American soldiers began striding through the surf to the beaches of Northwest Africa before dawn on 8 November 1942. They were the first of more than one million Americans to see service in the Mediterranean area during World War II-men of the II Army Corps in Tunisia, the Seventh Army in Sicily, the Fifth Army in Italy from Salerno to the Alps, and an elaborate theater organization.[N-1] The stream of American military strength which was to pour into that part of the world during the next two and one half years would include the Twelfth, Ninth, and Fifteenth Air Forces; the U.S. Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters; the Eighth Fleet; and a considerable American contribution to Allied Force Headquarters.
[N-1: At the time of the attack, French North Africa was within the boundaries of the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army. On 4 February 1943, a separate North African Theater of Operations, U.S. Army was established. On 1 November 1944, this area (with modified boundaries) was renamed the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, U.S. Army.]
These first Americans to arrive in Northwest Africa were part of an Allied expeditionary force which linked ground, sea, and air units from both the United States and the British Commonwealth. They were participants in the first large-scale offensive in which the Allies engaged as partners in a common enterprise, an operation which transformed the Mediterranean from a British to an Allied theater of war. Occupying French North Africa was actually to be the first of a considerable series of undertakings adopted, planned, mounted, and executed under the authority of the Anglo-American Combined Chiefs of Staff. [N-2] Succeeding operations in the Mediterranean area proved far more extensive than intended. One undertaking was to lead to the next, each based upon reasons deemed compelling at the time, until at the end of hostilities Allied forces dominated the Mediterranean Sea and controlled most of its coastal region.
[N-2: The Combined Chiefs of Staff was an agency created in response to decisions reached at the ARCADIA Conference of American and British leaders in Washington in January 1942. The agency’s headquarters was in Washington, where the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with the British Joint Staff Mission (representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee), but a large number of its sessions took place at special conferences attended by the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Combined Chiefs of Staff acquired a structure of subordinate planners and a secretariat.]
After liberating French North Africa and clearing the enemy from the Italian colonies, the Allies sought to bring the entire French empire effectively into the war against the Axis powers. They reopened the Mediterranean route to the Middle East. They went on from Africa to liberate Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. They caused Mussolini to topple from power, and they brought his successors to abject surrender.
They drew more and more German military resources into a stubborn defense of the Italian peninsula, and helped the Yugoslavs to pin down within their spirited country thousands of Axis troops. Eventually, the Allies delivered a solid blow from southern France against the German forces which were opposing the Allied drive from the beaches of Normandy! They made Marseilles available for Allied use and they occupied northern Italy and Greece. In Italy they forced the first unconditional surrender by a large German force in Europe. The events following the invasion of French North Africa thus made of the Mediterranean a major theater in World War II’s titanic struggle. The momentous first step though not timorous, was hesitant, and somewhat reluctant; like the first step of a child it was more a response to an urge for action than a decision to reach some specific destination. The responsibility for this beginning rested more with the civilian than with the professional military leaders of the two countries. Whether the decision was wise or not, the critical factors affecting success, like those inviting the attempt, were largely political rather than military.
Axis involvement in the Mediterranean theater of war likewise mounted from small beginnings and after periodic inventories of the general military situation. Since the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, had precipitated the war much earlier than the Duce Benito Mussolini, had agreed to be ready; Italy remained a nonbelligerent until June 1940, and participated then very briefly in the attacks which led to French surrender.
The Mediterranean escaped major hostilities during this period of Italian preparations. Italian forces were assembled in eastern Cyrenaica for an eventual attack on Egypt in conjunction with an attack from the south to be launched from Ethiopia, while British forces were gathered to defend Egypt. But actual conflict was deferred.
After France’s capitulation in June 1940, and after the British Government refused to make peace by negotiation, Hitler reluctantly concluded that the war must be carried to British soil. His project for invading the United Kingdom was frustrated at an early stage by the failure of Reichsmarschall Hermann Gӧring’s Luftwaffe to eliminate the Royal Air Force and by the irreconcilable discrepancies between what the German Army required and what the German Navy could furnish for transport and escort shipping. He repeatedly postponed a decision to attack across the English Channel and eventually abandoned the idea. If he could not strike his enemy at home, he proposed instead to inflict a vital injury by seizing Gibraltar in co-operation with Spain and Italy and by supporting the Italians in their drive toward Egypt and the Suez Canal. He tried, mainly in this connection, to construct an anti-British alliance of Germany, Italy, France, and Spain, thus gaining for the Axis the French fleet along with French and Spanish strategic areas. His efforts failed.
Marshal Henri Petain engaged in an endless, elastic contest with the Nazis to hold fast to all things that were French. His government, ever under threat of military occupation of all of France at the Führer’s signal, served Hitler’s purpose by preventing the creation in the French colonies of an independent anti-Nazi French government.
Whatever concessions beyond the armistice agreements Petain might make at Nazi insistence and in return for the release of German held French prisoners, for example, the old Marshal would never commit French forces to fight beside the Germans. The French Navy, bitter as it was toward the British, would have scuttled its warships before allowing them to be used to advance Hitler’s aspirations. France, therefore, was not available for an alliance against the British and was left in control of its Northwest African colonies under pledge to defend them against attack from whatever side.
Francisco Franco set such an exorbitant territorial price upon a partnership with Germany as to make impossible an alliance which included Spain and France, and he engaged in such elaborate and effective procrastination as to render any genuine military contribution to the seizure of Gibraltar a matter for Nazi despair. When Hitler went to meet the Caudillo at Hendaye, France, on 29 October 1940, the Spanish dictator subjected him to the unusual experience of being a listener for hours. Rather than undergo such pain again, Hitler told Mussolini he would prefer to have several teeth pulled.
The fact that a new alliance of the four governments could not be attained became evident at a time when even the existing arrangement between Germany and Italy was somewhat strained. Although the two dictators had a friendly personal relationship, the Italians intended to wage a separate and parallel war in the Mediterranean. Hitler had always accepted the principle that the Mediterranean was an area of paramount Italian interest just as, farther north, German interests were exclusive.
He received in the autumn of 1940 clear indication that the Italians wished to proceed independently. Initially the Italians refused a German offer of an armored unit for use in the planned Italian campaign from Libya against Egypt. It was only after the campaign, begun on 12 September under the command of Maresciallo d’Italia Rudolfo Graziani, had bogged down that the Italians reluctantly accepted the German offer. On 28 October, moreover, although knowing Hitler’s opposition, and therefore dissembling their intentions, the Italians attacked Greece from Albania.
Hitler’s disgust at the opening of this new front in the Balkans by the Italians led him to withdraw temporarily his offer of German armored support for the Italian forces in Libya. This decision was confirmed during the Innsbruck conference of 4 and 5 November between Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht-OKW) and Maresciallo d’Italia Pietro Badoglio, the Chief of the Supreme General Staff (Stato Maggiore Generale). When both these adventures became engulfed in failure, the Italians on 19 December abandoned their reluctance to accept German reinforcements which Hitler, despite his irritation with Italian behavior, had again offered to supply for reasons of high military policy.
Hitler was already planning a Blitzkrieg against Russia to be executed during the summer of 1941. For that attack his Balkan flank had to be secure. He believed that the free use of the Mediterranean route by the British was equivalent to a large extra tonnage of transport shipping and the release of naval warships for other operations, an advantage to his major enemy which might make a complete Axis victory unattainable. He also wished to prevent the detrimental effect upon Italian morale and the severe loss of prestige for the Axis which would result from the loss of Libya and the related possibility of a separate Italian peace.
One large aviation unit (X. Fliegerkorps) received orders to shift to southern Italy in December 1940 and a small armored force began crossing from Naples to Tripoli in February, There it was to be combined with Italian mobile units under the command of Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel in an aggressive rather than a static defense. Rommel was subordinated to the Italian Commander in Chief Libya (Commandante del Comando Superiore Forze Armate Libia), Generale d’Armata Italo Gariboldi, who replaced Graziani in early February 1941. Rommel’s command, the German Africa Corps (Deutsches Afrika Korps), shortly reinforced by the addition of an armored division, received general directives from Hitler only after Mussolini had approved them, for the German forces were considered as agents of Italian military policy within the Axis partnership.[N-3]
[N-3: Hitler’s Order, 10 Dec 40, and Dir, 11 Jan 41 OKW/WFSt/Abt L, Nr. 33400/40 and OKW/ WFSt/Abt L, Nr. 44018/41; Orders signed by Keitel, 13 Jan and 3 Apr 41, OKW/WFSt/Abt L, Nr. 00 94/41; Order signed by Col Walter Warlimont, deputy chief of OKW/WFSt, 19 Feb 41, OKW/WFSt/Abt L (I Op), Nr. 44189/41. All in ONI, Führer Directives, 1939–1941.]
The German Africa Corps prepared for its eastward thrust toward Egypt while other German troops extended their hold over the Balkans and prepared to subjugate Greece. Some of the limited British forces in northern Africa were diverted to Greece to aid its defenders, but not enough to prevent the Peloponnesus from being swiftly overrun in April 1941, while almost simultaneously Rommel’s force swept across Libya with surprising speed to the Egyptian border. Only the port of Tobruk remained in British possession in the rear of the Axis units, where it was a continual threat to their long line of supply. The British Eighth Army, which was formed during the next few months of 1941, was not ready for another offensive to the westward before November, but Rommel also was obliged to pause. If these Axis thrusts in the Balkans and northern Africa were, on the one hand, followed by the dramatically successful airborne assault on Crete in May, they were, on the other hand, somewhat offset shortly afterward by the British and Gaullist-French seizure of Syria and by the British military occupation of Iraq. Turkey remained resolutely neutral.
All Axis operations in 1941 were overshadowed by the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June. The requirements and preparations for this colossal effort precluded any extensive German commitments in the Mediterranean. Franco’s delays dragged out negotiations over German seizure of Gibraltar beyond the time when anything could be done about it without detriment to the impending attack against Russia. Throughout most of the year; therefore, the principal feature of the war in the Mediterranean was the battle over supply lines. German naval units were drawn into this struggle, like the ground troops, in a role at least nominally subordinate to the Italian Supreme Command.[N-4]
[N-4: (1) The Italian Supreme General Staff was reorganized in June 1941. Its powers were greatly increased and it became the most important organ of command. Thereafter it was known as the Comando Supremo (Supreme Command). See Howard McGaw Smyth, “The Command of the Italian Armed Forces in World War II,” Military Affairs, XV, No. 1 (Spring, 1951), 38. (2) Hitler’s Order, 29 Oct 41, WFSt/Abt L (I Op), Nr. 441794/41, in ONI, Führer Directives, 1939–1941. (3) Vice Admiral. Eberhard Weichold (German Admiral, Rome), The War at Sea in the Mediterranean. U.S. Navy Press Release 26 Feb 47.]
German aviation harassed British shipping. German submarines joined Italian naval units in policing the waters of the Sicilian straits. The occupation of Crete, costly as it was, improved the Axis position greatly in the violent effort to strangle the connection between Malta and the eastern Mediterranean. The British island of Malta, between the Sicilian straits and Crete, was a base for aircraft, destroyers, and submarines which severely curtailed the flow of supplies and reinforcements from Italy to Tripoli. The fortunes of Rommel’s command seemed almost directly proportional to Axis success in neutralizing Malta.
If the Soviet Union had succumbed to the gigantic attack which began in June 1941, Hitler would presumably have undertaken in November an elaborate attack upon the Near East and have forced Spain to allow an attack against Gibraltar. Concentric drives by Rommel through Egypt, by a second force from Bulgaria through Turkey, and, if necessary, by a third element from Transcaucasia through Iran were also contemplated.
Success in these operations would have broken the British hold on the Middle East. But when, despite the heightened German need for petroleum from the Middle East for operations in 1942, the attack against the Russians fell short of success, the program scheduled for November was necessarily delayed. The British began a counteroffensive in northern Africa at that point which relieved the garrison cut off in Tobruk and drove Rommel’s forces back on EI Agheila. This advantage was abruptly canceled in January 1942, when Rommel made a second advance to the east which regained much of the lost ground. His command was renamed Panzerarmee Afrika, and received reinforcements and additional equipment to resume the attack against the British Eighth Army. From the EI Gazala Line he was expected to gain Tobruk and the coast directly east of it. [N-5]
[N-5: A panzer group headquarters (Panzergruppe Afrika) was created for Rommel in August 1941 with command over the German Africa Corps, Italian XXX Corps, and some small miscellaneous units. Rommel was promoted to General der Panzertruppen 1 July 1941 and to Generaloberst on 1 February 1942. (1) OKW, Kriegstagebuch (hereafter cited as OKW, KTB), I.IV.-3/’VI.42, Entries 21, 30 Apr, and 1, 7 May 42. Great Britain, Exhibit 227, USC, Rg 238. This document appears to be the only one of those comprising the text of the OKW war diary that was not destroyed. The OKW war diary, prepared by Hitler’s Plenipotentiary for Military History, Oberst Walter Scherff, was to be the basis for a history of the war as seen from the highest German level. (2) Rommel, Krieg ohne Hass, pp. 111-26. (3) MS # T- 3-PI (Kesselring), Pt. I.]]
Rommel’s success and the capture of Malta [The planned operation for Malta was Operation HERKULES] were interdependent, a fact which produced a decision to undertake seizure of the island. Heavy air attacks would be made upon it in April 1942 to cover the shipment to Tripoli, Bengasi, and Derna of the means required for the first phase of Rommel’s offensive. After he had seized Tobruk and pushed to Marsa Matriih, thus holding the area from which Malta might be helped by British land-based airplanes, he was to pause while mixed German and Italian forces, partly airborne and partly seaborne, gained possession of the island.
Supplies to Rommel could thereafter go forward from Italy to the African ports in sufficient volume and his offensive would be resumed. While these plans were maturing, more German forces reached the Mediterranean basin.
The German X. Fliegerkorps was replaced, beginning late in 1941, by the Second Air Force (Luftflotte 2) over which Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring exercised command as Commander in Chief South (Oberbefehlshaber Sued) from a new headquarters at Frascati, near Rome.
Kesselring, subordinated to the Duce, was expected to employ his aviation in conformity with directives issued or approved by Mussolini, and to have a relationship as air commander to the Italian Supreme Command similar to that of Rommel as ground commander to the Italian Commander in Chief in Libya. Kesselring as senior German officer also assisted Generalleutnant Enno von Rintelen, Commanding General, Headquarters, German General at the Headquarters of the Italian Armed Forces (Deutscher General bei dem Hauptquartier der italienischen WehrmachtGerman General, Rome) in conveying German views to the Italians. If the action of the Italian Supreme Command was influenced by a spirit of deference to German military enlightenment, the Italians nonetheless insisted that the Germans at all times adhere strictly to the form of Italian control, and Hitler supported this arrangement.
Axis operations in 1942 began with marked successes and brought the coalition to the zenith of its fortunes in World War II. Rommel’s late May attack went much more rapidly than had been expected and succeeded in taking Tobruk in June almost immediately instead of being delayed by the kind of stubborn defense which had kept that port from the Germans in early 1941.
British losses of men and materiel were great, but the loss of Tobruk’s port was equally serious. Rommel believed he could continue to Cairo before meeting effective resistance. At that juncture, Hitler was lured into a serious blunder. He had been unable to quiet his misgivings over the projected seizure of Malta, for he felt that the assault was inadequately planned and subsequent support perilously undependable. He therefore proposed to Mussolini that Operation HERKULES, the seizure of Malta, be postponed in favor of a continued drive into Egypt, and Mussolini, despite the demurrer of some of his military advisers, consented.
A new line of supply to Rommel was to run via Crete to Tobruk. Malta was allowed to recover. In July 1942, Rommel’s army got as far inside Egypt as the El Alamein position, some sixty miles southwest of Alexandria, before being held up by lack of supplies and the opposition of the British Eighth Army. On the Eastern Front, the German attacks on the southern sector pressed speedily toward the Don River, heading beyond it toward Stalingrad and the Caucasus.
The Allied Decision To Occupy French North Africa
The Allies were drawn to the Mediterranean by the fact that the British Eighth Army was arrayed against Panzer Army Africa near Egypt and by the military potentialities of the French colonies in northwestern Africa either as friend or foe. These potentialities had been considered well before the United States became a belligerent. American military planners studied the requirements of operations designed to prevent enemy use of air or naval bases on the Atlantic African coast as far south as Dakar.
At the end of 1940, when the British had defeated Graziani’s army, they held six divisions in readiness to join the French in defending Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia in case Petain agreed to resume the war against the Axis. After that opportunity failed to materialize, the British planned in October 1941, in case of a success against Rommel in Cyrenaica, to capture Tripoli and, subsequently, to support French North Africa in a renewal of hostilities. Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill brought to the ARCADIA Conference in Washington in December, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, his own strategic analysis for 1942 and 1943 containing strong arguments for giving the liberation of French North Africa the highest priority in the Atlantic area. President Franklin D. Roosevelt showed marked interest in the project.
The guiding principle of Allied strategy in 1942 in the Atlantic and European areas was to close and tighten the ring around Germany, while achieving readiness for an invasion to destroy her military power. Anglo-American leaders hoped that by 1943 the way would be clear for an Allied return to the Continent, either across the Mediterranean, or via the Aegean and the Balkans, or by landings in western Europe. A friendly occupation in 1942 of French North Africa was recognized to be “of the first strategical importance in the Atlantic area,” and plans to achieve this were in preparation for several weeks following the conference. Influences attracting the Allies toward the Mediterranean, strong as they were in January 1942, were for a time counterbalanced by other factors of greater strength. The competing claims upon Allied resources were numerous and very powerful.
The line of communications through the Hawaiian Islands to Australia had to be maintained, and in the face of continued Japanese successes in their drive southward, various points along the line had to be reinforced. China could not be abandoned while it absorbed so large a number of Japanese troops and persevered in the war which it had waged since 1931. Russia was engaging by far the largest proportion of the German strength for the second year, and required the shipment of munitions over long and expensive routes. Iceland and the British Isles were to receive American garrison forces in order to release British units for service elsewhere. The Battle of the Atlantic ran in favor of the German U-boats, which achieved appalling successes close to the eastern coast of the United States.
The Americas had to be defended. A large portion of the munitions and men prepared for combat in the United States had to be devoted to the expansion program of all the armed services. Lack of shipping precluded any operation in French North Africa until still more pressing demands elsewhere were met.
Before the shipping situation eased, the Allies in April revised the program outlined at the ARCADIA Conference, adopting as the new major objective the concentration of forces in the British Isles for a cross-Channel attack in 1943 against the heart of Germany through France and the Low Countries.
Frequent Commando raids against the French coast would be made during the period of preparations; the heavy bombers of the U. S. Eighth Air Force being organized in the United Kingdom were to supplement those of the Royal Air Force in striking German industrial targets with increasing severity; but the main effort of the American forces in the Atlantic area in 1942 would be to transfer units and materiel from the United States to the United Kingdom, there to complete training for the ultimate assault during the following year. Measured by the reasoning underlying these plans, an expedition to French North Africa would be a diversionary undertaking, inevitably weakening the projected main effort.
Militating against the program of concentration which the Allies adopted in April were several strong influences. The main attack in 1943 could not succeed unless the Soviet Union were still engaging on the Eastern Front much of the German strength. The ability and the determination of the Russians to maintain resistance to the Axis forces might not survive the German offensive of 1942. A preliminary attack across the English Channel in 1942, had to gain a continental bridgehead for subsequent expansion in 1943 was contemplated by the Allies as a means of aiding the Russians without forfeiting the ability to make the main attack on schedule. If the Germans should fall suddenly into internal political convulsion, the same plan could be used to grasp that advantageous opportunity. But the measure of relief for the hard-pressed Russians would be determined by the size of the German forces diverted to western France from the Eastern Front to oppose the Anglo-American landings, so that genuine assistance to Russia was tantamount to inviting defeat.
The forces available would be preponderantly British. The British were unwilling to make a sacrifice attack for such a purpose. In view of the President’s encouragement to Molotov in May 1942 to expect a “second front” before too long, some Anglo-American offensive in 1942 seemed imperative in order to sustain Russian faith in the western Allies. The President was determined that American units go into combat against the Germans before the end of the year, presumably for the effect such a situation would have on American morale. The Prime Minister was ready for an Anglo-American operation in Norway in conjunction with the Russians, and eager for an invasion of northwestern Africa, but on 8 July notified the President that the British saw no possibility of making a preliminary attack in 1942 to gain a beachhead across the Channel. The British decision against Operation SLEDGEHAMMER was based not only on the undue risk of defeat in such an undertaking, but also on doubt whether there were enough resources, particularly the craft and crews required for the amphibious phase of the attack.
It may also have found some support in the Prime Minister’s determination, as he has written in his memoirs, to bring about an Allied occupation of French North Africa and perhaps of Norway. After the British refusal to proceed with Operation SLEDGEHAMMER was received, the Joint Chiefs of Staff contemplated adherence to the principle of concentration of force against a major adversary by switching the main American effort to that in the Pacific against Japan: The President rejected this proposal, particularly because no large-scale beginnings could be made there before 1943, but also because of his conviction that Allied strategy was sound and should not be abandoned.
He did, however, make a final effort to reconcile the British authorities to the course of action urged upon him by his own military advisers. On 18 July he sent Mr. Harry Hopkins, George C. Marshall, and Admiral Ernest J. King to London with instructions to make certain that every means would be considered for a small-scale attack on the Continent in 1942. If convinced that such an operation could not be mounted with any reasonable chance of “diverting German air forces from the annihilation of Russia,” they were to proceed with the consideration of other projects involving combat with German ground forces in 1942, either in North Africa or the Middle East. It was understood that preparations for ROUNDUP (a full-scale continental attack) in 1943 were to continue without interruption.
The President Commits the United States to Operation TORCH
The Allied military chiefs in London failed to reconcile their disagreement over the feasibility of SLEDGEHAMMER in 1942, a fact which was then reported to the President.
The operation could not be undertaken without agreement and was therefore abandoned, except that, mainly for appearance’s sake, planning operations and some preparations were continued.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff had been unable to agree and had divided along national lines. Here then was a critical test of the Anglo-American capacity to function as a military coalition. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt broke the deadlock. The President, as Mr. Churchill had discovered, was more favorably inclined toward an operation in Northwest Africa than his military advisers, especially General Marshall. The President on 23 July sent supplementary instructions to the American members of the Combined Chiefs directing them to arrive at an agreement on some operation to be launched in 1942, and listing possibilities among which the occupation of French North Africa was given the top priority.
Bound by these instructions, the American chiefs agreed that using American forces in Northwest Africa was preferable to sending them to the Middle East. Thereupon, on 25 July, the Combined Chiefs reached a compromise. The U. S. members agreed to accept Operation TORCH on condition that a final decision by the Combined Chiefs be postponed.
According to this agreement, planning would start at once in London, but final decision to mount the invasion would be reserved until 15 September. If it then appeared likely that the Russians could actively resist German military power in the spring of 1943, the ROUNDUP operation would retain its priority over any other undertaking. If the Russians, on 15 September, seemed about to collapse, the invasion of North Africa would be mounted in time for landings before 1 December. Some of the heavy bomber groups and other air units previously destined for action in 1942-1943 over Europe would be shifted to North Africa, and others, to the Pacific where they were greatly needed.
On 25 July the Combined Chiefs of Staff named the prospective operation TORCH and agreed to a system of command to be in effect in one phase during the planning, and in another, “after the decision to mount.” But the President disregarded the conditional nature of the Combined Chiefs’ decision, and on the same day informed Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Admiral William D. Leahy, Lieutenant General Henry H. Arnold, and Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney, when they met him at the White House, that he had already committed the United States unconditionally to the North African operation.
After General Marshall and Admiral King returned from London, the former apparently still believing that the final decision to mount the North African invasion was to be reached on 15 September, the President repeated “very definitely” to a special conference of representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House “that he, as Commander-in-Chief, had made the decision that TORCH should be undertaken at the earliest possible date, He considered that this operation was now our principal objective, and the assembling of means to carry it out should take precedence over other operations. . . .”
President Roosevelt’s action amounted to a modification of the Combined Chiefs of Staff’s recommendation so drastic as to be almost a rejection. He did not then realize, as he came to appreciate later, that a campaign to seize French North Africa would preclude an attack across the English Channel toward the heart of Germany in 1943, and that he had made a choice in favor of the strategy of encirclement rather than that of a direct and central thrust. But he could indeed have pointed out that the decision to penetrate the Mediterranean conformed to the grand strategy formulated in January at the ARCADIA Conference if not to the modification of April. The Allies would be closing the ring around Germany, tightening it, and achieving readiness for an invasion to destroy her military power.
Such was the situation in the Mediterranean when the Allies faced the question where to attack in 1942.
SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West by George F. Howe