United States Army in World War II
Mediterranean Theater of Operations

Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative In the West

George F. Howe


. . . to Those Who Served

Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor

Advisory Committee
(As of 15 March 1957)
Elmer Ellis
University of Missouri


Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Newman
U.S. Continental Army Command


Samuel Flagg Bemis
Yale University


Brig. Gen. Edgar C. Doleman
Army War College


Gordon A. Craig
Princeton University


Brig. Gen. William F. Train
Command and General Staff College


Oron J. Hale
University of Virginia


Maj. Gen. Robert P. Hollis
Industrial College of the Armed Forces


W. Stull Holt
University of Washington


Col. Vincent J. Esposito
United States Military Academy


T. Harry Williams
Louisiana State University


Office of the Chief of Military History
Maj. Gen. Richard W. Stephens, Chief

Chief Historian Kent Roberts Greenfield
Deputy Chief of Military History Col. Ridgway P. Smith, Jr.
Chief, War Histories Division Col. Seneca W. Foote
Chief, Editorial and Publication Division Lt. Col. E. E. Steck
Editor in Chief Joseph R. Friedman
Chief, Cartographic Branch Elliot Dunay
Chief, Photographic Branch Margaret E. Tackley


  Foreword vii
  The Author viii

Chapter     Page
I.  The Mediterranean Theater of War, 1940-1942 3
    The Mediterranean as an Axis Theater 4
    The Allied Decision to Occupy French North Africa 10
    The President Commits the United States to Operation TORCH 13
II.  Strategic Planning 15
    Beginnings of the Allied Force 15
    General Eisenhower's Directive 16
    The Objective 16
    Political Considerations 22
    Strategic Decisions 25
III.  Tactical Plans and Political Preparations 32
    Organizing the Chain of Command of the Allied Force 32
    Directives for Joint Action by the U.S. Army and Navy 37
    Western Task Force Planning 39
    Center Task Force Planning 46
    Planning for Operations at Algiers 50
    Political Preparations 54
    Civil Affairs Planning 57
IV.  Completing the Preparations 60
    Training for the Assault 60
    Plans for Logistical Support 63
    Departure of the Western Task Force 67
    Departure of the Center and Eastern Task Forces 70
    Axis Situation in the Mediterranean on the Eve of the Attack 72
    Finding a French Leader 77
    The Climax of the Preparations 84
The Amphibious Phase on the Atlantic Coast
V.  The French Decide to Fight 89
VI.  Taking Safi 97
    The Objective and Its Defenses 97
    The Plan of Attack 102
    Debarkation Begins 102
    The Battle Opens 104
    Completing the Seizure of Safi 107
    Air Action at Safi 109
    Stopping French Reinforcement From Marrakech 111
    The Armored Force Starts Toward Casablanca 114
VII.  Fedala to Casablanca 116
    The Landings Begin 123
    Clearing Cap de Fedala 127
    The Capture of the Batterie du Pont Blondin 129
    Other D-Day Landings at Fedala 130
    The French Reaction Ashore 131
    Naval Action on D-Day 133
    Unloading at Fedala on D-Day 134
    The Advance on 9 November 137
    French Countermeasures in Morocco, 9-10 November 141
    The Attack Near the Coast on 10 November 142
    Pushing to the Southeastern Edge of Casablanca, 10 November 144
VIII.  Mehdia to Port-Lyautey 147
    The Plan of Attack 150
    The Enemy is Alerted 153
    The 2d BLT Attacks in the Center 155
    The 1st BLT Attacks on the South Wing 157
    The 3d BLT's Attack on the North Wing 158
    Summary of D-Day 159
    The Second Day's Operations 161
    The Night Attacks, 9-10 November 163
    Closing on the Airdrome, 10 November 165
    Taking the Kasba 167
    The Final Phase 168
IX.  The End of Hostilities in Morocco 171
    Armistice 171
    Enemy Submarines Attack 174
    Political Conditions 176
    The Western Task Force After the Surrender 179
The Amphibious Operations in the Mediterranean
X.  The Last Preliminaries 185
    The Convoys Elude the Enemy 185
    Giraud's Associates in Oran and Algiers 188
    Giraud at Gibraltar 190
XI.  The First Day's Operations Against Oran 192
    The Arrival of the Center Task Force Off Oran 192
    The Landings at Mersa bou Zedjar 195
    The Landings at Les Andalouses (Y Beach) 199
    The Direct Assault on Oran Harbor (Operation RESERVIST) 202
    Naval Air Support for the Landings 204
    The Landings Along the Golfe d'Arzew 205
    Combat Team 18 on D-Day 207
    Combat Team 16 on D-Day 208
    Task Force RED Takes Tafaraoui Airfield 209
    The Airborne Troops of the Center Task Force 212
    The Situation as D-Day Ends 213
XII.  The Seizure of Oran 215
    The French Counterattack on the Eastern Flank 215
    French Armored Counterattack Near Tafaraoui 217
    Misserrhin is Bypassed by the GREEN Flying Column, 9-10 November 219
    St. Cloud is Finally Bypassed 220
    The Approach to Oran From the East and South 220
    The Final Attack on Oran, 10 November 223
    Aftermath of Victory 225
XIII.  The Occupation of Algiers 229
    The Plan of Attack 229
    Arrival at the Beaches 234
    The Western Landings 235
    The Capture of Lambiridi and of Blida Airdrome 238
    Operation TERMINAL 241
    The Eastern Landings 244
    Negotiations in Algiers 249
    Hostilities Cease in Algiers 250
XIV.  The Axis Reaction and the French Decision 253
    Axis Efforts to Gain French Cooperation 254
    Axis Military Planning 260
    Clark-Darlan Negotiations 262
    The North African Agreement 269
    French West Africa Cooperates 271
    French Organization for Military Cooperation 272
The End of Operation TORCH
XV.  Taking Positions for the Drive on Tunis 277
    Advance Into Tunisia 277
    The Terrain of Tunisia 280
    Allied Spearheads Engage the Enemy 283
    Nehring Takes Command in Tunis 286
    The First Battle at Medjez el Bab, 19-20 November 287
    The Enemy Attempts to Extend the Bridgehead 288
    Preparations for the First Allied Attack 291
    Enemy Strength 294
    Allied Plan of Attack 295
XVI.  The Attack Toward Tunis 299
    The Two Northern Columns Attack, 25 November 299
    The Southern Attack Begins 302
    The Battle for Djedeïda 305
XVII.  Stalemate Before Tunis 311
    The Axis Counterattack Begins 312
    The Second Day 315
    The Climax of the Counterattack, 3 December 318
    December Decisions on Axis Strategy 321
    The Action at Djebel el Guessa, 6 December 326
    The Allies Fall Back to a New Line 329
    The Plans for the Final Attack 335
    The Engagement at Longstop Hill 338
Concentration of Forces in Tunisia
XVIII.  The New Situation: Allied Reaction 347
    Central Tunisia: The Terrain 347
    Operation SATIN and Related Problems 349
    The New Chain of Allied Command 354
    Giraud Replaces Darlan 355
    French Factionalism Persists 359
    Rearming the French 361
XIX.  The New Situation: Axis Reaction 363
    Revision of Axis Plans 363
    The Axis Logistical Problem 365
    Axis Reorganization in January 368
    The Axis Forces--Strength and Disposition 370
XX.  Sparring Along the Eastern Dorsal 373
    Fighting to Keep the Initiative 373
    The Enemy's Attack, 18-28 January 376
    Changes in Allied Field Command 383
    The Enemy's Next Moves 386
    II Corps Plans 386
    The Enemy Attacks Faïd Pass 388
    The Allied Attack on Maknassy Begins 392
    The Enemy Retains Faïd Pass 393
    Operations Southwest of Pont-du-Fahs 394
    II Corps Attack on Maknassy Ends 395
    II Corps Goes on the Defensive 398
XXI.  The Enemy Strikes at U.S. II Corps 401
    Allied Expectations 401
    Allied Dispositions, 13 February 402
    The Enemy's Intentions 405
    Axis Plans for Taking Sidi Bou Zid and Gafsa 407
    The Battle of Sidi Bou Zid, 14 February 410
    Allied Preparations for Counterattack 416
    The Counterattack at Sidi Bou Zid, 15 February 419
XXII.  The Enemy Drives Back the Allied Southern Flank 423
    The Decision to Fall Back to the West 423
    The Axis Attack Pauses 424
    The Axis Forces Squander a Day 426
    The Allied Line Swings Back 427
    The Attack on Sbeïtla Begins, 16 February 430
    Withdrawal to Sbiba--Loss of Fériana and Thélepte 436
XXIII.  Rommel's Thrust Through Kasserine Pass 438
    The Axis Decision of 18 February 438
    The Allied Line in the South 442
    The Terrain at Kasserine Pass 444
    The Defense of Kasserine Pass, 19 February 447
    The 21st Panzer Division Is Stopped at Sbiba, 19 February 452
    The Loss of Kasserine Pass, 20 February 453
    Allied Defenses in the Rear of Kasserine Pass 457
XXIV.  The Enemy is Turned Back 459
    The Enemy is Held on the Tébessa Road 460
    Thala Narrowly Escapes Capture 464
    The Enemy Retires Through Kasserine Pass 469
    The New Army Groups 475
    Balance Sheet of the February Battles 477
Shift to Northern Tunisia
XXV.  The Allies Prepare for Decisive Action 485
    Reorganizing the Allied Command 485
    Ground Forces Reorganize 489
    The New Allied Air Command 492
    Allied Preparations in the Communications Zone 495
    Preparations by the French 499
XXVI.  The Enemy Strives to Retain the Initiative 501
    A Major Effort in the North is Planned 501
    The Attack on the Northern Flank 504
    The Attack via Sidi Nsir 505
    The Enemy Fails, South of the Medjerda 507
    The Outcome of the 26 February Offensive 508
    New Instructions for Army Group Africa 509
    Axis Logistical Preparations 512
    The Battle of Médenine 514
    Rommel Leaves Tunisia 519
XXVII.  From Mareth to Enfidaville 521
    The Approach of the British Eighth Army 521
    The Mareth Position 522
    Rommel's Analysis of the Mareth Position 524
    The Gap Leading to El Hamma 525
    Plans for Operation PUGILIST GALLOP 526
    Defense Plans 527
    The Battle on the Coastal Plain 530
    The Shift to Operation SUPERCHARGE II 533
    The Enemy Falls Back to the Chott Position 537
    The Enemy is Driven to Northeastern Tunisia 539
XXVIII.  Gafsa, Maknassy, and El Guettar (17-25 March) 543
    Army Group's Plan for II Corps 543
    The Corps Plan: Operation WOP 545
    The Occupation of Gafsa 547
    The Seizure of Station de Sened 548
    The Advance Beyond Maknassy 550
    18 Army Group Revises II Corps Mission, 22 March 553
    Enemy Defense of Maknassy Pass, 23-25 March 554
    The 1st Infantry Division Holds the Enemy Near El Guettar 557
    Reinforced American Infantry Versus German Armor, 23 March 560
XXIX.  II Corps Operations Beyond El Guettar 564
    18 Army Group Again Revises the Plan for II Corps 564
    Two Divisions East of El Guettar, 28-29 March 565
    The Armored Attack Toward Gabés, 30 March-1 April 569
    Tactical Air Support of II Corps 573
    II Corps is Held, 2-6 April 574
    The Enemy Pulls Out, 6-8 April 576
XXX.  Attacks at Fondouk El Aouareb and Pursuit Onto the Plain 578
    The Second Attack at Fondouk el Aouareb Falters 582
    British 6th Armoured Division Breaks Out at Fondouk el Aouareb 589
    The Enemy Slips Past Kairouan 590
Allied Drive to Victory
XXXI.  Preparations 595
    The Terrain of the Enemy's Bridgehead 595
    The Allied Plan of Attack 598
    The Enemy's Plans and Regrouping 601
    Allied Regrouping 604
XXXII.  The Attack Begins 609
    II Corps Plans 613
    Preparations for the Attack in the North 614
    Attack in the North Begins 618
    II Corps Southern Attack Begins 620
XXXIII.  The Advance to Mateur 628
    Hill 609 628
    The Attack Opens 631
    First Failure and Broadened Plans 632
    Successful General Attack, 30 April-1 May 635
    Approaching "The Mousetrap" 638
    The Enemy is Forced to Withdraw, 1-3 May 639
    The Fall of Mateur, 3 May 641
XXXIV.  The End in Tunisia 644
    Plans to Take Tunis 644
    The Liberation of Tunis 649
    Bizerte Falls to the U.S. II Corps 651
    U.S. II Corps Pushes Beyond Mateur 654
    Total Surrender in the North 659
    The Fighting Ends in the South 662
    Allied Reorganization 665
XXXV.  Fruits of Victory 669
    French Unification 669
    Some "Lessons Learned" by the Army 671
    Some "Lessons Learned" by the Enemy 673
    Allied Leadership 674
    Strategic Consequences 675
Appendix   Page
A.  Allied Troop and Supply Shipments 679
B.  Axis Troop and Supply Shipments 682
Note on Sources 684
Glossary 688
Code Names 693
Basic Military Map Symbols 695
Index 699

No.   Page
1.  Personnel and Vehicles Assigned to Force "X" (BLACKSTONE), as of 22 October 1942 101
2.  Personnel and Vehicles Assigned to Force "Y" (BRUSHWOOD), as of 22 October 1942 122
3.  Personnel and Vehicles Assigned to Force "Z" (GOALPOST), as of 22 October 1942 151
4.  Battle Casualties Sustained by the Allied Forces in the Algerian-French Moroccan Campaign, 8–11 November 1942 173
5.  Battle Casualties Sustained by the Allied Forces in the Tunisian Campaign, 12 November 1942–13 May 1943 675
6.  Strength and Supplies of Allied Assault Forces in the Invasion of North Africa, 8 November 1942 679
7.  Strength of Allied Forces Landed in North Africa as of 1 December 1942 679
8.  Strength of U.S. Army in North Africa, November 1942-April 1943 680
9.  German Supply Shipments Received in North Africa, November 1942–May 1943 682
10.  German Losses in Sea Transport to North Africa, November 1942-May 1943 683
11.  Axis Troops Transported to North Africa, November 1942–May 1943 683

No.   Page
1.  AFHQ Organization, 1 November 1942 34
2.  Allied Command Relationships in the Mediterranean, March 1943 486

1.  Lines of Communication in French North Africa 18
2.  Advance from Safi, 9–11 November 1942 112
3.  Landings at Algiers, 8 November 1942 232
4.  First Actions in Tunisia, 16–23 November 1942 285
5.  First Allied Drive on Tunis, 25–30 November 1942 297
6.  Situation in Northern Tunisia, 16 December 1942 334
7.  Battle for Longstop Hill, 22–26 December 1942 340
8.  Battle for the Eastern Dorsal Passes, 18–25 January 1943 375
9.  Faïd–Maknassy Actions, 30 January-3 February 1943 389
10.  The Dorsal Positions in Central Tunisia, 13–18 February 1943 404
11.  Battle of Sidi Bou Zid, 14–15 February 1943 408
12.  Engagement at Sbeïtla, 16–17 February 1943 429
13.  Situation in Tunisia, 26 February 1943 491
14.  German Offensive in Northern Tunisia, 26 February–15 March 1943 503
15.  Battle of Médenine, 6 March 1943 515
16.  Actions Near El Guettar, 28 March-1 April 1943 566
17.  First Attack on Fondouk, 27 March 1943 579
18.  Battle for Fondouk Gap, 8–9 April 1943 584
19.  Attacks on Axis Bridgehead, 19 April–1 May 1943 596
20.  II Corps Routes, April 1943 605
21.  Victory in Tunisia, 3-13 May 1943 646
  I-XIII Are in Inverse Order Inside Back Cover  
I.  Central Europe and the Mediterranean (National Geographic Society Map)  
II.  Safi Landing Area  
III.  The Capture of Casablanca, Operations 8–11 November 1942  
IV.  Taking Port–Lyautey, 8–10 November 1942  
V.  Seizure of Oran, 8–10 November 1942  
VI.  Tunisian Battleground  
VII.  Tebourba Engagement  
VIII.  German Attack on Medjez el Bab, 6–10 December 1942  
IX.  Battles at Kasserine Pass and Sbiba Gap, 19–22 February 1943  
X.  Mareth and Chott Positions, 16 March–6 April 1943  
XI.  Operations of II Corps in Southern Tunisia, 16–23 March 1943  
XII.  II Corps Operations in Northern Tunisia, 23 April–3May 1943  
XIII.  Battle for Hill 609 (Djebel Tahent), 27 April-1 May 1943  
U.S. Rangers Training in Scotland [1], [2], [3] 64
Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., Aboard the USS Augusta 69
Gibraltar 85
En Route to North Africa 91
Landing Craft Circling Near a Troop Transport 94
Safi Harbor [1], [2] 98, 99
La Railleuse, Pointe De La Tour 100
Fire Control Tower 104
Navy Fighter Planes from the USS Santee 110
Seatrain Lakehurst 113
Cap De Fedala 117
Casablanca [1], [2] 120
Transports of the Center Attack Group 123
Beach RED 3, Fedala 126
The Wadi Nefifikh and Beach BLUE 2 127
Light Tank M5 Near Fedala 129
Assembly Area, Afternoon of D Plus 1 138
Entrance to the Port of Fedala 140
Port-Lyautey, Airdrome 148
Path of the Raider Detachment Aboard the Dallas [1], [2], [3], [4] 166
Aircraft Carrier Chenango 168
Arriving at Fedala to Negotiate an Armistice 172
Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower at Gibraltar 175
Oran 194
X WHITE Beach on the Bay of Mersa Bou Zedjar 197
Y Beaches, Les Andalouses 200
Y WHITE Beach, Les Andalouses 201
Troops and Equipment Coming Ashore, Z WHITE Beach 207
The "Maracaibo" HMS Misoa 209
French Prisoners 211
Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall 226
Algiers 242
U.S. Troops Landing Near Surcouf 245
Maj. Gen. Charles S. Ryder 251
General Eisenhower with Adm. Jean François Darlan 266
Allied Leaders in Algiers 267
Sbeïtla 290
Crew of a General Grant Tank 292
German Mark IV Medium Tank 301
Djedeïda 304
German Mark VI Tiger Tank 307
The German 88-mm. Flak Guns 313
El Bathan 319
Casablanca Conference 360
German SIEBEL Ferry 367
Lt. Gen. K. A. N. Anderson 383
37-mm. Antitank Gun (M3A1) and Crew 410
Faïd Pass 414
Sidi Bou Zid 415
Spahis Withdrawing from the Sidi Bou Zid Area 416
Field Marshal Rommel 439
Terrain at Kasserine Pass 444
105-mm. Howitzer of the 33d Field Artillery Battalion 448
General Grant Medium Tank M3 450
Men of the 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion 454
Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward 468
Maj. Gen. Terry Allen 469
Crew of Half-Track 471
The Railroad Station at Kasserine Village 472
Marching Through Kasserine Pass 473
German Medium Tank Mark IV 480
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr 488
Unloading P–38 Fighter Planes 497
Field Marshal Albert Kesselring 502
Sherman Tank with "Scorpion" Attachment 532
Railroad Station at Maknassy 551
Brig. Gen. Paul M. Robinett 554
Infantrymen Near El Guettar 559
U.S. Armor Near El Guettar 561
Loading a 155-mm. Howitzer 563
Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy 568
Maj. Gen. Ernest N. Harmon 575
Djebel Ain El Rhorab 580
Maj. Gen. Omar N. Bradley 606
Djefna Area 615
Pack Animal Bringing Supplies 621
Hill 609 629
Hill Complex in Sidi Nsir Area 630
Hill 609 Area 631
Troops Moving to a New Position Near Hill 609 633
Mateur 639
1st Armored Division Tank 643
Gen. Alphonse Juin 651
Bizerte 652
Troops of 60th Infantry 654
Tanks and Infantrymen in Bizerte 655
Gen. Juergen Von Arnim 664
Aerial View of Enemy Prisoners Near Mateur 666
Allied Leaders in Tunis, May 1943 670

The illustrations on pages 197 and 245 are from the Imperial War Museum, London; the illustration on page 383 is from Service Cinèma des Armées; the one on page 502 is a captured German photograph. All other illustrations are from the files of the Department of Defense.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation