The Coast Guard at War
North African Landings

Prepared in the
Historical Section
Public Information Division
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
June 1, 1946


It has been found, from past experience, that valuable material is sometimes received after a monograph has been carefully prepared in every detail and distributed. It is then too late to incorporate that new material into the story. This monograph is, therefore, submitted in first draft, for distribution to members of the Service in order that material still not at hand may be obtained from them or suggestions made by them as to what is still needed. Some parts are still in the form of notes, credit being indicated in the list of sources as well as in the main part of the story in some cases. Readers are requested to send in their material and suggestions at this time so that they may be incorporated into the final draft.


"We know where our first lines of defense are: England, Australia, China, and the Middle East. We are intent on guarding these areas, their peoples and their institutions. These are our first lines of defense in that by protecting them, we can preserve ourselves and our American way of life."

Russell R. Waesche,
Vice Admiral,
Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard.


"Our fighting men at the front know, as we know, that this war must be won, not just for the sake of ourselves and our families, but for the sake of all the 2,000,000,000 people who make up the earth's population. If we stop before we win on this world-wide scale, we will only face another terrible Armageddon a few years hence. The free world of which we speak so glibly is no idealistic dream. It is the sworn goal of your government and of all nations which are allied with us. Never before in history has such a formidable collection of forces moved in concert for one ultimate purpose."

Lloyd T. Chalker,
Rear Admiral,
Assistant Commandant,
U.S. Coast Guard.


Table of Contents

Foreword v-vi
Part I 1 - 29
  Arrival in North Africa 1 - 11
  Warning of Danger Before Pearl Harbor 11 - 13
  United States Objectives 13 - 15
  French Situations in North Africa 17 - 19
  Broadcasts Before Landing 19 - 25
  The Strategic Concept 25 - 29
Part II 31-121
  Moroccan Expedition 31 - 35
  Captain Harwood's Account 35 - 43
  Some Facts and Figures About the DICKMAN 43 - 47
  Eye Witness Accounts and Experiences 47 - 63
  The LEONARD WOOD 63-65
  Commander O'Neill's Official Report 65 - 69
  Operations off Fedala 71 - 73
  Some Facts and Figures about the LEONARD WOOD 73 - 75
  Eye Witness Accounts and Experiences 75 - 77
  Floating Hospital 77 - 81
  Algerian Expedition 83 - 91
  Commander Heimer's Account 91 - 97
  Official Report of the SAMUEL CHASE 97 - 101
  Oran Harbor Operation 103 - 105
  Significance of Oran 105
  Scuttling of the French Fleet at Toulon 107 - 113
  Special Recognition and Decorations 113 - 121
Part III 123-131
  Results and Significance 123 - 125
  Significance to the Allies 125 - 131
Appendix A Executive Order 8929, November 1, 1941 132
Appendix B The War and Human Freedom 133-134
Appendix C Report of Landing Operations at Fedala, French Morocco, November 8, 1942 135-139
Appendix D Report of Operations at Fedala, French Morocco, November 8 to November 14, 1942 140-145
Appendix E Roosevelt-Leahy Correspondence 146-149
Appendix F Radio Address Delivered by President Roosevelt from Washington, December 9, 1941 150-152
Appendix G Extract's from Captain Butcher's Diary 153 - 156
Appendix H Operations in which Coast Guard Fully or Partially Manned Vessels Participated 157
Appendix I Coast Guardsmen Decorated - North African Area 159 - 161
Appendix J Total Number of Persons Aboard the LEONARD WOOD Returning from Casablanca 162 - 165
Appendix K Narrative by Chief Hunter Wood, USCG, on USS SAMUEL CHASE - Algeria, North Africa 166 - 174
Sources   175 - 176
Acknowledgements   177
Symbols of U. S. Navy Ships   178 - 180
Designations of U. S. Naval Aircraft   181 - 183


Conditions in North Africa

In the summer of 1942, every young man of twenty dreamed of rejoining the fight. They all attempted to do so. All the youth of Algiers, and other places in French North Africa, were thinking in terms of barges, of fishing smacks, false passports, trips across the Sahara. Above all places, they wanted to reach England, to reach General de Gaulle and his followers in the secret resistance movement. Police were on the watch for organizations that were helping people to reach England. The young men, however, were not discouraged. To leave North Africa secretly was by no means easy; but it was a great adventure. The day after Pearl Harbor there was an uninterrupted procession to the consulate of these young men who wished to join the American Army. Repression by the police was in full swing. Hundreds of young men whose only crime was their patriotism were arrested and tortured. And still the urge for escape, resistance, swept through North Africa. The spectacular success of one gave new heart to those who had failed. For instance, a pilot, later one of the aces of the Fighting French, took off for Gibraltar ten minutes after the ceremony in Rabat, where he had been given the Croix de Guerre.

The Legion des Combattants, played an important part in Algeria. Its members, ex-service men, embittered by defeat, fast became a political instrument, a single party dreamed of by Vichy and Hitler. Under cover of the Legion, much shady business was transacted. Small notices appeared on the walls of the Headquarters of the Legion: "If anyone listens to the Gaullists' radio, tell your leader. If you hear anyone speaking against the Marshal (Petain), tell your leader. If you know anyone who runs the Black Market, tell your leader. It is your duty to do so."

Spying, sneaking, denouncing, betraying became the system of government. Personal resentments could be settled with complete impunity. One well-meaning man, father of three children, was heard to say in an exasperated voice to some friends: "Petain is an old dodderer." The following day, this man was arrested. The lawyer whose advice he sought sighed and said, "I wish you had killed someone. It would be easier to defend you." A high government official was seen to tear in two a large portrait of the aged Petain and a week later was sent to an outpost of Morocco, in disgrace.

French military leaders who refused to cooperate with Petain were either arrested or at best deprived of their command. Thus, General Bouscat, though under fifty, had been forced to retire by Vichy. He was suspected of being a patriot, who in spite of orders, had organized


the mass departure to Africa of the remains of the French Air Force in June 1940, so that the fight might be continued. This was more than a black mark against him.... In 1944, General Bouscat was Commander-in-Chief of the French Air Force.

It was later said the guns fired blank cartridges.

Resistance groups, working secretly, cut communications lines on the night of the landings. The thick Admiralty cable was cut in several places. The last radio message that reached Vichy was worded, according to some reports, "Do not forget to send the sports bulletin tomorrow." Alas, the sport fans in Algeria were never to know the results of the French football matches that took place on November 8!

Thus on November 9, in Algiers, the situation remained inextricably confused. The town was trying to find its own balance without a leader, without any line of conduct to follow.

A subordinate of the prefect of Constantino, passing through Algiers, telephoned to ask for instructions: "But, sir, which is the enemy?" He got this magnificent reply: "Who the enemy is is a matter for the army. It does not concern civilians."


Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Rick Pitz, HyperWar Foundation