The Twelfth Air Force's role in the assault phase of the TORCH operation was, in the aggregate, a minor one. At Algiers, the RAF, which had Spitfires and Hurricanes from Gibraltar operating out of Maison Blanche by noon of D-day, shared with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm the responsibility of cooperating with Maj. Gen. Charles W. Ryder's Eastern Assault Force, to which the city was surrendered by nightfall.1 In the more stiffly contested actions at Oran and Casablanca, carrierborne aviation furnished a major part of the air offensive. The Twelfth did, however, contribute substantially to the discomfiture of the defenders of Oran.
The Landings and the Race for Tunis
Oran lies about 230 miles east of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean is still narrow. The town enjoys considerable natural protection in the steepness of the adjacent coast and in the chain of salt marshes in its hinterland. Allied estimates put the potential daily intake of its port at upwards of 4,000 tons, not counting the naval base at Mers-el-Kébir, three miles to the westward across Oran bay. Besides Tafaraoui and La Senia, there were several landing grounds in the area which figured in Twelfth Air Force plans: Oggaz, Fleurus, Saint-Denis-du-Sig, and Lourmel.
Because of the state of its arms and morale, the French army in the Oran area was not expected to put up a prolonged resistance, although it could bring about 21,000 troops to bear by D plus 2. On the other hand, the coastal batteries, manned by naval personnel nursing distaste for the British, were likely to resist in determined fashion.2 The local air force, supposed to cherish substantial pro-Allied sentiments, mustered about fifty-five fighters (Dewoitine 520's) and about forty obsolescent
bombers, the majority of the force being based at La Senia.3 The Allies did not know prior to D-day what naval units would be in port; as it turned out, there were an escort vessel, four destroyers, and a number of submarines.4
Against the French establishment at Oran was pitted the Center Task Force, which included British naval elements under Cdre. Thomas Troubridge and American ground and air force troops under General Fredendall, once the old GYMNAST commander. Troubridge's fleet comprised the headquarters ship Largs, the battleship Rodney, the carrier Furious, the auxiliary carriers Biter and Dasher, the AA ships Delhi and Alynbank, the light cruisers Aurora and Jamaica, besides various destroyers, corvettes, mine sweepers, trawlers, and other craft. The Furious carried twenty-four Seafires and nine Albacores; the Biter, fifteen Hurricanes; the Dasher, nine Hurricanes. Fredendall commanded II Corps troops: 1st Infantry Division, 1st Ranger Battalion, and Combat Command B of the 1st Armored Division.5
The Center Task Force's directive specified that it was to assault and capture Oran and its airdromes and prepare, in conjunction with the Western Task Force, land and air striking forces to secure Spanish Morocco, if this proved necessary. It was responsible for the establishment and maintenance of communications with the Western and Eastern task forces. Once command had passed from Troubridge, Fredendall had control of all ground, air, and service units of the task force; the command channel would then be from CTF to 1st Infantry Division, to Combat Command B of 1st Armored Division, to Oran air force under Col. Lauris Norstad, Doolittle's A-3.6
The tactical plan envisioned the investment of Oran by a double envelopment from beaches east and west of the city, the advance from the beachheads to be supported by the guns of the British fleet. Two regimental combat teams of the 1st Infantry Division were to land at Z beach, the little town of Arzeu east of Oran; a third RCT at Y beach (Les Andalouses) west of the city. One column of Combat Command B's tanks would come in through the Arzeu beachhead; another detachment was to land at X beach, the cove of Mersat bou Zedjar, to the west of Les Andalouses. Tafaraoui and La Senia constituted the first objectives of the armor; upon their capture Combat Command B would attack Oran from the south.7
The Fleet Air Arm, responsible for the protection of the convoys and the landings and for cooperation with the ground forces until such
Casablanca and Oran Areas
time as the Twelfth put in an appearance, planned strikes at first light on D-day against La Senia, hoping to break the back of the French air force if it did not turn out friendly to the Allies.8 A feature of the Oran attack added early in October was a commando-type raid on the harbor. HMS Walney and Hartland, former U.S. Coast Guard cutters, flying the American flag above the Union Jack, were to land personnel to overcome the harbor forts and batteries and prevent sabotage of the wharves and shipping.9
The Oran convoy passed through the Gibraltar Strait at 1700 hours, 6 November, after an uneventful passage from the United Kingdom-the Atlantic U-boat pack had taken off after a small England-bound convoy out of Sierra Leone and left clear the sea paths to Gibraltar and Morocco. TORCH was beginning to enjoy more good fortune than the ordinary military operation had any right to expect. Despite the fact that Vichy and Berlin had been anticipating an Allied stroke against French North or West Africa for months, the Germans, getting their first inkling that something was afoot when the convoys were reported at Gibraltar, mistook the movement for another attempt to provision Malta or a landing somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean to hem in the late invaders of Egypt. The Italians, on the other hand, perhaps because of their natural nervousness at the possibility of such a development, correctly interpreted the Allied strategy. As the Algiers and Oran convoys, in that order, came on through the narrow sea on the Malta course, dive-bomber and fighter squadrons began gathering in Sicily and Sardinia. The convoys did not alter course until dusk fell on 7 November. At Oran, the military establishment had been alerted on the morning of the 7th by aerial reconnaissance, but the alert was abandoned as the convoys passed eastward. Troubridge slipped back through the moonless night to take position. H-hour at Oran and Algiers was 0100.10
At five minutes before H-hour, two companies of Rangers were put into Arzeu. They diminished resistance sufficiently so that the 1st Infantry Division occupied the town in force by 0745. The French, however, blocked further progress on the road to Oran at the village of Saint-Cloud. The western arms of the envelopment had meanwhile got ashore. The 26th RCT came in unopposed at Les Andalouses, but French artillery denied it the height of Djebel Mourdjadjo, commanding
Mers-el-Kébir and Oran. The western column of Combat Command B, after considerable difficulty in finding X beach, carried out a rapid advance which took Lourmel and had rolled on to the vicinity of Misserghin by the afternoon. Already the gallant Walney and Hartland, victims of the expectation that the French might offer only token resistance, had met disaster in Oran harbor. During the day Vichy destroyers issued in hopeless sorties against Troubridge's fleet. Stubborn coastal batteries engaged the Rodney in frequent duels.11
On the afternoon of D minus 1, 7 November, Eisenhower had sent off his ADVANCE NAPOLEON, the code message which meant that Bentley's C-47's would take off for Oran around 2200 hours with a peaceful daylight landing at La Senia in prospect. During the next two days he worried intermittently over the fate of the paratroop force, which he intended, once it had landed at La Senia, to send on to Maison Blanche, Bône, and possibly to Tunis itself, as part of a series of rapid advances to forestall the Germans and Italians. As it turned out, it took several days for the Paratroop Task Force to collect itself after its initial experiences in TORCH.12
The C-47's took off on schedule from Predannack and St. Eval, while RAF Spitfires and Beaufighters patrolled overhead, and assembled over Portreath, the flights intermingling to some extent before course for the first leg was set for the Scilly Islands. On the way south, because of the burning out of formation lights and because of the inability of the aircraft to home on squadron commanders, the formations disintegrated amid increasingly bad weather, many aircraft proceeding individually across Spain and over the Mediterranean. Nor could the secret radio or the fleet off Oran reassemble the C-47's: the operator of the former had destroyed his radio when no aircraft were in evidence at the earlier time of arrival specified by "war plan"--he had not been informed that "peace plan" was on; the homing ship transmitted on 460 kilocycles instead of the planned 440.
Some of the unarmed troop carriers reached the vicinity of Oran shortly after daylight and found the French at La Senia and their Dewoitines not as friendly as forecast. Bentley, accompanied by a group of his transports, discovered to his disgust that he had been homing on a lighthouse near Melilla in Spanish Morocco; he finally got to Oran to find a dozen C-47's down on a dry part of the bed of the Sebkra d'Oran, the largest of the salt lakes ringing the port. While reconnoitering La Senia, he himself was forced down by motor trouble
and taken prisoner. Not without further mishap, Colonel Raff finally brought the bulk of his paratroops into Tafaraoui late in the afternoon, where American armor was enjoying what seemed to be a very uncertain tenure. The paratroop force had suffered some casualties from the Dewoitines, however, and C-47's were scattered from Gibraltar all through the northwestern shoulder of Africa, with three interned in Spanish Morocco.13
Tafaraoui had been captured by the eastern column of Combat Command B which had passed, as planned, through the 1st Division beachhead at Arzeu, turned south, and dashed through Sainte-Barbe-du-Tltlat. It took Tafaraoui towards noon, after a short, sharp fight. The way was now open for land-based aerial reinforcements for the Center Task Force, heretofore relying on the Fleet Air Arm. The Largs notified Gibraltar.14
At about 1520 hours Doolittle arrived on the Gibraltar airdrome from the command post and ordered Col. John R. Hawkins to take his 31st Group fighters into Tafaraoui. The 31st had been scheduled for the Casablanca area, where the more strenuous resistance was anticipated, and was parked on the crowded airstrip in front of Col. Dixon M. Allison's 52d Group, which was to go into Oran. As any other arrangement meant delay, Doolittle ordered Hawkins' pilots to take off, which they did inside of twenty minutes-two squadrons of Spitfires-flying around thundershowers on the way to Oran and trying vainly to contact the fighter control which according to their briefing would have been set up at Tafaraoui. They arrived at 1700 hours. Hawkins found a section of the runway without holes and led his pilots in for a landing. French artillery was registering on the airdrome and some of the Spits still airborne temporarily silenced it by a strafing attack. Four Dewoitines, mistaken for Hurricanes, had been doing lazy eights over the field as the squadrons arrived; when the last four Spits were in a landing circle with wheels down the Dewoitines came in for an attack and shot down and killed one pilot, only to lose three of their number.15 The ubiquitous Dewoitines to the contrary, the French air strength had already been largely crippled by the Fleet Air Arm's strikes at the La Senia hangars.16
On the morning of 9 November, after the African night had echoed to sniper fire and rung to the ingenious American challenge "Heigh-ho Silver"--reply, "Awa-a-y"--the French air force made a farewell gesture when a single bomber dropped a lone bomb on Tafaraoui, damaging
one of the C-47's which had flown in from the Sebkra the previous day. The 31st had a patrol up, but darkness and lack of radio equipment permitted the bomber's escape. Before noon the remainder of the French aircraft at La Senia left for the comparative safety of Morocco. Shortly after daylight, as the field was being shelled by the everlasting 75's, a motor convoy containing ground personnel of the 31st rolled into Tafaraoui from Arzeu. By dint of improvisation and use of French ammunition and gas, they kept the Spitfires in the air thereafter.17
The 31st rendered important aid in the stubborn battle for Oran. Shortly after dawn on the 9th, three of its Spits on reconnaissance southward discovered a large hostile force moving up from Sidi-bel-Abbes. Continuing attacks, enduring four to five hours, were maintained against the column, which turned out to be the famous Foreign Legion. The light French tanks offered pitiful opposition to the Spits' 20-mm. guns, and the discouraged Legion eventually turned back, after which it was not further molested. Hawkins, using the radio in the armored force's command tank and later those in the Spits, had established communications with the Largs. The command ship assigned several missions: one against coastal guns too heavily protected for effective strafing, another against what proved to be an American unit, which promptly shot down two of the off ending Spits-the command ship had identified the target as west of La Macta when it had meant to say east. Flights of the 31st, however, were able to silence the troublesome 75's which had intermittently shelled Tafaraoui. During the afternoon Doolittle arrived in a B-17 with Spitfire escort from the 52d Group. Altogether, seventeen missions, totaling forty-five sorties, were flown during the day.18
Meanwhile, the ground forces had been making progress. The 1st Division began to bypass the French hedgehog at Saint-Cloud, but its 18th RCT was still pinned against the mountains west of Mers-el-Kébir. The western armored column bypassed Misserghin by routing its armor through the soft ground at the edge of the Sebkra, and the defenses of La Senia were finally cracked with the aid of strafing Spitfires. Once junction had been made between the armored wings, the fall of Oran was a foregone conclusion, failing a resort to the barricades in the city itself. The French perceived this towards noon of the next day and got armistice negotiations under way.19
While the fighting lasted on the 10th, the Tafaraoui Spitfires continued to exert themselves in various roles, but the French were paying
more attention to dispersal and concealment and few profitable targets were to be found. The general performance of the airmen earned the adjective "splendid" from Doolittle and a letter of commendation from Maj. Gen. Terry Allen, commanding the 1st Infantry Division. Losses since 8 November included one in combat, four from ground fire, and two in taxiing. Six of the 52d's aircraft had run out of gas on the way in from Gibraltar and came down in various places; only twenty of the 60th Group's C-47's were operational on the 10th.20 But Algeria was now secure-the door open for aerial reinforcement for the campaign developing in the east. On the 11th and 12th the 31st put reconnaissance flights over Spanish Morocco, but despite rumors to the contrary, there was nothing tangible to indicate that the Spaniards there intended any hostile move.21
Patton's Western Task Force succeeded in effecting a landing on a coast where a respectable body of military opinion held a successful landing highly improbable. The Moroccan rivers are shallow; the Moroccan beaches long and shelving; there is an abundance of rocky outcrops. High surf and swell are common even in good weather, and good weather is generally rare in the autumn. Yet Patton's men reached the beaches over what was reportedly the calmest sea in sixty-eight years.22 Once ashore, on the other hand, their operations were more protracted than had been expected; the fierce resistance put up at Mehdia and the approaches to the Port Lyautey airdrome did not allow XII Air Support Command's aircraft to fly in in time to join the action against the French.
Algiers capitulated on D-day itself; Oran gave in on D plus 2. On the west coast where the resident-general, Auguste Nogues, was forewarned by American sympathizers who attempted to convince him that resistance was futile, Casablanca held out until D plus 3. Because of an almost complete failure of communications, the anxious Eisenhower at Gibraltar heard very little from Patton during the early stages of his landing, and as late as 10 November many of Patton's own officers were reported pessimistic as to the prospects. But the operation, like the singed cat, was better than it looked. The fall of Oran really sealed Casablanca's fate, as the French could not have withstood an additional attack coming overland from Algeria. There was ample scope for guerrilla resistance in Morocco, however, as there was anywhere
in North Africa. Fortunately, Darlan persuaded Nogues to give up early on the morning of 11 November.23
The defenses of Morocco were formidable enough. The French had added numerous batteries to the inhospitable coast, and moored in Casablanca harbor was the unfinished battleship Jean Bart whose four 15-inchers had to be reckoned with. The 55,000 troops allowed Morocco by the 1940 armistice were supposed to be better equipped than their colleagues in Algeria and Tunisia, as Nogues had found ways and means of circumventing the armistice commission. The French air force in the area, however, possessed only about 130 combat aircraft--Curtiss and Dewoitine fighters and an assortment of middle-aged bombers--whose rate of employment, as at Oran, was certain to diminish because of lack of gasoline and service facilities. Again, no friendly reception was to be expected from the embittered French navy. Whatever forces Vice Adm. Frix Michelier could bring to bear would probably fight with intelligence and determination. In the event, these included the light cruiser Primauguet, the flotilla leaders Milan, Albatros, Le Malin, seven destroyers, eleven submarines, and three sloops.24
The U.S. Navy, which was responsible for air as well as naval cooperation until XII Air Support Command could relieve it, brought over an armada huge by 1942 standards, partly in the expectation of a sally by the heavily armed Richelieu, reported at Dakar. The battleships Massachusetts, New York, and Texas and the cruisers Augusta (flagship), Wichita, Tuscaloosa, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Savannah, with attendant destroyers, oilers, and minelayers, sailed in Task Force 34, under Rear Adm. Henry K. Hewitt. Task Force 34's air group was commanded by Rear Adm. Ernest D. McWhorter. It included the Ranger, carrying fifty-four F4F-4's and eighteen SBD's; the Sangamon, carrying nine TBF's, nine SBD's, and twelve F4F-4's; the Santee, carrying an equivalent complement; and the Suwannee, with nine TBF's and thirty F4F-4's. In the convoy sailed the Chenango with the P-40's of the 33d Fighter Group. The Contessa, with its cargo of gas and munitions and a crew derived partly from a Norfolk naval prison, sailed independently from Hampton Roads on 26 October. 25
Patton commanded 37,000 ground and air force troops-the 3d Infantry Division and the 2d Armored Division fresh from landing practice at Solomons Island in Chesapeake Bay to bear the brunt of the attack. His mission was the occupation of the ports and airdromes in the Casablanca region, the establishment and maintenance of communications
with Oran, and the build-up of air and land striking forces for possible use against Spanish Morocco. The scheme of maneuver was as follows: three surprise landings-supported after daylight by naval gunfire; elimination of the enemy air force by surprise dawn attacks; and the securing by the end of D-day of at least one airdrome for land-based planes. The main assault would strike at Fedhala, a pleasure resort thirteen miles north of Casablanca; it was to be coordinated with a landing at Safi 130 miles to the south. The most northerly attack, at Mehdia, eighty miles up the coast, had as its chief objective the Port Lyautey airdrome, to be captured it was hoped by the end of D-day.26
On 23 October, Task Force 34 began to put to sea out of Hampton Roads. The covering group, intended to contain the French naval forces at Casablanca and the Richelieu at Dakar, joined in mid-Atlantic from Casco Bay. The carriers joined on 28 October from Bermuda. The armada zigzagged across the Atlantic, feinting at Dakar and avoiding sea searches from the Canaries and the Azores. After 6 November, the weather began to clear and the task force prepared for battle. H-hour was 0400, three hours later than at Oran and Algiers.27
The main assault at Fedhala occasioned considerable confusion: many units landed at the wrong beaches; two boats strayed into Casablanca harbor, where they were unluckily discovered by a French patrol vessel. Ashore, however, the French mainly fought a delaying action, while they fortified the nearer approaches to Casablanca. At Safi, the landing, aided by some superior fleet gunnery, went fairly smoothly. By 1500 hours the sea train Lakehurst was unloading Shermans in the harbor. The Santee's aircraft helping disperse French reinforcements coming from Marrakech, by 11 November the Safi force had reached Mazagan and was poised for a coordinated attack barely forestalled by Nogues' surrender.28 True to form, the French fleet units spent themselves in desperate sorties against Hewitt's warships. The Jean Bart and the coastal batteries, however, were harder nuts to crack and the former, despite naval gunfire and bombing, was still able to fire at the time of the armistice. On 10 November the Augusta narrowly escaped hits from her 15-inch shells. On the nights of 11/12 and 12/13 November, four transports were torpedoed and sunk off Fedhala, whether by U-boats or French submarines out of Casablanca was unknown.29
Mehdia brought the most severe fighting of the entire operation. There, landings had been planned on both sides of the mouth of the
Sebou, while the destroyer Dallas, guided by a pro-Allied Frenchman, formerly a pilot on the river, was to proceed upstream to Port Lyautey. The main landing, immediately south of the estuary, encountered stiff resistance, French batteries driving the transports out of range and hostile fighters strafing the beaches, which necessitated calls to the carriers. The Dallas could not run the Sebou in the face of the fire from the walled Kasba at Mehdia, where Foreign Legion elements not only maintained themselves but on the morning of the 10th counterattacked and captured an American detachment which had penetrated their positions.
On the 10th, however, both Port Lyautey and Mehdia were finally cleared. After a Navy crew in a small boat had cut the net across the Sebou the night before, the Dallas scraped her way up the shallow, winding river and by 0800 landed a Ranger detachment at the airfield, which the French were contesting with a company of American infantry. Later the Army took the Kasba in an action reminiscent of Beau Geste.30
Headquarters of XII Air Support Command was first established on the beach and subsequently at the Miramar Hotel at Fedhala. When it was learned that the Port Lyautey field had been finally secured, Lt. Col. William W. Momyer's P-40's were ordered in from the Chenango. Despite misgivings of the Navy, the catapulting itself was fairly successful, planes eventually being launched at as little as two- or three-minute intervals. However, Navy shells and dive bombers had badly damaged the main runway at Port Lyautey and the rest of the field was soft. The catapulting, begun on 10 November, had to be discontinued and was not completed until two days later, some of the P-40's evidently going into Cazes airdrome at Casablanca. Of the seventy-seven P-40's launched from the Chenango, one crashed into the sea, one flew off into the fog and was never heard from, and seventeen were damaged in landing. None, apparently, got into action. Not long afterward, thirty-five more P-40's, the "advance attrition" of the 33d Group, arrived off Morocco on the British carrier Archer in the D plus 5 convoy. These planes were also catapulted and came down at Port Lyautey, four cracking up on landing primarily because of pilot inexperience.31
Thus the U.S. Navy's carrier aircraft had assumed the whole burden of air cooperation with the Western Task Force. They performed creditably by all accounts, ranging as far afield as Marrakech and
Rabat-Sale to attack the French air force, quickly responding to calls from the ground forces, and making effective attacks against the lighter French naval units sortieing out of Casablanca. During the hostilities, although it did not furnish air support against the French, XII ASC had taken on a variety of tasks. Its air support parties performed effectively; many of its units participated as assault infantry, a rare employment for Air Corps troops. Its service command personnel were running a gas-laden truck convoy into Cazes airdrome almost before the last shots in defense of the field had died away.32
Speed was the essence of the plan to seize Tunisia, for a bare hundred miles from the big prizes of Bizerte and Tunis lay the great Axis base of Sicily. And from Sicily, on 9 November, the morrow of the Allies' D-day, the Germans made their own invasion of French Africa-to get a rather better reception. They came in their three-motored Ju-52 transports, landed at El Aouina, Tunis' municipal airdrome, and were welcomed at the orders of Adm. Jean-Pierre Esteva, resident-general of Tunisia.33
Prelude to Tunisia
Another factor, besides the proximity and energy of the Axis forces, made a quick eastward thrust imperative. Northern Tunisia, characterized by mountains and narrow valleys, is an area of considerable rainfall. The heaviest incidence of this rainfall is in the months from December through February when the lowlands experience a "particularly glutinous" mud. The Allies had therefore only about a month of good weather in which to contact and smash the Axis build-up.
On 9 November, the same day as the reception at El Aouina, Lt. Gen. K. A. N. Anderson arrived in Algiers to take charge of the eastward push, his principal instruments being the British First Army and the RAF's Eastern Air Command. While fighting still raged at Oran and Casablanca, Anderson began preparations against an objective 400 miles away over a country broken by mountains and deficient in highways and railroads. In such circumstances, an orthodox land advance was out of the question. The First Army, which, including American elements, never mustered more than the equivalent strength of one division and a single tank regiment during the critical phase of the first battle for Tunis, was to be rushed forward by landing craft, motor transport, and troop carrier aircraft to seize successive ports and the coastal airdromes to cover them.34
At the outset, a spell of rough sea cost the Allies two precious days. At dawn on 11 November the British 36 Brigade Group went ashore unopposed at the port of Bougie, 100 miles east of Algiers, but an attempted landing at Djidjelli, about 30 miles farther along the coast, was frustrated by a heavy swell. Before the airdrome at Djidjelli could be secured, enemy aircraft sank two British transports off Bougie and damaged the British carrier Argus, whose fighters, abetted by RAF fighters operating at extreme range from Maison Blanche at Algiers, were covering the operation. Next Allied objectives were Philippeville and Bône.35
The intended use of the Paratroop Task Force at Bône had been frustrated by the force's dispersal during its D-day mission at Oran. On the afternoon of 8 November, therefore, the command post at Gibraltar ordered a second paratroop force into Africa. The next day, thirty-nine C-47's of the U.S. 64th Group, carrying two company groups of the British 3 Paratroop Battalion, left St. Eval for Gibraltar. Thirty-four of them made Algiers early on the morning of the 11th to be greeted by Allied antiaircraft fire which wounded two men. Next morning, twenty-six of the troop carriers took off from Maison Blanche, and with fighter escort flew along the coast to the Duzerville airdrome, six miles southeast of Bône, where 312 paratroops were successfully dropped. At the port itself, British commandos had landed unopposed at dawn, but when night came the GAF bombed the Bône airfield so heavily as to threaten to make it untenable. This situation was somewhat relieved when the 64th's C-47's returned to Bône the next day, with P-38 escort, ferrying in gasoline and antiaircraft guns.36
Meanwhile, the Allied commanders were laboring to bring over the hesitant French army forces in Tunisia, hoping to undo, at least partially, the effects of the initial admission of the Germans. Admiral Darlan and Gen. Henri Giraud issued orders for resistance to the Axis, and Giraud, accompanied by Lt. Gen. Alphonse Juin, prepared to make a personal reconnaissance of the Tunisian border. On 13 November, the Allies brought a convoy into Bône and disembarked BLADE Force, a British armored unit which immediately began operations to the east. By the 15th, elements of the 36 Brigade Group had occupied Tabarka, on the coast only sixty miles from Tunis, and American paratroops were jumping far inland.37
By 12 November the Paratroop Task Force (60th Troop Carrier Group and 2d Battalion, 503d U.S. Parachute Infantry) had assembled
Eastern Algeria and Tunisia
at Algiers and passed to the operational control of the First Army. Two days later Colonel Raff and Maj. Martin E. Wanamaker, commanding the transports, were called to headquarters and assigned a mission against Youks-les-Bains airfield, out near the Tunisian border. Intelligence about the area was meager, the reaction of the local French problematical, and enemy patrols might even be in possession of the field. Nevertheless, on the morning of the 15th, twenty C-47's left Maison Blanche, flew with Spitfire escort along the coast to Djidjelli, thence with Hurricane escort south; the formation was at one point forced onto instruments but, at 0945, 350 paratroops were successfully dropped.38 Next day the 64th carried out a similar mission against the Souk-el-Arba airfield, ninety miles up the Medjerda valley from Tunis, dropping 384 British paratroops. This operation had been attempted on the 15th but was frustrated by weather. None of these paratroop landings was opposed, nor were any of the transports lost to enemy action, although on the way to Souk-el-Arba the 64th had watched enemy planes bombing and strafing the Bône airfield.39
The Axis was making a determined effort to establish a bridgehead in Tunisia, pouring men and weapons in from Sicily. By 17 November the hostile establishment at Bizerte, where the Ju-52's were averaging fifty landings a day, was estimated at 4,000 men, with an additional 1,000 in Tunis itself. This force mustered some medium tanks and the German and Italian infantry was strong in antiaircraft and antitank guns. The enemy had put about 150 fighters and dive bombers into the Tunis and Bizerte airdromes, and with long-range bombers from Sicily and Sardinia he was operating with some effect against the exposed communications of the First Army.
After prolonged indecision, the bulk of the French forces in Tunisia came over to the Allies. Gen. Louis Jacques Barre, commanding the French army in the protectorate, had been negotiating with the German commander, Gen. Walter von Nehring, ever since the Germans set foot in the country. He now broke off. The French began to harass the Axis advance, fighting patrol actions at Oued Zarga and Mateur on the 16th. By the 17th the British had made contact with German elements at Djebel Abiod on the coast road. In the south Raff's paratroopers had secured the cooperation of the French garrison at Tebessa and began to clash with Italian patrols moving inland from Sfax and Gabès.
Barre had agreed that he would cover the British 78 Division's
concentration in the forward area and its right flank during the subsequent advance on Tunis. In the interim, Eisenhower hoped to use the weak French units in a kind of psychological warfare against the Germans. He urged that they make a great show of activity, spread rumors of formidable American and British columns in their immediate rear, and generally induce the enemy to tie himself down to local defense of Tunis and Bizerte. The Germans, however, after two ultimatums, Nehring to Barre, drove the ill-equipped French out of Medjez-el-Bab on the 19th, inflicting heavy losses on them with dive bombers and tanks. The 78 Division delayed its advance until it could build up forces and supplies and deploy the French to the south.40
On 19 November, while the French were being driven from Medjez-el-Bab and the British First Army was girding for an advance, Doolittle, whose air force had not yet been heavily committed to the Tunisian operation, was writing a long letter to Arnold reporting on early developments in Africa.41 The Twelfth had been chiefly occupied in setting up housekeeping and building strength in western Algeria and Morocco, the areas assigned it by the TORCH planners. However, six of its B-17's had already inaugurated USAAF bombing of the Axis forces in Tunisia, the 340th Squadron of the 97th Group having dumped British bombs on Sidi Ahmed airdrome at Bizerte on 16 November. The 340th had left England on the 10th, come into Maison Blanche on the 13th after a two-day stopover at Gibraltar, and set about "promoting" transportation and pouring gasoline from five-gallon flimsies in preparation for its first raid. Over Bizerte, its B-17's reportedly knocked down one of the Me-109's which rose to intercept.42
In Algeria, the Twelfth's build-up had been rapid: the area had even received by 19 November (D plus 11) the approximate number of aircraft which the plans specified for that date.43 The two Spitfire groups (31st and 52d) had successfully cleared Gibraltar, much to Doolittle's relief, and other units had flown in from England with trifling losses, lending color to one facet of the AAF's contention that the two theaters were complementary so far as air operations were concerned. Altogether by D plus 11 there were in Algeria four fighter groups minus one squadron (1st, 14th,31st, 52d), one light bomber squadron (15th), two troop carrier groups, and two B-17 squadrons of the 97th Group. A good many factors, however, limited the usefulness of this force. Its ground echelons were scattered; airdromes and all manner of supplies
were limited; besides, western Algeria, where most of the units were situated, was not an active theater of war. In Morocco, General Cannon's buildup was not so impressive, chiefly because the Twelfth's P-39's still languished in Eighth Air Force depots, but he had, besides the 33d, parts of the 62d (troop carrier) and 310th (B-25's); and so far, with the pacification of the French and the inactivity of the Spaniards, it did not appear likely that he would immediately need a great mass of air power.44
Supplies were being hauled from the docks to the airfields, a great part in rejuvenated French vehicles, for the Twelfth was beginning to suffer from the lack of motor transportation that would plague it well into the Tunisian campaign.45 The French contributed in other ways, the USAAF making good use of their weather net46 and of such aircraft repair and erection facilities as offered, particularly at the Cazes airdrome at Casablanca.47 However, the French airfields had not been equipped for such a rush of visitors, and a really gorgeous congestion developed at Oran shortly after its conquest, Tafaraoui and La Senia, with accommodations for 300 officers and 3,000 men, playing host to Air Corps contingents about three times too large.48 A more serious deficiency of the French airfields lay in their general lack of all-weather facilities-hardstands and hard-surfaced taxiways and runways. In the area from Casablanca to the Tunisian border, there were just four airdromes with hard-surfaced runways of any description: Port Lyautey, Tafaraoui, Maison Blanche, and Bône.49 This factor was to assume controlling importance when the winter rains set in.
Despite the fact that the Eastern Air Command was, on paper, mainly responsible for air cooperation with the First Army, it was a foregone conclusion that the Twelfth would be ordered into the Tunisian battle, especially since no threat had developed to the LOC through the Strait of Gibraltar. Such a movement would naturally have to be coordinated with Air Marshal Welsh's plans, since he had jurisdiction over the eastern area. On 19 November, Doolittle, whose units were soon to be released from the control of the task force commanders,50 was in Algiers on that errand; he expected a conference with the air marshal before the day was out. Meanwhile, he had evolved his own ideas for the organization and employment of the Twelfth.51
Before the invasion, when the intention was to deploy the Twelfth mainly in the western area, it had been anticipated that air force headquarters, together with fighter and bomber command headquarters,
would be at Oran and that XII Air Support Command with observation, light bombardment, and troop carrier wings would be attached to the American Fifth Army.52 By 19 November, Doolittle had made some radical departures from this idea.53 He saw that he had two principal responsibilities: to get his striking force into eastern Algeria and Tunisia and to be prepared to combat hostile moves jeopardizing the safety of the LOC through Gibraltar. Therefore he planned to break up the vast African area into districts and install in each a composite command, capable of operating both fighters and bombers as strategic circumstances dictated. These flexible commands were to be under direct control of air force headquarters and their staffs were to be derived from existing air force organizations; XII Air Support Command was to be left temporarily at Casablanca; XII Fighter Command would function at Oran; XII Bomber Command was to be placed somewhere south of Bône. The Algiers area would be administered by Twelfth Air Force headquarters itself-the advance headquarters of the Twelfth was at Algiers by the 18th and the headquarters at Tafaraoui seems to have been closed by the 28th.54
Doolittle's hope that his bomber command might be assigned a sector farther east was gratified on the 20th when Forward AFHQ approved the use of Constantine as headquarters, indicating it to be the only available location with the communications to support such an echelon; Claude Duncan, the bomber commander, began making his preparations.55 Moreover, Welsh decided to deploy Doolittle's P-38's (14th Group) and DB-7's (15th Bombardment Squadron), which were at Algiers ready for action, in the Tebessa-Youks-les-Bains area, from which Raff's paratroopers and their new-found French friends were operating.56 Doolittle got his C-47's busy ferrying supplies into Youks.57 The two U.S. Spitfire groups were left for the time being at Oran as a reserve for the Spits of the Eastern Air Command.58 The early configuration of the Twelfth Air Force was taking shape.
On 21 November one squadron of the 14th Group moved down to Youks and immediately found itself engaged with an enemy force moving on Gafsa. Two strafing missions were flown against the column the first day, six P-38's being lost when they attempted to land at Youks after dark.59 Soon afterwards, the 15th Squadron joined the P-38's, each DB-7 carrying two 500-pounders down from Maison Blanche with an eye to immediate operations, and passed under the control of the 14th's commander, Col. Thayer Olds, and XII Fighter Command.
For a long time the units at Youks were to be dependent on air transport.60
One of the first reverses sustained by the Twelfth occurred when the GAF and IAF drove its B-17's out of the Algiers region. On the 19th, before they left for Youks, the 14th Group's P-38's had escorted the 97th down to Tunis, where, according to Doolittle, the bombers destroyed eight aircraft on the El Aouina airdrome, neither B-17's nor escort suffering loss.61 But the enemy was pounding Algiers nightly from Sardinia. On the night of the 20th he outdid himself at Maison Blanche. With a force estimated at upwards of thirty Ju-87's and 88's, he destroyed four Spits, three Beaufighters, two P-38's, a B-17, and an entire RAF photo reconnaissance unit. No interception could be made as no Allied fighters possessed aerial interception equipment. Eisenhower worried over these raids as Algiers abounded with targets, and he immediately appealed to the CCS and the Air Ministry for night fighter, radar, and balloon units.62
Spaatz, who was on a tour of the area, had inspected Maison Blanche on the 18th and concluded that it was too exposed for heavy bombers.63 He conferred with Eisenhower at Gibraltar the next day, and a cable went forward from the command post suggesting to Clark and Welsh that the B-17's be moved to Tafaraoui, where maintenance would be easier. From Tafaraoui the B-17's could still reach Tunis, picking up escort at Maison Blanche or at a more advanced base. Not until still another night raid had claimed an additional B-17 were the heavies moved out, on 22 November. Thenceforth, until mid-December, they operated from Tafaraoui, where, as the famous rhyme had it, the mud was "deep and gooey."64
Having straightened out a considerable mixture of French and British troops and arranged the French role in the forthcoming hostilities, Anderson launched his offensive on the 24th with the line of Tebourba-Mateur as the first objective-the ultimate plan being to drive a wedge between Tunis and Bizerte, capture the former, and hem in the Axis forces on the northernmost tip of Tunisia. Progress was at first steady. On the morning of the 26th the 78 Division flanked and captured Medjez-el-Bab, while BLADE Force advanced to a point midway between Mateur and Tebourba. On the night of the 26th Tebourba itself was taken, and counterattacks employing tanks and dive
Repulse before Tunis
bombers were beaten off. Djedeida, from which the ridge of the Kasba at Tunis could be seen, only sixteen miles away, was reached by the 28th.65
The Eastern Air Command was covering the advance primarily from Souk-el-Arba and had brought a squadron of Bisleys (Blenheim V's) into Canrobert for night bombing operations against the bridgehead. To bolster its air defense of much-bombed Bône, Doolittle lent the 2d Squadron of his 52d Group, which arrived at the airfield on 27 November. Until the 2d retired from Bône on 11 January 1943, it was at times altogether out of touch with the Twelfth Air Force, such a situation arising with many units during the hectic Although for one reason or another Operation BREASTPLATE, a coordinated landing at Sousse by part of the Malta garrison, had been abandoned, Malta was contributing substantially to Anderson's drive. Reinforced with Beaufighter and Wellington squadrons from the Middle East, its air establishment had passed to the offensive, striking at ports, airdromes, and airborne and seaborne reinforcements in the Sicily-Sardinia-Tunisia triangle.67
During the First Army's advance, the Allied bomber effort from Algeria, whether by Bisleys, B-17's, or DB-7's, was mostly directed-by Anderson-against the principal Tunisian airfields in the hope of crippling the enemy air strength. After their removal to Tafaraoui, however, the B-17's made one attempt to strike at Cagliari/Elmas airdrome in Sardinia, a base for the attacks on the Algerian littoral, only to be frustrated by weather. Next day, on the 24th, the heavies were turned back from Bizerte, again by clouds.68 It was reported that the weathermen were having difficulty with their forecasts because of the mass of enemy territory to the north.69 Soon P-38's began to be used on early-morning weather reconnaissance of the general target area. On the 28th, thirty-seven B-17s, including a contingent from the newly arrived 301st Group, bombed the Bizerte airdrome and the adjacent docks without escort, provoking an air battle with a mixture of Me-109's and FW-190's in which claims of ten enemy fighters destroyed were assessed as against two bombers shot down.70 From Tafaraoui to Bizerte is almost 600 miles. The B-17's were operating at close to their maximum tactical radius. For any aircraft short of gas on the return leg, however, there were many friendly airdromes east of Oran, particularly Maison Blanche, where one squadron of P-38's of the 1st Fighter Group was being assembled for bomber escort. On 25
November, another of the 1st's squadrons, the 94th, had been sent down to reinforce the 14th Group at Youks-les-Bains.71
The remote units at Youks at first were fighting their own air war, ranging down to the Tunisian east coast where, on the 24th, the P-38's had a field day against German and Italian transport aircraft near Gabès. They protected the Allied force in central Tunisia, consisting of six French battalions and Raff's reinforced paratroop battalion, which in turn protected the extreme right of the First Army in the north. The American air units at Youks, however, soon found their principal targets in the area affected by the main push at Tunis and Bizerte, although at times conflicts developed between the requirements of the two sectors. On 27 November the Youks aircraft were made available to the British 78 Division operating forward of Medjez-el-Bab.72
On 28 November the Anglo-American force pushing at Djedeida and Mateur seemed about to break through the crust of the skillful German defense, despite intensive bombing by Ju-87's and Ju-88's. The situation report for that date was particularly optimistic, describing heavy enemy tank losses, Djedeida being cleaned up, Pont-du-Fahs evacuated, enemy supplies abandoned and burning. At this point a paratroop attack was ordered for the 29th against the area immediately southwest of Tunis.73 The principal objective was evidently Oudna airdrome, ten miles from the capital; Oudna captured and any stores and aircraft there destroyed, the paratroops were to infiltrate the southern approaches to Tunis; eventually they would link up with the advancing Allied army.74
Under the personal command of Col. P. L. Williams, the drop was made between 1330 and 1400 hours at Depienne, ten miles northeast of Pont-du-Fahs. Forty-four C-47's from the 62d and 64th Groups participated; they took off from Maison Blanche, carrying 530 men of the British I Parachute Brigade. Escort was furnished initially by Hurricanes and P-38's, later joined by Spits. No air opposition developing, the C-47's all came safely back. Not so the paratroops. Five days later what remained of them got back to the Allied lines-lines which had not advanced as planned-with the report: Oudna had been heavily defended; tanks and armored cars had put in an appearance. This was the last major paratroop operation in the North African campaign.75
The drive on Tunis was in fact stalled. Djedeida, it turned out, had not been completely occupied and the 36 Brigade was still involved
northwest of Mateur. Welsh ordered further attacks on enemy airfields to destroy, if possible, the enemy front-line air superiority. Anderson meanwhile prepared to resume the offensive as soon as Combat Command B, U.S. 1st Armored Division, could come up.76
A small force of B-26's from the 319th Group arrived at Maison Blanche in time for these operations, after a series of mishaps which culminated when the group commander was shot down over Cherbourg in transit from the United Kingdom to Africa. On the 28th, upon finding Kairouan airdrome unoccupied, the 319th attacked Sfax harbor from 1,000 feet, several of the B-26's coming down for strafing runs, On the 30th, nine of its planes attacked the Gabits airdrome and called on one of XII Fighter Command's DB-7's from Youks to land and rescue the crew of a B-26 shot down in enemy territory by the light flak over the field.77 The DB-7's were also hammering the enemy airdromes: Gabès on the 29th and El Aouina on 1 December; the P-38's escorted them on two attacks on Djedeida, besides performing their own sweeps and reconnaissance missions.78 On the 30th the B-17's, already beginning to be hampered by Tafaraoui's mud, bombed Bizerte's north quay, a target radioed back by Eisenhower from the front, but the clouds prevented more than a third of the pay load from being dropped. On the 1st, however, the 97th Group made an effective strike on El Aouina, achieving bursts on the hangar line and the built-up area of the field.79
General Anderson's offensive with Combat Command B never came off. Nehring anticipated him on 1 December, striking in the direction of Tebourba from the north. Much-battered BLADE Force withdrew towards Tebourba and Combat Command B replaced it, in a defensive role. In the early hours of the 2d, Anderson sent a worried radio back to Eisenhower.80 He stated that if he did not take either Tunis or Bizerte within the next few days a temporary withdrawal was mandatory. Three factors, said the general, were responsible: administration, the enemy's air action, and his rate of reinforcement. Normal administration had been intentionally disregarded in the race for Tunis, the army and air forces working with precarious communications and no reserve supplies, their line of communication additionally burdened by the movement of French troops and stores. Anderson confirmed that what Eisenhower had feared and warned against had come to pass: the German build-up in Tunisia exceeded that of the Allies.
The British commander believed, however, that enemy air action
had exercised the greatest effect in bogging his advance; and he recognized that for "geographical reasons" his supporting air units could not deal with the situation. What Anderson referred to as enemy air action was the persistent dive bombing of his forward troops, Strangely enough, the obsolescent Ju-87's, the Stukas which had suffered so much at the hands of the RAF, ME, could claim a great deal of the credit for the First Army's discomfiture. The geographical reason for his own air forces' disability was the lack of forward airdromes.
The GAF and its satellite IAF were excellently disposed to support the defense of Tunisia. Besides their Sicilian and Sardinian bases, they enjoyed on the mainland the use of the all-weather fields at Sidi Ahmed and El Aouina and of the coastal airfields to the south at Sfax, Sousse, and Gabès. Moreover, their ground arm had seized the Tunisian plains, of which large areas were usable, almost without preparation, as landing grounds. The Germans based their Stukas at El Aouina, barely a score of miles from the front at Djedeida, and, since the plane was light, at landing grounds and in open fields just beyond the range of Allied artillery. Army calls for support, made by voice radio in the clear, could be answered within five to ten minutes.
The Eastern Air Command and the Twelfth could have demonstrated the Ju-87's obsolescence, as the Allied air in the Middle East had done, had they been able to get at it in strength. But, in late November, they were operating from just three forward fields: Bône, 120 miles from the lines, and Youks and Souk-el-Arba, 150 and 70 miles back, respectively-the last two frequently mudded. Nor could additional fields be easily located and prepared, for the Allies possessed mostly the hill country of Tunisia. From Souk-el-Arba the Spits with their 90-mile "magic circle" radius could remain over the battle area for only five to ten minutes. On their appearance the GAF pulled out over the Gulf of Tunis or landed its Ju-87's at forward landing grounds and parked them under trees. When the sweep had disappeared over the western hills, the enemy bombers resumed their work.
The P-38's at Youks found the range more convenient, but there were not enough of them for the job. Over the Allied fighters, which had to escort paratroops and bombers and to cover the coastal shipping, the Me-109's and FW-190's were consistently enjoying numerical superiority. On sweeps over the battle area the Spits and P-38's frequently were hard put to defend themselves, let alone scatter the enemy bombers. Nor was the weight of the Allied bomber force
enough to knock out the enemy air power on its airdromes, particularly since weather was beginning seriously to interfere. Besides, as Anderson mentioned, the air forces were not only overworked but undersupplied.81
On 2 December, the day after the first German counterattack, the Twelfth threw its full available force into the doubtful struggle. The DB-7's at 0810, the B-26's at 1059, bombed El Aouina where at least fifty enemy aircraft were counted and fifteen to twenty damaged. From Tafaraoui the 301st sent eighteen B-17's which bombed Sidi Ahmed and adjacent Bizerte harbor shortly after 1000 hours. The 310th Group, of which eight B-25's and crews had accumulated at Maison Blanche, ran its first mission, against installations south of Gabès, picking up escort at Youks. The P-38's made two sweeps in the northern area, broke up a Ju-88 bombing formation in the teeth of its Me-109 escort, and shot up the Stuka landing ground at Sidi Tabet.82
After the Germans, on the 3d, had again attacked at Tebourba and severely punished the 11 Brigade, Eisenhower informed the CCS that the Allied forces needed rest.83 No reserves stood behind the front, and the air commanders had warned that their effort would break down completely if operations continued for as long as a week on the current scale-a scale still not sufficient to permit an advance. Existing airfields were practically bereft of all manner of supplies; maintenance troops, warning service, and AA all had to be brought forward to them; and more advanced fields had to be occupied and similarly stocked as a matter of first priority. Eisenhower hoped that these deficiencies could be somewhat remedied by 9 December, which he set as target date for a new effort. The CCS approved his plans and stressed the desirability of a vigorous assault to deprive the Axis of the Tunisian base, so that Allied forces could be freed to take increased precautions to guard the mouth of the Mediterranean.84
During the interim when the Allies would be gathering strength for their 9 December push, their bomber effort was to be switched to the ports to limit the rival build-up. On the 3d, the 97th Group had made an effective attack on Bizerte harbor, scoring on the docks and on two ships in the canal leading to the harbor and finding that the heavy flak had greatly increased in intensity. Alerted by radar, the GAF had Me-109's up and waiting; they jumped the P-38 escort at 25,000 feet, shot down three (two more were missing), and lost three of their own planes, Although it had been intended to conserve the Allied fighters
for the resumption of the advance on the 9th, the continued German dive bombing against the tired troops in the hills around Tebourba precluded any rest for the P-38's and Spits: sweeps and escort missions went on.85 On the 5th, the Eastern Air Command attempted to use an advanced fighter landing ground at Medjez-el-Bab, which Anderson had hoped would alleviate the Stuka problem, but two planes were shot down landing from a sortie.86 On the same day, the Twelfth's heavies bombed the Tunis docks with a very respectable degree of accuracy, and its B-25's and DB-7's attacked Sidi Ahmed, the light bombers' P-38 escort suffering substantial losses in a fight with a larger GAF fighter formation.87
Nehring attacked on 6 December and again pierced the Allied lines. On the 8th, Eisenhower approved Anderson's proposal to withdraw to a more defensible position while the troops were refitted and built up for another push. In the midst of this movement the winter rains arrived with a vengeance, rendering the terrain off the roads impassable and converting Souk-el-Arba into a mudhole. A major disaster struck Combat Command B, which became mired during the withdrawal and lost about four-fifths of its tanks and artillery. By 11 December, Anderson had retired to the general line Djebel Abiod-Medjez-el-Bab.
Although Eisenhower still hoped to take Tunis by a quick blow and planning proceeded for a time on this basis, the Allies had already lost the race. The D-day for another attack was postponed again and again by the December rains until the TORCH commander, bitterly disappointed, gave it up on Christmas Eve. The rains which glued the Eastern Air Command and the Twelfth Air Force to their bases gave a high degree of protection to the enemy build-up. What Eisenhower aptly termed the logistical marathon had begun. TORCH had failed of complete success.88
Meanwhile, Montgomery's Eighth Army, the victors of El Alamein,* had advanced into Libya, preceded, in some haste, by Rommel. If, thanks to the rains on 6 and 7 November, the Axis forces in the Western Desert had been able to disengage and begin a retreat in good order, they nevertheless had suffered a defeat of enormous dimensions. The year before, Rommel had merely been forced to withdraw. His present prospects could better be compared with Graziani's in 1940,
Pursuit of Rommel
* See above, pp. 33-40.
after the disastrous rout at Sidi Barrani, before the Germans had intervened in Greece and Libya.
Out of the ruck about fifty tanks had been saved. The Axis partners had suffered approximately 50,000 casualties, left 30,000 prisoners to tax the Middle East's cages. Stores and equipment in proportion had been lost.89 During his previous retreat, Rommel could count on recuperating in Tripolitania while desert logistics slowed his pursuers. In November 1942 he worried lest his Tripolitanian recuperation would be marred by an Anglo-American force pouring over the Tunisian borders. To forestall such a contingency, the Axis high command was rushing troops into Tunis and Bizerte and occupying in haste the hinterland of the east-coast Tunisian ports. This expedition might fight off the threat to Rommel's rear but, since Tunisia, not Libya, was the key position in the Mediterranean, its provisioning would inevitably cut into his supplies.90 His chances for a successful stand short of Tunisia were not impressive.
The Middle East's duty in these circumstances was clear. The advantage, to be fully exploited, had to be followed up and cherished. If Rommel's forces could be closely pressed, they might be brought to battle and destroyed, at least given little opportunity to recoup; their supply lines had to be dominated by Allied air and naval action, so that build-up could be kept to a minimum; where possible, aid and comfort ought to be given to forces under Eisenhower in Northwest Africa. These grand objectives had largely to be accomplished in the desert, the "quartermaster's hell," far from the Egyptian depots. The task required good management, for the amount of power mustered to defend Egypt could not be brought into play in Libya.91
Once delivered from the mud south and east of Matruh, the Eighth Army bore down rapidly on the frontiers of Libya. The 2 New Zealand cleared Sidi Barrani on 9 November, and the next night the defenders of Halfaya Pass were surprised and dispersed. Bardia was occupied on the 11th and Tobruk, largely bypassed by the retreat, on the 13th; energetic action to clear the port was at once put in hand. It was hoped that Bengasi might be taken quickly before the enemy could complete his demolitions and bring his personnel away, but the Germans were laying a carpet of mines faster than the British sappers could roll it up and, rain also interfering, the city was not entered until 20 November. By then the Axis forces were in the familiar defenses of
El Alamein to El Agheila
Agedabia and El Agheila, and the Eighth Army had to stop to build up for another battle.92
Although, except for his rear guards, Rommel kept his forces well out of reach of the pursuit during his career to Agheila, there was no escaping punishment from the air. By night, so long as their range permitted, RAF heavy and medium bombers attacked the roads; by day, fighters and fighter-bombers leapfrogging in the Eighth Army's train took up the burden. The Bostons and Baltimores, however, had not the range from the Egyptian fields and could neither be so easily maintained nor so expeditiously established at forward bases; they tended to drop out of the mission reports until the weight of their attack was needed against fixed positions. The fighters, fitted with extra gas tanks, became the shield of the army and the chief tormentors of the opposition.93
The rapid advance of the air forces traced not only to excellent. army-air cooperation and to the fact that the RAF was well organized for mobility: landing sites were numerous in Cyrenaica and their location was perfectly known to the British, who had twice before fought over the ground. Moreover, the enemy initially decamped in such haste that he was not able to get all his serviceable aircraft away, let alone to mine or plow his airfields. Not until Derna was reached were any very formidable obstacles interposed to immediate operations from newly occupied landing grounds.94
In such wise was accomplished the long-range punishment of the retreat. During the pursuit to Agheila aerial combat became something of a rarity, as neither GAF nor IAF could stay close in any force to protect the army as had the RAF the previous June; for one thing, they had not the fuel. The 11th of November marked an exception, when the Allied air forces collided with the GAF based at Gambut and El Adem. The score reported that day: eleven Stukas, six Ju-52's, and five Me-109's, against six Kittyhawks and a P-40. The 57th Fighter Group caught and destroyed three Stukas about to land at Gambut.95 The 57th's 66th Squadron had gone forward with the advance, under the operational control of No. 239 Wing, RAF. Upon reaching Gazala it received orders to join the 64th and 65th Squadrons at Martuba. By 20 November, therefore, in company with the RAF's 112 Squadron, the group was in action for the first time as a tactical unit;96 between 6 November and the end of the month it carried out the impressive total of
DESERT AIR WAR
Below: Squadron Headquarters
477 sorties.97 How it kept up with the advance is illustrated by the following table:98
Eight Army's Advance Occupation of Landing Grounds
by the 57th Fighter Group
5-6 Nov. Fuka Escarpment 5 Nov. Daba 8 Matruh 9 Sidi Hanaish 9 Sidi Barrani 12 Sidi Azeiz 11 Halfaya 13 Gambur 13 Tobruk 16 Martuba 20 Bengasi
Air transports were used when long moves became necessary. The results qualified at times as spectacular. On 13 November two squadrons of Hurricanes moved into a landing ground 180 miles east of Agedabia, beyond the Axis army. Before withdrawing on the 16th, the Hurricanes were able to attack the enemy's leading columns with some effect. By that time Coningham's fighters, operating from Gambut, had designs on the Ju-52's, which, because of the dearth of M/T and fuel, were being extensively employed in the evacuation of Bengasi. Nearly forty aircraft, mostly transport, were reported destroyed in the two days succeeding.99
It was a foregone conclusion that once its armies were broken in Egypt the Axis would find Cyrenaica untenable and would again seek refuge in the Agheila defenses, Tripoli then becoming the main port of entry. Consequently, plans were early developed to bring IX Bomber Command within range of the Libyan capital, and the army accepted the added strain on its LOC.100 The two heavy groups had already moved their permanent stations from Palestine to Egypt-Abu Sueir, Fayid, and El Kabrit-and had bombed Tobruk and Bengasi as long as there was profit in it. As a forward base LG 139 at Gambut offered the desired facilities.101
LG 139, or Gambut Main as it was known, had been a major Italian air base, convenient to Tobruk, some thirty miles west along the coast road, and six miles from a railhead. Shortly before the Italians left they had thoughtfully joined two adjacent fields and so provided IX Bomber Command with well over the 2,000-foot runway its heavies required. Late in November a small camp was built by a detachment from the 98th Group, with spare tents set up for combat crews which might be benighted there. Gambut's fuel added over 300 miles to the B-24's tactical radius; Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy now could be included in the command's targets.102
The first blow at Tripoli was a double one on 21 November. The first mission hit a ship, which was being towed smoking from the harbor entrance when the 376th Group came in a few hours later to lay bombs on the principal mole. The RAF's 160 Squadron presently beginning night attacks, Tripoli attained the status of a regular port of call.103 IX Bomber next reached out for Naples. On 4 December, twenty B-24's attacked the docks and Italian fleet units in the harbor. The crews claimed hits and near misses on shipping, and preliminary reconnaissance supported them, showing a cruiser lying on its side and extensive damage to harbor installations. On the next visit, a B-24 was brought down by AA, and the subsequently strengthened Naples defenses began to remind the veteran 160 Squadron of nights over the Ruhr.104
As early as 18 November, while Eisenhower was still at his Gibraltar command post, he had received a radio from Andrews saying that he intended sending Brereton to establish personal contact with the Northwest African command,105 and on the 25th, Tedder, Brereton, and Timberlake took off for Malta, where they were received at Luca airdrome by Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park. Park conducting a tour of the island, Brereton and Timberlake saw that it would be impracticable to base B-24's on Malta as Brereton had suggested in his August strategic estimate. Although every level space on the island appeared to have been converted into a landing ground, only asphalt-surfaced Luca was big enough to handle heavy bombers. Park then accompanied the party to the Algiers conferences.106
While a tightening aerial noose was being prepared for the Axis forces in Africa, Montgomery was considering ways and means of occupying Agheila, the gateway to Cyrenaica, the springboard from which the Axis had twice rebounded to threaten Egypt. Except for having flanked the enemy out of Agedabia on 23 November, after the capture of Bengasi the Eighth Army had been mostly concerned with its build-up. At first the bulk of its stores had to be trucked from Tobruk, but by 1 December, Bengasi was handling nearly 1,000 tons daily, a figure which had doubled two weeks later as intensive efforts were expended on increasing capacity. By the end of November, Montgomery was touring the forward area, developing a plan.107
The strong Agheila position presented Rommel with his first opportunity for a successful stand, and had he been able fully to exploit its potentialities, the Eighth Army might have been tested severely. Heavily mined, it covered the desert between the sea and the Wadi
Faregh, south of which lay a large area unsuitable for maneuver. Montgomery decided to bypass this difficult area by a wide detour to the south and push his New Zealanders to the coast behind the Germans. The flanking movement would be coordinated with a two-division frontal attack.108
The British intended to move on 14 December and began preparations-large-scale raids and heavy air and artillery action. Lacking mobility (fuel) to counter the flank attack which he feared--he and Kesselring had told Goering in Rome on 30 November that the position could not be held--Rommel began to pull out on the night of the 12th, with the 90th Light as his rear guard. Nevertheless, on 15 December the 2 New Zealand, swinging into the coast from the desert, found the 90th and most of the enemy armor still to the east. Menaced by the 7 Armoured at its back, the rear guard broke into small detachments and won through; but it lost 20 tanks and some 500 prisoners.109
The American components of the Western Desert Air Force were especially active during these operations. The P-40's had joined with the RAF's light bombers in preliminary assaults on the enemy landing grounds around Marble Arch, which attacks had the effect of driving the enemy air force ninety miles behind the Agheila line.110 Once the enemy broke to the west again, there were good targets along the coast road, although not to compare with those after Alamein. On the 15th heavy formations of USAAF B-25's and RAF Bostons and Baltimores hit motor vehicle concentrations on the coast road west of Marble Arch. Next day the 12th Group bombed again, in the Nufilia area, where on the 17th the New Zealanders had a sharp engagement with the Axis rear guard. At this point, contact with the enemy was lost, both in the air and on the ground, administration and the scarcity of landing grounds being responsible. Rommel went back to Buerat el Hsun.111
By mid-December, by checking the Allies in the Medjerda valley, the Axis forces in Tunisia had temporarily secured Rommel's rear. Moreover, the Tunisian ports were replacing bomb-battered Tripoli as Rommel's main dependence for supply: Middle East estimates showed he was already drawing less than half his daily maintenance requirements through the Libyan capital and the intake there would probably lessen as the larger ships abandoned the run. By 12 December the Axis had decided that Tripoli was too near the front for big ships. Tunis, Bizerte, Sousse, Sfax, and the railroad to Gabès took on new
importance on the Cairo maps.112 In these circumstances the cooperation between the Middle East's air forces and those under Eisenhower in Northwest Africa, set under way and fostered by Tedder's visits to Algiers (he undertook another in mid-December), began to get concrete results. Cables began arriving at Twelfth Air Force from Brereton inquiring what airdromes in Northwest Africa were available for crippled B-24's and requesting that diversions be flown for IX Bomber's attacks on Tunis or Sfax.113
An earnest of this cooperation was the appearance in the Western Desert of the 93d Bombardment Group (H), attached to the Ninth Air Force by orders of 18 December.114 The 93d had been borrowed by AFHQ from the Eighth Air Force, had run a pair of missions against Bizerte from Tafaraoui, and was lent by the Twelfth Air Force because its long-range B-24's could be better employed in the Middle East.115 On 16 December, General Timberlake was on hand at Gambut to welcome the 93d and its commander, his brother, Col. Edward J. Timberlake. The 93d took over Gambut Main, and the advance base of the Delta groups had to be moved to LG 159, five miles west; the 12th Group, in turn displaced, transferred to LG 142, not far away.116 As part of the transaction involving the 93d, nine ancient B-17's which Brereton had brought from India were sent to the Twelfth Air Force. Their limited range and different performance characteristics had made them unsuitable for combined operations with the B-24's. Their last mission in the Middle East had been against Portolago Bay in the Dodecanese on 27 November; on that occasion the crews had reported fires and explosions and hits on two merchant vessels.117
The Ninth Air Force's campaign against the Tunisian ports opened most auspiciously on 15 December when nine B-24D's of the 376th Group obliterated the roundhouse at Sfax.118 Thereafter until Christmas bad weather played hob with operations. But when it cleared after the holiday, Tunis, Sousse (where three merchant vessels, the Armando, Anna Maria, and Giuseppo Leva fell victim to the B-24's), and Sfax were attacked and the 98th celebrated New Year's Day by dropping HE on Tunis harbor.119 The Twelfth Air Force's bombers in January started a specialized effort against the coastal railroad, which, however, did not yield spectacular results.120
Meanwhile, an excursion of some proportions was being planned to the Cretan airfields from which issued the bombers attacking the Malta convoys and the harbors at Tobruk and Bengasi (from the advance
base at Gambut, IX Bomber Command could watch the fireworks attending the night raids on Tobruk) . For this operation, which could be expected to draw GAF fighters away from Tunisia and Sicily, the B-25's of the 12th Group came under operational control of IX Bomber Command, and 205 Group's Baltimores at Derna were to cooperate. What befell the B-25's on this mission was not untypical of the hazards of operations from a desert.
The 12th Group had prepared for three weeks. Since fighter protection was not possible to so distant a target, a high-altitude (19,000 feet) attack was chosen. To gain that altitude it was necessary to remove the dust screens from all engines. About a quarter of an hour before takeoff on 2 January up blew a dust storm, and only twelve of a projected thirty-six B-25's got away; of these one turned back. Eleven bombed; two, force-landing at sea, were lost (RAF Air Sea Rescue saved the crews); and, excessive gas consumption being general for one reason or another, several others made land but not the base. Fifty engine changes were necessary after the dust storm. The B-24's and Baltimores redeemed matters somewhat by blasting Suda Bay and Tymbakia and Kastelli Pediada airdromes.121
The passing months had wrought some changes in the Ninth Air Force. On 4 January 1943, Adler turned over to Col. Robert Kauch an air service command considerably enlarged from the organization of June 1942 which had existed largely on paper. Two new service groups, the 306th and the 315th, had arrived and were assigned to the heavy groups in the Delta. Rapak had been abandoned in favor of Deversoir, on the canal, a station which was manned by the newly arrived 26th Depot Group, and the 323d Service Group was now operating an advance depot in support of the Desert Air Task Force. The Ninth Air Force even had a troop carrier group, the 316th, which, making an appearance late in November under Col. Jerome B. McCauley, sensibly improved desert mobility, as the British were at the time very short of air cargo planes. Halverson had been gone since August, and on 1 November the 1st Provisional Group had been metamorphosed into the 376th Bombardment Group under his successor, Lt. Col. George F. McGuire. The activation of the 376th was a by-product of an abortive plan to send an Anglo-American air task force to operate from the Caucasus, the 316th Troop Carrier Group having been standing by in the States for this project before it was finally ordered into the Middle East.122 In the other heavy bomber group, the 98th, Col. John R. Kane
had succeeded Rush as commander. The combat force had been augmented by two new fighter groups, the 79th and 324th, which were going through the same careful training prior to commitment as had the 57th. Anglo-American cooperation was, if anything, improving, Andrews reporting to Marshall on 9 January that the British commanders in chief had taken him into their complete confidence.123
After the German collapse in 1945, when Field Marshal Gen. Wilhelm Keitel was asked the reasons for Rommel's failure in Africa, he specified the breakdown of supply; and for this he ungallantly blamed the Italians. Had they used small, fast warships on the Libyan run, all would have been well. Merchant vessels with their lengthy turn-around124 had given the Allied bombers too much opportunity. Besides, said Keitel, the bombers crippled the disembarkation point of Tripoli.125 A contemporary RAF study,126 "The Enemy's Last Days in Tripoli," bore out the field marshal's memory. The F-boat had been the most effective cargo carrier, and of twenty-eight merchant vessels in the harbor from 21 November to 22 January at least six were damaged during bombing attacks. The first B-24 missions on 21 November damaged two unloading vessels and considerably disarranged the warehouses on the Spanish mole. One of these vessels was hit again by the B-24's on the 26th and her unloading suspended for several weeks. The next B-24 visitation on the 29th damaged two 5,000 tonners, the Sirio and the motor vessel Giulia: one burned for two days and both were finally abandoned. After 15 January, the bombers were given the unusual job of sinking once-sunk hulks which were being pumped out for use as block ships. In the end, however, the Axis did succeed in blocking the harbor mouth.
Unlike Cyrenaica, Tripolitania presented some difficulty to the RAF in the matter of landing grounds. The terrain was not so favorable and the enemy performed well with mine, booby trap, and plow. Late in December when the Eighth Army was moving up to the Buerat defenses, the landing grounds at Tamet and Sirte required so much time to clear that the forward RAF squadrons were moved to prepared fields at Hamraiet. At this point, the GAF and IAF, which mustered about 450 aircraft (mostly fighters) in Tripolitania, mounted a series of attacks on airfields before the Allied air had got well established. Discouragement of these activities blended naturally into the customary establishment of air superiority before the Eighth Army's attack.The 57th Fighter Group and the 12thBombardment Group (M)
Bengasi to Gabès
participated in these operations, during which the enemy fighters gave a particularly good account of themselves in a stubborn defense of the Bir Dufan landing grounds. Tripoli receiving no ships after 2 January, RAF Liberators and Wellingtons began paying particular attention to the roads leading south from Tunisia.127
Although the Axis forces at Ruerat were weak and in an unsound defensive position in which they had no intention of making a determined stand,128 the Eighth Army also had its problems, imposed mainly by supply. It had to turn the enemy out of Buerat, give him no respite in the good defensive ground farther back, and take Tripoli in a rapid advance before the British stores gave out. A two-day January storm at Bengasi worsened the situation by so battering the harbor that the burden of supply was thrown back on the Tobruk road. Nevertheless, the attack opened on schedule on 15 January and on the 16th was through the main Axis position, of which no serious defense was attempted. By 17 January a twin-pronged advance moved swiftly on the approaches to Tripoli.129
Montgomery was bending every effort to get forward before his supplies gave out, and it was especially imperative that the RAF keep its fighters in force ahead of the troops. This involved a very high degree of mobility and army-air cooperation. The standards reached could not be better illustrated than by the events at Sedada on 17 January. Sedada was about halfway to Tripoli from the Tamet-Hamraiet airfields and had been selected as a landing-ground site before the attack began. When it reached the area around nightfall of the 16th, 7 Armoured Division's spearhead had with it a landing-ground party. Next morning the armor left eighteen to twenty of its Bofors, trucks, and an ambulance unit with the landing-ground party at Sedada. By 0900 the strip was ready for two squadrons of fighters which escorted in a transport with the radar and immediate requirements. Having flown in on their auxiliary tanks, they were ready for action. Two other squadrons meanwhile had flown on to bomb the enemy columns retreating toward Tripoli on the Tarhuna track, and the transports bringing in fuel and ammunition began flying back the army wounded collected by the ambulance unit; next day the process was repeated.130 The 57th Group, which had put in three days of bombing and strafing on the traffic north of El Gheddahia, was moved in this manner to Darragh West on the 18th.131
On 17 January it was discovered that the backtracking enemy air
force had imprudently crowded Castel Benito airfield, just south of Tripoli, with almost 200 aircraft. RAF, ME not only advised AFHQ, which ordered a B-17 attack on the 18th, but turned its own bombers on.132 Fifty went in on the night of 17/18 January, and on the next night the 12th Group joined with Bostons and Baltimores to keep up a series of attacks which continued through the 21st.133 By the 22d the enemy air was being hammered at the Medenine and Ben Gardane airfields in Tunisia;134 and on 23 January the Eighth Army completed an epic 1,400-mile journey by entering long-coveted Tripoli.
With the fall of Tripoli, IX Bomber Command's attention narrowed to a trio of ports which became its steady objectives for some time to come-Naples, Messina, Palermo: Naples, the chief onloading port for Tunisia; Messina, to which the trains for Sicily were ferried across from the rail lines converging on the Italian toe; Palermo, where cargoes carried from Messina for the sake of the shorter sea haul to Tunisia were onloaded. At Messina the chief target was the tall curved building housing the machinery which unloaded entire trains from the six specially constructed ferries plying the strait from slips at Reggio di Calabria and San Giovanni.
As routine as the targets was the technique employed to attack them. Crews were briefed in Egypt, proceeding thence to Gambut where the B-24's were refueled. The bombers took off in the late morning, assembled, and steered for Cape Aamer where the Libyan coast was crossed. The course then led to a portion of the Italian mainland where RDF cover had not been installed and on to a point in the Tyrrhenian Sea equidistant from the three targets. Bombing at last light, the planes broke away to seaward: fighters were noticeably less aggressive over the water. As dusk fell the formations disbanded and the B-24's individually negotiated the long homeward flight. Landing at Gambut before midnight, the crews gave a brief account of the mission and in the morning were off again for the Delta. If a plane was crippled or its fuel low, Malta was on the direct line home, and Luca airdrome soon exhibited a regular contingent of ailing B-24's. In March the Ninth Air Force sent Luca a small detachment of mechanics.
Late in January the Egyptian fields (with the exception of Fayid retained as a repair base) were abandoned, and IX Bomber Command migrated en masse to Gambut, eliminating the extra engine hours involved in the 300-mile shuttle from the Delta. The 376th joined the 93d at LG 139 and the 98th was divided between LG's 140 and 159.
Command headquarters dug in at a site between LG's 139 and 159. Bombing continued during the move with the exception of respites enforced by the seasonal winter rains.135 By the end of January, the Eighth Army was at the Tunisian frontier and Montgomery was meditating operations against the outposts of the Mareth Line.136 Before that line was breached, however, the Ninth Air Force and the RAF, ME had undergone fundamental command changes necessitated by the merging of the Middle East and Northwest African theaters of war.
Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (4)
1. Commander in Chief's Dispatch, North African Campaign, 1942-1943 (hereinafter cited as Eisenhower's Dispatch).
Notes to Chapter 3:
2. Plan for Oran Landing, 11 Sept. 1942; David Rame, Road to Tunis (New York, 1944), pp. 43-45; ONI, The Landings in North Africa, pp. 62-63.
3. Naval Orders for TORCH-Oran, Operations Order 8, 14 Oct. 1942.
4. The Landings in North Africa, pp. 63, 68-70.
5. Ibid., pp. 63-64, 70; TORCH/N.C. 8, as cited in n. 3.
6. TORCH Outline Plan, 20 Sept. 1942; Center Task Force Outline Plan, 12 Oct. 1942, Annex 5 to TORCH Outline Plan; ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942; Plan for Oran Landing.
7. Center Task Force Outline Plan; Rame, Road to Tunis, p. 46.
8. TORCH/N.C. 8.
9. The Landings in North Africa, pp. 67-68; Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 9.
10. Eisenhower's Dispatch, pp. 11-12; Rame, Road to Tunis, p. 17; COMNAVEU interview with Col. Gen. Jodl, 22 May 1945; German Air Hist. Br., A Tactical Appreciation of the Air War in Tunisia, 31 Oct. 1944, and The Battle for Tunis, November 1942-May 1943, 17 July 1944, British Air Ministry Air Hist. Br. (hereinafter cited as BAM[AHB]) Translations VII/6, 21 Oct. 1946, and VII/25, 19 May 1947; Admiralty Battle Summary, Operation TORCH. See also Hugh Gibson, ed., The Ciano Diaries.
11. Rame, Road to Tunis, pp. 16-21, 41-42, 46-51; The Landings in North Africa, pp. 67-69.
12. Msg., Hq. 44 Gp. to AFHQ, Norfolk House, A0347, 7 Nov. 1942; Harry C. Butcher, My Three Years with Eisenhower (New York, 1946), entries for 7-10 Nov. 1942; History, 60th Troop Carrier Gp.; AFSHO Special File 77 (msgs.).
13. For the flight of the Paratroop Task Force to Africa and its subsequent dispersal, see History, 60th Troop Carrier Gp.
14. Rame, Road to Tunis, pp. 41, 50.
15. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942; paper by Brig. Gen. J. R. Hawkins, Invasion of Africa, Thirty-First Fighter Group; Hq. 12th AF Daily Air Intel. Rpt. (hereinafter cited as AIR) 1, 10 Nov. 1942.
16. Rame, Road to Tunis, pp. 40-41.
17. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942; Hawkins, Invasion of Africa; French doc,, Journal of Actions of the High Command of Moroccan Troops: Period of the 8th to the 11th of November, 1942; History, 31st Fighter Gp.
18. History, 31st Fighter Gp.; Hawkins, Invasion of Africa; ltr,, Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942; interview with Col. J. S. Allard, A-1, 12th AF, 24 Mar. 1943; AIR 2, 10 Nov. 1942.
19. Rame, Road to Tunis, pp. 32, 42, 48-51; Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 15.
20. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942; Hq., 12th AF Weekly Intel. Summary 1, 16 Nov. 1942; AIR 3, 10 Nov. 1942; msg., C-in-C to CCS, 248, 10 Nov. 1942.
21. History, 31st Fighter Gp.; CM-IN-4196 (11-10-42), London to Milid, 3755, 10 Nov. 1942.
22. The Landings in North Africa, pp. 7-8; Brig. Gen. Arthur R. Wilson, Report on Operations in North Africa, 12 Dec. 1942, p. 22.
23. Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 13; Butcher's Diary, entries for 8-11 Nov. 1942; Kenneth G. Crawford, Report on North Africa (New York, 1943). pp. 27-31.
24. Crawford, Report on North Africa, p. 27; ONI Weekly, 11 Nov. 1942, p. 76; The Landings in North Africa, pp. 7-11.
25. The Landings in North Africa, pp. 14-15, 79-84.
26. Ltr., Hq. Task Force A to CG's 3d Inf. Div., 2d Armd. Div., 9th Inf. Div., Constitution of Sub-Task Forces of Task Force A, 1 Oct. 1942; Western Task Force Outline Plan, 16 Oct. 1942, Annex 6 to TORCH Outline Plan; msg., AGWAR to USFOR, R1577,6 Oct. 1942; Hq. XII ASC (at sea), FO 1, 23 Oct. 1942; The Landings in North Africa, pp. 34, 46, 55.
27. The Landings in North Africa, pp. 11-19, 28; Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 12.
28. The Landings in North Africa, pp. 46-54.
29. Ibid., pp. 25-29, 60; Wilson Rpt. as cited in n. 22, pp. 30-31.
30. The Landings in North Africa, pp. 34-46.
31. Interviews with Capt. J. J. Clark, USN, 27 Nov. 1942, and Lt. Col. P. C. Cochran, 3 June 1943; msg., COMTASKFOR 34.8, Northern Attack Gp. to ABFOR, London, 11 Nov. 1942; History, 33d Fighter Gp.
32. History of the Original XII AFSC, p. 62; Histories, 21st Engineer Avn. and XII ASC.
33. A brief description of the German advent is given in German Air Historical Br., The Battle for Tunis, November 1942-May 1943, dtd. 17 July 1944.
34. Interview with Brig. Gen G. P. Saville, 5 Jan. 1943; Eisenhower's Dispatch, pp. 17-18; Lt. Gen. K. A. N. Anderson's Despatch, 7 June 1943, in London Gazette Supplement, 6 Nov. 1946, pp. 5449-53.
35. Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 18; CM-IN-5216 (11-12-42), London to AGWAR, JAN 359, 12 Nov. 1942.
36. Msg., First Army to AFCP, 016, 11 Nov. 1942; History, 64th Troop Carrier Gp. and 51st Troop Carrier Wing, in History, 12th AF, Vol. I, The 12th AF in the Invasion of NW Africa; CM-IN-5850 (11-14-42), London to AGWAR, 457, 13 Nov. 1942; report, Tactical Employment in the US Army of Transport Aircraft and Gliders in World War II; Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 18; File 77 (msgs.).
37. Eisenhower's Dispatch, pp. 18-19; msg., AFHQ to AGWAR, 643, 15 Nov. 1942.
38. CM-IN-5850 (11-14-42), London to AGWAR, 457, 13 Nov. 1942; msg., AFCP to CTF, 223, 10 Nov. 1942; History, 60th Troop Carrier Gp.
39. CM-IN-7042 (11-16-42), London to AGWAR, JAN 678, 16 Nov. 1942; History, 64th Troop Carrier Gp.; Tactical Employment of Aircraft and Gliders.
40. Msg., Eisenhower to C's-in-C, ME, 719, 16 Nov. 1942; msg., AFCP to CG ETF, 741, 17 Nov. 1942; Eisenhower's Dispatch, pp. 19-20. The Germans apparently were puzzled by the delay in the Allied advance. (Cf. German Air Hist. Br., The Battle for Tunis, November 1942-May 1943, dtd. 17 July 1944.) In retrospect, Eisenhower seems himself to believe that the blow was too long in coming. (Eisenhower ms., chap. iv, for Crusade in Europe [New York, 1948].)
41. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942.
42. Ibid.; 97th Bomb. Gp. War Diary.
43. Dates of Arrival, Airdrome Areas, and Missions, Annex 1c to TORCH Outline Plan.
44. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942; Histories, 1st and 14th Fighter Gps., 97th Bomb. Gp.; interview with Lt. Norman Segal, 5 Mar. 1941.
45. History of the Original XII AFSC, pp. 48-59.
46. Ltr., Col. Von R. Shores, weather officer, 12th AF to Dir. of Weather, Hq. AAF, 12 Jan. 1943.
47. History of the Original XII AFSC; ltr., Spaatz to Arnold, 23 Nov. 1942.
48. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942; Hawkins, Invasion of Africa.
49. Historical Sec., AAF Engineer Comd., MTO, Airfields in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
50. Msg., Allied Force Adv. Hq. to CG's CTF, WTF, 443, 23 Nov. 1942.
51. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942.
52. Ltr., Doolittle to Eisenhower, 4 Oct. 1942.
53. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942.
54. AIR 19, 29 Nov. 1942; IG, Hq. 2d AF, Statement of Col. C. E. Duncan, 20 Feb. 1943.
55. Duncan statement; ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942.
56. Casablanca Conf., Eisenhower's Review of N. Afr. Situation, 15 Jan. 1943.
57. History, 60th Troop Carrier Gp.
58. Msg., A/Cdre. A.P.M. Sanders to CP, AFHQ, 17 Nov. 1942.
59. Maj. Stephen Avery, A-2, Adv. Hq., 12th AF, Special Intel. Rpt., 23 Nov. 1942.
60. Segal interview; ltr., Doolittle to Stratemeyer, 31 Jan. 1943.
61. Ltr., Doolittle to Arnold, 19 Nov. 1942.
62. CM-IN-9756 (11-23-42) and CM-IN-11069 (11-26-42), London to AGWAR, JAN 1132 and 571, 22 and 26 Nov. 1942; msg., Welsh to Eisenhower, 23 Nov. 1942; NAAF Operations Bulletin 2, p. 13.
63. Ltr., Spaatz to Arnold, 23 Nov. 1942.
64. Msg., AFCP to EAC, 921, 19 Nov. 1942; msg., Algiers to AFCP, 21 Nov. 1942; 97th Bomb. Gp., War Diary.
65. Eisenhower's Dispatch, pp. 20-21 .
66. History, 52d Fighter Gp.; CM-IN-10054 (11-23-42), Gibraltar to AGWAR, 1183, 23 Nov. 1942; AIR 29, 9 Dec. 1942; RAFME Review, No. 2 (Jan.-Mar. 1943), p, 24.
67. RAF Operations from Malta, in RAFME Review, No. I (May-Dec. 1942); msg., Middle East C's-in-C to Air Ministry, 121, 2 Nov. 1942; rnsg., NCXF in Aurora to AFCP, 1640/17, 17 Nov. 1942; msg., AFCP to ETF, 747, 17 Nov. 1942.
68. AIR 16 and 17, 24 and 25 Nov. 1942.69. Interview with Lt. Col. H. E. Engler, 27 May 1943.
70. AIR 19, 29 Nov. 1942; CM-IN-12664 (11-30-42), London to AGWAR, 817, 29 Nov. 1942.
71. Histories, 1st Fighter Gp. and 27th Fighter Sq.
72. AIR 17, 25 Nov. 1942; CM-IN-11545 (11-27-42) and CM-IN-11894 (11-28-42), London to AGWAR, 638 and 704, 26 and 27 Nov. 1942; msg., Algiers to USFOR, 624, 25 Nov. 1942; 1st Army CP to EAC, 3 Dec. 1942.
73. CM-IN-12823 (11-30-42), London to AGWAR, 822, 29 Nov. 1942.
74. CM-IN-118 (12-1-42), London to AGWAR, 863, 30 Nov. 1942; Rame, Road to Tunis, p. 176.
75. Rame, Road to Tunis, pp. 176-79; History, 51st Troop Carrier Wing.
76. Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 21; CM-IN-423 (12-2-42), London to AGWAR, 939, 1 Dec. 1942.
77. History, 319th Bomb. Gp.; AIR 19, 21, 22, on 29 Nov., 1 and 2 Dec. 1942.
78. AIR 20-22, 30 Nov.-2 Dec. 1942.
79. Ibid., 21 and 22, 1 and 2 Dec. 1942; CM-IN-12664 (11-30-42), London to AGWAR, 817, 29 Nov. 1942.
80. First Army CP to AFHQ, 2 Dec. 1942; Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 21 .
81. Eisenhower's Dispatch, p. 21; CM-IN-118 (12-1-42), London to AGWAR, 863, 30 Nov. 1942; Hq. 12th AF Weekly Intel. Sums. 3 and 4, 5 and 12 Dec. 1942.
82. AIR 23, 3 Dec. 1942.
83. Msg., AFHQ to AGWAR, 1110, 3 Dec. 1942.
84. Msg., CCS to Freedom, Algiers, 23, 5 Dec. 1942.
85. Msg., AFHQ to AGWAR, 1110, 3 Dec. 1942; AIR 24 and 25, 4 and 5 Dec. 1942; memos for A/Cdre. G. M. Lawson from AOC EAC and for AOC EAC from Lawson, 4 Dec. 1942.
86. CM-IN-2961 (12-7-42), Algiers to War, 1327, 6 Dec. 1942.
87. AIR 26, 6 Dec. 1942.
88. Msg., AFHQ to USFOR, 1968, 14 Dec. 1942; msg., First Army CP to AFHQ, 9 Dec. 1942; Eisenhower's Dispatch, pp. 21-33.
89. CM-IN-3940, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 2420, 9 Nov. 1942; Bernard L. Montgomery, El Alamein to the River Sangro (1946) (hereinafter cited as Eighth Army), p. 29.
90. German Air Hist. Br., The Battle for Tunis.
91. Eighth Army, pp. 31-32.
92. Ibid., chap. v.
93. RAFME Review No. 1, p. 46.
95. RAFME Review No. 1., p. 47.
96. History, 66th Fighter Sq.
97. RAFME Review No. 1, p. 96.
98. AAFHS-30, p. 75.
99. RAFME Review No. 1, p. 47.
100. Eighth Army, p. 34.
101. History, IX BC.
103. CM-IN-10279 and 10078, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 2716 and 2719, 23 Nov. 1942; [Frank 0. Haile] Desert Campaign: The Story of the Ninth U.S. Army Air Force in Support of the British in Africa, p. 28 .
104. CM-IN-2240 and 3290, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 2980 and 3026, 5 and 7 Dec. 1942; History, IX BC.
105. Msg., Andrews to Commandeth Gibraltar, 127M, 18 Nov. 1942; ltr., Andrews to Arnold, 22 Nov. 1942.
106. G-2, USAFIME, Milattaché Rpt. D792, 3 Dec. 1942, Observations by Col. U. G. Ent.
107. CM-IN-3889 and 3956, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 2954 and 3250, 4 and 16 Dec. 1942; Eighth Army, p. 34.
108. Eighth Army, pp. 35-36; Extract from Report of Fuehrer Conference, 12 Dec. 1942, BAM(AHB) Translation VII/44, 25 Sept. 1947.
109. BAM (AHB) Translation VII/44; Eighth Army, pp. 35-36; Minutes of a Conference held in Goering's Special Train in Rome, 30 Nov. 1942, BAM(AHB) Translation VII/13, 7 Dec. 1946.
110. CM-IN-3367 and 4816, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 3045 and 3108, 8 and 10 Dec. 1942; History, 66th Fighter Sq.
111. History, 66th Fighter Sq.; RAFME Review, No. 1, p. 48; CM-IN-7572, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 3286,17 Dec.1942; Eighth Army, p. 37.
112. Msg., Middle East to AFHQ, 14 Dec. 1942; Extract from Report of Fuehrer Conference, 12 Dec. 1942; German doc., O.Qu. [deputy chief of General Staff] Tunis, Qu. [Supply] 3, Operations Report, Nov.-Dec. 1942.113. Msg., IX BC to 12th AF, A340 and 978, 12 and 26 Dec. 1942.
114. Administrative History, 9th AF.
115. History, 93d Bomb. Gp.; CM-IN-11370 (1-25-43), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 4090, 24 Jan. 1943.
116. History, IX BC.
118. CM-IN-7354, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 3268, 17 Dec. 1942.
119. CM-IN-12210 and 13139, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 3508 and 3568, 29 and 30 Dec. 1942; History, IX BC; extracts from BAM (AHB) translation of Italian doc., Italian Merchant Shipping Sunk in the Mediterranean between 10 June 1940 and 8 Sept. 1943.
120. RAFME Review No. 2, p. 27.
121. History, IX BC; report of Lt. Col. A.C. Carlson, B-25 Type Aircraft in Tactical Operations in the Middle East; CM-IN-3031 and 4168, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 3696and 3826, 5 and 10 Jan. 1943; The Brereton Diaries, entry for 2 Jan. 1943.
122. Administrative History, 9th AF; AAFRH-8, The AAF in the Middle East: a Study of the Origins of the Ninth Air Force, pp. 107-11.
123. AAFRH-8, p. 113; History, 98th Bomb. Gp.; CM-IN-4007 (1-9-43), Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 3799, 9 Jan. 1943; ltr., Andrews to Marshall, 13 Nov. 1942.
124. According to the German Air Historical Branch account, Italian evacuation ships grievously crowded Tripoli in early December, so that supply ships were unable to enter and Hitler was forced to intervene with the Duce. (The Battle for Tunis.)
125. USSBS, interview with Keitel, 27 June 1945.
126. RAFME Review No. 2. See also History, IX BC; Italian Merchant Shipping Losses, as cited in n. 119.
127. RAFME Review No. 2, pp. 5-10.
128. German Air Hist. Br., The Battle for Tunis.
129. Eighth Army, pp. 39-43.
130. Talk by AM Coningham, Tripoli, 16 Feb. 1943; RAFME Review No. 2, p. 10.
131. CM-IN-9125, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 4096, 20 Jan. 1943.
132. Msg., Hq. RAFME to AFHQ, A406, 17 Jan. 1943; Hq. 12th AF AIR 70, 19 Jan. 1943.
133. RAFME Review No. 2, p. 10; CM-IN-9886, Cairo to AGWAR, AMSME 4106, 20 Jan. 1943.
134. CM-IN-9886 as in n. 133.
135. History, IX BC.
136. Eighth Army, pp. 51-53.