The main amphibious attack for the capture of Casablanca was to be delivered at Fedala. There Force BRUSHWOOD; consisting of the 3rd Infantry Division, reinforced mainly by an armored landing team from the 67th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, was to establish itself on shore, seize the small port, and swing southwestward to capture Casablanca. While it was advancing to positions in the outskirts of that city, Combat Command B, 2nd Armored Division, would be making its way to the southern side from its landings at Safi. Planes of the XII Air Support Command, using the Port-Lyautey airdrome soon after D Day, would supplement naval air support from the carrier Ranger and the escort carrier Suwannee. Off Casablanca, the warships of the Covering Group would protect the naval task force from French naval units based in Casablanca or Dakar.
The Augusta, Brooklyn, and others would furnish fire support to troops ashore. But successful landings at Fedala were to be the first phase. The town of Fedala is on a shallow bay which lies between two rivers and between the rugged projection of Cap de Fedala at the southwest and the bold headland of Cherqui, three miles to the northeast.
The small harbor is at the western end of the bay. Its protected waters are enclosed by an 800-foot breakwater on the inner side of the cape and another, extending twice as far and at right angles to it, from the southern shore of the bay. Through an opening about 100 yards wide between the tips of these jetties, a dredged channel enters the port. An almost continuous crescent of sandy beach extends from the longer breakwater to the Cherqui headland. At a few points this broad strand is divided by rocky outcrops and, at the base of Cherqui, by the mouth of the Nefifikh river. That stream enters the bay from a deep ravine or wadi extending almost directly south for well over a mile. The Mellah river on the other hand, the mouth of which is outside the bay at the base of Cap de Fedala, approaches the coast by a meandering course through marshes and tidal flats. From the sand dunes along the coast between these rivers, a level shelf extends inland for from half to three quarters of a mile before the land rises very gradually to less than 200 feet above sea level. A secondary coastal road and the railway between Casablanca and the north run along the base of this easy slope. The main highway between Casablanca and Rabat lies one mile or more farther inland. The railroad skirts the town except for a short branch extending to the harbor.
Before World War II Fedala was a community of about 16,000 which combined the functions of a small fishing port, a major petroleum storage and distributing point, and a popular pleasure resort. Its hotel, race track, casino, golf course, broad, palm-lined streets and formal gardens, its parks and bathing beach, were among the attractions for vacationists. Several sets of petroleum storage tanks, a small harbor, and the fishing port within it, met the chief requirements of commerce. On Cap de Fedala a lighthouse tower guided pilots past several hazards in adjacent waters.
Within five miles of Fedala on either side, ten possible sandy landing beaches were designated. Four were deemed appropriate for major use by battalion landing teams and two for auxiliary use by smaller units on special missions. All the main landings were directed to sections of shore in the Baie de Fedala identified as Beaches RED 2, RED 3, BLUE, and BLUE 2. RED beach lay directly under the guns on Cap de Fedala and was faced by a ten-foot seawall. It was reserved for follow-up landings when the whole region should be under American control.
Smaller units could land at Beach YELLOW, near the mouth of the Mellah river, and on Beach BLUE 3, in the Mansouria inlet about three miles northeast of the Cherqui headland. Except for Beach BLUE 2, which was on the shore of a cove at the Nefifikh river’s mouth, all four of the better beaches led by an easy gradient through sand dunes to flat land above. All four beaches were dangerously exposed to the high surf which surged in on an average of four days out of five in November. Even more unprotected were the shores directly northeast of Cherqui and southwest of Cap de Fedala.
The advance from the Baie de Fedala to Casablanca was to be made over an area extending along the coast some sixteen miles. The initial beachhead was to extend about five miles inland between the eastern bank of the Nefifikh river and the western edge of the Me1lah river. Thereafter, during D Day the prescribed objective line would be reached by advancing southwesterly for another four miles beyond the Mellah.
The most dangerous feature of the amphibious attack at Fedala was the ability of coastal defense guns there to enfilade the beaches. Two batteries were in menacing positions on Cap de Fedala. From the tip, two 75-mm. guns with a range of 9,000 yards could fire on any of the beaches on which major landings were planned. Near the base of the cape, four 100-mm. guns comprised the Batterie de Fedala, or Batterie du Port, and could fire directed salvos within a range of 15,400 yards. The most powerful battery was on the Cherqui headland. It was known as the Batterie du Pont Blondin and consisted of four 138.6-mm. (5.4-inch) guns capable of firing on targets 20,000 yards distant. Near these guns were searchlights, antiaircraft machine guns, and rifle and machine gun pits-all on ground well organized for defense. A fourth battery was reported to consist of “three or four large-caliber guns” at a point about two miles northeast of the Batterie du Pont Blondin and 1,600 yards southwest of Mansouria inlet.
Antiaircraft batteries had been identified southwest of Fedala near the golf course, on the golf course itself, and farther up the Mellah river on its western bank, south of the railroad. Two antiaircraft or dual purpose guns, as large as lO5-mm. in caliber, and others, 75-mm. or perhaps 90-mm., with searchlights and small antiaircraft machine guns were indicated at these sites. If Fedala’s coastal batteries were the greatest hazard to the landing force, the proximity of the French naval units in Casablanca harbor furnished another threat.
The Jean Bart’s big 15-inch rifles could reach the Fedala area, several submarines might slip out to inflict grave damage on the transports or escort vessels, and other French warships would no doubt be ready to grasp an opportunity to interfere with American naval support of the forces ashore.
Fedala’s garrison was estimated at not quite 2,500 men, consisting of a battalion plus one company of infantry, two mechanized troops of Spahis, an antiaircraft artillery battery, and other artillery units. The field artillery had an undetermined number of 75-mm. guns and sixteen 13.2-mm. machine guns. Reinforcements could be expected from Rabat, only forty-three miles to the northeast; up to five battalions of cavalry, two armored battalions, and several battalions of infantry might come from as far away as Meknes.
Casablanca’s defenders were estimated at five battalions of infantry (4,325 men)colonial, Moroccan, and Senegalese; at least two troops of cavalry (300 men), of which one would be mechanized; two battalions of artillery and one of antiaircraft ( 1,600-1,700 men); naval ground units operating the coastal defense guns, and a strong assemblage of warships at the Casablanca naval base. From the Rabat-Sale and Cazes airdromes, according to best reports, the French Air Force could throw fifty fighters and thirty bombers into the battle. Reinforcements were expected from Mazagan, Kasba Tadla, and Mediouna. Thus the attack on Casablanca from Fedala might require seizure of the beachhead from somewhat less than 2,500 defenders; defense of Fedala from counterattack and advance southwestward along the coast would have to be made against perhaps 6,500 others.
In moving to invest Casablanca, some American units would push inland to encircle the city and cut its approaches from the southeast and south. The terrain to be covered in this scheme of maneuver was not difficult. The flat shelf along the coast was not quite one mile in depth, rising gradually to a tableland eroded into low, gently contoured hills and ridges. Small vineyards and clumps of woods were widely dispersed among numerous small farms. Footpaths and mule tracks crossed the hills in many directions. One stream bed, that of the Hasser river, wound southwesterly from the Mellah between banks neither high nor precipitous.
The approach to Casablanca along either the main highway or the railway from Rabat led through the eastern suburb of Ain Seba1, about three miles from the harbor, and past an industrial section south of Roches Noires. At Ain Sebaa, a peripheral road, the Route de Grande Ceinture, branched southwestward from the main highway and circled Casablanca at a distance of from three to four miles from the port. On the level ground and easy slopes between this road and the thickly settled portion of the city, the parks, cemeteries, and newer residential areas which fringed the city were to be found. On the western side of the city about three miles from the harbor were the racecourse, hotel, and suburban estates of Anfa, the scene of President Roosevelt’s overseas conference with Prime Minister Churchill and the Combined Chiefs of Staff two months later.
Casablanca lies at a bulge on the six miles of coast between two headlands, Table d’Oukacha on the east and El Hank on the west. The artificial harbor was east of the bulge. Its area and depth, the tugs and barges there, the power-driven cranes, railway sidings, and covered storage-all made it a maritime prize in 1942.
Casablanca’s coastal defenses were strong. On Pointe El Hank were two batteries, one consisting of four 194-mm. (7.6-inch) and the other of four 138.6-mm. (5.4-inch) guns, each equipped with range finder apparatus and searchlights and protected by concrete emplacements and by organized defensive positions. On Table d’Oukacha, a battery of four l00-mm. guns was similarly equipped. In the harbor at the end of a long jetty were two 75-mm. coast defense guns. The port was protected by a six-and-one-half-foot concrete wall from one breakwater to the other and bristled with antiaircraft batteries and machine guns in protected emplacements along jetties.
The antiaircraft defenses included batteries of 75-mm. guns on El Hank, in the harbor, on the golf course at Anfa, and in Ain Sebaa. Southwest of the city was the Cazes airfield, from which defending planes might rise to protect the port and city. The Covering Group of the Western Naval Task Force was to wait for the French to open hostilities. The American plan of attack contemplated only counterbattery fire against the French coastal guns and no overland assault against them except from Fedala and Safi. Such then were the objective and the defenses.
Now to tum to the actual Fedala-Casablanca operation. The joint Army-Navy expeditionary force making the amphibious attack at Fedala consisted of the Center Attack Group of the Western Naval Task Force carrying Sub-Task Force BRUSHWOOD. The fire support vessels were the cruisers .Augusta and Brooklyn and the destroyers Wilkes, Swanson, Ludlow, and Murphy. Air support was furnished from the carrier Ranger and the escort carrier Suwannee, protected by one cruiser and five destroyers. Troop and cargo transports numbered fifteen, screened by a squadron of six destroyers. Also on hand were the tanker Winooski and five mine craft. The Center Attack Group, with 17,700 naval personnel, was commanded from the transport Leonard Wood by Captain R. R. M. Emmett (USN).
Force BRUSHWOOD-the 3rd Infantry Division, reinforced chiefly by an armored landing team from the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment (Major Richard E. Nelson)-was organized into three regimental landing groups (RLG’s). These were based on the 7th (Colonel Robert C. Macon), the 15th (Colonel Thomas H. Monroe), and the 30th (Colonel Arthur H. Rogers) Infantry Regiments. Each regimental landing group consisted of three battalion landing teams comprising in the main a battalion of infantry, a platoon of combat engineers, one or more platoons of self-propelled antiaircraft guns, shore fire control and air support parties, medical, signal, service, and other detachments, and in the case of two RLG’s (7th and 30th), a company of shore party engineers and a platoon of light tanks. RLG 15 was to land later at the same beaches as the other two. Supporting arms were drawn from the 9th, 10th, 39th, and 41st Field Artillery Battalions, the 10th Combat Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Regiment (shore party), 443rd Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (SP), and the 756th Tank Battalion.
The Armored Landing Team included elements of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 78th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 17th Armored Engineer Battalion, and 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion, all from the 2nd Armored Division. Force BRUSHWOOD was commanded by Major General Jonathan W. Anderson, as already noted; the assistant division commander was Brigadier General William W. Eagles; Brigadier General William A. Campbell was division artillery commander; and Colonel Walter E. Lauer was the chief of staff. With all detachments included, the force totaled approximately 19,500 officers, enlisted men, and civilians.
[NOTE: The Army troop list of 22 October 1942 shows a total of 19,364 men and 1,732 vehicles. The Leonard Wood’s Action Report, 30 November 1942, tabulates the troops and vehicles per ship with a total of 19,870 men and 1,701 vehicles. Morison, U.S . Naval Operations, 11, 37, 55, sets the total at 18,783 and on p. 158 adopts the total of 19,870.]
The general scheme of maneuver by Force BRUSHWOOD was for BLT 1-7 (Lieutenant Colonel Roy E. Moore) -or 1st Battalion Landing Team of the 7th Regimental Landing Group–to occupy the town and cape, BLT 2-7 (Lieutenant Colonel Rafael L. Salzmann) to control the bridges over the Mellah river and to clear a regimental zone south and west of the town, BLT 1-30 (Lieutenant Colonel Fred W. Sladen, Jr.) to push four miles southward to a long ridge well beyond the main Casablanca-Rabat highway, and BLT 2-30 (Lieutenant Colonel Lyle W. Bernard) to occupy the Cherqui headland, the bridges over the Nefifikh river, and a defense line on the eastern bank of that stream against possible reinforcements from the direction of Rabat. The third battalion of each of these RLG’s minus its Company L, would be in floating regimental reserve, and the entire 15th RLG would be in Force BUSHWOOD reserve, prepared to land two hours after the assault battalions. The 15th RLG was to assemble ashore in the 7th RLG’s zone and to advance southwestward at the left of the 7th RLG while the 30th RLG secured the rear and furnished a reserve battalion.
The two L Companies and the 3rd Reconnaissance Troop had their special missions following landings at the extreme flanks. The 2nd Battalion, 20th Engineers (Combat), which was in Western Task Force reserve with a company of the 204th Military Police Battalion, and the Armored Landing Team, 67th Armored Regiment, were expected to land on call at least three hours after the first wave, the former initially to relieve BL T 1-7 in Fedala and the latter to join RLG’s 7 and 15 in the drive on Casablanca. Once the port was in American hands, it was to be used first for unloading armored vehicles and heavy equipment, and then for other materiel.
[NOTE: FORCE “Y” (BRUSHWOOD),AS OF 22 OCTOBER 1942
3rd Infantry Division 1st RLG (reinforced), 7th Infantry 2nd RLG (reinforced) , 30th Infantry / 15th Infantry Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Signal Company, 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters,
Task Force Armored Landing Team: 1st Battalion (reinforced), 67th Armored Regiment
Other Force “Y”
Detachments, XII Air Support Command; 436th Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion; 443rd Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (one and a half platoons only); 2nd Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment; 204th Military Police Company; 36th Engineer Regiment (less detachments);
Detachment of 66th Engineer Company (‘Topographic); 1st Armored Signal Battalion; 122nd Signal Company (Radio Intelligence); 163rd Signal Company (Photographic); 239th Signal Company (Operational); 829th Signal Service Battalion; 1st Broadcasting Station Detachment; Counterintelligence Group; Prisoner Interrogation Group; Civil Government
The Landings Begin
Running through intermittent rain squalls, the Center Attack Group arrived off Fedala shortly before midnight, 7-8 November 1942. Soon afterward the lights of Casablanca and Fedala were suddenly extinguished. The transports were organized into four columns, with the Leonard Wood (BLT 1-7), Thomas Jefferson (BLT 2-7), Charles Carroll (BLT 1-30), and Joseph T. Dickman (BLT. 2-30) in the column nearest the shore. Discovery as the convoy neared its destination that an unexpected current had carried it a few miles from the desired position resulted in a series of emergency turns during which the transport formation became badly deranged. Radar revealed that some transports were at least 10,000 yards from their designated place. The vessels therefore had to continue movement in the darkness, aided by a control vessel, in order to re-establish their planned formation within a transport area six to eight miles offshore.
[NOTE: Only four out of seven waves from the Wood,five out of eight from the leBerson, five and one-half out of fifteen from the Carroll, and four out of five from the Dickman, which were bound for Beach BLUE 2, reported. From the fourth wave, three of the six boats had failed to appear at starting time, but two of them, including the boat with the commanding officer of BLT 2-30, went in independently. Their navigation was such that they ended up thousands of yards to the northeast of Beach BLUE 2, well apart from the battalion’s attack. Two entire waves from the Carroll of three or four boats each missed the rendezvous with the Ludlow and went toward Beach BLUE unescorted.]
When Captain Emmett described the naval situation to General Anderson at 0130, the four assault BLT’s were on transports near their assigned positions, and it seemed likely that the men could disembark in time for the 0400 H Hour. Other ships might or might not be able to participate as expected. An attempt was therefore begun to carry out the basic plan. Three scout boats went in to find and mark the beaches. Three quarters of an hour later, reports of the lagging rate at which vehicles and heavy equipment from the Leonard Wood were being unloaded, and of the slowness with which landing craft were assembling from each transport at the rendezvous points, made it apparent that a half hour’s delay was essential. Orders were issued to the transports to use their own landing craft to disembark as large a proportion of the assault BL T’s as possible without waiting for the arrival of the boats from other transports in outer positions. Even with this improvisation the men, weighted by heavy, cumbersome packs, clambered down the sides of the ships at too slow a pace to fill up the bobbing craft for the 0430 H Hour. Another postponement of fifteen minutes was authorized.
The 3rd Division’s command had concluded from its training experiences that in order to insure integrity of units upon landing and to expedite their reorganization ashore to prevent defeat in detail, all assault and reserve BL T’s ought to be assembled afloat in landing craft before the start toward the landing beach, and all should be put ashore as fast as possible. At Fedala, each assault battalion had its own landing schedule adapted to the particular characteristics of its beach and its mission. Each of the four BL T’s required groups of from forty-three to forty-five personnel landing craft and from five to nine tank lighters, for landings extending over periods of from one to three hours. The fact that none of the transports carried more than thirty-four landing craft necessitated the temporary use of boats and crews from other transports. All these details had been most carefully combined in an elaborate boat employment plan designed to put the required assault units ashore before daylight and to land supporting elements there with great rapidity during the morning.
At about 0400 the four control destroyers, the Wilkes, Swanson, Ludlow, and Murphy, each conducting the landing craft for which it was responsible, moved to a line of departure, 4,000 yards from the beach designated for its battalion landing team. BLT 1-7 was to land on Beach RED 2; BLT 2-7, on Beach RED 3; BLT 1-30, on Beach BLUE; and BL T 2-30, on Beach BLUE 2. But all the boat waves were not then ready! In fact, the landings at. Fedala began at the outset to depart from the plan and continued to be only an approximation of what had been worked out as the best means of getting necessary forces ashore. Silencing the coastal batteries, a mission of paramount importance, was the first assignment of the forces being sent ashore.
BLT 2-30 (Colonel Bernard) was expected to capture the Batterie du Pont Blondin, just east of the Nefifikh river, assisted by Company L, 30th Infantry. BLT 1-7 (Colonel Moore) was charged with taking the town of F edala and continuing on to the cape to seize the two batteries there. The 3rd Reconnaissance Troop (Captain Robert W. Crandall), landing on Beach YELLOW, was to destroy the antiaircraft installations in the vicinity of the golf course and then, after crossing the Mel1ah, to attack the positions on Cap de Fedala from the southwest, on the western side of Moore’s unit.
Next most pressing objective was the control of the highway and railway bridges over the Mellah before they could be destroyed, or used by French troops for retreat or reinforcement. BLT 2-7 (Colonel Salzmann) was to seize these bridges from the east while another unit, Company L, 7th Infantry, landed on Beach YELLOW an hour after the 3rd .Reconnaissance Troop and supported Salzmann’s unit from the western bank of the stream. The first waves of Force BRUSHWOOD
actually started toward the beaches from the line of departure at about 0445. The men, in herring-Bone twill fatigue uniforms and with U.S. flag arm bands, were heavily laden. They could see near shore the lights of the scout boats blinking energetically but could observe no sign of action on land. The run to shore took from fifteen to twenty minutes. A warning from Casablanca had been sent to Fedala as it had to Safi, but, if received, it had not told the French defender show or from whom to expect an attack, and some French troops remained in barracks. When the motors of the landing craft were first heard and reported, searchlights on Cap de Fedala and Cherqui shot skyward in quest of airplanes, and because vertical searchlight beams had been specified in General Eisenhower’s broadcast as a sign of nonresistance, they brought a brief but mistaken moment of hope. Almost at once the lights came down to play over the sea approaches and on the incoming boatloads of troops. Machine gun fire from support boats which were escorting the landing craft on the last stage of the run caused the lights to darken abruptly. The first men leaped ashore during this episode. Loss of craft during the first landings greatly added to the delay and confusion caused by the complicated boat employment plan.
The lift available for later trips from ship to shore was sharply reduced by such losses. Faulty navigation, attributable to either compass deviations, inexperienced crews, or other causes, brought boatloads of troops to shore sometimes miles from the designated points, an onto rocky obstructions or reefs rather than at sandy beaches. The consequences were serious even when the boats were able to retract from these landings, with such major ill effects as the scattering of troop units, the loss of control over the ensuing deployment, and the separation of weapons and equipment from units expecting to operate with them. But the boats too often could not retract and met destruction under circumstances which drowned some of their passengers and left the survivors cut and battered and deprived of weapons or radio sets needed in the assault.
First to land at about 0500 were elements of BLT 1-7 from the Leonard Wood. The thirty-one boats carrying the first four waves of the battalion toward Beach RED 2 ended up partly on that beach, partly on Beach RED 3, and partly on the rocky shore which lay between them. The surf swept many boats out of control, throwing them against rocks with such destructive force that they either capsized or were smashed. A total of twenty-one boats were lost. Heavily laden troops could not swim, and drowned. From the Thomas Jefferson, whose beach-marking scout boat was out of position, the landing craft bringing BLT 2-7 to Beach RED 3 went instead to Beach BLUE 2 at the mouth of the Nefifikh and two or three miles farther northeast along the coast to tiny beaches or rocky reefs. The landings began about one hour after those of the 1st BLT.
The commanding officer of BLT 2-30 (Colonel Bernard) and his headquarters were also carried over three miles east of the battalion, which landed as planned on Beach BLUE 2. The Jefferson lost 16 of her 33 landing craft, while 6 mare were damaged on their first trip to shore. Of 25 landing craft from the Carroll heading for BLUE Beach with units of BLT 1-30, 18 were wrecked on the first landing, 5 more on the second, and only 2 continued in service.
Despite these losses, searchlight illumination of the beach, and machine gun fire, all three rifle companies were ashore by 0600. The Dickman’s boat crews made the best record, losing only 2 out of 27 craft on Beach BLUE 2 in the initial landing of BLT 2-30, and getting the others back to the transport promptly for a second trip to shore. The landings began during ebb tide.
Boats which were not quickly unloaded became stranded. Following waves came in at intervals scheduled so close that not only could they not be warned away from obstacles, but they also prevented retracting operations by their predecessors. Lighters with vehicles aboard were sometimes held at the water’s edge because the motors would not start so that the vehicles had to be pulled ashore rather than being swiftly driven off under their own power. Most common of the situations delaying retraction was the failure of the troops in the inadequate Army shore parties to unload materiel. Unassisted boat crews were too slow. When naval beach party personnel helped, they were thus diverted from salvage operations or from marking hydrographic obstacles off the beaches. Landing craft which had not been withdrawn were hit and wrecked by the high surf on the later flood tide. For these and other reasons, the Center Naval Task Group suffered the loss of a very high proportion of its landing craft. The damaging effect of such heavy losses on the build-up of troops and supplies ashore was felt throughout the operation. This misfortune was one of the factors which made swift investment of Casablanca impossible.
Clearing Cap de Fedala
Less than forty-five minutes of darkness remained after the first landings before the coastal guns would have targets visible in the dim first light. Elements of Colonel Moore’s 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, assembled at the inland edge of Beach RED 2 without opposition and hastened toward Fedala. One company of the 6th Senegalese Infantry Regiment, the only infantry unit in the garrison, was quickly surprised and captured. Ten German Armistice Commissioners fled from their headquarters at the Miramar Hotel just before a platoon entered the building, but they were caught in automobiles before they got out of town. By 0600 Fedala itself was under American control.
The guns of Cap de Fedala opened fire on the ships offshore at about the same time as did the Batterie du Pont Blondin, that is, a few minutes after 0600. Naval counterbattery fire against these guns on the cape was hampered from the first by the proximity of petroleum tanks which the invaders wished to leave undamaged. Fire from one of the destroyers which quickly replied to French shelling did strike one of the tanks and set it afire. The flagship Augusta succeeded in silencing the Cap de Fedala batteries only temporarily by less than a quarter hour’s bombardment from her 8-inch guns.
At irregular intervals during the morning, one or more of the 100-mm. guns of the Batterie du Port resumed fire, especially against the beaches near the Cherqui headland across the bay, where the 30th RLG was landing. These actions drew counterbattery fire from some of the destroyers which caused the French to suspend firing for a while. Some American shells which passed only a short distance over the guns or storage tanks on the cape carried into the port or the town, where they struck the Hotel Miramar and also menaced friendly troops.
The first detachment of Force BRUSHWOOD headquarters landed at Beach RED 2 before 0800 under command of General Eagles. From a grove near that beach, this forward section established radio communications with General Anderson aboard the Leonard Wood. General Eagles sent staff observers to ascertain the progress of Moore’s and Bernard’s BLT’s at the cape and headland. When the remainder of the forward echelon landed with General Anderson and Beach BLUE at 0945, French artillery fire struck near them but inflicted no casualties.
Moore’s battalion turned in the meantime from occupying Fedala to carrying out two separate but related actions-an attack on the heavy antiaircraft batteries near the race track southwest of the town, and an attack along the cape to capture the 100-mm. guns of the Batterie du Port, a 75-mm. battery, a fire control station, and some emplaced antiaircraft machine guns. The heavy antiaircraft battery was scheduled for seizure by a surprise assault in darkness by the 3rd Reconnaissance Troop after a landing from rubber assault boats at Beach YELLOW. Wearing special black uniforms, this unit waited while a series of mishaps delayed its landing so long that the attempt either had to begin in daylight on a well-defended beach or had to be abandoned. The unit returned to the transport Tasker H. Bliss without attempting an operation so different from that for which it was prepared. The antiaircraft battery thus was able to pin down elements of Company C, 7th Infantry, by direct fire when they tried to approach Cap de Fedala from the town. Although a bazooka succeeded in temporarily silencing this battery, it was not actually surrendered to Moore’s force until about 1100.
American naval gunfire on the cape also deterred the attacking troops. Colonel Moore’s urgent requests to terminate the bombardment, relayed to the Leonard Wood as early as 0845, were repeated. But the simultaneous predicament of Colonel Rogers’ 30th RLG, which was under intermittent fire from the French guns on the cape, caused Rogers to urge that the naval gunfire be continued until those guns were completely neutralized. His recommendations were approved, so that Moore’s attack along the cape was retarded until about 1140. At that juncture, the unsuccessful attempt to neutralize the guns was superseded by an effort to seize them by means of a tank-infantry assault, supported by field artillery.
Company A, 7th Infantry, supported by four light tanks of Company A, 756th Tank Battalion, which were directed by Colonel Wilbur from an exposed position on one of the tanks, obtained the surrender of the fire control station and main 100-mm. battery with twenty-two prisoners at about noon.(For this exploit, and his earlier mission to Casablanca through the French lines, Colonel Wilbur was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.) The highly effective 75-mm. guns and machine guns in concrete emplacements on the tip of the cape held out until 1500. They surrendered after being subjected to mortar fire from Fedala and shells from two 75-mm. pack howitzers inland from Beach RED 2. Lifting of this fire brought to an end the bombardment which had begun with the naval gunfire in the morning.
The Capture of the Batterie du Pont Blondin
At the eastern end of the bay the Batterie du Pont Blondin was captured by elements of two BLT’s as a consequence of admirable initiative and a thorough grasp of the whole plan by company commanders and platoon leaders. The objective had been assigned to Colonel Bernard’s BLT 2-30, but the battalion commander was carried almost three miles from the beach (BLUE 2) where the main portion of his BLT had come ashore.
Nevertheless BL T 2-30’s heavy weapons company got its mortars into position ashore and, with elements of the rifle companies, prepared to assault the battery from the west. At the same time, quite independently, Colonel Salzmann, who had also been put ashore at the wrong point, attacked the objective from the east with one section of mortars and four rifle platoons. These units had landed on the reefs and small beaches northeast of Cherqui instead of on Beach RED 3 and could not well proceed on their own assigned mission. But while the troops were organizing the attack the Batterie du Pont Blondin, like the guns on Cap de Fedala, took advantage of the first streaks of daylight to begin firing on the beaches, the approaches, and the control vessels near the shore. By 0610 the four destroyers and the coastal guns were exchanging shells; Captain Emmett was about to signal “Play Ball”; and in preparation for that order, which came shortly thereafter, the ships were hastening to their fire support areas.
The cruiser Brooklyn came in with a rush from an outer patrolling position, sent up a spotting plane, and at 0622 fired her first salvo of 6-inch shells. The transports suspended debarkation and unloading and hurried farther out to sea. Three of the control destroyers, the Wilkes, Swanson, and Ludlow, continued into fire support areas while the Murphy, still only about 5,000 yards from the headland, drew heavy fire which first straddled and then struck her, forcing her to withdraw.
Like the Philadelphia’s bombardment of the Batterie de la Railleuse at Safi, the Brooklyn soon struck the fire control apparatus within the fortifications on Cherqui and rendered it useless. Another shell hit one of the gun emplacements, putting a gun out of action, igniting the powder bags, and causing many casualties. The ground troops, who had almost surrounded the battery, organized while waiting for the bombardment from the sea to lift and added 81-mm. mortar shells to the projectiles from the Brooklyn. At the first opportunity they pushed in from several sides. Captain M. E. Porter, commander of Company H, 30th Infantry, received the surrender at approximately 0730, with Colonel Salzmann acting as interpreter. Not long afterward Colonel Bernard, commanding BLT 2-30, reached the position, put a rifle company in charge, and sent the other elements to join the rest of the BL T in seizing the crossings over the Nefifikh river and in setting up defenses against counterattacks from the northeast.
The elements of Colonel Salzmann’s BLT 2-7 which had joined in taking the battery crossed the Pont Blondin to an assembly area near Beach RED 3. Here they were joined by the remainder of their BLT and moved along the coastal road to the western bank of the Mellah river, a march of about seven miles, which they completed during the latter part of the afternoon.
Other D-Day Landings at Fedala
While Moore’s BLT 1-7 was occupying Fedala and the cape, on the right (west) flank of the beachhead, and while Bernard’s BLT 2-30 and part of Salzmann’s BLT 2-7 were investing the Cherqui headland and seizing the Nefifikh bridges at the left (east), Siaden’s BLT 1-30 landed its three rifle companies in a series of small waves on Beach BLUE. The craft had run through intermittent searchlight illumination and machine gunning without casualties or serious damage but, as already noted, had sustained severe losses in the surf. The BLT organized just above the beach as daylight began and pressed southward toward the higher ground which it was to hold. A train for Rabat was intercepted about one mile west of the Nefifikh river bridge and searched. French Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel, about seventy-five in all, were removed and held as prisoners. The train was immobilized. Despite occasional artillery fire and strafing air attacks, Sladen’s battalion reached its objective without a fight, and by 1600, had consolidated positions for defense according to the tactical plan.
The four assault BL T’s had thus successfully accomplished their first missions, but the two L Companies scheduled to land on the western and eastern flanks were frustrated by delays that prevented them from landing before daylight. They went ashore during the morning on beaches not related to their original planned missions and marched to join their respective regiments. BLT 3-7 (Lieutenant Colonel Ashton H. Manhart) (less Company L) began landing at about 0930 on Beach RED 3, an operation which continued for a considerable period because of the shortage in serviceable landing craft. It then went into an assembly area southeast of Fedala near the 7th RLG command post.
BL T 3-30 (Major Charles E. Johnson) (including Company L) started arriving at Beach BLUE 2 (as well as on the rocks and reefs to the northeast of Cherqui) about 0900. It suffered some casualties from artillery fire and from strafing airplanes as it moved inland to an area west of the Nefifikh during the remainder of the morning. The rifle companies of BLT 1-15 (Major Arthur W. Gardner), served by only a small number of boats, began to land at 1430, and were scattered on several beaches. They were sent to hold the bridge over the Mellah on the main Rabat-Casablanca highway, while the remainder of the RLG was ordered to get ashore as rapidly as possible.
Just prior to darkness Major Gardner’s BLT arrived east of the bridge, made contact with the 7th RLG on its right, sent outposts to organize a defensive bridgehead on the western bank, and prepared its night position. Company D and its heavy weapons arrived in the assembly area after dark. The BLT had reached its D-Day objective without encountering French forces.
General Patton first prepared to leave the Augusta for the Fedala beachhead at 0800 on D Day with part of his staff. Their effects were loaded in a landing craft, swinging from davits. Before it could be lowered, the cruiser became engaged in firing missions and maneuvers which precluded his departure. For over three hours, he was an involuntary observer of the ship’s skillful participation in a sea battle to tum back French warships emerging from the port of Casablanca. For a few minutes the ship also engaged in antiaircraft activity in an effort to defend the transports off Fedala against attack by French bombers. The first muzzle blast of the Augusta’s rear turret blew the waiting landing craft to pieces, but the general could take satisfaction in the fact that only a minute or two earlier, his distinctive brace of pistols with the white stocks had been taken out and brought to him. He reached Fedala, therefore, at 1320 when the firing on Cap de Fedala was still in progress, although light resistance elsewhere in the beachhead had ended.
[NOTE: Patton Diary, 8 Nov. 42. The Augusta’s action illustrated how its overlapping missions interfered with the most efficient control of operations ashore and offshore. A separate command ship was available for the next great amphibious assault in the Mediterranean, the attack on Sicily.]
SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West; by George F. Howe (United States Army Center of Military History)