North African Landings - 1942

Admiral Hewitt
TF 34 at sea
map 38 from West Point
Patton landing with carbines, Thompsons
"Yanks Invade Africa"
headline of Des Moines Tribune
Anderson and Bradley
map 39 from West Point
M3 Stuart tank in Libyan desert with British 8th Army, ILN 1941/11/29
M3 Grant tanks in Africa 1942 - bg, from ILN 1942/06/13
Tunisia - bg, ILN 1943/05/08
poster praised landings

Oct. 21 - Mark Clark secretly landed by sub HMS Seraph in Algeria to meet in the fishing port of Cherchel with Robert Murphy and his Twelve Apostles, and with friendly Vichy Gen. Charles Mast, to arrange an alliance with the Vichy French who would fight for the Allies under the leadership of Gen. Henri Giraud who would be brought from Spain to North Africa.

Oct. 23 - American ship captains told for the first time where they were going. Troops began boarding ships, at first alphabetically, but then by units.

Oct. 24 - At dawn, the invasion fleet left Hampton Roads with 34,000 troops, led by the flagship USS Augusta commanded by Adm Henry Hewitt, born 1887, was 20 when he left with Great White Fleet in 1907, was 30 when he commanded the destroyer USS Cummings in WWI, was now at age 55 leader of America's first invasion force. The 100 ships of TF 34 sailed in nine columns across the Atlantic in a gigantic box 20 miles square. Gen. George Patton read the Koran and exercised running in place holding his dresser, 1920 steps to the mile.

Oct. 26 - British convoy of 300 ships commanded by Adm. Edmund Burrough, left England with 72,000 troops, including the American 34th Infantry Division that had been first to arrive in England in January, and the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One), and the 1st Armored Division.

Nov. 5 - British convoy passed Gibraltar, some ships would head for Oran with 39,000 troops, some for Algiers with 33,000. Eisenhower's B-17 landed in Gibraltar to establish the first HQ for the landings.

Nov. 7 - Troopship USS Thomas was torpedoed off Spain bound for Algiers. That night, BBC radio broadcasts began of a recording made by FDR in English and French urging the Vichy not to fight.

Nov. 8 - TORCH landings began at 3 points:

  1. Casablanca = 35,000 US troops from US under George Patton
  2. Oran = 39,000 US troops from England under Lloyd Fredendall
  3. Algiers = 33,000 US and British under Charles Ryder

Nov. 8 - at Oran, Op. RESERVIST began to seize the docks and prevent sabotage, with the HMS Walney and Hartland carrying the U. S. 6th Infantry, but both sunk with 90% casualties. The French decided to scuttle docks and ships at Oran and destroyed much of the harbor. Troops began landing at Beach X, the 1st Division led by Terry Allen and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., with artillery units including his son Quentin, landed as Beach Y. Other troops landed at Beach Z. Op. VILLAIN was an airborne landing at Oran by 556 American paratroopers from Cornwall, England, 1100 miles away, in 39 C-47 transports, led by Edson Raff, but most landed off course and were captured by the French. Terry Allen and the 1st Division bypassed St. Cloud and captured La Senia, thus encircling Oran by Nov. 10, and the city fell.

Nov. 8 - at Algiers, Op. TERMINAL was to seize the docks with HMS Broke and Malcolm, both ships were sunk, but the harbor was captured undamaged. Allies landed 33,000 troops despite leaking landing craft, lost directions. Eisenhower made a deal with Darlan that ended French resistance. Mark Clark entered Algiers the next day, with a Signal Corps film unit headed by Darryl Zanuck.

Nov. 8 - at Safi, Op. BLACKSTONE was the third frontal port assault, by the old destroyers USS Cole and USS Bernadou, was successful and the port was captured.

Nov. 8 - at Casablanca, Vichy Gen. Nogues fought the Allied landings and a surface battle was fought by the USS Massachusetts with the battleship Jean Bart. P-40 Wildcats from the USS Ranger strafed the French war ships. The 20,000 American troops would take 3 days to capture Casablanca.

Nov. 8 - at Mehdia, 80 miles north of Casablanca, the 9000 troops of Gen. Lucian Truscott landed to capture the airfield at Port Lyautey. Truscott used the seven light Stuart tanks that were able to land out of 54, to defeat the Renault tanks of the French on Nov. 9, with commandos from the USS Dallas, took the airport, and with 105mm howitzers broke into the city.

Nov. 10 - Churchill broadcast "The End of the Beginning."

Nov. 11 - A cease-fire went into effect, ending French opposition. Mark Clark signed armistice with Darlan, made Darlan the repressive leader of North Africa. The Americans lost 1100 casualties including 337 killed. That night, the U-173 sank 3 ships at Casablanca and the U-130 sank 3 ships at Fedala. Hitler ordered German troops to occupy Vichy France, and sent Albert Kesselring to command the defense of Tunisia. Gen. Kenneth Anderson took command of the new British First Army in Algiers and began the attacks on Tunisia. A British regiment landed at Bougie harbor east of Algiers, but German Ju-88s bombed the harbor.

Nov. 14 - Anderson launched a three-prong attack into Tunisia, on the left with 3500 men from the British 36th Brigade, on the right 3500 from the 11th Brigade, and in the center the Blade Force of 2,600 men with obsolete Valentine tanks. The Americans were still debarking 1000 miles to the west in Morocco, but Edson Raff and his parachute battalion jumped from 33 planes to take Tebessa on Nov. 15 and Gafsa on Nov. 17.

Nov. 17 - FDR at press conference defended "Darlan deal" as temporary and quoted Bulgarian proverb that "you are permitted in time of great danger to walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge."

Nov. 19 - at Medjez-el-Bab on the Medjerda River, advance forces from the British left wing joined with the French division of Gen Barre and an American artillery battalion to hold the bridgehead against attacking German parachute regiment of Capt. Wilhelm Knoche. At 10 am the Americans fired the first shots against Germans in the Second World War. However, by the morning of Nov. 21 the Allies had withdrawn and Germany occupied the bridges.

Nov. 24 - Anderson renewed his three-prong offensive despite the onset of the rainy season that dropped 16 inches on Tunisia during the 3 winter months. The center Blade Force had 54 light Stuart tanks with 37mm guns, commanded by John Waters of the 1st Armored Battalion. It took the bridge at El Bathan 22 miles north of Medjez-el-Bab, then 17 Stuart tanks attacked a Luftwaffe airfield near Djedeida and destroyed 20 planes, and by Nov. 26 had retaken Medjez-el-Bab. However, the 190th Panzer Battalion counterattacked Nov. 26 with Mk IV tanks with 75mm guns have a muzzle velocity of 3000 ft per sec, twice that of the Stuarts. 12 American and 7 German tanks were destroyed in a half hour, and the first tank battle between American and German forces in the war was a draw.

Nov. 28 - The Blade Force renewed the attack on Djedeida, this time with an American battalion of tall General Lee tanks, each with a 75mm gun and a 37mm turret gun. However, German 88mm anti-tank guns stopped the attack at the river.

Nov. 29 - The northern force of 4000 British troops was stopped at the hills above Jefna where German Major Rudolf Witzig, the hero of the May 1940 attack with shaped charges on the Belgian fortress of Ebeb Emael, had created gun emplacements on the high ground that stopped the British.

Nov. 30 - British and American commandos landed with small boats on the coast near Bizerte, but most were captured. Some commandos reached the Bizerte airfield and destroyed a few planes, but they also were quickly stopped by German and italian forces that were rapidly increasing from air and sea convoys across the Mediterranean. Axis Sally announced on radio the destruction of the "renegade" commandos and read the names of the 134 captured or killed. The last airborne mission in North Africa ended with the loss of 289 parachute troops dropped 25 miles south of Tunis.

Dec. 1 - German commander Nehring began a major counteroffensive against the Blade Force at Djedeida. The Allies fell back to Tebourda and were reinforced with 4000 troops of Combat Command C (CCB) of the 1st Armored Division, the first sizable American force to arrive in Tunisia from Algiers, commanded by Gen. Lunsford Oliver. However, by Dec. 3 the Allies were enveloped by the twin pincers of Gen Wolfgang Fischer who deployed the new Mk VI Tiger tanks and the new MG42 machine gun firing 1500 rounds per minute. The Germans pushed south and by Dec. 10 had taken Medjez-el-Bab. The CCB had lost 124 tanks and most of its howitzers and trucks.

Dec. 25 - Darlan killed by Bonnier de la Chapelle (Murphy agent).

Dec. 31 - German Sixth army surrounded at Stalingrad.



Sources




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