World War Two: North Africa (1-3B); Tactical Plans and Political Preparations

Center Task Force Planning: The plans for taking Oran were devised in London in co-ordination with AFHQ by a planning group of the U.S. II Corps in September and early October. The group began with planning materials originally assembled for General Patton, but which were transferred to them when Casablanca finally and firmly supplanted Oran as the objective of the Western Task Force. The top planners included Colonels Arthur Nevins, Edwin B. Howard, Claude B. Ferenbaugh, and Clarence L. Adcock, and Lieutenant Colonel Francis A. Markoe. Co-ordinated with their work was that of General Doolittle and Colonel Norstad for air, of British naval planners for convoy and ship-to-shore landing operations, Brigadier General Thomas B. Larkin for supply, and of the 1st Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions for their respective combat teams and other commands.

Early in September, offices at Norfolk House were occupied by Major General Terry Allen, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and his chief of staff, Colonel Norman D. Cota; Brigadier General Lunsford E. Oliver, commanding general of Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division; and later by Colonel Paul McD. Robinett, commanding officer of a segment of Combat Command B which was destined to operate for a time as a separate task force. The commanding general of II Corps, General Clark; the operations officer of AFHQ, Brigadier General Lyman L. Lemnitzer; and the chief of staff of II Corps, Brigadier General Lowell Rooks, supervised the planning and made the high level decisions.

[NOTE 5L1: General Rooks, then forty-nine, entered the Army in 1917, served as an infantry officer in France, studied and taught at The Infantry School and the Command and General Staff College, and graduated from the Army War College in 1937. He became Chief of Staff, II Corps, in June 1942 after service at General Headquarters and Army Ground Forces. Later, he became G-3, AFHQ; Deputy Chief of Staff, AFHQ; Commanding General, 90th Infantry Division; and Deputy G-3, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force.]

General Fredendall, who was named late in the preparatory phase to command the Center Task Force, joined the planning group on 10 October, a few days before the final stage of ship loadings and landing rehearsals.

Oran had a population in 1942 of over 200,000 with an eighteenth-century tradition of political subordination to Spain, followed by about a century of French rule. The site is on the southern shore of a wide bight between Cap Falcon on the west and Pointe de I’ Aiguille on the east. Two other headlands projecting into the right, subdivided it into three bays, and Oran is on the center bay, between Mersel Kebir and Pointe Canastel. The small secondary port of Arzew, about twenty miles east of Oran, nestles in the western shore of the Golfe d’ Arzew, on the eastern side of a wide and hilly promontory.

Topographical features furnish Oran natural protection of great strength. Looming above Mers el Kebir and Oran on the western side of the center bay are the crests of Djebel Santon and Djebel Murdjadjo. These crests rise from a high and rugged hill mass sheltering the communities at its base and restricting access to Oran from the west to well-defined and narrow channels. Steeply sloping bluffs rim the southern and eastern shore of Oran’s bay. Inland six to twelve miles from the coast, the plain bears a broad ribbon of shallow, marshy depressions and saline lakes, or sebkras. The largest of these sebkras is southwest of Oran, where it covers an area more than twenty-five miles long and from four to six miles wide, becoming wider and muddier after rainfall has drained into it from the closely adjacent hill mass west of Oran, but whitening and contracting during the drier summer season.

Just north of the Sebkra d’Oran’s western end lies the village of Lourmel, which in 1942 had a small airstrip. In a corresponding position north of the salt lake’s eastern end is La Senia, which had a more fully developed Army airfield. Several much smaller lakes and marshes lie inland from the Golfe d’Arzew, and eastward from Oran. Between them and the coastal hills is an area of fiat, cultivated vineyards crossed by highways and branch roads. Masonry buildings and walls are characteristic of both the villages and scattered farms.

[NOTE: The word “djebel” is the customary French North African term for high hill or mountain.]

The defenses of Oran included forty-five fortified coastal guns of considerable strength; and of Anew, six more. The most important were those on Djebel Santon, west of Mers el Kebir; on Djebel Murdjadjo, west of Oran; on Pointe Canastel, northeast of Oran; and on Cap Carbon, at the western edge of the Golfe d’Arzew. Fort du Santon had four 7.6-inch guns and a heavy concentration of antiaircraft artillery.

The Oran Division, estimated at 16,700, was stationed partly in barracks near the port and the main approaches to the city from southwest, south, and east, and partly at inland stations within one day’s march.

The Army airfield at La Senia, about six miles south-southeast of Oran, and a Navy airfield at Tafaraoui, twelve miles southeast, as well as a naval seaplane base at Anew, twenty-two miles northeast of Oran, were part of the defense system. About one hundred combat aircraft were normally based there. Landing strips at Lourmel, Fleurus, Oggaz, and St. Denis-du-Sig supplemented the airfields. At the western extremity of the harbor of Oran, and at the naval base of Mers el Kebir, several French naval vessels were usually moored.

The Center Task Force plan for seizing Oran prescribed a double envelopment by forces landing simultaneously at three major beaches and one minor beach, all in bays outside of the bight. Total strength consisted of about 37,100 Americans and 3,600 British, including Royal Navy personnel in the landing craft. These forces were to push inland to seize airdromes and block approaches, and to drive along the coast to capture shore batteries.

To gain and hold air superiority, the Center Task Force planned to use four elements: (1) an airborne force from the United Kingdom was scheduled to drop before daylight south of Oran, near La Senia and Tafaraoui airfields; (2) armored columns were to drive directly from their beachheads to the same airfields and to the subsidiary airstrip at Lourmel, southwest of Oran, in support of the paratroopers, and to aid in defending the fields against counterattack; (3) from first light until darkness, dive bombers and fighters from three aircraft carriers were to neutralize the French airfields and clear the air of hostile aircraft; (4) as soon as an airfield had been secured, land-based planes of the Twelfth Air Force were to be flown in from Gibraltar.

While French air power at Oran was thus being eliminated, American ground elements were to secure the southwestern and southeastern flanks, to seize control of the high ground west of the city and of the port and village of Anew, east of the city, and, by encircling the objective in conjunction with naval units off the coast, to isolate its garrison. The westernmost landing was to occur at Mersa bou Zedjar (X Beach) in a narrow bay about twenty-eight miles airline from Oran. In the bay of Les Andalouses, seventeen miles farther east, was Y Beach. From Cap Carbon and along the southwestern sector of the Golfe d’ Anew as far as St. Leu, about twenty-two miles airline easterly from Oran, lay Z Beach, to be used by the bulk of the attacking force.

Light armored columns were to be brought to X and Z Beaches on modified Lake Maracaibo oil tankers, forerunners of the famous Landing Ship, Tank (LST). Through openings in the bows, the tanks could move over pontoon bridges to shallow water, cross the beaches, shed their waterproofing equipment, and press inland. More than half of the armor of Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division, in the Center Task Force, including all the medium (M3) tanks of the 2nd Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment, were aboard transports for discharge at a dock in Arzew harbor.

These medium tanks were barely too large to clear the openings into the Maracaibos. At Les Andalouses, one regimental landing team (Combat Team 26) was scheduled to come ashore and drive eastward to seize the fortified coastal batteries on Djebel Santon and Murdjadjo and engage French defenders along the roads over the hill mass west of Oran. Southeast of Cap Carbon, four companies of the 1st Ranger Battalion were to land near the 4.1-inch battery of Fort du Nord, to capture it, and to occupy the high ground commanding the town and harbor of Arzew, while two companies seized the other battery near the harbor level. From Arzew to St. Leu, in addition to the armored column, two regimental landing teams (Combat Team 18 and Combat Team 16) and other ground troops were expected to land, to capture Arzew and its port, to occupy flank-protecting positions, and to close in on Oran from the east and southeast. In so doing, they would gain control of a small airstrip at Oggaz and traverse an area containing several villages.

The British Admiralty was to furnish the units of the Center Naval Task Force (with minor exceptions) to convey the troops and their materiel, using American troops of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade as hatch crews on ten of twenty-three troop transports and as operating crews for some of the landing craft.

The Center Naval Task Force was planned to consist of 61 escort and 9 combat-transport ships, and 34 merchant vessels. Commodore Troubridge would command it from the special headquarters ship, Largs. The battleship Rodney and the fleet aircraft carrier Furious were the 2 capital ships assigned to this force, with 2 auxiliary aircraft carriers, 2 cruisers, an antiaircraft cruiser, an antiaircraft ship, 13 destroyers, 26 lesser vessels, 10 motor launches, and 2 submarines to engage in protective tasks.

Commodore Troubridge’s force was subdivided into ships carrying assault personnel and landing craft for initial landings at the four beaches, groups of motor transport and tank landing ships expected to discharge before daylight, and vehicle and personnel carriers scheduled to begin debarkation at the Golfe d’Arzew after daylight. The shift of command from Commodore Troubridge to General Fredendall was to occur as soon as the latter felt that he could control the situation ashore. His troops were to pass to his control as soon as they reached the beaches.”

Operation RESERVIST, a direct assault on Oran Harbor by two small shiploads of American troops and naval personnel under Royal Navy Command, with the mission of forestalling sabotage in the port, was appended to the Center Task Force plans late in the period of preparations. The port of Oran was vital to the program of logistical support. Serious risks to prevent its being wrecked by scuttled ships and demolished facilities were deemed justifiable. That the bold entry into a defended harbor by two light vessels with a few hundred men as passengers was deeply hazardous, if not foolhardy, was well recognized. Strong objections were overruled.

Although the British assumed the responsibility of protecting and controlling coastal shipping along the Mediterranean shores, following the occupation of French North Africa, Oran was to be an American operated supply base. Rear Admiral Andrew C. Bennett (U.S.) as Commander, Advance Group, Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet in the United Kingdom, was ordered to organize an advance U.S. naval base unit including a harbor patrol and detachment to operate one major and three minor ports in the Oran area. He assembled at Base Two, Rosneath, Scotland, for departure as part of the Center Task Force, a total complement of 82 U.S. Navy, 3 U.S. Marine Corps, and 9 U.S. Army officers, 520 U.S. Navy, 30 U.S. Marine Corps, and 209 U.S. Army enlisted men. The Army personnel was taken from elements of the 1st Engineer Amphibian Brigade, which had been placed under his command upon its arrival in the United Kingdom. Admiral Bennett was to be responsible to General Fredendall.

At Oran, land-based aviation from Gibraltar would begin with one group of fighters arriving by D plus 2, and reach a total of 160 short-range fighters, 13 observation-bomber aircraft, and 13 medium bombers within a week. These aircraft were to be supplemented by another 80 fighters as soon as conditions nearer Casablanca allowed them to be flown from that area. Almost daily increments would build up a total American air strength in North Africa of 400 long-range and 240 short-range fighters, 228 medium bombers, observation-bombers, and photographic reconnaissance planes. Of these 1,244 aircraft, 282 were to be reserves for wastage. The planes would be flown by seventy-one squadrons in nineteen groups, and used for fighter defense, Army co-operation, tactical and strategic bombing, long-range reconnaissance, and airborne operations. General Doolittle’s headquarters was at first to be at Gibraltar, then shift to Oran.

Planning tor Operations at Algiers

In planning for the operations at Algiers, Allied capacity for co-operation was subjected to a substantial test at the outset. Planning began before the executive agreement of 5 September with the assumption that the operations would fall to a British force to be led by Lieutenant General Kenneth A. N. Anderson (Br.) as Commanding General, British First Army. Almost a month of work by First Army planners on the project preceded the decision on 5 September that during the assault all three landing forces should be under American command. Two American regimental combat teams were to participate in the assault on Algiers and were to try to make the American character of the force as conspicuous to the French as possible; but part of the assault elements and all of the reinforcements afloat, two thirds of the total, were to be British.

General Ryder left his headquarters in Northern Ireland as Commanding General, 34th U.S. Infantry Division, to report on 5 September at Norfolk House as Commanding General, Eastern Assault Force. General Anderson’s plans for the drive into Tunisia had to be adapted to the capabilities and requirements of an Allied task force serving at first under another commander. After Algiers had capitulated, Anderson was to relieve Ryder and, as Commanding General, Eastern Task Force, to control the critical operations to seize Tunisia. The shift of command at Algiers was clarified in a conference of Generals Clark, Anderson, and Ryder on 8 September.

Further to preserve the attack’s American character, which British intelligence reports had declared to be prudent, General Ryder was authorized to name Brigadier General Ray E. Porter (U.S.) as Deputy Commander, Eastern Assault Force.” His two American regimental combat teams were the 168th from his own division, recently put under the command of Colonel John W. 0’Daniel, and the 39th (from the 9th Division), under Colonel Benjamin F. Caffey, Jr. The 39th, embarking in the same transports it expected to use in the assault, was shipped from the United States in time to reach the United Kingdom on 7-8 October.” All other troops were necessarily furnished from British First Army. The military problem at Algiers had certain resemblances to that at Oran.

The city is on the western shore of the bay of Algiers, which extends for about twelve miles between Pointe Pescade on a broad headland at the west and Cap Matifou, a sharper promontory at the east. The bay is somewhat deeper than Oran’s, but is sheltered by western heights which, although lower, correspond to Djebel Murdjadjo and Djebel Santon, west of Oran. The suburbs of La Bouzarea and Lambiridi (formerly known as El Biar) occupy the western heights at Algiers. Industrial towns and resort villages line the southern shore of the bay east of Algiers.

The headland, cape, and heights along the coast furnish sites for coastal defense batteries, with positions and ranges covering the bay’s entire rim. From the crest of the ridges west of the city, the land slopes gradually westward until it reaches a section of the coast between the small communities of Castiglione and Guyotville. The sixteen miles of coast between them trends northeast and southwest and, at Cap Sidi Ferruch, is divided into two unequal portions.

A jutting promontory at Cap Sidi Ferruch, four miles west of Guyotville, separates two bays on either side of it. Here in 1830 an expedition of about 37,000 men had once landed as the first step in the French conquest of Algiers, then under a Moslem ruler. A modem fort at Cap Sidi Ferruch was intended to prevent history from repeating itself.

Beyond Cap Matifou and the small village of Jean-Bart at its base, the coast is low and unprotected for many miles past Ain Taya village to the east-southeast. Directly south of the bay is Maison Came, about eight miles from Algiers. It is a commercial town of perhaps 30,000 through which run the main highway and railroad connections with the great port. Hussein Dey, an industrial suburb almost as large as Maison Carree is halfway between the two, and Birmandreis, a smaller residential suburb, is less than five miles directly south of Algiers.

South and southwest of the bay of Algiers is a ribbon of undulating plain, one of the most fertile sections of Algiers, extending to the foothills of the Atlas Tellien. Of the streams which drain northward from the mountains to the coast, two cross this region to enter the bay of Algiers and two others skirt the outer edges of the headlands bounding the bay. At Hussein Dey, Maison Blanche, and Blida in November 1942 were airfields which an occupying force must bring under control.

The coastal defense batteries near Algiers, twelve or thirteen in number, were known to be strongest at Pointe Pescade and Cap Matifou and very effectively placed for resistance to landings at Cap Sidi Ferruch or near the port at Algiers. The Batterie du Lazaret near Cap Matifou had a range of more than fourteen miles. Weaker batteries, as well as antiaircraft guns, were sited along the bay, on the heights of the city, and near the airfields. No naval force comparable to that at Casablanca was likely to be found in Algiers harbor, but a few smaller ships could be anticipated.

French combat aircraft in Algeria were estimated to consist of 2 reconnaissance planes, 39 bombers, and 52 fighters, supplemented by 20 transport planes. German bombers from Sardinia could also be expected to intervene, although the distance from their bases would deprive them of fighter escort and leave them without enough fuel for prolonged operations near Algiers. Ground troops in Algeria included the Algiers Division of about 16,000 and the Constantine Division of 13,000, plus the 7th Legion of Guards, 1,500, and an antiaircraft regiment numbering 3,000. An armored force which could muster 6 medium and 60 light tanks, some armored cars, and an uncertain amount of motorized 75-mm. artillery had to be taken into consideration. The main resistance to an approach to Algiers from the east could be expected from a garrison of 1,200 at Maison Carree and from the armored unit, seven miles southeast of the objective. Coastal defense exercises against surprise night attack were held late in September.

The Eastern Assault Force’s plan of attack prescribed three simultaneous landings by major elements, two of them to be west of Algiers and the third, east of Cap Matifou near the village of Ain Taya. Each landing was to be in the strength of one regimental combat team, that by British troops to be made by the 11th Infantry Brigade Group of the British 78th Division. The two American units were to drive inland and to converge, thus sealing off Algiers from reinforcements, while the third sub-task force protected the western flank and held itself in readiness for commitment either against the city or in securing the airfield at Blida.

The 168th Combat Team was to seize coastal defenses west of Algiers, aided by a Commando unit, and press into the city through the suburban heights while the 39th Combat Team was capturing other coastal defenses near Cap Matifou, occupying airfields and the powerful Radio Alger (THA) station, and closing on the city from the east. A floating reserve available for landing on the afternoon of D Day, either to assist in the attack on Algiers or to capture Blida airfield and protect the south flank, would be furnished by the British 36th Infantry Brigade Group. One squadron of the British 56th Reconnaissance Regiment was also scheduled for landing with the 11th Infantry Brigade Group and for subsequent availability in force reserve. Operation TERMINAL, a direct assault on Algiers harbor by a special force combining British naval with American Army elements, was inserted in the plans in much the same general form and manner as Operation RESERVIST at Oran harbor.

After General Anderson relieved General Ryder on orders from the Allied commander in chief, Ryder’s command would be transformed. His American units would be re-designated the 34th Infantry Division and come under General Anderson’s command as the Algiers garrison. His British units would revert to the British 78th Division.

These plans for the Eastern Assault Force were completed with persistent concern for the subsequent mission of the Eastern Task Force. General Anderson was responsible for establishing a base in Algiers and then, speedily occupying eastern Algeria and Tunisia. He had urged without success that assault landings be made on D Day at Philippeville and Bone. He sought to accomplish some of the same objectives while conforming to the decisions of 5 September by planning to assemble a seaborne assault force from the British units released by General Ryder, and sending it to take the airdrome at Djidjelli and the port of Bougie, escorted by naval units from the Eastern Naval Task Force which could be spared from Algiers. He had hoped to have at sea for early arrival and debarkation at easterly ports most of the troops and materiel with which he expected to penetrate Tunisia. Transport on the scale required to meet his proposals could not be supplied, although the rate of build-up for the Eastern Task Force was greatly to exceed that at Oran.

The capture and employment of the eastern ports-Bougie, Philippeville, and Bone-required air defense by fighter planes from adjacent landing grounds if the losses to enemy bombing attack were to be kept within bearable limits. A British parachute force using American transport aircraft would be in Allied Force reserve and probably be available, as also would be whatever American parachute forces in the Center Task Force were not expended in taking Oran. But whatever commitments of these elements were made to gain control of airfields along the coast would naturally delay airborne attacks at Bizerte and Tunis.

Air support was to be furnished to General Anderson’s forces by the Eastern Air Command under Air Marshal Welsh, perhaps reinforced by units from the U.S. Twelfth Air Force. The prospects were well below General Anderson’s desires, for the 45,000 British and 10,000 American troops that he would have in the Algiers area by 12 November would be supported by at most five squadrons of fighters, one light bomber squadron, one Army Co-operation squadron, one photographic reconnaissance squadron, and a general long-range reconnaissance squadron for co-operation with the Royal Navy.

Service and maintenance units might by 12 November be able to operate at Maison Blanche airfield or even at Blida. The air build-up was expected to enlarge this force as rapidly as possible during the remainder of November, but, at the time when the Eastern Task Force might be reaching its objective in Tunisia and under the strongest enemy resistance, the Eastern Air Command would still be much too weak for the needs of full-scale offensive action with the troops. Fighter planes were to be shipped in crates to Gibraltar and assembled at the airdrome there. Ground units were to be brought by sea in order that air transports might be available to the paratroop units to the fullest possible extent.

The Eastern Air Command was intended to reach, in seven weeks, a total of 454 aircraft, in twenty-five and one-third squadrons, more than half of which would be short-range fighters, would be general reconnaissance planes, and less than 100 would be bombers of all types. Eastern Air Command headquarters was to be in Algiers.

Plans for the Eastern Task Force were made in alternative forms since French resistance or French acceptance of the advance might so gravely affect the rate of eastward movement. If the French resisted, a methodical overland advance was expected to yield the capture of Bone in about three weeks. If the French either passively or actively aided the march, the Eastern Task Force would push boldly along the coast, with parachute drops at Bone, Bizerte, and Tunis on successive days, commencing on D plus 3.

Political Preparations

Tactical plans for the occupation of each of the major objectives were founded on the knowledge that the size and equipment of all French military forces had been severely restricted by Axis limitations, and in the hope that actual resistance might be minimized by political activity. Indeed, an underlying objective of the whole operation was to promote conditions which would bring the French back into the war on the side of the Allies. To effect a purely nominal resistance to the landings, followed by association in arms against the Axis powers, was the purpose both of Allied representatives in French North Africa and of pro-Allied Frenchmen (in the armed services, civil administration, or private life) who were enrolled in secret organizations. The Allied agents worked in French North Africa under instructions from AFHQ.

A special staff section at AFHQ was created in August to furnish political information to General Eisenhower and to draft plans applicable to political aspects of the undertaking. Many of these problems had been anticipated by the British. The chief of this Political Affairs Section, Mr. W. H. B. Mack (Br.), was transferred to that position from the British Foreign Office. His first instructions were actually signed by Anthony Eden, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Mack’s administrative task with reference to Operation TORCH was to co-ordinate five agencies, four British and one American: the Special Operations Executive, Political Warfare Executive, Secret Intelligence Service, Ministry of Information, and Office of the Coordinator of Information (later, the Office of Strategic Services). A draft plan for political warfare was submitted to General Gruenther, Deputy Chief of Staff, Allied Force. It sketched elaborate preparations for propaganda, for the terms of possible armistices between each of the task forces and the local French commanders, for the conduct of civil affairs following the termination of hostilities, and for the ultimate status of the French colonies and of the government at Vichy. This tentative plan was considered in trying to arrive at an outline plan for the entire operation which would be likely to succeed.

Mr. Robert Murphy served in North Africa as the chief diplomatic representative of the United States before the decision in July 1942 to send an Allied expedition there. It was well understood by General Marshall that the President would assume personal direction of political activities, but it was expected also that he would so manage them that General Eisenhower, as the Allied commander in chief, was kept fully aware of all details and in immediate control.

General Eisenhower believed that “subversive activities, propaganda, and political warfare had to be carefully and completely co-ordinated with military plans if they were to avoid being not only inappropriate but also a positive menace.” In furtherance of this aim Murphy was designated to become a member of his staff, to take up the position when the Allied Force arrived in French North Africa. Before that time, he acted less as a staff than as a line officer in his leadership of the political negotiations and preparations from Casablanca to Algiers.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff assigned control over all the American agencies concerned with undercover preparation for TORCH in North Africa and Spain to the Allied commander in chief. The British agencies were brought into co-ordination with the American by putting them all under the supervision of G-3 at AFHQ. Colonel Eddy (U.S. Marine Corps) directed them from Tangier and Colonel Brien Clarke (Br.), acting as his deputy, directed them from Gibraltar. Murphy was empowered to control the schedule and order any necessary modifications of secret operations, and even to direct them in Algeria and Tunisia should that become expedient.

Murphy flew to Washington from Algiers early in September for conferences with the President, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and officials of the Department of State. He presented his own estimates of the prospective operation’s political aspects and reported that a reputable military group in Algiers recommended Allied association with General Henri Giraud as a French leader. He then learned from the President that a final decision to occupy French North Africa had actually been reached.

Murphy then went to London bringing a draft directive from the President for General Eisenhower to review, and voluminous data for the Allied military leadership to consider. Disguised as “Lieutenant Colonel McGowan,” and traveling by air without revealing his identity to fellow passengers, he then spent almost twenty-four hours at General Eisenhower’s rural cottage near London.

His grasp of matters of military significance and his evident judgment and discretion gained General Eisenhower’s “utmost confidence:’ He satisfied both American and British members of Eisenhower’s group that their plans were well founded and that he could serve them without breaking the tight barriers of security. The topics under discussion ranged widely. Murphy learned that the size of the projected expedition would closely approximate that which the French in North Africa had estimated would be necessary. He indicated the civilian and military co-operation which could be expected. The conference reviewed the problem of how long an interval should elapse between notification of the friendly French and actual Allied landings, the risk of losing surprise being balanced against the necessity for enough time secretly to mobilize the fifth columnists.

The draft directive from the President to Murphy under which he was to return to Algiers as the President’s personal representative authorized him to give at least a twenty-four-hour notice to reliable friends and to identify for them the approximate landing beaches. Although more than a twenty-four-hour notice would be needed, he was persuaded by General Eisenhower that no French leader should be notified until D Day was imminent. On the theme of the supreme command over inter-Allied forces in French North Africa, a post which, Murphy reported, General Giraud’s adherents in Africa clearly expected him to hold, General Eisenhower foreshadowed the position he later took in direct discussion with General Giraud-the French forces must first be rearmed by the Allies and in condition to defend Northwest Africa successfully before the Allies could consider permitting them to exercise supreme command there.

French forces could remain under French command, but would have to co-operate fully with an Allied supreme commander. The President’s draft directive to Murphy specified that no change in the civil administration of each of the three territories of French North Africa was contemplated.

The Allied leaders intended to leave the non-co-operating French there to the mercies of the friendly French, while preventing acts of private vengeance. Although de Gaulle might be bypassed in Operation TORCH, he would have an essential role in connection with the cross-Channel attack, and the Allied commander in chief expressed strong interest in including de Gaulle in planning for that operation as soon as possible.

These conferences with Murphy in Washington, Hyde Park (New York), and London consolidated the broad planning for activities involving the friendly French. The precise secret operations ashore which were to facilitate the landings were determined in separate conferences in London and Washington until instructions from the Commander in Chief, Allied Force, to Colonel Eddy were issued on 14 October. The instructions provided alternative programs of sabotage and subversive action near the main objectives of each of the task forces, one program in case of resistance by the French armed forces and a second in case of their acquiescence. These programs involved either destructive sabotage or close control over communications and transportation, neutralization of coast defenses, immobilization of ships and submarines in port, sending up signal flares and supplying guides for the Allies, and other such activity.

Careful attention was given to the preparation of written material in furtherance of political and propaganda aims. These documents included a set of formal communications, prepared partly in London and partly in Washington, from the President to the rulers and chiefs of government of Portugal, Spain, Vichy France, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Proclamations were formulated, both in French and in Arabic, to be issued in the name of the President or of the commander in chief. Propaganda leaflets were prepared to be dropped from airplanes.

Radio technicians and broadcasting teams were brought to the United Kingdom from the United States to accompany the Center Task Force. Other field units were organized to produce and distribute leaflets and to work with local newspapers.

Civil Affairs Planning

Most of the political preparations thus far described were concerned with minimizing armed resistance to the occupying forces and with obtaining active co-operation from the French in driving the Axis from northern Africa. But other arrangements looked to the maintenance of security in the rear areas after the Allies were established ashore, when French North Africa would become a base for further operations. The Civil Affairs Section of AFHQ under Mr. H. Freeman Matthews (U.S.) formulated the requisite plans to prepare for such responsibilities.

The Allies had no political course in mind other than to win campaigns in the field while allowing the French to work out their own internal problems, unhampered and unaided. This policy was avowed by the President and set forth as approved military doctrine. They allowed for two contrasting contingencies. A friendly reception from the French would warrant one set of arrangements; strong opposition, followed by conditions which necessitated stringent military control, would justify another. The planners therefore prepared armistice terms for use by the task force commanders to fit either situation, and also devised two alternative series of proclamations and ordinances.

The fundamental purpose was to avoid any interference with the population except what was inescapable and necessary to assist military operations. The basic method would be to supervise the operation of existing civil agencies by the French. The past political sympathies of officeholders were to be treated as of small significance compared with their ability to discharge the technical duties of their respective positions.

Foreign exchange transactions and the use of bank accounts were to be subject to licenses which a task force commander might grant or withhold. Taxes were to be collected in the normal ways, but those formerly devoted to the national government were to be applied to meet any expenses of military government.

Large expenditures would be made by the invading forces within French North Africa for labor and rentals, as well as for the payment of the troops. Damage claims by individual proprietors could be expected. The currency to be used by the Allied Force was the subject of careful study and discussion. It was not possible to obtain in advance adequate amounts of the local currencies of the three French colonies without forfeiting surprise.

Insufficient amounts were therefore to be supplemented by special invasion currencies, American and British, to be used prior to a negotiated agreement with the local government and bank of issue at rates of exchange somewhat more favorable to the franc than in the free market in October 1942. These provisional rates were 75 francs to the dollar, 300 francs to the pound sterling.

Agreements reached after the invasion could provide for the use in specific areas of local franc currencies issued against dollar credits in the United States. Local currencies were to be obtained from local banks, being printed if necessary in the United States and furnished to those banks for issue. The rates of exchange would be fixed in the agreements. Finance officers were commissioned directly from civilian positions which equipped them for their military roles. The Treasury, War, and State Departments cooperated in preparing for the currency problems.

Control over importation of civilian necessities such as cotton goods, tea, and sugar, in great demand by the Arabs, and coal, gasoline, kerosene, candles, and soap, items wanted mainly by other groups, was recognized as an instrument of political influence. It was deemed prudent to relate the distribution of consumers’ goods to employment in the service of the Allies, making it possible for the natives to convert their labor at the ports and along the lines of supply into possession of scarce and highly desired commodities.

Plans applicable to civil affairs were completed in time for issue in AFHQ General Orders on 11, 12, and 21 October. Arrangements were also made for the inclusion in each task force of a civilian deputy civil administrator, a military assistant civil administrator, and a section of some seven additional specialists. At AFHQ, the Political Affairs Section under Mr. Mack and the Civil Affairs Section under Mr. Matthews were combined into one section to be headed by the latter until Robert Murphy could assume his position as chief civil administrator and political adviser of the commander in chief. The Propaganda Operations subsection and the Psychological Analysis and Planning subsection, headed by members of the Office of War Information and Office of Strategic Services respectively, were to be supervised by Colonel Julius Holmes in G-l, while the special operations sections of the Office of Strategic Services (U .S.) and the Special Operation Executive (Br.) Section would remain under G-3 for co-ordination with other activities. Thus in most respects, the strategic decisions, tactical plans, and political preparations took form early in October, with the interval before the prospective departure of the assault convoys narrowing to a matter of days.

SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West; by George F. Howe (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: North Africa(1-4); Completing the Preparations-Invasion Forces Sail

World war Two: North Africa (3A); Tactical Plans and Political Preparations


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