The records consulted for the month of August, the time of the debate over the date for launching TORCH, contain no indication that the British spoke of wanting the operation to follow promptly after the planned offensive in the Libyan Desert (LIGHTFOOT, for which a target date had not yet been set), or that the President alluded to the desirability of having it come well before the congressional elections of 4 November. It is clear, however, that Churchill considered the relation of LIGHTFOOT to TORCH. In a message to the War Cabinet on 6 August, he stated his view that "a victory over Rommel in August or September may have a decisive effect upon the attitude of the French in North Africa when 'TORCH' begins."1 Following an understanding between Churchill and General Alexander, the Prime Minister advised the President on 26 August that if Rommel had not attacked by the August moon, the British would attack by the end of September.2 On 17 September when Churchill had had no further notice from General Alexander as to the definite date for LIGHTFOOT, he inquired as to the general's intentions. General Alexander replied that 24 October had been chosen for LIGHTFOOT, and that he had "carefully considered the timing in relation to 'TORCH' and have come to the conclusion that the best date for us to start would be minus 13 of 'TORCH' [then fixed for November 4]."3 Churchill notified the President on 22 September that "General Alexander will attack in sufficient time to influence TORCH favorably should he be successful.4
Timing of TORCH
It appears from the silence of the record that the President did not introduce the November elections into the discussion of the timing of TORCH. Unwillingness to have imputed to him, in case the operation should fail, that partisan reasons had overruled military judgment, may even have influenced him to acquiesce in the later date, once he understood what the reasons were. The postponement of TORCH (from the October date which the President had hoped for) may have been a disappointment to the President, but Robert E. Sherwood states that Roosevelt said at the time, "this was a decision that rested with the responsible officer, Eisenhower, and not with the Democratic National Committee."5 Another reference to the matter came during the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, when Marshall remarked: "that he had felt embarrassed over the date of this operation [HUSKY] remembering as he did the incentive which had existed for hastening TORCH in view of the U.S. elections. In spite of that, it had not proved possible to advance the date." The Prime Minister said that "there had been much admiration in England of the fact that the election had not been allowed to influence in the slightest the course of military events.6
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1. Churchill, Hinge of Fate, p. 461.
2. See Churchill, Hinge of Fate, p. 529.
3. Churchill, Hinge of Fate, p. 588.
4. Msg, Former Naval Person [Churchill] to President, 22 Sep 42, No. 151, Item 63a, Exec 10.
5. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 630.
6. Min, 3d ANFA mtg, 23 Jan 43, Casablanca Conf Book.