces in the Western Desert.

(3) Complete annihilation of Axis forces opposing the British forces in the Western Desert and intensification of air and sea opera­tions against the Axis on the European continent.

This excerpt comes from The Landings in North Africa, November 1942, originally written by Charles Moran and published by the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1944. This edition was later republished in 1944 by the Naval Historical Center.

 
 
 
 
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