Algiers was the most important objective of Operation TORCH. The Allied Force was directed, it will be remembered, to establish lodgments elsewhere in French North Africa as a step preliminary to seizing the easternmost protectorate, Tunisia. Algiers was the area most closely related to the Tunisian phase of the operation. The port, the railroad terminal, the working space for a supply base, and the two airfields made the city a prize, while the facilities for housing and offices made it the likeliest place for Allied Force Headquarters when that agency could be moved from London. Allied control of the rear area during fighting in Tunisia or any subsequent operation in the Mediterranean theater would center readily in Algiers. It was the capital of Algeria and the seat of government for all French North Africa. The French system of civil and military administration focused there. The presence of the principal figures in the government of French North Africa would make the city the probable scene of the extraordinarily difficult French choice between neutrality and resumption of hostilities against the Axis countries.
Measures for winning Algiers without bloodshed or creating rankling resentments were well advanced and, if successful, would find the French armed forces rallying to the leadership of General Giraud and returning to war for the liberation of France, with or without the open approbation of the government at Vichy.
Military operations at Algiers were actually to lead to an armistice earlier than at Oran or Casablanca, but were to be followed by two days of negotiations during which the intentions of Marshal Petain in Vichy remained uncertain. Operation TORCH at this juncture became more political than military, if the two spheres can be differentiated when political negotiations are being carried on by military men with military purposes in view. The first concern here is with the amphibious operations of 8 November, and after that with the politics. For the sake of clarity, the geographical sequence from west to east will be followed in relating the history of the landings and initial penetration of the area near Algiers.
The Plan of Attack
The Eastern Assault Force plan for capturing Algiers did not rely on possible assistance by friendly French elements ashore but was based on an analysis of the terrain and the defenses. Of the ground troops at Algiers 7,000 were believed to be in the immediate vicinity of the city, 4,500 to be west of it in the area of Cherchel-Kolea-Blida Miliana, and 3,500 east of it near Dellys-Tizi Ouzou Fort National and Aumale.
Far to the west near OrIeansville and well to the east at Setif were the next potential supporting ground units. The Algiers garrison included an armored unit of old-style tanks and armored cars. From the Maison Blanche and Blida airdromes, fifty-two fighters and thirty-nine bombers could contribute to the defense. At the coast were twelve or thirteen fortified and protected batteries with infrared thermal detectors and range-finder stations, predecessors of radar apparatus for such purposes. The three principal batteries included one in the old fort at Cap Sidi Ferruch, one near Pointe Pescade at Fort Duperre, and the Batterie du Lazaret on Cap Matifou near Fort d’Estrees, but others commanded the port and bay of Algiers and all sea approaches for miles on both sides of the city.
The first mission for each major element of the landing force was therefore to gain possession of the coastal batteries near the beach at which it came ashore. The guns of Batterie du Lazaret, of Fort Duperre, and on the Jetee du Nord in the port, with their direction finders, searchlight installations, and other equipment, were to be captured intact and held for transfer to Allied coast artillery units. Other guns were either to be immobilized by removal of essential parts or to be demolished.
Three zones of attack were selected for the landings and designated in conformity with British usage as Apples, Beer, and Charlie Sectors (instead of Able, Baker, and Cast zones). Apples Sector lay west of Algiers between Castiglione and a point about five miles southwest of Cap Sidi Ferruch. Beer Sector extended from Cap Sidi Ferruch to St. Eugene, a small village near the northwestern corner of Algiers bay. Charlie Sector was on the eastern side of Cap Matifou off Ain Taya and Surcouf. In picking these areas, the Eastern Assault Force had had to forego use of the best landing beach near Algiers, that on the eastern shore of Algiers bay, because it lay within range of coastal guns which might escape neutralization until after the initial landing phase.
Two pairs of landing beaches were designated on either side of Cap Sidi Ferruch, Apples GREEN and WRITE along the seven miles nearest Castiglione, and Beer GREEN and WHITE just east of Cap Sidi Ferruch. On the rugged shore three miles east of the projection of Rass Acrata to a point within the bay of Algiers almost a mile southeast of Pointe Pescade, four sections of Beer RED beach were designated in coves and small bays. Landing beaches called Charlie GREEN, BLUE, RED 1, and RED 2 were selected in the sector between Jean-Bart and the mouth of the Rerhaia river.
The Apples Sector on the west faced an inshore area with a narrow undulating coastal shelf rising to a set of parallel wooded ridges about three miles from the sea. Beyond these ridges lay the most intensively cultivated plain in Algeria, and on its far side the foothills of the Atlas Tellian.
The village of Castiglione on the southwest of Apples GREEN Beach numbered fewer than 4,000 population, about one half of them Europeans. On the ridge south of Apples WHITE was KoIea, a larger community with a substantial garrison. The ridges extended eastward as far as a river valley running northward to enter the ocean at the eastern end of Apples WHITE. Beyond that stream, the complex hill mass which protected Algiers on the west widened out.
The Beer Sector fronted this higher hill mass. Beach Beer GREEN, on the west extended along the bay from the eastern side of Cap Sidi Ferruch headland. Beer WHITE was near the center of the shore between Cap Sidi Ferruch and Rass Acrata point.
Beer RED had four distinct sections separated by points and bluffs, at Cap Caxine, Pointe Pescade, and near St. Eugene. Two major overland routes from the Beer Sector to Algiers crossed from west to east. The first was a coastal road through small beach communities and along the cliffs, a distance from Cap Sidi Ferruch to Algiers of some sixteen miles. The second and shorter route ran through an abandoned Trappist agricultural community to the town of Cheragas, on a ridge about 600 feet above sea level, and thence through the fashionable suburb of Lambiridi (formerly known as El Biar) to the steep downward slope of the city’s western edge. Two secondary roads, one leading from Beer WHITE to Bouzarea and the other from Beer GREEN, via OuIed Fayet, flanked the short route. These routes were accessible over fairly easy slopes partly covered with vineyards, but Beer RED’S four sections offered only small footholds at the base of high steep slopes and were chosen because they were near coastal batteries on the heights above them.
The hinterland of the Charlie Sector differed sharply from that west of Algiers. Beach Charlie GREEN, near the tiny fishing hamlet of Jean-Bart; BLUE, squarely in front of Ain Taya village; and RED 1 and 2, near the beach resort of Surcouf on the eastern flank, were all smooth and of a fairly easy grade; but Beaches BLUE and GREEN led to a low escarpment with limited exits. Once that barrier had been surmounted and a ridge had been crossed, the northeastern portion of the Plaine de la Mitidja stretched beyond the horizon toward the southwest and offered easy access to Algiers from the east and south.
The Eastern Naval Task Force, besides assigning escorts to three groups of troop and cargo transports, was prepared to furnish antiaircraft protection from a ship especially equipped for such a mission at each landing sector, to supply air support from the aircraft carrier Argus and the auxiliary carrier Avenger, and to provide naval gunfire support on call. A forward observation officer was expected to move inland with each landing team, keeping in touch by radio with a fire support ship assigned to his sector.
If heavier fire than that available from a destroyer was needed, it could be requested through combined support control (on the headquarters ship Bulala) from one of four cruisers, Shefield, Bermuda, Scylla, and Charybdis. Of the seven forward observation officers one was with the force at Apples Sector, four were with those landing at Beer Sector, and two with the troops at Charlie Sector. In the Case of calls for gunfire from the cruisers, a safety margin of 2,000 yards between the target and the nearest Allied troops was deemed necessary.
Naval aircraft were prepared to assist the fire support ships in bombarding the coastal batteries with the aid of flares, if necessary before daylight, and after daylight with dive-bombing, spotting, or smoke-laying, as requested. An interval of at least thirty minutes after a request was made was to be expected before bombers could reach a given target. Naval aircraft would furnish tactical reconnaissance and fighter patrols until Maison Blanche airdrome had been captured and occupied by Royal Air Force fighter squadrons of the Eastern Air Command. The land-based planes would thereafter take over air defense of the airfield, the port, and the convoys as well as reconnaissance and close support missions.
Arrival at the Beaches
The Bulolo and the fifteen assault transports of the Eastern Naval Task Force continued on an easterly course along the thirty-seventh parallel throughout daylight on 7 November, but at 1800, as darkness was falling, turned toward Algiers and soon divided into three columns. The transports for the eastern landings, with escorts, headed for a rendezvous with a beacon submarine northeast of Cap Matifou; the other two groups formed a double column and continued together to a point northwest of Cap Sidi Ferruch. There they separated at about 2130 hours, one section seeking rendezvous with its beacon submarine north of Cap Sidi Ferruch and the other, north of Castiglione. Admiral Burrough and General Ryder, the two commanders, were on the headquarters ship Bulolo with the center group nearest Cap Sidi Ferruch.
The slower cargo section of the Algiers convoy, after passing through the Strait of Gibraltar on 6 November with the troop transports, took a shorter route to the attack zone, a course running closer to the African shore. This slower section was almost due north of Cherchel and well to the southwest of the swifter troop transports when at dusk the latter had turned southward toward Algiers. The cargo ships then grouped themselves into three sections, each of which was destined for one sector, and took easterly courses that brought them to their destinations just as the landings were beginning!
The Eastern force at Apples Sector consisted of three troopships (Karanja, Viceroy of India, and Marnix van Suit Aldegonde), five cargo ships (Manchester, Lalande, Ocean Wanderer, Ocean Viceroy, and Dewdale) , and the antiaircraft vessel Pozarica. The sloops Enchantress and Stork and the corvettes Convolvulus and Marigold were assigned as escorts. The destroyer Bramham was available for gunfire support. Aboard the assault transports were units of the British 11th Infantry Brigade Group, a force totaling 7,230 officers and enlisted men.
The 11th Infantry Brigade Group’s initial missions were to seize control of two key bridges on the coastal road east of Apples WHITE and to establish southern flank protection for the Beer Sector along roads from Castiglione through Kolea to Bir Touta. North of this road rose the green-clad heights at the edge of the broad Mitid ja plain. From the vicinity of Bir Touta and the quiet elevations of Dovera, a health resort, the force was to be ready to move into Algiers, if needed, or southwest about fifteen miles to Blida to support an attack on the airdrome there.
The larger proportion of enemy troops and coastal guns lay in Beer Sector, to which an Allied force of 10,421 officers and enlisted men was brought on five troopships (Keren, Winchester Castle, Otranto, Sobieski, and Awatea) and ten cargo vessels. The Palomares was to furnish antiaircraft protection. The monitor Roberts and the destroyers Blyskavica and Wilton were designated for fire support. Troops of the reinforced 168th Infantry (34th Division Combat Team) were expected to move from Beer GREEN to seize Fort de Sidi Ferruch and capture its guns and infrared installations, from Beer WHITE to gain control of a warning device on the projection of Rass Acrata, and from the separate sections of Beer RED to capture similar installations on Cap Caxine and Point 270, and to occupy the battery at Fort Duperre. While some elements were engaged in these missions at the coast, others were to press inland through Cheragas to the heights of La Bouzarea, almost 1,500 feet above sea level, and thence down into Algiers. Many key points in the city and the port were designated for swift seizure.
Group Charlie, the 39th Combat Team (9th Division) reinforced, was embarked on the assault ships Samuel Chase, Leedstown, Almaack, Dempo and Exceller, the first three of which were combat loaders and the other two carried a high proportion of vehicles, and the slow ships Macharda and Maron. The antiaircraft ship Tynwald and the fire support destroyers Cowdray and Zetland were the principal escort vessels. The mission of the 39th Combat Team was to capture the airfield at Maison Blanche, the towns of Maison Carree and HusseIn Dey, and close Algiers from the southeast.
A reserve group off Apples and Beer Sectors, the 36th Infantry Brigade Group of over 7,100 men, remained afloat in eight troop and cargo transports subject to call. In the Eastern Assault Force total of 33,376 men were elements of the Royal Navy, most of whom served as landing craft crews and unloading parties, although some performed duties on the beaches. Also included were large numbers of troops to organize and defend the beaches, to move supplies inland if the action should continue for several days, and to serve as Royal Air Force ground troops. It was only natural to hope that operations could be transferred to the port of Algiers in time to make it possible to unload many units and much materiel on docks.
The Western Landings
The landings of 11th Infantry Brigade Group (Br.) on the Apples Sector near Castiglione went smoothly. The lights of that town shown brightly, the night was clear, the swell was moderate, and disembarkation proceeded with few difficulties. From the Karanja, the Viceroy of India, and the Dutch transport Marnix van Suit Aldegonde, assault troops of the 1st Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, 5th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment, and 2nd Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers took their places in landing craft, which then formed up for movement to the beaches. A moderate breeze from the northeast and a westerly current, both of which carried the landing craft several miles from ,scheduled positions during the assembly, failed to hinder the operation. The piloting parties from the beacon submarine were taken aboard motor launches. The submarine then went to a point two miles offshore and released a marker team in a collapsible boat, which in turn took station only 400 yards off Apples GREEN and commenced flashing a navigation signal to the incoming waves of landing craft.
At 2350, they started toward shore. At 0100, they began arriving at what were found to be rough and dangerous beaches, but by careful handling disembarked all boatloads without mishap. No resistance was offered, and the force readily continued on its inland missions. Before daylight, the troops secured the bridges and took Castiglione, Kolea, and Zeralda, where they seized a radio station. Headquarters of the 11th Infantry Brigade landed at 0230 on Apples WHITE. Units of the French Army, encountered at Kolea barracks, declared that they had been instructed not to resist.
The 168th Combat Team (Colonel John W. O’Daniel) of 4,355 Americans and 1,065 British, to which part of the 1st Commando and all of the 6th Commando (British and American) were attached, began landings west of Algiers at 0100 under control of Captain R. J. Shaw (RN), senior naval officer landings, on the Keren. Some 900 officers and enlisted men of the Commando units left the Otranta and the Awatea for various points along the coast from Cap Sidi Ferruch to the northwest corner of the bay of Algiers. Landing on Beer GREEN, five troops of the 1st Commando were expected immediately to capture Fort de Sidi Ferruch and secure the defense installations there. Using the “scramble” beaches of Beer RED, beaches which were to be swiftly crossed and not organized for protracted use and defense, the 6th Commando (ten troops) had orders initially to seize Fort Anglais, Fort Independence, the infrared stations at Rass Acrata and Cap Caxine, and then to take Fort Duperre and an observation station at Point 270. They were thus to silence the coastal batteries which menaced the waiting ships offshore. At the same time, the first infantry units were to land, assemble, reorganize, and prepare to advance inland.
The men of the 1st Commando, heading for Fort de Sidi Ferruch, landed near their objective and hastened before 0300 to take possession from the non-resisting garrison. Colonel Baril, who had come from KoJea for the purpose, formally surrendered the fort to Lt. Colonel T. H. Trevor (Br.), commander. From the ships, watchers at the rail saw the signal that the fort and coastal batteries had been taken; the mounting tension was relieved. Thus far, plans seemed to be going well.
The 6th Commando did not fare so well. Many of the landing craft in which its troops were to be conveyed from the Awatea had to come alongside from other vessels. Delays attributable to this arrangement were increased during the shoreward movement by the breakdown of landing craft engines and by the unseaworthiness of many boats. The first to land were two hours behind schedule; the last, more than five hours. Most of the craft sought their designated landing points without the benefit of the piloting party. In consequence, it was broad daylight, 0815, before Fort Duperre was encircled. Not until after an air attack by nine Albacores of the Fleet Air Arm, followed by a limited ground assault, was the fort surrendered to the 6th Commando during the afternoon. A prospective naval bombardment was then hurriedly canceled.
Before daylight, the infantry operations were also thrown into confusion. The 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, was scheduled to land nearest Cap Sidi Ferruch on Beer GREEN, while the 2nd Battalion made simultaneous use of Beer WHITE. The assault companies were to pass through the dunes and continue across gradually rising ground through vineyards and scrub-pine woods to two battalion assembly areas. They were to advance thence along secondary branch roads to the main highway between Castiglione and Algiers. Their route would then take them past several hamlets and the village of Cheragas to Lambiridi, about ten miles from the beaches. They were expected to reach the high ground dominating Algiers before sunrise and to be closely followed by a stream of reinforcements for the final operations to gain control of the city. The French Army barracks and defensive positions which lay in the path of advance were to be brought under control through surprise attacks, and the administrative headquarters in old Fort l’Empereur, directly west of Algiers, was to be occupied.
The routes and schedule of advance thus planned were drastically modified almost at the outset of the landing operation. For the basic procedure designed to guide the landing craft to assigned beaches foundered. The same motor launch which was to take aboard a pilot for Beer WHITE from the beacon submarine first had to embark the principal beachmaster from one of the transports; when that task had been accomplished, its crew could not find the submarine from which it was to take off the pilot. The motor launch eventually went toward the beach without him. The submarine waited vainly until it was scheduled to move inshore, and then transferred the pilot to the nearest available landing craft.
The pilot was thus able to guide formations from the Winchester Castle and the Otranto toward Beer GREEN. The motor launch, however, led the troops meant for Beer WHITE toward what turned out instead to be a landfall in the Apples Sector far to the west, among troops of the 11th Infantry Brigade Group (Br.). Some of the landing craft guided by the pilot toward Beer GREEN were carried off course and reached the shore between Beer GREEN and Beer WHITE. Thus the first waves of the 168th Combat Team were forced to improvise as soon as they touched the African shore. Components of each battalion were scattered along fifteen miles of coast. The scarcity of tank lighters retarded the arrival of vehicles, heavy weapons, and equipment.
From the beginning, machine guns, mortars, and boxes of ammunition had to be hand carried along the routes to Algiers by soldiers of the heavy weapons units, who found it impossible to maintain the rapid pace set by the less-encumbered rifle companies. Heavy swells, offshore obstacles, soft sand, or difficult beach exits made desirable the early closing of Beer GREEN and of all but 200 yards of Beer WHITE, which as a result became seriously congested. Communication by radio among units ashore failed because of damage to many instruments during the landings and because of the insufficient range of others. A few bantam cars and trucks raced up and down the roads, carrying officers in search of missing parts of their commands or shuttling troops and weapons toward the front. Civilian transport was requisitioned. Control of the operation was imperfect but sufficient to organize an advance.
The 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, was the most seriously scattered. Somewhat more than half its strength had arrived at Beach Beer GREEN by 0130, but the remainder, including the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Doyle, was delivered at points southwest of Cap Sidi Ferruch on the wrong side of that headland, and as far southwest as the Apples Beaches. The contingent at Beer GREEN sought the battalion assembly area in the vicinity of Sidi Ferruch and waited there while Captain Edward W. Bird of Company B rode forward on reconnaissance toward Lambiridi with two British officers. At the French barracks west of the town, they aroused the occupants to hostile action and hastily withdrew, leaving one of the British officers a captive. In the absence of both the battalion commander and executive officer whose mission it was to organize beach defense, command of the battalion passed temporarily to Captain Bird. As daylight came, about 0830, the 1st Battalion began its march along the southern route, via (La Trappe) Ouled Fayet to Lambiridi, with the mission of protecting the Combat Team’s south flank.
The Capture of Lambiridi and of Blida Airdrome
Colonel Doyle overtook the column during the early stage of this movement and led it aggressively through sporadic resistance as far as the outskirts of Lambiridi. From high ground on the western fringe of the town, a defending French force fired down upon the invaders. The advance halted while the 2nd Battalion came up on the left and a co-ordinated assault was in preparation.
The 2nd Battalion Landing Team, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Dewey H. Baer, was separated into numerous scattered parties during the landing phase. Nine boatloads from Companies E and F, commanded by Major Robert R. Moore, Battalion Executive Officer, which had been scheduled to land at 0100 from the Keren at Beach Beer WHITE, touched down instead at Beer GREEN. They hastened along the highway to rejoin the rest of the unit, and advanced along the northern route to La Bouzarea, catching up with another portion and with Colonel Baer during the final stage of their approach to Lambiridi. Still other elements of the 2nd Battalion, which had landed farther afield, came up later in the day.
Colonel O’Daniel with a party from his headquarters did not arrive at Beer WHITE until about 0700, after several hours at sea. They had first been taken to Apples WHITE and then brought back along the coast to the correct destination. When the 3rd Battalion Landing Team (Lieutenant Colonel Stewart T. Vincent) began landing from the Otranto shortly after 0730, the rifle companies went forward to strengthen the impending attack on Lambiridi, the heavy weapons company struggling without transport vehicles to keep up with the riflemen. At noon, the regimental command post moved to the vicinity of Cheragas, and Colonel O’Daniel went on toward Lambiridi to expedite the attack through it against Fort l’Empereur.
Shortly after noon, Baer’s 2nd Battalion on the left (north), Vincent’s 3rd Battalion on the right of the most direct route, and Doyle’s 1st Battalion working up from the south to the right rear started into Lambiridi. The 2nd Battalion had forced back some outposts of resisting French troops.
The 3rd Battalion was newly arrived, and thus far without hostile encounter. The 1st Battalion, after a minor brush with French troops in an outlying barracks, was drawn to the northeast by the sound of firing. Ail though some of the regimental mortars were available for the attack, there was a disturbing absence of antitank guns. The 3rd Battalion found Lambiridi’s streets at first silent and empty. Company K approached the square in the center of the town by the main street. It was stopped abruptly by a French armored car which sent heavy machine gun fire in irregular bursts to drive the men to cover. Concealed riflemen then took up the fire and prevented resumption of the advance. The fighting in Lambiridi continued throughout the afternoon, a French Red Cross ambulance driving about to collect the wounded of both sides.
Colonel Doyle, Captain Bird, and a detachment of about twenty-five men from the 1st Battalion left the others, worked around the southern edge of Lambiridi, and continued into Algiers. The small party arrived about 1500, 8 November, at the Palais d’Ete and captured it. After guards had been placed at its gate and in its vicinity, the intrepid group started on to secure the Police Station, and to capture the German consul. Concealed snipers suddenly fired at them, killing Colonel Doyle and wounding one enlisted man.
The troops near the center of Lambiridi remained pinned down, but flanking parties overcame the armored resistance and kept on to the vicinity of old Fort l’Empereur. Perhaps fifty men of Company F and K took up positions northwest of the objective while, on the east and south, parts of Companies I and L ranged themselves with Browning automatic rifles (BAR’s) and light machine guns at points of vantage. The entrance could be approached only by crossing an open ravine. The attackers felt unequal to the task, and darkness fell as they waited for reinforcement and planned for action next morning.
The progress of Colonel O’Daniel’s command toward Algiers had met weak resistance during the morning after initial uncontested success, only because of a change in the French chain of command. General Mast had ordered the troops of his Algiers Division to assist the landings, accepting the Allies as friends, and to join them in preparing to resist an Axis attack. A few hours later, General Koeltz, Mast’s superior, canceled these orders and relieved Mast of his command, replacing him with General Roubertie. Mast had gone to the vicinity of Beer GREEN Beach, where he had seen and advised some of the Americans, while Colonel Baril had left Kolea to assume personal charge of the peaceful transfer of Fort de Sidi Ferruch to the Americans. But General Roubertie instructed troops of the Algiers Division to disregard all orders emanating from Mast and to resist the invasion energetically. Thereupon, French troops in the path of O’Daniel’s men near La Bouzarea and Lambiridi began to contest the advance toward Algiers.”
Capturing Blida airdrome was a mission which, despite its importance, the Allied plan had made an alternative secondary task for elements of the 11th Infantry Brigade Group (Br.), to be accomplished either late on D Day or on D plus 1. Maison Blanche airfield was to be the base for the first land-based aircraft to come from Gibraltar.
But Blida airdrome was being held by friendly French forces under command of General de Monsabert and during the early morning hours by a French air commander willing to accept de Monsabert’s directions. General Giraud was expected to land there to assume the role of national leadership. The favorable situation might well shift before Giraud arrived unless de Monsabert should be reinforced by Allied troops as early as possible. General Mast had therefore gone to Beer Sector not only to superintend the voluntary surrender of Fort de Sidi Ferruch but to expedite the Allied thrust to Elida airdrome. Motor transport requisitioned from Kolea was waiting in readiness to transport a substantial detachment over the roads about twenty-five miles to the objective. Mast met and persuaded Colonel Trevor, commanding the 1st Commando detachment, to undertake the mission despite the fact that it necessitated a departure from Combat Team 168’s plan. Accordingly, about 0415, a portion of his Commando force started for the airdrome.
Other troops also went to Elida. Since the 11th Infantry Brigade Group encountered no resistance on the west flank, part of it was available either for strengthening the attack on Algiers or for taking Elida airdrome. A reconnaissance party under Lieutenant Colonel L. A. Manly, 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, was sent to Elida about 0800, and was followed between 1100 and 1600 by all but one company of the remainder of that battalion in requisitioned transport or afoot.
Colonel Trevor’s detachment reached the airdrome about 0900, but when Trevor entered into negotiation with Colonel Monstrelet, the French air officer commanding, he would not agree to uncontested occupation by the Commandos, in view of contrary orders from Algiers. Trevor’s men were disposed near the main gate to the airdrome, which was closed, and waited there for reinforcements before provoking hostile action. In the late afternoon, the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (minus one company), under Colonel Manly, arrived, and later in the day, a portion of 84th Light Antiaircraft Battery (Br.) and four Bofors guns. The French garrison remained in possession of the field, which though neutralized could be used by Allied airplanes only to land and remain grounded.
About noon, General Evelegh ordered the 5th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, and a detachment of the 1st Battalion of East Surrey Regiment, to the southern outskirts of Algiers, a movement which they accomplished in the course of the afternoon and evening. At 1700, the 6th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment, which had been the floating reserve of the 11th Infantry Brigade, was ordered to disembark at Beer WHITE Beach and to move into the area near Birmandre, as relief for the 5th Northamptons. Through rising surf which soon afterward precluded beach landings, the battalion came ashore and started inland, but it was not needed, and re-embarked at 0700 next morning to go into combat for the first time farther east.
Planes from the aircraft carrier Argus took up a patrol above the airfield at daybreak and saw white flags being waved, On authorization from his commander, Lieutenant R H C Nation (RN) landed at about 0800, taxied to the hangars, and obtained a written message that Blida airdrome was at the disposal of Allied forces for landing purposes, For a time, he remained the sole Allied representative on the airfield, When the troops arrived less than an hour later, Lieutenant Nation was reported to have flown back to the carrier leaving the situation to them, Allied forces landing west of Algiers in the Apples and Beer Sectors had thus achieved on D Day all their major objectives short of the occupation of Algiers itself, although proceeding toward that goal at a pace far slower than the plans had provided. The coastal batteries in these sectors were in Allied possession. The road network was under Allied control. The airfield at Elida was neutralized and served no hostile French aircraft for countermeasures such as those near Fedala, Port-Lyautey, and Oran on this same day. The delayed execution of the plans had, however, cost the Eastern Assault Force the benefits of the friendly French action within Algiers during the early morning hours and possible gains from a direct attack on the port by TERMINAL Force.
Algiers port, like Oran’s, was attacked directly by an antisabotage force in the hope of preserving facilities for the very pressing requirements of Allied supply. On two British destroyers, the Broke (Lieutenant Commander A. F. C. La yard) and the Malcolm (Commander A. B. Russell), to which they had transferred on the late afternoon of 7 November from the cruiser Sheffield, the men of this special force waited well north of Pointe Pescade for orders that would send them to the assault. In addition to 74 Royal Naval personnel to board and seize ships in Algiers Harbor and 3 British Army officers, the group included 24 American officers and 638 enlisted men from the 3rd Battalion, 135th Infantry, U.S. 34th Division. All were in American Army uniform and under command of Lieutenant Colonel Edwin T. Swenson. They had trained briefly for this mission in Belfast Harbor and at a nearby camp but learned its exact nature only during the final stage of the approach voyage from the United Kingdom. Commanding the entire TERMINAL Force was Captain H. L. St. J. Fancourt (RN).
On receipt of orders from Admiral Burrough, the two vessels started at 0140 for the bay of Algiers, where the lights of the city were visible as they slipped past the eastern shore. The harbor extended along the western edge of the bay more than one and one half miles southward from the Ilot de la Marine. A crescent-shaped sea wall, bowed toward the shore, protected the center of the harbor, while two jetties projecting from shore beyond the sea wall’s extremities left sheltered gaps for access to the open bay. Across these two entrances were barrier booms. Jutting out from the shore into the harbor were eight concrete moles of varying lengths and widths which in effect subdivided the entire area into four major basins. At the far north was the section controlled by the French Navy and protected by powerful fixed batteries mounted on the Jetee du Nord. Most of the other three sections were devoted to commercial shipping.
On a flat shelf between the base of the moles and the steeply rising slopes of the city were paved streets and narrow lanes lined with warehouses and other port structures. The plan of attack called for the Broke to pierce the barrier, enter the southern basin, and discharge troops and naval boarding parties at the Quai de Dieppe. About fifteen minutes later, the Malcolm was to follow a similar course to the Grand Mole. While a protective cordon was set up barring access by road from the south, teams of platoon strength were to secure an electric power station, a petroleum storage depot, and a seaplane base in the southwestern section of the harbor, and the port offices, graving docks, and adjacent moles farther north. The assignment of missions was flexible, allowing for the possibility of failure by either ship to complete its approach or even for the necessity of withdrawing.
Coastal batteries dominated the bay and harbor not only from the Jetee du Nord and Hot de la Marine but also from high ground adjacent to the port. In a most advantageous position directly south of the port on the crest of a knoll about 300 feet high was the Batterie des Arcades with three medium guns. Machine gun fire could be expected from other points as well as from these batteries. Against such strength, the attacking force could not expect to benefit from surprise.
The landings on the beaches near Algiers would have been in progress more than three hours before the TERMINAL Force could reach the harbor. Planners deemed it possible that, as an offset against the loss of surprise, some of the port’s defenders might be drawn off to oppose the advance from the beaches. The coastal guns, moreover, were understood to be the objective of Commando attacks scheduled to be completed before the harbor was approached. Also, it was possible that the guns could not be sufficiently depressed to strike targets within the harbor itself. Finally, the two ships each flew large American flags and hoped thus to encourage merely token resistance.
As the vessels neared their objective, the admonition not to fire unless previously fired upon ceased to be restraining. The city’s lights went out. Searchlight beams swept out across the bay and soon fell on the intruders. Shelling followed at once, particularly from the Batterie des Arcades. In the glare and tumult, both ships twice missed the entrance and then circled for a third try. At that juncture, just after 0400, the Malcolm was badly hit, caught fire on deck, and was obliged to withdraw. Casualties were ten killed and twenty-five wounded.
The Broke persisted until a fourth try succeeded in taking her at top speed through the barrier “like a knife through butter.” Full daylight was still far away as she entered the port. The Broke missed the planned point of mooring, either because some anchored vessels barred her path or because she mistook her objective in the darkness, and berthed instead along the Mole Louis Billiard. Half the TERMINAL Force, consisting of Company L, one section of Company M, and nine medical troops of the 135th Infantry, with some British naval personnel, had come safely through the heavy bombardment, flattened on the deck of the Broke and sheltered somewhat by her armored rail. They debarked slowly onto the quay at about 0520.
Quickly the various teams scattered on their respective missions. Within a short time, they took possession of the mole itself, the electric power station, and the petroleum tank farm, and began slowly extending northward to the seaplane base and along the street paralleling the shore. Small arms and automatic fire fell on open intersections but was insufficient to stop the advance. The resistance diminished to occasional sniping and soon all sounds of battle gave way to a silence broken principally by the church bells of the city. Naval boarding parties encountered no indications of scuttling or sabotage.
At 0800, the attack seemed to have succeeded even without the Malcolm and its portion of the TERMINAL Force. What remained was to establish contact with the American troops approaching the city, perhaps already entering its outskirts. Within a few minutes of each other, a delegation from the city consisting of two civilians and two police officers requested that arrangements be made for the formal surrender of Algiers to the Americans, but a French officer warned that the intruders were being practically surrounded by French troops of wholly hostile intent.
Whatever hesitation in defending the port the French may have had as a result of differences among themselves during the preceding three hours came to an abrupt end about 0800. Artillery fire from the Jetee du Nord drove the Broke to another mooring and then to a third-one which was better protected from the line of fire hut which separated the ship’s party from the elements ashore. While waiting, headed toward the entrance for quicker departure, the Broke came under fire from an unseen weapon, probably a howitzer, which at 0920 made several hits or near misses in swift succession.
A quick withdrawal had become essential The Broke’s siren sounded the recall signal and perhaps sixty men near the ship hurried aboard. The main part of Colonel Swenson’s force could not have reached her for several minutes, and even then, in their commanding officer’s judgment, would have been subject to greater danger than if they remained ashore. Colonel Swenson believed, moreover, that his force could hold out until the 168th Combat Team arrived. He ordered his men to keep their positions. At 0940, the Broke struggled out into the bay partially hidden by smoke. The Zetland stopped bombarding the Batterie du Lazaret on Cap Matifou to cover the Broke, and later took aboard all her passengers, as she towed the Broke out to sea.
[23 (I) Baiky, Opns of 3rd Bn 135th Inf, p. lB. (2) Br. Battle Sum 3B, Opn “Torch,” p. 30. “Captain Fancourt radioed for an air bombing of the menacing battery at 1030 to cover the Broke’s prospective withdrawal The Broke was so badly damaged that in rough Weather next day, she foundered and sank.].]
While six Albacore dive bombers silenced the coastal guns at the northern end of the harbor at about 1100, the determined fire of the Allied troops temporarily subdued the Senegalese companies which hemmed them in. But ammunition had already been running low when several French light tanks and armored cars arrived about 1130 to make the Americans’ position hopeless. From the city, no sounds indicated the arrival of the main force, still several miles away. About 1230, therefore, Colonel Swenson surrendered his group. In their jubilation, the port’s defenders made no effort to sabotage its installations before the main body of Allied troops should gain the city. The captives were imprisoned for the next two days.28 Operation TERMINAL at Algiers, like Operation RESERVIST at Oran, had been undertaken in defiance of accepted principles of warfare and had failed, but the conduct of its participants had been gallant and the resistance which overcame them happily lacked the ruthlessness shown by the defenders at Oran.
[“Losses from TERMINAL Force: British losses were 7 killed, 2 died of wounds, and 18 others wounded on the Broke; 4 wounded on the Malcalm (Br. Battle Sum 3B, Opn “Torch,” p. 31 n.). The 3rd Battalion, 135th Infantry, lost 15 killed and 33 wounded (Bailey, Opns of 3rd Bn l35th Inf, p. 28
The Eastern Landings
The assault landings east of Cap Matifou were made by the American 39th Combat Team of 5,688 officers and enlisted men, reinforced by 312 (198 British, 114 American) from the1st Commando, all under the command of Colonel Benjamin F. Caffey, Jr. They were transported by the American combat loaders Samuel Chase (the command ship ), Leedstown, Almaack, and Exceller, under escort by three British warships.
The senior naval officer, landings was Captain Campbell D. Edgar (USN). Beach parties and signal sections were American, augmented by British Army beach signal units. More than an hour before midnight, the small convoy established communications with the beacon submarine and hove to some eight miles offshore. The transports had started on this journey from New York Port of Embarkation on 25 September only a short time after most of them had been commissioned. The unfortunate Thomas Stone was the best prepared for night amphibious operations. The convoy began its actual assault operations, therefore, under the handicap of inexperience and insufficient training, and under the additional difficulty of last-minute adjustments arising from the loss of the Thomas Stone.
In a moderate swell and under a clear sky, with lights ashore undimmed and the piloting party waiting to guide the landing craft formations to the beaches, the disembarkation into the boats began. The difficulties which delayed other combat teams, whether in the Western, Center, or Eastern Task Forces, in getting assault waves in place to start their runs to shore were also experienced in the Charlie Sector. But energetic action and skillful improvisations overcame those difficulties in time to make the initial touchdowns at about 0130 at all but one point.
The 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry, and supporting units were on the Samuel Chase; the 3rd Battalion and a detachment of the 1st Commando (five troops only) were on the Leedstown. The Almaack carried the Headquarters Company and vehicles, most of the drivers of which were on the Exceller or scattered on the other ships. The 3rd Battalion, originally scheduled for the reserve, was now to undertake the mission for which the luckless 2nd Battalion on the Thomas Stone had been preparing up to a few hours earlier.
Of four beaches which had been designated in the sector, three were employed. Charlie GREEN extended for about 800 yards, halfway between the villages of Jean Bart and Ai’n Taya. Charlie BLUE, of the same length, lay directly in front of Ai’n Taya. RED Beach, subdivided into RED 1 and RED 2, reached from the hamlet of Surcouf, east of Ain Taya, to the marshy mouth of the Rerhai’a river. The landing schedule, adjusted at a conference of commanders on the Samuel Chase to meet prevailing conditions, provided that the 1st Battalion Landing Team should go to Charlie BLUE, and Commandos and the 3rd Battalion Landing Team should go to Charlie GREEN, and service units and vehicles should use Charlie RED, the only one which had easy access to the interior. The others were faced by an almost vertical bluff with stairs for pedestrians but with no good exits for vehicles.
As the assault waves were nearing the beaches, two ships of the slower convoy with materiel for the easternmost landings arrived in the transport area, and, since no opposition appeared to be coming from ashore, Captain Edgar ordered all his transports to proceed closer to the beaches. About 0130, they started to positions only 4,000 yards out. More than an hour later the battery on Cap Matifou was roused. Even before Captain Edgar had received a report from the beachmaster, he heard a broadcast from Washington announcing that the landings under his command had been successfully accomplished.
Searchlights on Cap Matifou swept over the area, illuminating not only the transports but the British destroyers, Cowdray and Zetland. The four big guns of the Batterie du Lazaret directed several shells toward the destroyers, which fired in return, dousing the light and forcing the battery to suspend fire.
The westernmost landings in the Charlie Sector were the last to be made, for the Commandos in eleven LCP’s, guided by a pilot aboard one of these boats, after a late start from the vicinity of the Leedstown ran into an offshore fog bank, slowed down to enable the formation to keep together more closely, and completed their run to GREEN Beach about two hours behind schedule.
The first waves of infantry from the Samuel Chase, and the service units from the Almaack, bound for BLUE and RED Beaches, were expected to leave together at the same time as the Commandos. They were to have a motor launch and pilot at both outside front positions, and to remain together for the first six miles until they arrived at an offshore obstacle and landmark, the Bordelaise Rock. The last 2,000 yards would find the two groups diverging to their respective objectives. Unfortunately for the execution of this plan, the navigators of the landing craft going to RED Beach failed to swing southeastward at the rock and continued instead to BLUE Beach. A few boats bound for GREEN Beach from the Leedstown also strayed into the BLUE Beach area. Yet in the absence of resistance, it was possible for the units to straighten out the situation quickly. The 1st Battalion Landing Team (Lt. Colonel A. H. Rosenfeld) at Aln Taya was beginning to reorganize by 0130, and the 3rd Battalion Landing Team (Major Farrar O. Griggs) nearer Jean-Bart was about fifteen minutes later in preparing for its inland advance.
The Commando troops under command of Major K. R. S. Trevor (Br.) moved westward along the coastal road. Detachments soon controlled three important objectives: Jean-Bart, a signal station and barracks near Fort d’Estrees, and the approaches to the Batterie du Lazaret. The battery and fort declined to surrender or to accept a truce, and proved too strong to be taken by assault with the means available. A request was made, therefore, for heavy supporting naval gunfire.
The 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry, was expected to move by the coastal road to Fort de l’Eau, Maison Carree, and HusseIn Dey. Here it was to seize a small airfield and subsequently establish contact with the Allied forces approaching Algiers from the west, with the special detachment which was to have stormed Algiers Harbor, and with the friendly French who were to have gained control of the city. A march of approximately six miles brought the 3rd Battalion to the resort village of Fort de l’Eau, where French troops disputed its further westward progress. Three French tanks supporting the infantry there damaged some American trucks, threatened to strike the battalion on the flank, and brought the advance toward Algiers to a stop.
The 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry, had the vital mission of seizing the Maison Blanche airdrome before daylight. Beach conditions immobilized the newly landed antitank guns and 105-mm. howitzers, but advance elements set off without them. The battalion made an expeditious approach march by road for most of the ten miles to the airfield arriving at its objective at approximately 0615. A few French tanks, against which the attacking force had no suitable weapons, were encountered as the battalion neared the airfield, but after they had fired briefly as if in merely token resistance, they withdrew while the American troops occupied the airfield. Negotiations for its surrender were completed by 0830, Fog over the airdrome was too thick to permit immediate use by Royal Air Force units, but the 43rd Squadron (eighteen Hurricanes) was reported in at 1035, with two other units then summoned arriving during the afternoon. [NOTE-13-11: (1) Rad Blue 260, CG EAF to AFCP Gibraltar, 8 Nov 42. AFHQ G-3 Ops 22/5, Micro Job 10A, Reel 5C. (2) The other two squadrons were the 81st and 82nd Squadrons (Spitfires). Info supplied by Air Ministry, London.] The main problem in using the field was to obtain fuel and maintenance, but enough fuel was found to get some of the aircraft aloft over Algiers and Cap Matifou before sunset.
Capture of the field proved far less advantageous than had been anticipated, for vehicles, supplies, and ground crews for the Royal Air Force squadrons, brought to the sector on the cargo ships Dempo, Macharda, Maron, and Ocean Rider, had met with ill fortune. The high swell and surf through which the landings of the assault troops were made demanded a proficiency in small-boat navigation exceeding that of most of the half-trained crews assigned to that duty.
As the craft piled up on the beaches, or swamped offshore, the rate of debarkation by later serials slowed down sharply. The weather, moreover, deteriorated during the day, also helping to prevent aviation supplies sorely required at Maison Blanche from being landed. The carrier aircraft continued to furnish almost all air support on D Day and to defend the port. The defense of the airfield was entrusted to Company A, 39th Infantry, reinforced by an extra machine gun platoon from Company D and by a section of 81-mm. mortars, while the remainder of the 1st Battalion occupied an area north and northeast of the field.
While the approach to the city from the east was being held up on Cap Matifou and at the village of Fort de l’Eau, and while rough water was destroying more and more landing craft, slowing down the movement of men and supplies from ship to shore to a mere trickle, efforts were made to break the deadlock at the Batterie du Lazaret.
The request for naval gunfire in support of the Commando troops on Cap Matifou brought at 1040 a bombardment from H.M.S. Zetland which continued for an hour but which proved insufficient to produce surrender. A combined air and naval bombardment was therefore delivered early in the afternoon. While the Commandos pulled back a second time, the cruiser Bermuda and a flight of Albacore dive bombers from the carrier Formidable struck the area under attack for more than an hour, commencing about 1430. After 1600, the Commandos, supported by one self-propelled 105-mm. howitzer, renewed their attack on the battery. Some fifty French marines surrendered at 1700. Reinforced by two armored cars, the Commandos went on to attack Fort d’Estrees about half an hour later, but without success. At 2000, the attack was broken off. The Commandos withdrew to the south for the remainder of the night. Axis bombers arrived at dusk to hinder Allied progress toward the seizure of Algiers.
One small flight demonstrated without serious effect near Algiers, and another achieved a preliminary success on the eastern side of Cap Matifou against the ships anchored off Charlie Sector. They severely damaged the destroyer Cowdray and immobilized the transport Leedstown with a hit astern. After narrow escapes other vessels shifted next morning to the bay of Algiers for unloading in Algiers Harbor. The Leedstown was left behind, a setup for return visits on 9 November, when two afternoon attacks forced its abandonment. U.S. Navy losses on the ship were eight dead and fourteen wounded. Army personnel also suffered casualties while trying, with the assistance of those already on the beach, to reach land through surf and undertow.
Negotiations in Algiers
Algiers came under control of the irregulars of the French resistance at the time the landings began and remained so for several hours of increasing danger and anxiety. About half an hour after midnight, they began putting into execution their long matured plans. Organized parties occupied the major centers from which opposition to the landings might otherwise have been directed. They stopped most telephone service except over the police system. At the police headquarters and outlying stations, they gained control, locked up top officials, and issued instructions favorable to their purposes.
They took possession of the Algiers radio station and prepared to broadcast an appeal in the name of General Giraud. Guides went to the expected points of landing and prepared to expedite the arrival at the city itself of enough American troops to take over and hold control. Temporarily they immobilized the Algiers garrison. Although not all the plans were executed, the anti-Vichy organization in the main discharged its part of the operation effectively. The pro-Allied French were in control by 0130; they held the city not only for the two hours which they had foreseen but until 0700, the very latest time believed possible in the planning phase.
At 0700, General Giraud had not arrived. An appeal was broadcast by his adherents as if from him. At 0700, no American troop units had come into Algiers. The insurrectionist patriots began to lose control of the centers which they had been holding and resorted to various improvised stratagems to hinder organized opposition to the slow Allied approach. Some sniping occurred from upper windows on groups in the streets. One officer of great zeal and courage was killed. Long before the city was yielded to the armed invaders, the tables had been turned on General Mast’s associates, many of whom were locked up and some of whom were dead. The Allies eventually received control of the city from its regular defenders.
While the pro-Allied French began their part of the operation inside Algiers, Mr. Robert Murphy and his colleagues proceeded with theirs. The first waves of troops had already started toward the beaches when Murphy called on General Juin at his official residence in Lambiridi. The convoys which General Juin knew to be crossing the Mediterranean were, Mr. Murphy at last revealed, about to disembark an overwhelming force at Algiers. They had come, he explained, to assist France in achieving her liberation, acting on the invitation of General Giraud. General Juin, he hoped, would co-operate by issuing all instructions necessary to prevent resistance, and join in a friendly reception. Only four days earlier, General Juin had warned Mr. Murphy that he was under orders to resist an attempt by any force to seize French North Africa!
Now he was asked to recognize that General Giraud’s leadership might supersede the authority which had hitherto controlled him. He therefore took the understandable position that this American invitation should be submitted without delay to the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Vichy France, Admiral Darlan, from whom a change of orders might indeed be obtained. Such a step was feasible because Admiral Darlan was then in Algiers.
Wherever Darlan might be when the American proposal was received, he could not escape making a choice, and that it should be presented to him in Algiers rather than in Vichy was a circumstance advantageous to the Allies. He was there with his wife attending his son, Alain, in what was believed to be the last stage of a fatal illness.
That a man occupying Darlan’s position should remain rather secretly in Algiers while Allied forces crossed the Mediterranean to occupy the city was a coincidence fraught with such impressive consequences that it has been attributed to premeditation and prearrangement. The evidence concerning Darlan’s knowledge of what was impending and his intentions may not be conclusive, but it does indicate that he was caught by surprise and was exasperated that he had not been forewarned.
About twenty minutes after being notified that Mr. Murphy had an urgent message for him, Darlan was brought to General Juin’s villa, where he was apprised of the situation immediately. After getting over his first irritation, he recognized that it was up to him to decide whether French North Africa should pass into the hands of the Allies with or without bloodshed. German reprisals elsewhere in North Africa, and in France were certain if Vichy were implicated in the Allied occupation. He was reminded by Mr. Murphy that he had previously expressed to Admiral Leahy, the U.S. Ambassador in Vichy, his willingness to consider collaboration against the Axis when the Allies could come to him with 500,000 American soldiers, fully equipped, and with tanks and planes in quantity. Those forces were now approaching. The time for his decision had arrived.
The facts justifying such an irrevocable French commitment remained to be ascertained beyond all doubt. Darlan had only : Mr. Murphy’s word; no reports had come as yet from French observers. While temporizing, the admiral emphasized his obligations to Marshal Petain. At Mr. Murphy’s suggestion, he drafted a radio message to his Chief of State reporting the situation, and remained temporarily under house arrest. While a reply was being awaited, the cordon of pro-Allied guards surrounding General Juin’s villa was expelled by gardes mobiles. Murphy himself became the prisoner there while Darlan and Juin then went to Fort l’Empereur to determine a future course. Juin set about regaining control where possible. General Koeltz was freed from arrest. Passive acceptance of the invaders began to give way to moderate resistance as Koeltz relieved Mast of his command over the Algiers Division.
Hostilities Cease in Algiers
In Vichy, just after 0900, 8 November Marshall Petain received the American Charge d’Affaires, Mr. S. Pinkney Tuck, who brought the President’s official message. The reply, already prepared, was then signed by the Marshal and handed to his visitor. The French would resist this attack upon the French empire. At the conclusion of the interview, when Mr. Tuck rose to leave, Marshal Petain showed the greatest amiability and good spirits.
Later in the day, the charge d’affaires was informed that diplomatic relations with the government of the United States were broken. Marshal Petain replied to Admiral Darlan’s report from Algiers with an authorization to act freely in the Marshal’s behalf, reporting what had been done. While Darlan postponed decisive steps, the Eastern Assault Force closed in, preparing to surround the city. General Ryder, who left the Bulolo about 0900 to join the advance echelon of his headquarters at Beach Beer WHITE under Brigadier General Ray E. Porter, could by 1600 consider that success was impending. His troops held the heights west of Algiers, the highways approaching the city from west and east, the airfields at Blida and Maison Blanche, and the principal coastal batteries from Cap Sidi Ferruch to Ilot de la Marine at Algiers Harbor.
Naval gunfire on the Batterie du Lazaret on Cap Matifou and artillery shelling of Fort l’Empereur were certain indications of the ultimate destruction of each. British Albacore dive bombers had already struck the Jetee du Nord, Fort Duperre, and Fort d’Estrees. Fort Duperre was ready to capitulate. Fort d’Estrees was holding out. The city was now well on the way to being surrounded, giving Darlan, Juin, and the other French leaders the choice of waiting to be captured or marching out with such forces as they could extricate. The Eastern Assault Force had fallen far behind its schedule and was logistically none too firmly established ashore, but it was there to stay. Such was the situation when, shortly after 1600, General Ryder learned from one of Robert Murphy’s staff that General Juin was ready to negotiate. Darlan had authorized him to arrange a settlement for Algiers but not for all French North Africa.
The arrangements by which hostilities in Algiers came to an end began with a brief face-to-face encounter by Generals Ryder and Juin. They met in Juin’s headquarters in Fort I’Empereur, to which Ryder was brought with two other American officers in Juin’s own automobile after passing through the lines in Lambiridi to find the fort. The two men at 1840, 8 November, concluded a simple oral agreement to stop fighting at once and to transfer control of the city to the Americans at 2000. The French troops would return to their barracks, retaining their arms and colors. Americans would occupy key points in the city and rely on the aid of French police to maintain order. Detailed armistice terms would be the subject of discussion at a meeting to be held next morning. While these informal arrangements were being put into effect, General Ryder returned to the Bulala and reported them to Gibraltar, recommending that he be permitted to arrange an armistice on the basis of the mild terms prepared, during the planning, for a case of merely token resistance.
General Juin had been restricted by Darlan’s authorization to an agreement covering Algiers only. Elsewhere in Algeria French troops were ordered to resist any non-French forces which attacked them. Ryder wished to extend the pacification throughout Algeria, while Murphy, on behalf of General Eisenhower, was trying to procure Darlan’s order stopping hostilities in all French North Africa. A conference with the French leaders at the Hotel St. Georges at 2000 prepared the way for General Clark’s negotiations as soon as he should arrive; at the same time Admiral Darlan consented to the use of Algiers Harbor at first light, 9 November, for sheltering the Eastern Naval Task Force.
General Ryder met the French chiefs once more in conference during the next afternoon. Although he had not yet received from Allied Force advance headquarters at Gibraltar any reply to his recommendation of the previous afternoon that he conclude an armistice on easy terms, he decided to offer those terms on his own responsibility.
They were accepted provisionally, subject to approval from Marshal Petain an approval which could not be promised before one more day. Meanwhile the French troops in Algiers were assembled in barracks and left in possession of their arms. General Ryder’s only safeguard for his forces was the promise of the French leaders that they would not resume hostilities without warning. General Ryder insisted upon supplementing this limitation by discreetly gathering up their ammunition and placing it under American guards, pending a lasting basis of association. At this juncture, the situation changed materially.
Arrangements concerning Algiers became subordinated to negotiations for a general cease-fire order for Oran and Morocco, and for French resistance to the Axis forces arriving in Tunisia. On the evening of 9 November, Lieutenant General Kenneth A. N. Anderson (Br.) arrived at Blida, went to the Bulala, and assumed command of the Eastern Task Force for the drive on Tunis. At almost the same time General Clark arrived to lead the negotiations with Darlan, Juin, and others. General Giraud also appeared at Algiers, with the approbation of the Allied high command, to rally French patriots who were prepared to resume hostilities against the Axis powers. While fighting continued at Oran and in western Morocco, in Algiers it was in abeyance.
SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West; by George F. Howe (United States Army Center of Military History)