Operation Torch was the name of the Allied invasion of northwest Africa with the hopes and goal of removing the Axis presence on the continent. The operation marked the first time that British and American forces worked together on an invasion plan that would take place from November 8-16, 1942. The operation would result in a major victory for the Allies. It would also include the first major airborne assault carried out by the United States during the war by the U.S. 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Operation Torch Commanders
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (U.S.)
- Andrew Cunningham (U.K.)
- George S. Patton (U.S.)
- Lloyd Fredendall (U.S.)
- Kenneth Anderson (U.K.)
- Henri d’Astier (Free France)
- José Aboulker (Free France)
- Vichy France:
- François Darlan
- Charles Noguès
- Frix Michelier
- Ernst Kals
Torch Order of Battle
- (33,000 in Morocco,39,000 near Algiers,35,000 near Oran)
Operation Torch Casualties
- 479+ dead
- 720 wounded
- 1,346+ dead
- 1,997 wounded
Operation Torch Map (Movement to Objective)
Operation Torch Map (Overview)
Operation Torch Video
Russia was constantly pushing the Allies to start a new front against the Axis in Western Europe, but in 1942, the Allies, mainly the British, didn’t think they were strong enough to attack Germany in Europe. However, having won the Battle of El Alamein in November, they felt confident going against the German forces in North Africa. Even though American military leadership wanted a landing in France and were confident that they could successfully pull it off, Roosevelt supported Churchill in his request that the Allies make preparations for an invasion of French North Africa.
The plan that would later evolve into Operation Torch was to first make their way into North Africa, invade Sicily, and move onto mainland Italy. Such a victory would have been crucial for the Allies because it would have cleared the Mediterranean for shipping purposes.
The first planned targets of the Allies were Morocco and Algeria. These two countries were under the rule of Vichy France, which the Allies considered to be in collaboration with Germany. Hence, both of the African countries were legitimate targets for the Allies. Morocco had around 60,000 French troops and a small naval fleet at Casablanca, but instead of fighting against the French army, the Allies wanted to cooperate with them. Operation Torch was under the command of General Eisenhower, and the headquarters were in Gibraltar.
Rober Daniel Murphy, located in Algiers then, was assigned to determine if and how cooperative the French army would be. What the Allies wanted above all else was an excellent amphibious landing; for that purpose, Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers were chosen as the landing sites.
The Western Task Force, under the command of Major-General George Patton, was chosen to land near Casablanca with some 35,000 troops.
The Central Task Force was set on Oran under Major-General Lloyd Fredendall with 18,500 troops.
The Eastern and final task force, under General Ryder’s command, was to land at Algiers with 20,000 troops.
The landings started on 8th November. When the landings began, there were no air or naval bombardments because the Allies hoped that the French troops would cooperate and wouldn’t resist the landings, but the French did fire at the transport ships, which drew quick counter-fire from the Allied naval fleet. The sniper fire of the French proved far more challenging to deal with. Because of the unexpected French resistance planes had to be launched from the carriers to protect the landing beaches.
For the Allies, the Vichy French resistance was a mere inconvenience, not a real military problem. Patton’s main target was the capture of Casablanca; the city was captured on November 10th when he took the town without resistance; just two days into Operation Torch, a major objective was already accomplished.
The significant problems at the Oran landings were also more of a logistics nature, the beach that was meant for the landing hadn’t been properly inspected, and the shallow waters lead to damage to some of the landing craft, which slowed down the deployment of equipment and troops. A few ships of the French navy also tried to attack the Allied fleet but were quickly sunk or driven away, and by November 9th, the French forces had surrendered.
The Algiers landings also went according to or even better than planned. The Vichy government had their hands full with dealing with an attempted coup to handle the Allied invasion, and by the end of the day the landings at Algiers began the city surrendered to the Allies.
Operation Torch Conclusions
All three landings during Operation Torch were extremely successful. The French resistance, despite being surprising, was minimal, and so were the casualties of the Allies. After regrouping, the landed Allied troops moved to Tunisia. The German forces battling with Montgomery at El Alamein were now retreating toward the now-landed Allies, seemingly nowhere else to retreat.
Consequences of Operation Torch
When France surrendered to Germany earlier in World War 2, the Germans agreed to allow southern France to remain free of occupying forces and to be governed by Vichy. However, a related condition to this agreement was that Vichy French forces overseas would resist attacks by the Allied forces, including naval forces. Due to the lack of resistance by the French in North Africa, the Germans immediately occupied southern France and seized the remainder of the French Fleet located in Toulon (Operation Lila). Most of the ships were scuttled at the dock before the Germans could press them into service.
For the Allies, Operation Torch was an overwhelming success. After the victory, British forces led by General Montgomery were to the east of Tunisia, and the U.S. forces were located to the west, effectively sandwiching Rommel in Tunisia. This would allow the Allies to eventually defeat Rommel in the Battle of Tunisia in mid-1943 and give the Allies a solid base to invade Sicily and Italy. When Operation Torch was conducted, it was the largest amphibious operation conducted in warfare and was also the first big success of the war for the Allied powers.