Late on the afternoon of 10 November General Nogues was indirectly apprised at Fes that Admiral Darlan had issued orders in the name of Marshal Petain to stop the useless fighting. While awaiting confirmation, he telephoned to General Lascrowe: and advised him of this turn of events. At 1810, the latter accordingly radioed orders to Marrakech and Casablanca to refrain from active hostilities pending the negotiation of an armistice. About an hour later the exact text of Admiral Darlan’s orders was telephoned from Oujda to General Nogues, and transmitted by him to Generals Lascrowe: and Lahoulle and to Admiral Michelier. They were instructed to arrange for a meeting of General Nogues with the American commander next day.
At about 0200 on 11 November, a French car, heralded by the blowing of a bugle, its lights on, and white flags flying, appeared at an outpost of Company G, 30th Infantry, northeast of Fedala, carrying two French officers and two enlisted men from Rabat. This group was conducted to the regimental command post and thence to task force headquarters at the Hotel Miramar in Fedala, bearing orders from General Lascroux to General Desre, that the Casablanca Division cease firing. Colonel Gay, as General Patton desired, authorized the four Frenchmen to continue through American lines to Casablanca, but warned them that they must return quickly with an agreement to negotiate an armistice if the city were to escape the drastic consequences of the coordinated attack scheduled for daybreak.
Otherwise, the attack would not be postponed. Admiral Hewitt was at once informed that an agreement to suspend all hostilities was imminent and would be made known to him as soon as possible. The French reply, an agreement to terminate hostilities at once and to arrange terms at an afternoon conference in Fedala, was received at Headquarters, Western Task Force, only a few minutes before the attack was scheduled to begin. The ships were taking up firing positions, planes assembling, and field artillery batteries alerted for the preparation fire when the cease-fire orders were flashed. The orders, however, did not reach every American unit in time, and for a few minutes gunfire opened from tanks and from the 39th Field Artillery Battalion south of Casablanca, only to be suppressed by the commander when the failure of the air bombardment to take place indicated a change in plans.
The defenders of Casablanca, represented by Admiral Ronarch and General Desre, surrendered to General Anderson shortly before noon at the headquarters of the Casablanca Division. American troops were to occupy the key positions in the area while the French troops remained in barracks but retained their arms. General Anderson himself shifted his Headquarters, Sub-Task Force BRUSHWOOD, from the Villa Coigny in Fedala to the Villa Mas in one of Casablanca’s suburbs. At Safi, parallel action took place early next day.
At General Patton’s urgent request, conveyed by an advance party which included General Eagles and Colonel Harry McK. Roper, Admiral Michelier went from Casablanca to Fedala to participate in armistice negotiations at General Patton’s headquarters in the Hotel Miramar. The presence of Miche1ier, the naval commander in chief, led Admiral Hewitt to come ashore to join the conference. With the arrival of General Nogues from Rabat, about 1400, it was soon possible to begin formal negotiations. At this session, the French leaders would discover to what extent the military opposition of the past three days had forfeited the sort of partnership offered them at the beginning.
Their resistance had cost the U.S. Army and Navy 337 killed, 637 wounded, 122 missing, and 71 captured. French losses had been much heavier. The scene which ensued remained indelibly impressed on the memories of those present. It was World War I Armistice Day. A guard of honor had been established.
With great dignity General Patton received the French commanders, complimented them on the effectiveness of their forces, and had read to them the draft armistice terms which had been approved before the operation by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Of the two prepared sets of terms, one was clearly irrelevant, for it presupposed only a token French resistance. The other was also inappropriate, for it envisaged prolonged fighting resulting in the destruction of French military power. No draft terms took adequate cognizance of the Allied dependence on continued French capacity to control the Sultan’s native subjects, or of the French legal position as the Sultan’s protector. The harsh arrangements which otherwise might have been imposed were therefore dismissed as inapplicable. Instead, an informal understanding was adopted, a gentleman’s agreement that the Americans should occupy areas required for security and for future operations, that prisoners should be exchanged, that the French should be confined to barracks but not disarmed, and that without General Eisenhower’s approval no punishment should be inflicted on anyone for having assisted the Americans. Lasting terms were left for determination in Algiers, where negotiations were in progress, as will be narrated later.
When this generous arrangement had been concluded, the anxieties of the French were revived by General Patton’s insistence that one more requirement must be met, and were then suddenly relieved by his explanation of its nature. For he proposed a toast to the liberation of France by the joint defeat of the common enemy.
At Gibraltar, meanwhile, the fragmentary character of the reports from the Western Task Force which filtered through the overburdened communications system to the Commander in Chief, Allied Force, had become increasingly disturbing with the passage of each day. On 10 November, General Eisenhower informed General Patton in a personal communication that Algiers had been won for two days, Oran’s defenses were rapidly crumbling, and the only “tough nut” was in Patton’s hands. “Crack it open quickly and ask for what you want,” the message said. Next day a British plane, sent to gain information, was shot down. On 12 November, Rear Admiral Bernhard H. Bieri and a small Army staff went to Casablanca by fast mine sweeper ( H.M.S. Welshman) to check with Admiral Hewitt and General Patton, and to transmit instructions. By that time, the military situation in Morocco was no longer in doubt.
Enemy Submarines Attack
Hostilities between the French and the Americans in the Casablanca area ceased only two days before the expected arrival of a second convoy of four personnel and twenty cargo transports and escorting warships. When the fighting stopped, the transports off Fedala were pushing cargo into that small port at a rate which would require at least a week for completion. This slow rate of unloading heightened the risk of using the offshore anchorage in the Fedala roadstead. Neither the destroyer screen nor the new mine field furnished complete security against expected Axis submarines.
[NOTE: On 8 November 1942 fifteen German submarines were ordered to stations from Safi to Fedala, and two days later, Group Schlaglol, consisting of eight submarines, was in action off Casablanca. The enemy’s undersea line was extended to the Strait of Gibraltar and reinforced by 12-13 November.]
The situation subjected Admiral Hewitt to an exceedingly difficult decision. If the transports were moved to Casablanca, they could finish unloading in reasonable security and the materiel would be concentrated there instead of being set ashore in two places. But the harbor would first have to be cleared of idle ships. This task would delay unloading and force the second convoy to cruise off the coast instead of coming directly into port, holding the troops at sea that much longer. To leave the transports at anchor off Fedala would be to rely heavily on the tide of good fortune which had supported American naval activities thus far, but it would expedite the entire operation.
Admiral Hewitt decided to keep the vessels off Fedala. All Army personnel except 180 casualties in sick bays were sent ashore on 11 November. The fifteen ships, including some which had just begun to discharge cargo, the Joseph Hewes, the Edward Rutledge, the Hugh L. Scott, and the Tasker H. Bliss continued unloading under such protection as a diligent screening group could furnish.
Axis submarines came indeed. U-173 struck the Hewes and the tanker Winooski with torpedoes from the west, early in the evening of 11 November, and before leaving hit the destroyer Hambleton. During the next morning several submarines of Group Schlaglol attacked the Ranger well out at sea and forced her to engage in violent evasive movement to escape torpedoes which swept close by her. On the afternoon of 12 November the U-130 approached from the northwest in 100 feet of water, slipped between the transports at Fedala and the shore, avoided the mine field, and, taking careful aim during a calm sunset, sent six torpedoes in quick succession into the Scott, the Rutledge, and the Bliss, fires raced through the vessels, each of which sank during the night. Hundreds of surviving sailors were taken into Fedala and two days later brought to Casablanca by train. The other ships of the Center Attack Group formed into column and steamed out to more open waters. Five of the transports went next day into Casablanca where they completed unloading before 15 November and took aboard the survivors from the sunken ships.
Except for treatment at a shore party dressing station, over 100 casualties had to wait until they were on transports for thorough medical attention. Seven more ships of the Fedala group with five from Mehdia docked at Casablanca on 15 November and began discharging cargo around the clock. The ships had to be ready to start back to the United States on 17 November.
The second convoy hovered off the Moroccan coast. On 17 November, the bulk of the Western Naval Task Force left the harbor, assembled behind a newly laid protective mine field, and departed; on 18 November, this convoy was able to come in. Mountainous piles of half-sorted supplies and ammunition on Casablanca’s docks were being eroded steadily by the strenuous efforts of Army units and native labor gangs. Operations of the U.S. Army in this part of Northwest Africa were already entering the next phase.
[NOTE 12-T: (1) Supplies lost on the torpedoed ships were: Hewes, 93 percent; Rutledge, 97 percent; Scott, 67 percent; Bliss, 64 percent. A considerable loss of vehicles on the Rutledge and Bliss also occurred. CTG 34.9 Action Rpt, Incl D. (2) Extract from War Diary of U-130, 11 Jun 41-13 Mar 43,12 Nov 42, Incl D to COMNAVEU Rpt (I.D. No. 251776). • The transports were the Leonard Wood, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Carroll, Thurston, and Elizabeth C. Stanton.]
The Americans intended that the general character of the new relationship between them and the French in Morocco should follow the formula of “forgive and forget.” The American flag would henceforth fly but the French flag would not be lowered. American forces would occupy key positions, but the French otherwise would not be dispossessed. Military facilities previously defended would now be at the disposal of the Americans. All flights from Moroccan airfields would be under American control. For the victorious visitors, this formula was easier to follow than it was for the French, whose memories of the recent events rankled.
At the higher levels of command, the changes seemed to be made with no great difficulty. Admiral Michelier soon held a position of confidence and esteem among the American commanders. General Nogues qualified as an invaluable agent. But to the officer corps of the three armed services, particularly the higher grades of the Navy, as well as to pro-Axis civilian sympathizers, the situation was galling.
Circumstances surrounding the imprisonment of General Bethouart illustrated the prevailing attitudes. General Bethouart and his associates accepted the leadership of General Giraud in bringing about an active partnership between the French forces in North Africa and the Allies four days before General Nogues, Admiral Michelier, and their immediate subordinates adopted the same course under the leadership of Admiral Darlan. Darlan professed to have the authorization of Marshal Petain, but he also accepted General Giraud as his principal military commander in North Africa.
Bethouart should have occupied a like position of trust and honor in Morocco. Indeed, had all these men been politicians, Bethouart and his associates could have made incontestable claims to major rewards for being the first to act. But they were military men in an Army zealous to maintain its integrity, and Bethouart’s group had clearly broken the bonds of military discipline, even though acting under the highest sense of patriotic duty.
They had been “dissident.” In French military hands they were actually in danger of paying with their lives for anticipating the orders which their superiors were to issue four days later, after Darlan had taken the responsibility on his shoulders. General Nogues, who had believed Admiral Michelier rather than General Bethouart on the night of 7-8 November, initiated measures to bring Bethouart to trial, but General Patton insisted that “no action whatsoever would be taken against him except upon final approval by General Eisenhower.” As soon as Bethouart’s plight was made known through American channels to General Giraud and thence to General Eisenhower, the Allied commander in chief interceded on 15 November to request the immediate release not only of General Bethouart but of “any others now in prison for the same kind of reason.” On 17 November, Bethouart and Colonel Pierre Magnan, commander of the troops which had shielded him at Rabat on the night of the unsuccessful coup, were released and taken to Algiers by American airplane.
General Patton sought to prevent or to mitigate the punishment of all who were held in French custody for pro-Allied conduct before the surrender, and eventually to procure their release. Screening those who merited release as purely political prisoners from others was a process bound to take time, since it would be necessary to depend upon the counsel of reliable men who knew French Moroccan politics. With the invasion, an entirely new group of Americans was substituted for those who had previously served the interests of the United States in Morocco. Although Mr. Frederic P. Culbert was selected from the Office of Strategic Services representatives among the consular staff to be General Patton’s deputy adviser on civil affairs with broad authority, the staff as a whole was not used effectively to protect the pre-invasion friends of the Allies.
The Americans discouraged all attempts at reprisal during the period of released restraint following the French capitulation. Wherever it could be done with effect they publicly demonstrated support of exactly the same police and military agencies which had previously been in control. For an undue length of time pro-American French remained in custody, while those hostile to the Allies before the landings, followers of Pierre Laval, remained in positions of trust and power. The Frenchmen of authoritarian sympathies, some of them members of fascistic societies like the Service d’Ordre Legionnaire des Anciens Combattants and the Parti Populaire Française and others in less formal associations, seemed prepared even to assist an Axis counter-invasion. They propagandized against the Allies. Frenchmen of pro-Allied views, whether Giraudist or Gaullist, were the object of their surveillance and open hostility. Specific denunciations of these anti-American individuals to American civilian officials were of little or no avail, for their hands were tied by military control. The position which General Patton took was that “the anti-Darlan-Nogues group does not have the personnel nor is it in a position to control Morocco if given that mission.” General Patton’s conclusion may be subject to challenge but not to disproof, for the surviving evidence is partisan and inconclusive.
A sweeping shift of administration in French Morocco would have required the retirement of General Nogues from the residency. He had won the hostility of the anti-Vichy French before the American landings in Morocco. He could not expect it to diminish as a result of his conduct during the landings and the negotiations in Algiers which followed. His ambiguous behavior then excited distrust, and he was made to bear the major blame for the fighting and for the resulting losses. His initial choice was founded upon an erroneous military estimate by Admiral Michelier, and upon his wish to maintain the integrity of the French Army. His conduct of the operations was in obedience to General Juin’s standing orders and was intended to avert or delay German military intervention. He tried to avoid the evil consequences to France of an obvious and voluntary defection of French Morocco to the Allies in violation of France’s obligations to the Axis powers under the armistice, but he had no opportunity to arrange with the Americans any pseudo defense involving little damage to either side which might. mislead the enemy.
He was suspected of maintaining ties with Vichy and perhaps thus with the Germans even after 15 November. In general, he was the victim of the lack of forthrightness which characterized his political, as distinguished from his military, role. Successful control of French Morocco through the intricate structure of French supervision and native rule required qualifications not readily found anywhere and certainly not in the Western Task Force. For lack of a substitute, General Nogues was more necessary to the Americans than those who protested against his retention. General Patton became in effect a defender of General Nogues as an indispensable agent who could keep the native population in hand while the French in Morocco were in general kept friendly or neutral.
Early in December General Giraud visited French Morocco, where General Keyes was in command during General Patton’s absence on a trip to AFHQ in Algiers and to Tunisia. The military leader in the effort of French North Africa to gain liberation for the mother country was enthusiastically received by the populace. He made it possible for French enlisted men who had deserted to the Americans during the November fighting in Morocco to return to their units without punishment. Pro-American officers were, he promised, not to be neglected.
The Western Task Force After the Surrender
The situation facing the Western Task Force following the capitulation of the French was difficult. Any appearance of overwhelming superiority was superficial. The French might no longer challenge American strength, but, as indicated above, it remained to be seen how genuine their co-operation would be. Between the French and the natives, the imperialist relations of the protectorate rested upon the French military and the French police. Allied propaganda had encouraged among the Moslem and native Jewish population the hope of liberation from the French. Between Moslems and Jews endless animosities threatened to boil over unless firmly suppressed. In the native situation, therefore, was the basis for a dangerous diversion from complete concentration on the major military objectives of the Allies.
The French and the Spanish Governments shared the role of protectors over the realm of the Sultan of Morocco. The boundary between the two areas under their respective controls was one which the Spanish desired to see much farther south. Should the Spanish forces stationed north of the boundary succumb to the temptation to strike while the French were weakened, American forces would almost certainly become embroiled. If the Axis used Spanish bases for air or ground attacks upon the supply lines across northern Morocco, the Western Task Force would be required to join in countermeasures. Thus the force commanded by General Patton, barely sufficient for the amphibious assault, incompletely established on shore, dependent on subsequent increments of men and materiel to renew the power of attack, and intruded among a population of great political complexity at a distance of 4,000 miles from the United States and over 400 miles from Oran, felt obliged to move with circumspection, to co-operate rather than to command.
Western Task Force headquarters was established temporarily in Casablanca. To check on the situation at interior points various inspection trips were made. From the 47th Infantry regimental headquarters in Safi, officer patrols visited Mazagan, Mogador, and Marrakech, while from General Truscott’s headquarters in Port-Lyautey, another party made a trip through the Taza gap to Msoun, about 20 miles southeast of Taza, stopping at Petitjean, Meknes, and Fes, and returning through Rabat-Sale.
From Casablanca a patrol to Kasba Tadla confirmed the reports made from all such visits to the military and civilian leaders, that the French were well-disposed and ready to co-operate. Systematic air reconnaissance extended from 20 miles offshore to more than 100 miles inland, between Agadir and Guercif. Within this area, ground reconnaissance also covered the territory inland to the base of the Atlas Mountains, with a farther extension northeast of Fes.
Areas of special responsibility along the coast were assigned. The 47th Infantry Regiment remained in Safi to the end of November, and a detachment remained there even later. Casablanca and Fedala were linked under the protection of the 3rd Division, reinforced, less the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry. That unit, with the 2nd Armored Division, was stationed in the vicinity of Rabat-Sale. The Mehdia-Port-Lyautey area was occupied by the 1st Provisional Brigade ( Cavalry) , General Truscott’s command.
During the reorganization and redeployment of the Western Task Force, and other preparations for the future, the gigantic task of clearing the ports, establishing supply points, and unloading the succession of troops and cargo convoys was fulfilled. Native labor and civilian transport were utilized, the former thus being able to purchase the cotton cloth, tea, and rice which were otherwise unobtainable. Battle damage to Casablanca Harbor was repaired as rapidly as possible. The sunken ships and drydock, the shell-pocked and burned wharves, and the damaged cranes and railway sidings were put in order. Defense of the harbor there, as well as the ports at Safi and Fedala, was organized around 105-mm. howitzers, antiaircraft batteries, and smoke generators. Airfields were reconditioned and improved, and protected by additional antiaircraft batteries and other ground units. The railroad and highway routes to the east were surveyed. French guards protected the bridges and tunnels. To solve the problem of stepping up the capacity of the railroad, it was necessary to increase the rolling stock and to import coal for use by locomotives east of Fes on the portion not electrified.
[NOTE: Company C, 263rd Quartermaster Battalion, worked to clear and operate the port of Safi until sent to Oran, en route to Tunisia, on 12 February 1943.]
Military collaboration with the French proceeded steadily. French antiaircraft batteries were not only used to guard the Spanish Moroccan frontier and the routes to the east, but were also interspersed among American guns for the defense of Casablanca. French Army units were permitted to engage in training exercises and were taught the use of American weapons and eventually of American signal equipment.
Operation of the coastal defense batteries taken from the French Navy-controlled units was returned to Admiral Michelier’s men. The French gave ample warning of an expected tide of great height on 13 December, so that when· it came, tugs were able to recover American ships which had broken from their moorings. French army units began to move eastward into Algeria for service along the line of communications and eventually for use in Tunisia.
During the first month following the French surrender, the primary concern of the Western Task Force shifted from insuring the ability to hold the area and to deter aggressive Spanish action to preparing for prospective battles elsewhere against Axis forces. American air units, after a training period, either moved eastward as a group or else contributed planes to other units already in combat. Ground units were consolidated, as far as possible. A striking instance was the 229-mile march of the 47th Infantry Regiment from Safi to Port-Lyautey which began on 1 December. With elements brought over since the assault, the 9th Division would eventually assemble near Port-Lyautey all its units except the 39th Infantry, which had been part of the Eastern Assault Force, and which was to stay in eastern Algeria. Armored units of the 2nd Armored Division were concentrated east of Sale. The 3rd Division’s units were stationed near Fedala and Rabat, except for the 30th Infantry Regiment, which went to Guercif and Oujda to protect an airdrome and part of the line of communications of the Allied drive in Tunisia were reflected in the transfer by air to Bone and Blida of several antiaircraft batteries, and the prospective movement of others. Several French units, including the 7th Moroccan Tirailleurs Regiment, had already started for Tunisia. For those remaining in Morocco, the program was one of preparation by systematic training and field exercises.
SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West; by George F. Howe (United States Army Center of Military History)