Operation Torch November 8, 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 Roosevelt and Marshall— and declared at the Atlantic Charter conference of 1941—was that the defeat of Germany would come first. But the American Army existed only on paper as 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.

US 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.