The Capture of Casablanca
Operations 8–11 November 1942
The main amphibious attack for the capture of Casablanca was to be delivered at Fedala.1 There Force BRUSHWOOD,2 consisting of the 3d Infantry Division, reinforced mainly by an armored landing team from the 67th Armored Regiment, 2d Armored Division, was to establish itself on shore, seize the small port, and swing southwestward to capture Casablanca. While it was advancing to positions in the outskirts of that city, Combat Command B, 2d Armored Division, would be making its way to the southern side from its landings at Safi. Planes of the XII Air Support Command, using the Port-Lyautey airdrome soon after D Day, would supplement naval air support from the carrier Ranger and the escort carrier Suwannee. Off Casablanca, the warships of the Covering Group would protect the naval task force from French naval units based in Casablanca or Dakar. The Augusta, Brooklyn, and others would furnish fire support to troops ashore. But successful landings at Fedala were to be the first phase.
The town of Fedala is on a shallow bay which lies between two rivers and between the rugged projection of Cap de Fedala at the southwest and the bold headland of Cherqui, three miles to the northeast. (Map III) The small harbor is at the western end of the bay. Its protected waters are enclosed by an 800-foot breakwater on the inner side of the cape and another, extending twice as far and at right angles to it, from the southern shore of the bay. Through an opening about 100 yards wide between the tips of these jetties, a dredged channel enters the port. An almost continuous crescent of sandy beach extends from the longer breakwater to the Cherqui headland. At a few points this broad strand is divided by rocky outcrops and, at the base of Cherqui, by the mouth of the Nefifikh river. That stream enters the bay from a deep ravine or wadi extending almost directly south for well over a mile. The Mellah river on the other hand, the mouth of which is outside the bay at the base of Cap de Fedala, approaches the coast by a meandering course through marshes and tidal flats. From the sand dunes along the coast between these rivers, a level shelf extends inland for from half to three quarters of a mile before the land rises very gradually to less than 200 feet above sea level. A secondary coastal road and the railway between Casablanca and the north
CAP DE FEDALA with its petroleum storage tanks and lighthouse tower.
run along the base of this easy slope. The main highway between Casablanca and Rabat lies one mile or more farther inland. The railroad skirts the town except for a short branch extending to the harbor.
Before World War II Fedala was a community of about 16,000 which combined the functions of a small fishing port, a major petroleum storage and distributing point, and a popular pleasure resort. Its hotel, race track, casino, golf course, broad, palm-lined streets and formal gardens, its parks and bathing beach, were among the attractions for vacationists. Several sets of petroleum storage tanks, a small harbor, and the fishing port within it, met the chief requirements of commerce. On Cap de Fedala a lighthouse tower guided pilots past several hazards in adjacent waters.
Within five miles of Fedala on either side, ten possible sandy landing beaches were designated. Four were deemed appropriate for major use by battalion landing teams and two for auxiliary use by smaller units on special missions. All the main landings were directed to sections of shore in the Baie de Fedala identified as Beaches RED 2, RED 3, BLUE, and BLUE 2. RED beach lay directly under the guns on Cap de Fedala and was faced by a ten-foot seawall. It was reserved for follow-up landings when the whole region should be under American control. Smaller units could land at Beach YELLOW, near the mouth of the Mellah river, and on Beach BLUE 3, in the Mansouria inlet about three miles northeast of the Cherqui headland. Except for Beach BLUE 2, which was on the shore of a cove at the Nefifikh river's mouth, all four of the better beaches led by an easy gradient through sand dunes to flat land above. All four beaches were dangerously exposed to the high surf which surged in on an average of four days out of five in November. Even more unprotected were
the shores directly northeast of Cherqui and southwest of Cap de Fedala.
The advance from the Baie de Fedala to Casablanca was to be made over an area extending along the coast some sixteen miles. The initial beachhead was to extend about five miles inland between the eastern bank of the Nefifikh river and the western edge of the Mellah river. Thereafter, during D Day the prescribed objective line would be reached by advancing southwesterly for another four miles beyond the Mellah.
The most dangerous feature of the amphibious attack at Fedala was the ability of coastal defense guns there to enfilade the beaches. Two batteries were in menacing positions on Cap de Fedala. From the tip, two 75-mm. guns with a range of 9,000 yards could fire on any of the beaches on which major landings were planned. Near the base of the cape, four 100-mm. guns comprised the Batterie de Fedala, or Batterie du Port, and could fire directed salvos within a range of 15,400 yards. The most powerful battery was on the Cherqui headland. It was known as the Batterie du Pont Blondin and consisted of four 138.6-mm. (5.4-inch) guns capable of firing on targets 20,000 yards distant. Near these guns were searchlights, antiaircraft machine guns, and rifle and machine gun pits--all on ground well organized for defense. A fourth battery was reported to consist of "three or four large-caliber guns" at a point about two miles northeast of the Batterie du Pont Blondin and 1,600 yards southwest of Mansouria inlet.
Antiaircraft batteries had been identified southwest of Fedala near the golf course, on the golf course itself, and farther up the Mellah river on its western bank, south of the railroad. Two antiaircraft or dual purpose guns, as large as 105-mm. in caliber, and others, 75-mm. or perhaps 90-mm., with searchlights and small antiaircraft machine guns were indicated at these sites.
If Fedala's coastal batteries were the greatest hazard to the landing force, the proximity of the French naval units in Casablanca harbor furnished another threat. The Jean Bart's big 15-inch rifles could reach the Fedala area, several submarines might slip out to inflict grave damage on the transports or escort vessels, and other French warships would no doubt be ready to grasp an opportunity to interfere with American naval support of the forces ashore.
Fedala's garrison was estimated at not quite 2,500 men, consisting of a battalion plus one company of infantry, two mechanized troops of Spahis, an antiaircraft artillery battery, and other artillery units. The field artillery had an undetermined number of 75-mm. guns and sixteen 13.2-mm. machine guns. Reinforcements could be expected from Rabat, only forty-three miles to the northeast; up to five battalions of cavalry, two armored battalions, and several battalions of infantry might come from as far away as Meknès.
Casablanca's defenders were estimated at five battalions of infantry (4,325 men)--colonial, Moroccan, and Senegalese; at least two troops of cavalry (300 men), of which one would be mechanized; two battalions of artillery and one of antiaircraft (1,600-1,700 men); naval ground units operating the coastal defense guns, and a strong assemblage of warships at the Casablanca naval base. From the Rabat-Salé and Cazes airdromes, according to best reports, the French Air Force could throw fifty fighters and thirty bombers into the battle. Reinforcements were expected from Mazagan, Kasba Tadla, and Mediouna. Thus the attack on Casablanca from Fedala
might require seizure of the beachhead from somewhat less than 2,500 defenders; defense of Fedala from counterattack and advance southwestward along the coast would have to be made against perhaps 6,500 others.
In moving to invest Casablanca, some American units would push inland to encircle the city and cut its approaches from the southeast and south. The terrain to be covered in this scheme of maneuver was not difficult. The flat shelf along the coast was not quite one mile in depth, rising gradually to a tableland eroded into low, gently contoured hills and ridges. Small vineyards and clumps of woods were widely dispersed among numerous small farms. Footpaths and mule tracks crossed the hills in many directions. One stream bed, that of the Hasser river, wound southwesterly from the Mellah between banks neither high nor precipitous.
The approach to Casablanca along either the main highway or the railway from Rabat led through the eastern suburb of Aïn Sebaâ, about three miles from the harbor, and past an industrial section south of Roches Noires. At Aïn Sebaâ, a peripheral road, the Route de Grande Ceinture, branched southwestward from the main highway and circled Casablanca at a distance of from three to four miles from the port. On the level ground and easy slopes between this road and the thickly settled portion of the city, the parks, cemeteries, and newer residential areas which fringed the city were to be found. On the western side of the city about three miles from the harbor were the racecourse, hotel, and suburban estates of Anfa, the scene of President Roosevelt's overseas conference with Prime Minister Churchill and the Combined Chiefs of Staff two months later.
Casablanca lies at a bulge on the six miles of coast between two headlands, Table d'Oukacha on the east and El Hank on the west. The artificial harbor was east of the bulge. Its area and depth, the tugs and barges there, the power-driven cranes, railway sidings, and covered storage--all made it a maritime prize in 1942.
Casablanca's coastal defenses were strong. On Pointe El Hank were two batteries, one consisting of four 194-mm. (7.6-inch) and the other of four 138.6-mm. (5.4-inch) guns, each equipped with range finder apparatus and searchlights and protected by concrete emplacements and by organized defensive positions. On Table d'Oukacha, a battery of four 100-mm. guns was similarly equipped. In the harbor at the end of a long jetty were two 75-mm. coast defense guns. The port was protected by a six-and-one-half-foot concrete wall from one breakwater to the other and bristled with antiaircraft batteries and machine guns in protected emplacements along jetties.
The antiaircraft defenses included batteries of 75-mm. guns on El Hank, in the harbor, on the golf course at Anfa, and in Aïn Sebaâ. Southwest of the city was the Cazes airfield, from which defending planes might rise to protect the port and city. The Covering Group of the Western Naval Task Force was to wait for the French to open hostilities. The American plan of attack contemplated only counterbattery fire against the French coastal guns and no overland assault against them except from Fedala and Safi.
Such then were the objective and the defenses. Now to turn to the actual Fedala-Casablanca operation. The joint Army-Navy expeditionary force making the amphibious attack at Fedala consisted of the Center Attack Group of the Western Naval
CASABLANCA, the main objective on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Note lighthouse on Pointe el Hank, center foreground, top.
Task Force carrying Sub-Task Force BRUSHWOOD. The fire support vessels were the cruisers Augusta and Brooklyn and the destroyers Wilkes, Swanson, Ludlow, and Murphy. Air support was furnished from the carrier Ranger and the escort carrier Suwannee, protected by one cruiser and five destroyers. Troop and cargo transports numbered fifteen, screened by a squadron of six destroyers. Also on hand were the tanker Winooski and five mine craft. The Center Attack Group, with 17,700 naval personnel, was commanded from the transport Leonard Wood by Capt. R. R. M. Emmett (USN).
Force BRUSHWOOD--the 3d Infantry Division, reinforced chiefly by an armored landing team from the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment (Maj. Richard E. Nelson)--was organized into three regimental landing groups (RLG's). These were based on the 7th (Col. Robert C. Macon), the 15th (Col. Thomas H. Monroe), and the 30th (Col. Arthur H. Rogers) Infantry Regiments. Each regimental landing group consisted of three battalion landing teams comprising in the main a battalion of infantry, a platoon of combat engineers, one or more platoons of self-propelled antiaircraft guns, shore fire control and air support parties, medical, signal, service, and other detachments, and in the case of two RLG's (7th and 30th), a company of shore party engineers and a platoon of light tanks. RLG 15 was to land later at the same beaches as the other two. Supporting arms were drawn from the 9th, 10th 39th, and 41st Field Artillery Battalions, the 10th Combat Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Regiment (shore party), 443rd Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (SP), and the 756th Tank Battalion. The Armored Landing Team included elements of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 78th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 17th Armored Engineer Battalion, and 82d Reconnaissance Battalion, all from the 2d Armored Division. Force BRUSHWOOD was commanded by Maj. Gen. Jonathan W. Anderson, as already noted; the assistant division commander was Brig. Gen. William W. Eagles; Brig. Gen. William A. Campbell was division artillery commander; and Col. Walter E. Lauer was the chief of staff. With all detachments included, the force totaled approximately 19,500 officers, enlisted men, and civilians.3
The general scheme of maneuver by Force BRUSHWOOD was for BLT 1-7 (Lt. Col. Roy E. Moore--or 1st Battalion Landing Team of the 7th Regimental Landing Group--to occupy the town and cape, BLT 2-7 (Lt. Col. Rafael L. Salzmann) to control the bridges over the Mellah river and to clear a regimental zone south and west of the town, BLT 1-30 (Lt. Col. Fred W. Sladen, Jr.) to push four miles southward to a long ridge well beyond the main Casablanca-Rabat highway, and BLT 2-30 (Lt. Col. Lyle W. Bernard) to occupy the Cherqui headland, the bridges over the Nefifikh river, and a defense line on the eastern bank of that stream against possible reinforcements from the direction of Rabat. The third battalion of each of these RLG's minus its Company L, would be in floating regimental reserve, and the entire 15th RLG would be in Force BRUSHWOOD reserve, prepared to land two hours after the assault battalions. The 15th RLG
Personnel and Vehicles Assigned to Force "Y" (BRUSHWOOD)
as of 22 October 1942
Unit Personnel Vehicles Total Officers Enlisted TOTAL 19,364 1,087 18,277 1,732 3d Infantry Division 1st RLG (reinforced), 7th Infantrya 5,245 224 5,021 443 2d RLG (reinforced), 30th Infantryb 5,245 224 5,021 443 15th Infantry 3,838 178 3,660 341 Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Signal Company, 3d Infantry Division 499 56 443 61 Headquarters, Task Force "A" 317 93 224 54 Armored Landing Team 1st Battalion (reinforced), 67th Armored Regimentc 875 38 837 148 Other Force "Y" Personnel Detachments, XII Air Support Command 1,485 166 1,319 91 436th Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion 532 32 500 79 443d Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (one and a half platoons only) 53 2 51 13 2d Battalion, 20th Engineer Regimentd 607 17 590 10 204th Military Police Company 113 4 109 0 36th Engineer Regiment (less detachments) 116 12 104 4 Detachment of 66th Engineer Company (Topographic) 6 1 5 0 1st Armored Signal Battalion 162 5 157 19 122d Signal Company (Radio Intelligence) 26 1 25 4 163d Signal Company (Photographic) 12 2 10 2 239th Signal Company (Operational) 47 1 46 5 829th Signal Service Battalion 90 3 87 10 1st Broadcasting Station Operation Detachment 30 11 19 5 Counterintelligence Group 37 7 30 0 Prisoner Interrogation Group 25 6 19 0 Civil Government Personnel 4 4 0 0a Including Battery A (less 4th Platoon), 443d Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion, and 1st Battalion, 36th Engineer Regiment.
b Including Battery B (less 1st Platoon), 443d Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion, and 3d Battalion, 36th Engineer Regiment.
c Including Battery C (2d and 4th Platoons), 443d Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion.
d With headquarters detachment and Service Company attached.
Source: Annex A (Troop List) to Memo, TF "A" to ACofS OPD, 22 Oct 42. Order of Battle TF "A" 1942, St. Louis Rcds.
was to assemble ashore in the 7th RLG's zone and to advance southwestward at the left of the 7th RLG while the 30th RLG secured the rear and furnished a reserve battalion. The two L Companies and the 3d Reconnaissance Troop had their special missions following landings at the extreme flanks. The 2d Battalion, 20th Engineers (Combat), which was in Western Task Force reserve with a company of the 204th Military Police Battalion, and the Armored Landing Team, 67th Armored Regiment,
TRANSPORTS OF THE CENTER ATTACK GROUP near the beaches of Fedala.
were expected to land on call at least three hours after the first wave, the former initially to relieve BLT 1-7 in Fedala and the latter to join RLG's 7 and 15 in the drive on Casablanca. Once the port was in American hands, it was to be used first for unloading armored vehicles and heavy equipment, and then for other matériel.
The Landings Begin
Running through intermittent rain squalls, the Center Attack Group arrived off Fedala shortly before midnight, 7-8 November 1942. Soon afterward the lights of Casablanca and Fedala were suddenly extinguished. The transports were organized into four columns, with the Leonard Wood (BLT 1-7), Thomas Jefferson (BLT 2-7), Charles Carroll (BLT 1-30), and Joseph T. Dickman (BLT 2-30) in the column nearest the shore. Discovery as the convoy neared its destination that an unexpected current had carried it a few miles from the desired position resulted in a series of emergency turns during which the transport formation became badly deranged. Radar revealed that some transports were at least 10,000 yards from their designated place. The vessels therefore had to continue movement in the darkness, aided by a control vessel, in order to re-establish their planned formation within a transport area six to eight miles offshore.
When Captain Emmett described the naval situation to General Anderson at 0130, the four assault BLT's were on transports near their assigned positions, and it seemed likely that the men could disembark in time for the 0400 H Hour. Other ships might or might not be able to participate as expected. An attempt was therefore begun to carry out the basic plan. Three scout boats went in to find and mark the beaches. Three quarters of an hour later, reports of the lagging rate at which vehicles and heavy equipment from the Leonard Wood were being unloaded, and of the slowness with which landing craft were assembling from each transport at the rendezvous
points, made it apparent that a half hour's delay was essential. Orders were issued to the transports to use their own landing craft to disembark as large a proportion of the assault BLT's as possible without waiting for the arrival of the boats from other transports in outer positions. Even with this improvisation the men, weighted by heavy, cumbersome packs, clambered down the sides of the ships at too slow a pace to fill up the bobbing craft for the 0430 H Hour. Another postponement of fifteen minutes was authorized.
The 3d Division's command had concluded from its training experiences that in order to insure integrity of units upon landing and to expedite their reorganization ashore to prevent defeat in detail, all assault and reserve BLT's ought to be assembled afloat in landing craft before the start toward the landing beach, and all should be put ashore as fast as possible. At Fedala, each assault battalion had its own landing schedule adapted to the particular characteristics of its beach and its mission. Each of the four BLT's required groups of from forty-three to forty-five personnel landing craft and from five to nine tank lighters, for landings extending over periods of from one to three hours. The fact that none of the transports carried more than thirty-four landing craft necessitated the temporary use of boats and crews from other transports. All these details had been most carefully combined in an elaborate boat employment plan designed to put the required assault units ashore before daylight and to land supporting elements there with great rapidity during the morning.
At about 0400 the four control destroyers, the Wilkes, Swanson, Ludlow, and Murphy, each conducting the landing craft for which it was responsible, moved to a line of departure, 4,000 yards from the beach designated for its battalion landing team. BLT 1-7 was to land on Beach RED 2; BLT 2-7, on Beach RED 3; BLT 1-30, on Beach BLUE; and BLT 2-30, on Beach BLUE 2. But all the boat waves were not then ready.4 In fact, the landings at Fedala began at the outset to depart from the plan and continued to be only an approximation of what had been worked out as the best means of getting necessary forces ashore.
Silencing the coastal batteries, a mission of paramount importance, was the first assignment of the forces being sent ashore. BLT 2-30 (Colonel Bernard) was expected to capture the Batterie du Pont Blondin, just east of the Nefifikh river, assisted by Company L, 30th Infantry. BLT 1-7 (Colonel Moore) was charged with taking the town of Fedala and continuing on to the cape to seize the two batteries there. The 3d Reconnaissance Troop (Capt. Robert W. Crandall), landing on Beach YELLOW, was to destroy the antiaircraft installations in the vicinity of the golf course and then, after crossing the Mellah, to attack the positions on Cap de Fedala from the southwest, on the western side of Moore's unit.
Next most pressing objective was the control of the highway and railway bridges over the Mellah before they could be destroyed, or used by French troops for retreat or reinforcement.
BLT 2-7 (Colonel Salzmann) was to seize these bridges from the east while another unit, Company L, 7th Infantry, landed on Beach YELLOW an hour after the 3d Reconnaissance Troop and supported Salzmann's unit from the western bank of the stream.
The first waves of Force BRUSHWOOD actually started toward the beaches from the line of departure at about 0445. The men, in herringbone twill fatigue uniforms and with U.S. flag arm bands, were heavily laden. They could see near shore the lights of the scout boats blinking energetically but could observe no sign of action on land. The run to shore took from fifteen to twenty minutes. A warning from Casablanca had been sent to Fedala as it had to Safi, but, if received, it had not told the French defenders how or from whom to expect an attack, and some French troops remained in barracks. When the motors of the landing craft were first heard and reported, searchlights on Cap de Fedala and Cherqui shot skyward in quest of airplanes, and because vertical searchlight beams had been specified in General Eisenhower's broadcast as a sign of nonresistance, they brought a brief but mistaken moment of hope. Almost at once the lights came down to play over the sea approaches and on the incoming boatloads of troops. Machine gun fire from support boats which were escorting the landing craft on the last stage of the run caused the lights to darken abruptly. The first men leaped ashore during this episode. Loss of craft during the first landings greatly added to the delay and confusion caused by the complicated boat employment plan. The lift available for later trips from ship to shore was sharply reduced by such losses. Faulty navigation, attributable to either compass deviations, inexperienced crews, or other causes, brought boatloads of troops to shore sometimes miles from the designated points, and onto rocky obstructions or reefs rather than at sandy beaches. The consequences were serious even when the boats were able to retract from these landings, with such major ill effects as the scattering of troop units, the loss of control over the ensuing deployment, and the separation of weapons and equipment from units expecting to operate with them. But the boats too often could not retract and met destruction under circumstances which drowned some of their passengers and left the survivors cut and battered and deprived of weapons or radio sets needed in the assault.
First to land at about 0500 were elements of BLT 1-7 from the Leonard Wood. The thirty-one boats carrying the first four waves of the battalion toward Beach RED 2 ended up partly on that beach, partly on Beach RED 3, and partly on the rocky shore which lay between them. The surf swept many boats out of control, throwing them against rocks with such destructive force that they either capsized or were smashed. A total of twenty-one boats were lost. Heavily laden troops could not swim, and drowned. From the Thomas Jefferson, whose beach-marking scout boat was out of position, the landing craft bringing BLT 2-7 to Beach RED 3 went instead to Beach BLUE 2 at the mouth of the Nefifikh and two or three miles farther northeast along the coast to tiny beaches or rocky reefs. The landings began about one hour after those of the 1st BLT. The commanding officer of BLT 2-30 (Colonel Bernard) and his headquarters were also carried over three miles east of the battalion, which landed as planned on Beach BLUE 2. The Jefferson lost 16 of her 33 landing craft, while 6 more were damaged on their first trip to shore. Of 25 landing
BEACH RED 3, FEDALA, at 1100, 8 November. Landing craft with high ramps is an LCM.
craft from the Carroll heading for BLUE Beach with units of BLT 1-30, 18 were wrecked on the first landing, 5 more on the second, and only 2 continued in service. Despite these losses, searchlight illumination of the beach, and machine gun fire, all three rifle companies were ashore by 0600. The Dickman's boat crews made the best record, losing only 2 out of 27 craft on Beach BLUE 2 in the initial landing of BLT 2-30, and getting the others back to the transport promptly for a second trip to shore.
The landings began during ebb tide. Boats which were not quickly unloaded became stranded. Following waves came in at intervals scheduled so close that not only could they not be warned away from obstacles, but they also prevented retracting operations by their predecessors. Lighters with vehicles aboard were sometimes held at the water's edge because the motors would not start so that the vehicles had to be pulled ashore rather than being swiftly driven off under their own power. Most common of the situations delaying retraction was the failure of the troops in the inadequate Army shore parties to unload matériel. Unassisted boat crews were too slow. When naval beach party personnel helped, they were thus diverted from salvage operations or from marking hydrographic obstacles off the beaches. Landing craft which had not been withdrawn were hit and wrecked by the high surf on the later flood tide. For these and other reasons, the Center Naval Task Group suffered the loss of a very high proportion of its landing craft. The damaging effect of such heavy losses on the build-up of troops and supplies ashore was felt throughout the operation. This misfortune
THE WADI NEFIFIKH AND BEACH BLUE 2. Note landing craft on beach.
was one of the factors which made swift investment of Casablanca impossible.5
Clearing Cap de Fedala
Less than forty-five minutes of darkness remained after the first landings before the coastal guns would have targets visible in the dim first light. Elements of Colonel Moore's 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, assembled at the inland edge of Beach RED 2 without opposition and hastened toward Fedala. One company of the 6th Senegalese Infantry Regiment, the only infantry unit in the garrison, was quickly surprised and captured. Ten German Armistice Commissioners fled from their headquarters at the Miramar Hotel just before a platoon entered the building, but they were caught in automobiles before they got out of town. By 0600 Fedala itself was under American control.
The guns of Cap de Fedala opened fire on the ships offshore at about the same time as did the Batterie du Pont Blondin, that is, a few minutes after 0600. Naval counterbattery fire against these guns on the cape was hampered from the first by the proximity of petroleum tanks which the invaders wished to leave undamaged. Fire from one of the destroyers which quickly replied to French shelling did strike one of the tanks and set it afire. The flagship Augusta succeeded in silencing the Cap de Fedala batteries only temporarily by less than a quarter hour's bombardment from her 8-inch guns.
At irregular intervals during the morning, one or more of the 100-mm. guns of the Batterie du Port resumed fire, especially against the beaches near the Cherqui headland across the bay, where the 30th RLG was landing. These actions drew counterbattery fire from some of the destroyers which caused the French to suspend firing for a while. Some American shells which passed only a short distance over the guns or storage tanks on the cape carried into the port or the town, where they struck the Hotel Miramar and also menaced friendly troops.
The first detachment of Force BRUSHWOOD headquarters landed at Beach RED 2 before 0800 under command of General Eagles. From a grove near that beach, this forward section established radio communications with General Anderson aboard the Leonard Wood. General Eagles sent staff observers to ascertain the progress of Moore's and Bernard's BLT's at the cape and headland. When the remainder of the forward echelon landed with General Anderson and Beach BLUE at 0945, French artillery fire struck near them but inflicted no casualties.
Moore's battalion turned in the meantime from occupying Fedala to carrying out two separate but related actions--an attack on the heavy antiaircraft batteries near the race track southwest of the town, and an attack along the cape to capture the 100-mm. guns of the Batterie du Port, a 75-mm. battery, a fire control station, and some emplaced antiaircraft machine guns. The heavy antiaircraft battery was scheduled for seizure by a surprise assault in darkness by the 3d Reconnaissance Troop after a landing from rubber assault boats at Beach YELLOW. Wearing special black uniforms, this unit waited while a series of mishaps delayed its landing so long that the attempt either had to begin in daylight on a well-defended beach or had to be abandoned. The unit returned to the transport Tasker H. Bliss without attempting an operation so different from that for which it was prepared. The antiaircraft battery thus was able to pin down elements of Company C, 7th Infantry, by direct fire when they tried to approach Cap de Fedala from the town. Although a bazooka succeeded in temporarily silencing this battery, it was not actually surrendered to Moore's force until about 1100.
American naval gunfire on the cape also deterred the attacking troops. Colonel Moore's urgent requests to terminate the bombardment, relayed to the Leonard Wood as early as 0845, were repeated. But the simultaneous predicament of Colonel Rogers' 30th RLG, which was under intermittent fire from the French guns on the cape, caused Rogers to urge that the naval gunfire be continued until those guns were completely neutralized. His recommendations were approved, so that Moore's attack along the cape was retarded until about 1140. At that juncture, the unsuccessful attempt to neutralize the guns was superseded by an effort to seize them by means of a tank-infantry assault, supported by field artillery.
Company A, 7th Infantry, supported by four light tanks of Company A, 756th Tank Battalion, which were directed by Colonel Wilbur from an exposed position on one of the tanks, obtained the surrender of the fire control station and main 100-mm. battery with twenty-two prisoners at about noon.6
LIGHT TANK M5 NEAR FEDALA on D-Day morning. A U.S. flag is painted on the tank, and men from the 7th Infantry Regiment are wearing U.S. flag arm bands.
The highly effective 75-mm. guns and machine guns in concrete emplacements on the tip of the cape held out until 1500. They surrendered after being subjected to mortar fire from Fedala and shells from two 75-mm. pack howitzers inland from Beach RED 2. Lifting of this fire brought to an end the bombardment which had begun with the naval gunfire in the morning.
The Capture of the Batterie du Pont Blondin
At the eastern end of the bay the Batterie du Pont Blondin was captured by elements of two BLT's as a consequence of admirable initiative and a thorough grasp of the whole plan by company commanders and platoon leaders. The objective had been assigned to Colonel Bernard's BLT 2-30, but the battalion commander was carried almost three miles from the beach (BLUE 2) where the main portion of his BLT had come ashore. Nevertheless BLT 2-30's heavy weapons company got its mortars into position ashore and, with elements of the rifle companies, prepared to assault the battery from the west. At the same time, quite independently, Colonel Salzmann, who had also been put ashore at the wrong point, attacked the objective from the east with one section of mortars and four rifle platoons. These units had landed on the reefs and small beaches northeast of Cherqui instead of on Beach RED 3 and could not well proceed on their own assigned mission. But while the troops were
organizing the attack the Batterie du Pont Blondin, like the guns on Cap de Fedala, took advantage of the first streaks of daylight to begin firing on the beaches, the approaches, and the control vessels near the shore. By 0610 the four destroyers and the coastal guns were exchanging shells; Captain Emmett was about to signal "Play Ball"; and in preparation for that order, which came shortly thereafter, the ships were hastening to their fire support areas. The cruiser Brooklyn came in with a rush from an outer patrolling position, sent up a spotting plane, and at 0622 fired her first salvo of 6-inch shells. The transports suspended debarkation and unloading and hurried farther out to sea. Three of the control destroyers, the Wilkes, Swanson, and Ludlow, continued into fire support areas while the Murphy, still only about 5,000 yards from the headland, drew heavy fire which first straddled and then struck her, forcing her to withdraw.7
Like the Philadelphia's bombardment of the Batterie de la Railleuse at Safi, the Brooklyn soon struck the fire control apparatus within the fortifications on Cherqui and rendered it useless. Another shell hit one of the gun emplacements, putting a gun out of action, igniting the powder bags, and causing many casualties. The ground troops, who had almost surrounded the battery, organized while waiting for the bombardment from the sea to lift and added 81-mm. mortar shells to the projectiles from the Brooklyn. At the first opportunity they pushed in from several sides. Capt. M. E. Porter, commander of Company H, 30th Infantry, received the surrender at approximately 0730, with Colonel Salzmann acting as interpreter. Not long afterward Colonel Bernard, commanding BLT 2-30, reached the position, put a rifle company in charge, and sent the other elements to join the rest of the BLT in seizing the crossings over the Nefifikh river and in setting up defenses against counterattacks from the northeast. The elements of Colonel Salzmann's BLT 2-7 which had joined in taking the battery crossed the Pont Blondin to an assembly area near Beach RED 3. Here they were joined by the remainder of their BLT and moved along the coastal road to the western bank of the Mellah river, a march of about seven miles, which they completed during the latter part of the afternoon.8
Other D-Day Landings at Fedala
While Moore's BLT 1-7 was occupying Fedala and the cape, on the right (west) flank of the beachhead, and while Bernard's BLT 2-30 and part of Salzmann's BLT 2-7 were investing the Cherqui headland and seizing the Nefifikh bridges at the left (east), Sladen's BLT 1-30 landed its three rifle companies in a series of small waves on Beach BLUE. The craft had run through intermittent searchlight illumination and machine gunning without casualties or serious damage but, as already noted, had sustained severe losses in the surf. The BLT organized just above the beach as daylight began and pressed southward toward the higher ground which it was to hold. A train for Rabat was intercepted about one mile west of the Nefifikh river bridge and searched. French Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel, about seventy-five in all, were removed and held as prisoners. The train was immobilized. Despite occasional artillery fire and strafing air attacks, Sladen's
battalion reached its objective without a fight, and by 1600, had consolidated positions for defense according to the tactical plan.
The four assault BLT's had thus successfully accomplished their first missions, but the two L Companies scheduled to land on the western and eastern flanks were frustrated by delays that prevented them from landing before daylight. They went ashore during the morning on beaches not related to their original planned missions and marched to join their respective regiments.
BLT 3-7 (Lt. Col. Ashton H. Manhart) (less Company L) began landing at about 0930 on Beach RED 3, an operation which continued for a considerable period because of the shortage in serviceable landing craft. It then went into an assembly area southeast of Fedala near the 7th RLG command post.
BLT 3-30 (Maj. Charles E. Johnson) (including Company L) started arriving at Beach BLUE 2 (as well as on the rocks and reefs to the northeast of Cherqui) about 0900. It suffered some casualties from artillery fire and from strafing airplanes as it moved inland to an area west of the Nefifikh during the remainder of the morning.
The rifle companies of BLT 1-15 (Maj. Arthur W. Gardner), served by only a small number of boats, began to land at 1430, and were scattered on several beaches. They were sent to hold the bridge over the Mellah on the main Rabat-Casablanca highway, while the remainder of the RLG was ordered to get ashore as rapidly as possible. Just prior to darkness Major Gardner's BLT arrived east of the bridge, made contact with the 7th RLG on its right, sent outposts to organize a defensive bridgehead on the western bank, and prepared its night position. Company D and its heavy weapons arrived in the assembly area after dark. The BLT had reached its D-Day objective without encountering French forces.
General Patton first prepared to leave the Augusta for the Fedala beachhead at 0800 on D Day with part of his staff. Their effects were loaded in a landing craft, swinging from davits. Before it could be lowered, the cruiser became engaged in firing missions and maneuvers which precluded his departure. For over three hours, he was an involuntary observer of the ship's skillful participation in a sea battle to turn back French warships emerging from the port of Casablanca. For a few minutes the ship also engaged in antiaircraft activity in an effort to defend the transports off Fedala against attack by French bombers. The first muzzle blast of the Augusta's rear turret blew the waiting landing craft to pieces, but the general could take satisfaction in the fact that only a minute or two earlier, his distinctive brace of pistols with the white stocks had been taken out and brought to him. He reached Fedala, therefore, at 1320 when the firing on Cap de Fedala was still in progress, although light resistance elsewhere in the beachhead had ended.9
The French Reaction Ashore
French resistance to the American landings began, as indicated in a previous chapter, in the belief by those in command that the operation was a minor attack and that General Béthouart had been misled concerning its nature. The standing orders for defense which had been prepared under directives
from the Commander in Chief of French Forces in North Africa, General Juin, were put into effect by Admiral Michelier in the Casablanca zone for which he was responsible, by General Martin at Marrakech, and by General Dody at Meknès. Admiral Michelier's naval forces were alerted for action. General Lahoulle reluctantly sent his air units into action. General Lascroux, after being tricked into entering protective custody in Meknès, was permitted to return to his headquarters in Rabat, from which he could control the Army's defensive operations. The Residency there was divested of the cordon which had surrounded it, and General Béthouart and his leading associates submitted to arrest. General Noguès, after a night of hectic activity, slept during the latter part of the morning, and rose to confront a situation not yet very clearly defined. The invaders were coming ashore at several points, but so lacking in strength, apparently, that the weak defenders were able to hold them except at Fedala. Michelier had repudiated the opportunity to arrange a cease fire when Colonel Wilbur visited his headquarters early in the forenoon.
As soon as General Patton landed at Fedala, the French commandant there was brought to him by General Anderson. The commandant urged that envoys be sent to Casablanca to demand surrender, since the French Army did not wish to fight the Americans.
Colonel Gay thereupon rode from Fedala under a flag of truce to the admiralty in Casablanca to try again, as Colonel Wilbur had tried earlier, to persuade the French to stop hostilities. The French Army leaders were eager to have the fighting stopped, and some of them even suggested a course for the Americans to adopt if a surrender of the city had to be gained by force, but the commander, Admiral Michelier again declined even to receive the American emissary.10
The suddenness of the American invasion of Morocco had disrupted the French Army's plans for defense. It became impossible to concentrate all the major units designated for the three mobile reserve groups and, in fact, wholly impossible to establish the light armored brigade. From almost the first hostilities, portions of the other two reserve groups were engaged on the flanks of the defending elements. The American beachhead at Fedala cut off an important portion of the central sector of defense, that from the Nefifikh river to Port-Lyautey, from direct control through Casablanca. During D-Day afternoon, therefore, General Lascroux in Rabat by oral orders assigned command of all French land forces operating in the coastal zone north of the Nefifikh river as far as Port-Lyautey to Gen. Roger Leyer, commander of the Moroccan Cavalry. Special steps in both organization and reinforcement were taken for the defense of Rabat from attacks developing either from Fedala or Port-Lyautey. Troops within the Petitjean section of the general reserve under Gen. Maurice Mathenet started toward Port-Lyautey, and troops from the Khemisset section, toward an assembly area near Les Chênes (east of Salé), where they would be at the disposal of General Leyer.
Late on D Day General Mathenet was ordered by telephone from Rabat to proceed to Port-Lyautey and to assume command of all forces there. General Leyer's mission was thus reduced to defending the coastal zone adjacent to Rabat, including the route to Meknès from the capital.
American penetration south of Port-Lyautey which was in fact intended to prevent reinforcement of Port-Lyautey by units from Rabat was taken as a threat to the latter. French forces north of Rabat were therefore augmented by shifting troops from south of that city.
Naval Action on D Day
Although the battle for the Fedala-Casablanca area opened when the French on Cherqui and Cap de Fedala fired on the landing forces of the Center Attack Group, the Covering and Air Groups off Casablanca were drawn into combat less than an hour later, at daybreak. The Massachusetts, the Wichita, and the Tuscaloosa catapulted nine seaplanes and steamed along the coast at a range of some 20,000 yards from Casablanca harbor. The Ranger and the Suwannee, ten miles farther out, began to launch their planes into a light westerly wind during the last minutes of darkness. Daybreak found six spotting planes of the Covering Group ready should bombardment of Casablanca be ordered. Circling at a height of 10,000 feet above the port a squadron of eighteen dive bombers from the Ranger prepared to attack any French submarines which tried to leave, or to blast antiaircraft batteries which opened fire. One squadron of fighters from the big carrier was in position to attack the airdromes at Rabat and another to hit Cazes airfield adjacent to Casablanca. The Suwannee's planes protected the vessels off Fedala from air or submarine attack.
A few minutes before 0700 the air and surface naval combat at Casablanca began almost simultaneously. Antiaircraft guns in the harbor opened against one of the observation planes; French fighters started driving other spotting planes out to sea; two French submarines began to leave the port; and a few minutes later the great guns of the Jean Bart and the Batterie El Hank fired at the cruisers of the Covering Group. The American warships replied without delay. In less than twenty minutes the Jean Bart's main battery was silenced by damage heavy enough, it later developed, to keep it out of action for about two days. Other salvos fell on the submarine pens in the harbor and on the coastal defense batteries on Table d'Oukacha and El Hank with less success than against the Jean Bart. Crews of the coastal guns may have been driven from their stations temporarily, but the guns themselves remained serviceable in the absence of direct hits. Firing from them ceased until the American vessels had been lured within closer range and their attention diverted to other targets.
The air units, which were poised to strike as soon as hostile French intentions became clear, attacked their targets without further hesitation. Their strafing and bombing runs over airfields, and their successful dogfights with French airplanes aloft, won air superiority as far north as Port-Lyautey. They freed the observation planes for spotting, participated in the effort to destroy French naval units at Casablanca, and kept a constant watch for submarines. The French Air Force was reduced quickly to irregular strafing flights by low-flying individual planes over the Fedala beachhead and to preparations for bombing attacks on Safi and Fedala, to be made at first light on 9 November.
At Fedala, not only the coastal guns but French warships had to be overcome by the Center Attack Group. The transport area was only twelve nautical miles from the Casablanca naval base. When the Covering
Group began exchanging shells with the Jean Bart and the coastal guns on El Hank, the ships began evasive movements offshore which eventually took them well to the west. The French had an opportunity to send their warships from Casablanca hurrying northward along the coast to attack the Fedala transports.
At 0827 seven destroyers which had made their way out of port behind a smoke screen, undeterred by attacks from the Ranger's planes, opened fire on the American vessels nearest to them, the Ludlow and the Wilkes, and on some landing craft bringing company L, 7th Infantry, to YELLOW Beach. They hit the Ludlow and forced the Wilkes to retire toward the cruisers Augusta and Brooklyn. Then for about half an hour they sought in vain to penetrate the protection afforded to the American transports by those cruisers and by the destroyers Wilkes and Swanson. When the ships of the Covering Group returned to take up the battle,11 the French vessels retired to Casablanca, one of them smoking badly.
At 0935 three of the French destroyers tried the same maneuver again while the Covering Group was engaged against other ships in another sector. Again the Augusta, Brooklyn, Wilkes, and Swanson, aided this time by the Bristol, intercepted and frustrated the effort, but not without some minor hits and many close calls, especially from torpedoes. The French cruiser Primauguet left Casablanca to support the smaller vessels at about 1015, drawing the Covering Group within range of the coast defense batteries. The action was prolonged until after 1100, when three of the attacking ships came within five miles of the transports before being driven off. Salvos from El Hank's guns, torpedoes from French submarines, and strafing and bombing runs against French ships by American carrier-based planes contributed to the complexity of the morning's naval battle.
One of the French ships, the "destroyer-leader" Milan, beached off Roches Noires and burned furiously. Others limped back to port about noon for safety. The cruiser Primauguet, badly hit, anchored just outside the entry in the partial shelter of a jetty. To eliminate the vessel, the Ranger's planes assailed her in a series of attacks early in the afternoon. They started uncontrollable fires, drove her men overboard, and forced her to try to beach. A destroyer near her had the same experience. Both ships smouldered all night, while from the Primauguet's magazine ammunition explosions could be heard for another day.12
Naval combat off Casablanca during the remainder of 8 November eliminated almost all threat by French surface ships to the performance of the transports' mission. Providential escape from scores of straddling salvos continued to assist the Covering Group, while alert seamanship prevented well-aimed French torpedoes from finding their marks. Naval bombardment had failed, however, to silence for long the coastal batteries of El Hank which were still operating at nightfall.
Unloading at Fedala on D Day
To unload the 15,000 long tons of cargo from the transports strained available facilities beyond capacity, although the task was attempted with persistence and resourcefulness.
The transports' crews were of unequal efficiency.13
The Army shore parties included so large a proportion of specialists or combat engineers who turned to other duties during the operation that Navy working parties, which were organized from ships' crews and sent ashore to handle cargo, in several instances outnumbered Army elements.14 The same policy that deferred service troops to later convoys in order to increase the number of combat troops for the assault had also given priority to combat vehicles over other types, so that automotive transport was trimmed down severely. The shortage was felt at once in moving matériel inland to dumps. Loss of landing craft drastically reduced total capacity. While the exact number of the boats either temporarily or permanently out of service is not certain, an inspection during the morning of 10 November showed 162 stranded along the bay and 23 others reported farther east.15 Of these at least 16 were tank lighters.
The unloading process was slowed down not only by lack of carrying capacity--but also by emergency requests for matériel which had been lost in the first attempt to land. The resulting interference with the orderly removal from ships' holds of matériel which had been combat loaded was responsible for retarding the process.
Engineer officers were held on their transports until long after the time when, by reconnaissance of beaches and docks, they could most effectively have organized the engineers' operations there. To each shore party engineer company, two bulldozers and four amphibian tractors (LVT's) were allotted. With the former, exits were cleared through sand dunes and other obstructions, and vehicles were towed across terrain too soft for traction. When unloading shifted from the beaches to the port, most of the bulldozers were diverted to towing supplies to dumps, rather than aiding in boat salvage operations. Amphibian tractors proved helpful in getting stranded craft afloat but suffered too often from mechanical failures.16
The planners of Sub-Task Force BRUSHWOOD estimated Fedala's port capacity at 800 tons per day, since along the quays at the northern edge of the harbor there was space for only two ships. Except for one anchorage, the remainder of the harbor was too shallow for cargo transports. If calm seas should enable other transport vessels to moor near the harbor entrance and send their cargoes in on small craft, perhaps 1,000 tons per day could be unloaded. Railroad sidings and approaches for trucks were so restricted that, even with additional cranes, it would not be possible to transfer matériel from
lighters to vehicles fast enough to meet the situation. The stuff would simply pile up. Warehouse facilities, moreover, were very small.
The matériel brought ashore along the bay during the first morning of the operation was handled under intermittent shelling from Cap de Fedala and recurrent strafing runs by French planes. Small dumps for ammunition, water, rations, and gasoline were established, but stocks accumulated very slowly. In midafternoon, after Cap de Fedala had been occupied, the port was surveyed by the sub-task force supply officer and shore party commander and discovered to be usable at once. The harbor master and two pilots were sent under guard to the Leonard Wood to confer with Captain Emmett concerning the use of the port. The beachmaster, Comdr. J. W. Jamison USN, reconnoitering on foot, found the rising surf pounding most severely on the eastern section of the bay. He attempted to consolidate all beach landings at the most sheltered point during the later part of the afternoon. The absence of lateral communications between the beaches frustrated his attempt. But the transports could move closer in, thus shortening the ship-to-shore round trips and expediting the arrival of units and matériel needed to balance and strengthen the attacking force approaching Casablanca. At 1700 although some 39 percent of all troops (including 90 percent of the four assault battalions and of BLT 3-7) went ashore, only 16 percent of the vehicles and merely 1.1 percent of the supplies had been landed. The lack of vehicular transport precluded any systematic resupply of the forward elements. Equally restricting, some pieces of the light artillery batteries, some of the self-propelled 105's, and the heavy equipment of the cannon companies had not been landed. While the troops and trucks at the beaches prepared to labor during the night to get matériel inland and under cover in anticipation of a dawn attack from the air, General Anderson concluded that the advance of ground troops had to be restrained until a better balance had been achieved.
He directed RLG's 7 and 15 to stop at a line about two miles west of the Mellah river, a limit almost three miles short of the original D-Day objective. RLG 30 was ordered to continue organizing positions from which to protect the Fedala area after the other two regiments (reinforced) resumed the advance toward Casablanca at 0700 next day. A preliminary outline plan of attack on the final objective was given to the regimental commanders. During the remainder of D Day, while elements of Colonel Monroe's 15th RLG kept arriving at various beaches, the battalions of Colonel Macon's 7th RLG took up positions preparatory to the next day's attack southwestward. Losses reported for the day had been moderate, 20 killed and 128 wounded, of which the 7th Infantry lost 9 killed and 38 wounded; the 15th Infantry, 3 killed and 13 wounded; the 30th Infantry, 8 killed and 23 wounded; and other units, the remainder.17
After General Patton had inspected the town and port of Fedala, he authorized a military police unit there, in the rear of Force BRUSHWOOD, composed of both American and French elements, and with a French officer acting as assistant provost marshal. Patton remained for the night at the Hotel Miramar, from which some of the German control commissioners had fled in the morning, in order to keep close track
of Force BRUSHWOOD's operations at this critical stage. The report from General Harmon's attack at Safi was reassuring. News from Mehdia-Port-Lyautey was not so good. But the most pressing problem appeared to be that of speeding up the inflow of matériel from the transports off Fedala so that General Anderson's force could expedite its advance on Casablanca.
The Advance on 9 November
The first day's operations to secure the beachhead were followed on D plus 1 by an attempt to move into positions for a coordinated attack on Casablanca to be made on the third day ashore. The beachhead was protected against a threatened counterattack while the advance toward the outskirts of Casablanca proceeded, unsupported by land-based air, without the Armored Landing Team, and seriously hampered by logistical difficulties.
General Patton, up before daylight on 9 November, went almost at once to check the situation at the beach. He considered it "a mess," with leadership negligent. He personally ordered a launch sent out to intercept the boats and to direct them into the port instead of letting them ride to the beach through the towering surf. The Army shore parties seemed to him neither energetic nor resourceful in moving the matériel already on the beach. In a state of exasperated frustration over the slackness which he observed and over some cases of fright during a French air attack about 0800, he remained on the beach until after noon. He then returned to the Augusta to see Admiral Hewitt and sent his deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, and most of the staff ashore.18 Advanced Headquarters, Western Task Force, was set up in the Hotel Miramar, and command responsibility for Operation TORCH in Morocco passed by mutual understanding from Admiral Hewitt to General Patton when he returned to shore later that afternoon. Command over operations ashore had been exercised by the general from the very beginning and was to be exercised by Admiral Hewitt over naval operations henceforth, in conformity with the provisions of their directives.19
Communication between the Western Task Force and the Allied command post at Gibraltar remained meager. Radio contact with Gibraltar was established on 9 November (by Company C, 829th Signal Service Battalion), but traffic was at first badly confused by a hostile station which posed to each of the authentic stations as the other and, when an effective authenticator system was improvised, interfered effectively by jamming. Communications with Oran were established on 10 November,20 and some use was made of a new radio station set up at Fedala by the Office of Strategic Services and Special Operations Executive which was operated by a British team in touch with Gibraltar.21
Force BRUSHWOOD headquarters ashore shifted to the Fedala schoolhouse in time to open there at 0900, 9 November. The
ASSEMBLY AREA, AFTERNOON OF D PLUS 1. Men are from the 3d Infantry Division.
239th Signal Operation Company manned the French telephone switchboard in Fedala and provided commercial circuits to the units approaching Casablanca. No other wire communications were available, for no field wire or related equipment had yet been landed.22
At 0700 General Anderson's force began the second day's advance on a four-battalion front. The 7th Infantry's zone was on the right (north) and the 15th Infantry's zone on the left. From north to south the four BLT's were BLT's 3-7 (Maj. Eugene H. Cloud), 2-7 (Salzmann), 2-15 (Maj. William H. Billings), and 1-15 (Gardner). BLT 1-7 (Moore), which had been relieved in Fedala at 0600 by the 2d Battalion, 20th Combat Engineers, moved up behind BLT 2-7 as regimental reserve. BLT 3-15 was in a similar role behind BLT 2-15. The perimeter of the enlarged bridgehead was held on the southeast by BLT 1-30 and on the east and northeast by BLT 2-30 and the reinforced 41st Field Artillery Battalion. BLT 3-30, with one platoon of the 443d Coast Artillery (AA) attached, prepared to move westward from a point near Beach RED 3 during the morning to a new assembly area nearer the front. To aid the main attack in the 7th Infantry's zone, Companies A and C, 756th Tank Battalion, were also attached. Colonel Macon's (7th) and Colonel Monroe's (15th) regimental
command posts were moved up to points about a mile east of the line of departure.23
The Ranger had aboard three cub observation airplanes for General Campbell's Force BRUSHWOOD artillery, which were to be sent ashore when the three battalions of field artillery, each reinforced by an extra battery of self-propelled 105's, had enough weapons ashore, and when a suitable landing field became available. In midafternoon of 9 November, when the troops were approaching Casablanca, these aircraft were launched from the carrier's deck with instructions to land at the Fedala race track. Their route brought them too near the Center Attack Group so that they became the target of heavy fire from the Brooklyn and from some of the transports. Escaping miraculously from their peril, they crossed the beach under determined fire from friendly antiaircraft batteries. One aircraft was shot down with serious injuries to its pilot; the others landed safely but received no fire control missions prior to the French capitulation.24
The movement toward Casablanca by RLG's 7 and 15, and by BLT 3-30 (BRUSHWOOD reserve), with one platoon of the 443d Coast Artillery (AA) attached, was lightly resisted, with occasional strafing by low-flying French aircraft. BLT 2-30 held the front along the steep-sided Nefifikh river on the northeastern edge of the beachhead against mounting threats of a counterattack by mobile armored forces from the directions of Rabat or Boulhaut. A French reconnaissance patrol along the Rabat-Casablanca highway was driven off during the morning, and early in the afternoon an armored force of some thirty vehicles at the intersection of that highway with the Fedala-Boulhaut road was dispersed by a naval air attack.25 Defensive measures at the critical crossing of the Nefifikh included mining the approaches and the bridges, while artillery surveyed and checked concentrations, and planes patrolled the approaching roads. But the defenders of Rabat actually shifted their major strength on 9 November northward toward Port-Lyautey instead of getting ready for a counterblow toward Fedala.
Although the defenders of Casablanca failed to come out in force on 9 November to meet the invaders approaching from Fedala, the advance was stopped as completely as if by a pitched battle. For General Anderson again had to halt the progress of his assault battalions until they had enough supporting weapons, transportation, and communications equipment. The 7th RLG was fairly well off except for radios for the supporting 10th Field Artillery Battalion--equipment which had been lost or damaged in landing. The 15th RLG, on the other hand, lacked the weapons of its Cannon Company, the self-propelled 105's of Battery B, 9th Field Artillery Battalion, the self-propelled 37-mm. antiaircraft guns of the 443d Coast Artillery (AA), and all the transportation of the 39th Field Artillery Battalion. A jeep was all that had been available to haul one battery of field artillery. Five more of the little quarter-ton vehicles were the total transport of the 15th RLG as
ENTRANCE TO THE PORT OF FEDALA. Landing craft are from the close-in transport area.
late as 1800 hours. To stop the advance for long, it was believed, might result in forfeiting an early French capitulation which an immediate strong show of force was likely to produce. Advance was resumed, therefore, at midnight, 9-10 November, with transportation furnished to RLG 15 by RLG 30 for moving the 39th Field Artillery Battalion and for resupply of ammunition.
Unloading improved for various reasons on 9 November. Four docks and two paved, inclined slips in Fedala port were found to be usable. The slips served as excellent places for disembarking vehicles from ramped lighters. The dock normally used by trawlers in the southeastern corner of the port became the center of greatest activity. A railway ran along the full length of this dock, and the contents of the boats could be transferred directly into freight cars that were found there.
At 1100 the transports moved inshore again, and the Arcturus was piloted into the harbor and moored at the tankers' dock. By 1430, vehicles of the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, were being swung ashore. At the same time a captured French trawler began taking ashore about 200 men per trip from the Thurston, supplementing the unending activity of the few landing craft and their exhausted crews. On the trawlers' dock, a station was organized for evacuating casualties to the transports. Medical personnel from the beach parties concentrated
there. From the Army's collecting station in the Casino, about 400 yards away, they carried the wounded by litter to the dock for removal to the sick bays of the ships off shore.
The pace of unloading, which surf conditions had slowed down severely for eighteen hours, was quickened that afternoon. At 1700 the convoy had discharged 55 percent of the personnel, 31 percent of the vehicles, and 3.3 percent of the supplies which it had brought from the United States. Accelerated operations were in prospect for the next twenty-four hours as a result of salvaging landing craft, the close-in anchorage of the transports, the extra port facilities, and improving sea conditions. Transport of every sort was being requisitioned and put into service to clear beaches and docks. On the trawlers' quay, ammunition of many kinds, gasoline in five-gallon cans, TNT demolition charges, bangalore torpedoes, and other inflammable matériel were piling up. A well-placed bomb could be disastrous. Men and vehicles worked without stint to segregate and disperse the fuel and ammunition, although hampered by continued uncertainty as to the location of the different dumps. Their labors not only improved the security of the port but made possible a renewed attack on Casablanca.
French Countermeasures in Morocco, 9-10 November
To contain the Americans at the coast after their occupation of Safi, Port-Lyautey, Fedala, and possibly Casablanca, General Noguès (charged by Admiral Darlan at 1735, 8 November, and by Vichy next day with control of operations in western Algeria as well as Morocco) on 10 November prescribed a defense along certain inland routes rather than along a north-south front.26 Small reserve groups of French troops assembled on 9-10 November at Petitjean and Khemisset from Fès and Taza, and others went to Marrakech from the Agadir sector. Orders from General Lascroux's headquarters placed General Dody, commanding general of the Meknès Division, in charge of defending the inland route to Meknès from Port-Lyautey and, in co-operation with the Fès Division, the route via Petitjean to Fès, while General Leyer had the mission of blocking the route from Rabat to Meknès.27
General Noguès moved his command post to Fès on 9 November, and General Lascroux later moved part of his headquarters there but remained himself at a command post in Khemisset. The German Armistice Commissioners had been kept informed of developments by General Noguès through liaison officers after the attack began but had been denied permission to keep a representative at his headquarters. They followed him inland, and concluded that his course of action, although somewhat inconsistent, was primarily intended to discourage German intervention. He flatly opposed the arrival of German aircraft to support the defense of Morocco. He promised the commissioners that they might leave by air, if as conditions then indicated, the Americans gained control from the French. Later, when the Germans violated the armistice by invading southern France, he did allow the commissioners to leave.28
The resources of the French Army in northern Morocco were assembled and deployed for resistance either to an American drive to the northeast or to an attack from Spanish Morocco against the northern frontier.
The Attack Near the Coast on 10 November
The 7th RLG started forward again at midnight, 9-10 November, under increased shelling from field guns in the outskirts of Casablanca, still carrying heavy loads of ammunition and weapons, and very weary. Nearest the beach, the reinforced Company L, 7th Infantry, proceeded without interruption, pushing back small French units. The remainder of BLT 3-7, straddling the coastal road about 1,500 yards inland, reached the suburbs of Casablanca not long after daybreak but was stopped there by French artillery and by small arms which swept the open terrain in front of them.
The fighting on 10 November was the hottest experienced by Force BRUSHWOOD. After two halts for supporting arms to be brought forward, the troops resumed their movement at midnight to get into position for the co-ordinated action scheduled to start at 0700. RLG 7 headed for a line of departure running generally south-southwest from a point on the coast just east of Table d'Oukacha to the Camp de la Jonquière, and thence southwestward generally following the Route de Grande Ceinture that skirts Casablanca. RLG 15 was to move southwestward to heights on either side of the Casablanca-Marrakech road. The French had organized their defense in a perimeter extending from Table d'Oukacha, including Roches Noires, Camp de la Jonquière, then following the Route de Grande Ceinture to a point about three miles south of the harbor, and from there in a northwesterly loop at El Hank. They had strengthened their defenses by an artillery concentration against attacks from the east and south and reinforced their lines with survivors of French warships previously sunk. Outer positions were located at Aïn Sebaâ and at the Tit Mellil crossroads. Finally, they had arranged for naval gunfire support of their troops nearest the coast whenever an opportunity to slip lighter naval vessels out of Casablanca harbor presented itself. The 7th RLG, with its designated line of departure for the 0700 attack actually in the rear of the forward French positions, was advancing into a sector that would be warmly defended. The 15th RLG's route of approach led through the outpost defenses of Tit Mellil, which the French had had time to prepare and which were not to be readily taken; it also passed through an area under artillery fire from some of the Casablanca batteries.29
On the north, closest the shore, platoons from Companies I and K of RLG 7 in their advance north of the coastal road captured a 90-mm. antiaircraft battery about 1,200 yards southeast of Table d'Oukacha during the morning, but the rest of the battalion was immobilized and for some hours out of communication with the regimental command post.
Colonel Salzmann's BLT 2-7 moved along the Rabat-Casablanca highway as far as the railroad underpass at the edge of Aïn Sebaâ, and from that point continued along a branch road on the southern side of the railroad embankment. In column of companies, the battalion arrived about half an hour before daylight near its designated portion
of the line of departure for the attack which was to begin at 0700, 10 November. Small arms and artillery fire on the area then stopped the advance. The BLT deployed on either side of the road in some confusion. Two company commanders were casualties, some platoons failed to receive orders, and the battalion was split into three parts. Salzmann led the bulk of the unit under fire to the south flank in order to reach higher ground. Several platoons from the three rifle companies and most of the Headquarters Company remained behind. Part of the Headquarters Company and the battalion executive officer first took cover wherever they could find it in nearby buildings and then, when enemy fire let up, pulled back to the eastern outskirts of Aïn Sebaâ. Eventually they organized a line of defense for the 10th Field Artillery Battalion, 1,200 yards back of the railroad underpass. Others also straggled back and were put in this line, but the forward elements of the battalion, consisting of two platoons of Company E and one platoon from Company G, stood their ground in contact with the enemy. They captured one field piece and drove the crews from two others, and even tried to envelop the northern flank of the French line. This attempt was frustrated by the lack of cover. The platoon of Company G which tried it was driven to the shelter of the railroad embankment by artillery and naval gunfire, and during the early afternoon it joined the defensive line organized earlier by the battalion executive officer.
The 10th Field Artillery Battalion, with Battery A, 9th Field Artillery Battalion, attached, outdistanced the infantry advance between midnight and dawn to reach positions previously reconnoitered in Aïn Sebaâ. The artillerymen got ready for the 0700 attack, but then, almost as soon as their guns opened fire, they came under heavy counterbattery fire from 75-mm. and 90-mm. guns, the latter only 800 yards distant on the north flank. Machine gun fire and hand grenade attacks by enemy infantry harried the gun crews and caused ten casualties, among them Lt. Col. Kermit LeV. Davis, the battalion commanding officer. Between 0930 and 1100, the battalion, lacking infantry protection, dropped hastily back to new positions more than 1,000 yards to the east. It resumed firing about an hour before noon and continued throughout the afternoon, protected by the fragment of BLT 2-7 described above and under direct orders from regimental headquarters, after direct communications with it were restored at noon.30
For a short time late in the morning the 100-mm. guns and heavy machine guns of two French corvettes supported the French defensive line near the coast by enfilading fire on BLT 2-7. Moving slowly only a short distance offshore in the vicinity of Table d'Oukacha, they kept firing until an attack by the Augusta and four destroyers drove them back into Casablanca harbor. The episode lured the Augusta within range of the guns of the Jean Bart, which had been repaired after being reported wholly out of action. Unexpected fire subjected the American flagship to a series of very close straddles. The shelling from the corvettes at first had been misinterpreted by the troops as from American ships, and contributed to the decision by some of the retreating units to shift position to the east.
At 1045 Colonel Moore's BLT 1-7 began moving into the line on regimental order. It was directed to advance with tank and
artillery support through the zone of Colonel Salzmann's battalion to take the French military barracks at Camp de la Jonquière on the outskirts of Casablanca. The BLT made good progress under persistent artillery fire until, at 1700, it was barely 400 yards east of its objective and about one and one-half miles in advance of BLT 2-7. There it stopped for the night. French prisoners reported that they had received orders to fall back; an armistice was imminent.
Pushing to the Southeastern Edge of Casablanca, 10 November
Late on 9 November in the zone of Colonel Monroe's 15th RLG reconnaissance patrols discovered an organized French position of uncertain strength in a village near Tit Mellil. The night march past this position to a line of departure for the 0700 attack was therefore postponed until the French position could be cleared by a daylight attack. Supporting artillery fire was requested. One battery of the 39th Field Artillery Battalion using a jeep and a French civilian truck came forward to assist the attack at dawn. BLT 1-15 and BLT 2-15 then met heavy rifle and machine gun fire coming from the waiting defenders who occupied several concrete buildings and who appeared to be strongly organized in some depth. Neither the Cannon Company nor the Antitank Company of RLG 15 had yet been landed from the transports, but some 37-mm. antitank guns were used to good purpose as assault guns, while the heavy machine guns and 81-mm. mortars of all three battalions were also employed effectively. Following an earlier admonition from General Patton, to "grab the enemy by the nose and kick him in the pants," the regiment enveloped the village from both flanks under covering artillery fire. The French retired to the south and west, and were pushed back from the ridge of Er Refifida (135)* by heavy machine gun and 37-mm. high explosive fire. But it was 1700 instead of 0700 hours when the regiment arrived at the line, astride the Casablanca-Marrakech highway and south of BLT 1-7, from which to attack the main objective.
RLG's 7 and 15 had reached the edge of Casablanca late on 10 November at a cost of 27 killed and 72 wounded in the 7th Infantry, 2 killed and 6 wounded in the 10th Field Artillery Battalion, and 11 wounded in the 15th Infantry. Losses in other units raised the Force BRUSHWOOD total for the day to 36 killed and 113 wounded,31 chiefly because of French artillery and machine guns. The day's operations had been as costly as those on D Day. The interloping enemy aircraft of previous days had dwindled to very few indeed, while the support by land-based aircraft from Port-Lyautey was still withheld because of delay in capturing the airfield there. If the reports from Port-Lyautey were not too hopeful, the situation between Fedala and Casablanca had improved in two important respects. The supply situation no longer restrained the advance, for the famine at the port of Fedala had been transformed into a glut by unloading at a rate far in excess of the capacity of the men and available transportation to clear the docks. A substantial number of trucks and the use of the railroad had made possible the stocking of forward dumps. And even ahead of the trucks, the
Armored Landing Team 1-67 (Major Nelson) had been put ashore from the Arcturus and assembled five and a half miles southwest of Fedala, except for one platoon of light tanks of A Company sent forward to the southern flank of the 15th Infantry in the area of the Tit Mellil.
General Patton could get little information from either General Truscott or General Harmon, but, urged by General Eisenhower to catch up with the operations at Algiers and Oran,32 where fighting had already ceased, he determined to proceed without the support of P–40's from the XII Air Support Command or the medium tanks of Combat Command B, 2d Armored Division, from Safi. The French forces in Casablanca were believed to outnumber available ground troops, but naval air and naval gunfire could be counted on to offset that advantage. Arrangements for a co-ordinated attack to open with bombardment at 0700 and ground assault at 0730, 11 November, were made during the afternoon and evening. While these plans were maturing, reports were received that General Harmon's medium tanks were moving northward from Safi and that the airfield at Port- Lyautey had been taken in time to receive some of the Chenango's P–40's.33 General Truscott, who had been asking for reinforcements in the morning, was already planning to send a small armored force southward to get the airfield at Rabat on 11 November.34
From four of the transports between 2030 on 10 November and dawn on 11 November, the personnel and heavy guns of two artillery batteries, the personnel and equipment of the 3d Signal Company, and the signal and medical equipment of some armored units were landed under urgent request. These units were to strengthen RLG 30 to meet an anticipated morning attack against the Fedala beachhead from the northeast.
General Anderson notified his assault units of the attack orders in prospect for the next morning in time for reconnaissance before darkness. Ground advance was to begin at 0730, following preliminary bombardment in which warships, carrier-based planes, and field artillery would join. El Hank, the water front, and the semicircle of field and antiaircraft guns in the southeastern sector of Casablanca, were the designated targets. RLG 7 on the north, RLG 15 on the east, supported respectively by the 10th and 39th Field Artillery Battalions (reinforced), and the tanks of the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, in RLG 15's sector, were to attack toward the harbor along converging lines. Movements during the night placed the various components of Sub-Task Force BRUSHWOOD in position for the morning's attack.
Facing the attacking force, the French ground elements, exclusive of the personnel at the coastal defense batteries which were still in operation, amounted to more than 3,600 infantry, about 90 guns, and miscellaneous provisional naval units of undetermined strength. A troop of some 400 Moroccan Spahis was stationed southwest of the city and south of the Route de Grande Ceinture within striking distance of RLG 15's left flank and likely to engage the tanks of the 2d Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment. The measures necessary to overcome such defenses with the means available seemed certain to cause drastic destruction within the city and its harbor, and to do
irreparable damage to any prospect of cooperation between Americans and French in defeating the Axis. Would the French resistance persist? Could Noguès be persuaded to order the cessation of hostilities, and if he did, would his orders be obeyed? He had finally recognized that the Western Task Force was formidable--no raiding party--and that even at Mehdia-Port-Lyautey, where the French opposition had been most successful, the triumph of the invaders was in sight.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (6) * Next Chapter (8)
1. Basic sources for this chapter are: (1) WTF Final Rpt, Operations TORCH, with annexes. DRB AGO. See particularly Annex 2 (Sub-Task Force BRUSHWOOD Opns Rpt), 8 Dec 42, with incls. See also Annexes 7, 8, 9, and 11, as well as G-2 (Annex 5), Item 11, which contains a copy of Journal of Actions of the High Command of Moroccan Troops, 8-11 Nov 42. (2) 3d Div FO 1, 17 Oct 42, with annexes, 10-17 Oct 42. (3) Bn AAR's, especially those of 7th, 15th, 30th, 47th, and 60th Inf. (4) Action Rpts of CTG 34.1, CTG 34.9, and of Leonard Wood, Joseph T. Dickman, Thomas Jefferson, and Charles Carroll. (5) Col Harry McK. Roper, Obsr's Rpt, 22 Dec 42. DRB AGO.
2. See pp. 121-22 below.
3. The Army troop list of 22 October 1942 shows a total of 19,364 men and 1,732 vehicles (see Table 2). The Leonard Wood's Action Report, 30 November 1942, tabulates the troops and vehicles per ship with a total of 19,870 men and 1,701 vehicles. Morison, U.S. Naval Operations, II, 37, 55, sets the total at 18,783 and on p. 158 adopts the total of 19,870.
4. Only four out of seven waves from the Wood, five out of eight from the Jefferson, five and one-half out of fifteen from the Carroll, and four out of five from the Dickman, which were bound for Beach BLUE 2, reported. From the fourth wave, three of the six boats had failed to appear at starting time, but two of them, including the boat with the commanding officer of BLT 2-30, went in independently. Their navigation was such that they ended up thousands of yards to the northeast of Beach BLUE 2, well apart from the battalion's attack. Two entire waves from the Carroll of three or four boats each missed the rendezvous with the Ludlow and went toward Beach BLUE unescorted.
5. Memo, Adm Hewitt for Gen Handy, 5 Feb 43, sub: Amph tng. FE 25/A16-3, Ser 0059, Kansas City Rcds Ctr.
6. For this exploit, and his earlier mission to Casablanca through the French lines, Colonel Wilbur was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. See The Medal of Honor of the United States Army (Washington, 1948), pp. 232-33.
7. (1) 30th Inf Hist, 1 Apr 43. (2) CTG 34.9 Rpt, 30 Nov 42, with incls.
8. WTF Final Rpt, Annex 2, 8 Dec 42.
9. Patton Diary, 8 Nov. 42. The Augusta's action illustrated how its overlapping missions interfered with the most efficient control of operations ashore and offshore. A separate command ship was available for the next great amphibious assault in the Mediterranean, the attack on Sicily.
10. (1) Interv with Maj Gen Hobart S. Gay, 11 Oct 48. (2) Patton Diary, 9 Nov 42.
11. The Massachusetts opened fire at a range of 19,400 yards at 0918.
12. (1) Account by observer on roof overlooking Casablanca harbor. In private possession. (2) Jnl and Rpt, Ajax to Reid, 22 Nov 42. In private possession. (3) Morison, U.S. Naval Operations, II, Ch. IV.
13. Two were characterized as "smart, experienced, well-trained"; five of them, as "fairly well-trained"; three, as "well-converted but totally inexperienced in amphibious operations"; and the remaining five, as "partially and hastily converted, totally inexperienced in amphibious operations." CTG 34.9 Action Rpt, 30 Nov 42, App. 1, Incl C, Ser 003052.
14. Leonard Wood, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Carroll, Joseph T. Dickman, Joseph Hewes, and Edward Rutledge had joint shore and beach parties consisting of 170 Army and 46 Navy personnel. The William P. Biddle had a shore party of 45 plus a signal detachment, and a party of 28. Ibid.
15. The lowest figure seems to be an expenditure of 40 percent of all craft during the whole operation, 137 boats out of 347 used. Morison, U.S. Naval Operations, II, 79n.
16. (1) WTF Final Rpt, Annex 8, App. 1, p. 1. (2) Joseph T. Dickman War Diary, Nov 42, Account of Harry A. Storts. (3) The great value of amphibian tractors for landings in the shallow water over coral reefs in the Central Pacific was to be demonstrated in such operations as the capture of the Gilbert and the Marshall Islands about a year later. See Philip A. Crowl and Edmund G. Love, The Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1955).
17. WTF Final Rpt, Annex 2, p. 18.
18. Patton Diary, 9 Nov 42.
19. (1) Patton Diary, 9 Nov 42. (2) Intervs with Adm Hewitt, 23 Jan 51, and Capt L. A. Bachman (USN), 16 Jan 51. (3) Morison, U.S. Naval Operations, II, 158, is in error concerning the circumstances. Control from the Augusta over the separate operations at Safi and Port-Lyautey had been severely restricted by the inadequacy of communications facilities on the Augusta for the unexpected volume of Army traffic.
20. WTF Final Rpt, Annex 9, p. 3. SCR-188 and SCR-199 sets were used.
21. (1) OSS Rpt, TORCH and the SOE Signals Stations at Gibraltar. CIA OSS Archives. (2) Msg, London to AGWAR, 21 Oct 42, CM-IN 09055. (3) Ltr, Frederick P. Culbert to author, 12 Feb 48.
22. WTF Final Rpt, Annex 9, p. 3 (Col Elton F. Hammond, Signal Officer, WTF).
23. Each of the nineteen antiaircraft platoons operated four half-tracked multiple gun motor carriers, mounting one 37-mm. automatic gun and two .50-caliber fixed machine guns. The 5th Platoon, Battery D, had only two of these (WTF Final Rpt, Annex 7, p. 3). The multiple gun motor carriers were credited with shooting down nine planes in three areas, four of them at Fedala (WTF Final Rpt, Annex 11, p. 3).
24. WTF Final Rpt, Annex 7, p. 6.
25. The vehicles were from the scout car troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Regiment, African Chasseurs, according to WTF Final Rpt, G-2 Annex, Item 11.
26. General Directive 106-CMC, according to WTF Final Rpt, G-2 Annex, Item 11.
27. GO 30/3, ibid.
28. (1) Extract of Rpt, Bericht ueber die Vorgaenge in Franaoesisch-Marroko und Nordafrika vom 8.–11.XI.1942, D WStK, Kontrollinspektion Afrika Ia, Nr. 150/42, 15 Nov 42, in Chef OKW, Sonderakte Vorgaenge Frankreich. (2) Ltrs, Noguès to author, 28 Jan 50 and 23 Jan 51.
29. (1) See overlays in WTF Final Rpt, Annex 2, Incls 6 and 7. (2) Morison, U.S. Naval Operations, II, 162.
30. (1) Ltr, Patton to Marshall, 15 Nov 42. Copy in OPD Exec 8, Bk. 7, Tab 5. (2) Interv with Lt Gen Geoffrey Keyes, 15 Feb 50.
*. Figures in parentheses refer to elevation in meters.
31. WTF Final Rpt, Annex 2, p. 18.
32. CinC AF Diary, 10 Nov 42.
33. Patton Diary, 10 Nov 42.
34. Interv with Brig Gen Harry H. Semmes (O.R.C.), 7 Mar 50.