Tank combats in Operation Torch 1942

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Tank combats in Operation Torch 1942

Post by almogaver266 » 23 Mar 2006 18:30


Did really any tank action between Vichy units and Allied Forces in Operation Torch?

How many vehicles and which Armored/motorized units had Vichy in North Africa at November 1942?

Many Thanks

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David Lehmann
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Post by David Lehmann » 24 Mar 2006 03:49


I can give details about Morocco e.g. where there were sometime several Renault FT17 tanks included in the defense of several beaches. I am then only aware of several tanks (probably Renault R35 / Hotchkiss H35 or H39 tanks from the 1e RCA) facing M5 Stuart tanks. There were also several old armored cars.
Not in Morrocco this time, but there were also old Renault D1 tanks that faced US tanks IIRC ... but of course all these tanks were no match for the M4 Shermans. Nonetheless, the Renault D1 tanks saw then action agains the Axis troops in 1942-1943.

Here are elements I can bring about the Moroccan part of operation Torch but there is little about tank fighting.


GROUND FORCES : French forces in Morocco were organized into four divisions plus coastal defenses.

Division de Fez - General Salbert
- 4e Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains (4e RTM), in Taza and Boured
- 5e Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains (5e RTM), in Oujda and Guercif
- 11e Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens (11e RTA), in Fez and Gafsaï
- 1 battalion of the 3e Régiment Etranger d'Infanterie (3e REI - Foreign Legion), in Fez and Ksar-el-Souk
- 1 battalion of the 6e Régiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais (6e RTS), in Fez
- 1e Régiment Etranger de Cavalerie (1e REC - Foreign Legion), in Fez, Oujda and Guercif
- 63e Régiment d'Artillerie Africain (63e RAA)

Division de Meknès - General Dody
- 7e Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains (7e RTM), in Meknès and Midelt
- 8e Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains (8e RTM), in Meknès and Ouezzan
- 1 or 2 battalion(s) of the 3e REI - Foreign Legion), in Hel Hajeb, Meknès and Kénitra
- 3e Régiment de Spahis Marocains (3e RSM)
- 10e Groupe d'Escadrons Autonome Portés de Chasseurs d'Afrique (10e GACA - motorised battalion)
- 64e Régiment d'Artillerie Africain (64e RAA)

Division de Casablanca - General Béthouart
- 1e Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains (1e RTM), in Port-Lyautey and Souk-el-Arba
- 6e Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains (6e RTM), in Casablanca, Kasbah Tadla and Mazagan
- Régiment d'Infanterie Coloniale du Maroc (RICM), in Rabat, Casablanca and Mazagan
- 1 battalion of the 6e Régiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais (6e RTS), in Casablanca
- 1e Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique (1e RCA) (about 22 Renault R35 and 22 Hotchkiss H35 / H39 tanks)
- part of the 3e Régiment de Spahis Marocains (3e RSM), in Rabat
- Régiment d'Artillerie Coloniale du Maroc (RACM)

Division de Marrakech - General Henry-Martin
- 2e Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains (2e RTM), in Marrakech, Mogador and Agadir
- 2e Régiment Etranger d'Infanterie (2e REI - Foreign Legion), in Marrakech, Ouarzazat and Agadir
- 1 battalion of the 6e Régiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais (6e RTS), in Marrakech
- 4e Régiment de Spahis Marocains (4e RSM), in Marrakech and Tiznit
- Régiment d'Artillerie Coloniale du Maroc (RACM)

Coastal defense batteries :

- Port-Lyautey area
Batterie Ponsot (Mehdia) : 2x 138mm Mle1923

- Fedala area
Batterie de Fedala : 3x 100mm Mle1897/1917, 1x twin 13.2mm AAMG
Batterie de Pont Blondin : 3x 138mm Mle1910, 1x single 13.2mm AAMG
Défense des Passes : 2x 75mm G

- Casablanca area
Batterie d'Oukacha : 4x 100mm Mle1897/1917, 2x twin 13.2mm AAMG
Batterie du poste d'entrée de rade : 2x 75mm G, 2x twin 13.2mm AAMG
Batterie d'El Hank : 4x 194mm Mle1902, 4x 138mm Mle1910, 4x 13.2mm AAMG

- Mazagan area
Batterie : 2x 75mm G

- Mogador area
Batterie : 2x 75mm G

- Safi area
Batterie de la Railleuse : 4x 130mm Mle1924
Batterie du Port : 2x 75 mm, 2x 13.2mm AAMG

- Agadir area
Batterie de Brougham : 4x 100mm Mle1897/1917


French air forces under General Lahoulle

Fighter Squadrons
Groupement de Chasse 25 (Cdt de Saint-Albin)
G.C. I/5 (19x Curtiss H-75) at Rabat et Salé
G.C. II/5 (20x Curtiss H-75 + 13x Dewoitine 520 arriving later) at Casablanca

Aéronautique navale
1e flotille de chasse - Flotille 1F (LV Folliot) at Port Lyautey (25x Dewoitine 520 but only 21 aircrafts operational)
Esc. 1AC
Esc. 2AC

Bomber Squadrons
Groupement de Bombardement 11 (Colonel de Lahoulle)
G.B. I/22 (11x Lioré et Olivier 451) at Rabat et Salé
G.B. I/23 (13x Lioré et Olivier 451) at Marrakech
G.B. II/23 (13x Lioré et Olivier 451) at Meknès
G.B. I/32 (11x Douglas DB-7) at Casablanca

Aéronautique navale
3e flotille de bombardement - Flotille 3F (LV Mathon) (12x Glenn-Martin 167F but only 9 aircrafts operational)
Esc. 2B at Port-Lyautey
Esc. 3B at Port-Lyautey
+ 2x Glenn-Martin 167F in Agadir

Reconnaissance Squadrons
G.R. I/22 (13x Lioré et Olivier 451) at Rabat et Salé
G.R. I/52 (13x Potez 63.11) at Marrakech

Transport Squadrons
G.T. I/15 (18x Potez 29, 4x Farman 222.2, 1x Farman 222.3, 1x Farman 224) at Rabat et Salé
G.T. III/15 (1x Amiot 143, 1x Lioré et Olivier 451) at Oujda

1x battleship under construction : "Jean-Bart"
1x light cruiser : "Primauguet"
2x counter-torpedo boats : "Milan" and "Albatros"
7x torpedo boats : "Fougueux", "Frondeur", "L'Alcyon", "Brestois", "Boulonnais", "Tempête" and "Simoun"
3x avisos : "La Grandière", "La Gracieuse" and "Commandant Delage"
5x patrol boats : "Chasseur II", Victoria", "Algéroise", "Sablaise", "Servannaise"
11x mine sweepers
11x submarines : "Sidi-Ferruch", "Le Tonnant", "Le Conquérant", "Orphée", "Méduse", "Oréade", "Psyché", "La Sybille", "Amazone", "Antiope" and "Amphitrite".

No real match for the numerous destroyers, aircraft-carriers, cruisers and battleships of the US/UK fleet.


- Escort Force H provided by the Royal Navy : 27+ ships
3 battleships
5 cruisers
2 aircraft carriers
17 destroyers
+ submarine screen

- The Center Task Force, destination Oran in Algeria :
Commanders : Admiral Troubridge (Royal Navy) and General Fredendall (US Army)
37 ships + transport ships
About 39,000 soldiers for the landing

- The Eastern Task Force, destination Algiers in Algeria :
Commanders : Admiral Burrough (Royal Navy) General Ryder
34 ships + transport ships
23,000 British soldiers + 10,000 US soldiers for the landing

- And since we are here interested in Morocco, the Western Task Force (TF34), destination Fedhala, Mehdia and Safi for the landings.

The objectives are to take Safi (an important port on the Atlantic), Casablanca (and its port) and Port-Lyautey (and its airbases).
Commanders : Admiral Hewitt (US Navy) and General Patton (US Army)
77 ships + 29 transport ships
35,000 US soldiers
250 tanks (55 are M4 Shermans whose destination is Safi, the other are mainly M5 Stuarts)
28x Grumman Avenger
36x Douglas SBD Dauntless
108x F4F-4 Wildcat
76x P-40 destined to be ground based in Port Lyautey

The US provided 172 planes (the P40 are only transported) and the Royal Navy provided :
7x Fulmar
35x Albacore
35x Martlet IV
51x Seafire IIc
39x Sea Hurricane IIc
6x Swordfish

total : 345 US/UK planes in the area.

TF34 is divided into :
- Northern landing group (9,000 men) : landing in Mehdia, objective Port Lyautey
- Center landing group (19,000 men) : landing in Fedhala, objective Casablanca and its harbor
- Southern landing group (6500 men) : landing in Safi harbor, next to Marrakech

Total superiority of the US/UK forces in both sea and air.

On the ground, the French forces in November 1942 have still the same equipments than in 1939-1940 and about 120,000 men in the whole North Africa.

To this OOB can be added 6 supply convoys with 84 transport ships and 42 escort ships sailingfrom Britain to Gibraltar between 14th October and 10th November :
KMS 1 (slow) : 47 transports, 18 escorts
KMF 1 (fast) : 39 transports, 12 escorts
KMS 2 : 57 transports, 14 escorts
KMF 2 : 18 transports; 8 escorts


1) Landing in Fedhala (next to Casablanca) and Cherqui
Allies: 19,000 men and 1,701 vehicles.

The French beaches are defended by :
- 3x 100mm
- 2x 75mm
- 4x 138mm
- the 102nd costal infantry company
- 3 Renault FT17 tanks- about 100 Moroccan tirailleurs
A real tiny force in face of the whole fleet support and the men landing there.

On the evening of 7th November, the General Béthouart sent a liaison officer to give orders not to resist to the landings (behind the military stuff there were intricate political discussions and they wanted to join the allies) but only the infantry was informed, not the sailors in the costal batteries.

A French convoy at sea met TF34 and was captured but could warn the French HQ.

A French searchlight spotted a US destroyer which opened fire and destroyed it.

At 7h13 the French opened fire.

The CL-40 Brooklyn and 4 destroyers attacked the 138mm guns. A huge number of shells were fired on them but they achieved only 2 hits on the French position. 1x 138mm gun and the observation post were destroyed.
The DD-603 Murphy was hit and forced to retreat.

At 9h30 the French battery was captured by an infantry assault.

The 100mm battery damaged the destroyer but it was hardly bombarded by the 203mm guns of the CA-31 Augusta. This battery is also assaulted by the US infantry but they lost about 100 KIA in front of it. The battery surrendered at 14h00 after having scuttled its guns. Only 15 French soldiers were still alive.
A small auxiliary ship, the "Abbé Desgranges" still resisted with only a few LMGs and 5 revolvers; the crew resisted until the ship sank. During the operation 150 landing ships (LCMs) out of 347 were destroyed by the French defenses.

In front of Casablanca there was a small naval battle, small because the French fleet is there really small compared to the US/UK combat fleet in the area.

From the ground the El Hank battery supported the naval battle, as did the "Jean-Bart" battleship which is immobilized in the harbor - the ship is only under construction - but with one operational turret of 4x380mm guns. A half-completed ship fighting an armada! But, the really good part of the story is after the working turret was jammed by a hit and the French repaired it, but left it in train to simulate that the damage was permanent. That was a great trick, it sure surprised a lot of people on the Massachusetts.

First there was an artillery duel between the "Jean-Bart" + El Hank and the
BB-59 Massachussets
CA-37 Tuscaloosa
CA-45 Wichita

1 light cruiser, a few torpedo and counter-torpedo boats as well as several subs tried to sail out from the harbor to attack the US/UK fleet.

UK/US losses after the naval battle :
- 5x ships damaged (including the Admiral ship)
- 1x transport ship sunk
- 1x SBD Dauntless destroyed

French losses after the naval battle :
- 6x torpedo or counter-torpedo boats sunk
- 4x submarines sunk
- 4x ships damaged
- 490 KIA, 969 WIA

2) Landing at Mehdia, objective is Port Lyautey
The Admiral Michelier and the staff of General Noguès clearly cancelled the orders of Béthouart who told not to fight. 3 Renault FT17 tanks + infantry counter-attacked and pulled the US troops back on the shores. The US General Truscott requisitioned the landing boats crews to fight as infantry men. Finally after huge naval artillery support, the 138mm battery was captured, but after 48 hours of fighting the US beachhead is still very thin and unsecured.

3) Landing at Safi (200 km South of Casablanca)
2 ships entering the harbor with commandos at night captured the harbor installation and the 2nd Armored Division was able to disembark its 55 M4 Shermans in Safi. The other beaches allowed only the landing of M5 Stuart light tanks.


The USN air fleet wanted to destroy the French planes based in Morocco. As indicated in the previous post, the French air force is small compared to the 172 US planes (not counting all the UK planes) and except the Dewoitine D-520 only composed of Curtiss H-75 fighters. The 108 USN Wildcats will have to face 86 French fighters but only 40 were rather modern. Despite the surprise and the fact that most of the aircrafts were at ground when then air raids were launched, the French air force reacted.

Over Casablanca the Wildcats of the VF-41 encountered the old Curtiss H-75 of the GC II/5. 4x Wildcats, 3x Dauntless and 7x H-75 were shot down. 5x bombers of the GB I/32 and the whole GB I/33 were destroyed on the ground.

In Port Lyautey about 10 D-520s and 6 bombers are destroyed on the ground. At least 2 Wildcats are destroyed by a D-520 but it was also hit and the pilot had to crash its plane and to evacuate it.

During 8th November morning French fighters strafed the landing beaches at Fedhala and several landing boats were destroyed. At 12h30 a few French bombers attacked the beachheads without losses.

On 9th November, 5x H-75s from GC II/5 strafed again the beaches. Later a bigger attack involving 10x bombers from GB II/23, 3x bombers from GB I/32 escorted by 15x H-75 from GC I/5 was launched. Several transport and landing boats were destroyed but no really important ship is hit. The Wildcats from VF-9 intercepted the French aircraft, the bombers went back safely but 4x H-75 were destroyed, as well as 1x Wildcat.

At 14h00 an important US raid surprised on ground 4x DB-7s, 5x H-75s and 6x D-520s. The small French air force in Morocco was then finally neutralized.

At Safi, the US planes were provided by the ACV-29 Santee whose crews were very green. From 31 aircrafts, 21 lost themselves and were forced to emergency landings on the ground.

Finally, on 11th November, the US had lost 44 planes from 172 available at the beginning :
25x Wildcats
9x Dauntless
10x Avenger

The "Jean-Bart" battleship is damaged but will be repaired and will have a long post WW2 career.

After the landings on 8th November 1942, the situation on 9th November is still tricky, especially for the Mehdia beachhead which is in danger. This day is crucial both on the military level and on the political level because there are discussions between Morocco and the Vichy HQ in France (Béthouart, Darlan, Weygand, Auphan) as well as discussions between Darlan and the US HQ. Before Operation Torch all the operations were accepted by General Giraud (Free French) but the US wanted to get rid of the Free French of General De Gaulle and negotiated with the Vichy forces alone.

Darlan has to look at the same time at the situation in North Africa and at the situation in France, where the Vichy government fears an invasion of the Free Zone by the Germans if the resistance to the US/UK forces is not apparent enough.

Darlan is negotiating with the US while Pétain is convincing the Germans that the French forces in North Africa do everything to resist to the landing forces.

During 9th November there are several small fights while the US are trying to secure and increase their beachheads and while the M4 Shermans of the 2nd AD are moving from Safi towards Casablanca. Sometimes the French are defeated and sometimes not. An armored car group for example makes US POWs at two times and captures also 4 M5 Stuart tanks.

The French are organizing the defenses and roadblocks around Casablanca :

* East :
- III/6e RTS on the Rabat-Casablanca road, next to Aïn Sebaa
- II/6e RTM on the road 106
- 4x 90mm AA guns in Aïn Sebaa firing in AT role
- reinforcement of Aïn Sebaa by 4 platoons of surviving sailors (each man issued with a carbine, each squad with 1 LMG, 1 MMG and 10 grenades).

* South : III/6e RTM on the Marrakech road

* South-West : II/RICM

* West, near El Hank : I/6e RTM and 4x 90 AA guns firing in AT role

On 9th November the positions are attacked by SBD Dauntless attack planes without significant results.

The US troops who landed at Mehdia are in a difficult position and have to face many French counter-attacks which reach the beaches. The 1st Bn, 60th Infantry Rgt supported by M5 Stuart tanks is facing the III/1e RTM supported by few Renault R35 / Hotchkiss H35 tanks. 4 M5 Stuarts and 2 R35/H35s are destroyed, but the US troops are saved by the intervention of the USN air fleet which blocks the French attack.

4 times the US troops take Mehdia and 4 times they are pulled back.

On 11th November the French infantry counter-attacks and takes back the 138mm battery lost on 8th November, the Lighthouse and part of the beach but finally thanks to an important tank offensive the US are able to capture Mehdia and Port Lyautey. At 11h30 there are still several French pockets but the first P-40s are landing on the captured airbase. In Mehdia there were about 89 US and 133 French KIA.

AÏN SEBAA BATTLE (east of Casablanca) :
On 10th November at dawn, the US infantry supported by M5 Stuarts attack the II/6e RTS and the sailors in Aïn Sebaa. The French 90mm AA guns causes many KIA by firing on US mortar positions which have to be changed frequently but the French guns are neutralized by heavy naval artillery fire. At 11h00 the French are forced to leave Aïn Sebaa and to move to the main resistance line. Two sailors platoons have sustained 50% losses and encircled are forced to surrender. The other units manage to retreat properly.

2 French avisos, the "Commandant Delage" and the "Gracieuse" block the US offensive with their 100mm guns but are forced to flee in front of the cruiser "Augusta" and the destroyers "Edison", "Boyle", "Tillman" and "Rowan". The US attack is stopped here, they are waiting for the M4 Sherman tanks who landed in Safi.

The 8th November 1942 landings at Fedhala, Mehedia and Safi were not precisely an US Army success and the day had to be saved by the excellent US Navy fire. The US troops were unable to arrive, after 3 days of fighting, in front of Casablanca (not to mention the same idea to occupy that town) and were allowed to enter there only on 12th November after the French Admiral Darlan had signed a truce with General Clark which led him to power in French North Africa. The French orders during the cease-fire were to go back to the barracks, to preserve the integrity of all the facilities, equipments and armaments and to exchange the POWs.

The consequences of operation Torch for the French are :
- invasion of the Free Zone by the Germans
- scuttling of the high sea fleet based in Toulon to prevent its capture by the Germans (there were even skirmished between the French sailors and the Germans from the 7.PzD in Toulon)
- but also the beginning of a new mobilization of the whole French forces in North Africa on the allied (US, UK and Free French) side. After that, in 1943 there is no distinction anymore between Free French and Vichy French, there is only a French Army. The bulk of the Army of Africa will constitute the 1st French Army that will fight in Italy and land in Southern France during operation Anvil/Dragoon.



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Post by almogaver266 » 24 Mar 2006 07:57


Great info!

Many thanks David :D

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Tank combats in Operation Torch 1942

Post by tigre » 24 Mar 2006 15:54

Hello to all. The following article is one of the monographs prepared by officers attending the 1946-1947 class of the Command and General Staff College.—

Employment of Armor in the Invasion of Oran by Lieutenant Colonel Bogardus S. Cairns, Cavalry.


AMERICAN armor was first used on a large scale in World War II in Operation Torch. This operation, which took place in November 1942, was the simultaneous invasion of North Africa at three widely separated points. The Eastern Task Force, predominantly British, landed at Algiers.
The Western Task Force, entirely American, staged out of the United States and landed in Morocco with Casablanca as its main objective. The Center Task Force, which had as its mission the capture of Oran, consisted of the American II Corps supported by British Naval Forces, including carrier-based aircraft, and the American 12th Air Force. The major ground combat elements of this force were the 1st Infantry Division and Combat Command “B” 1st Armored Division.


Oran lies in the western part of Algeria, French North Africa. The coastline in the area is extremely rocky with many high cliffs except at the several beaches.
Arzew Beach, twenty-five miles east of Oran, is the largest and by far the most suitable landing beach in the area. The other beaches used in this operation were at Les Andalouses and Mersa-bou-Zedjar, fifteen and thirty miles to the west respectively.

Southwest of and dominating the bay as well as the city of Oran is a large hill mass, the highest part of which is the Djebel Murdjadjo. South of this hill mass is the Sebkha of Oran, a large saline depression which is passable for vehicles when dry but extremely boggy when wet. The Sebkha lies in a wide plain which runs southwest from the Gulf of Arzew. This entire plain, with the exception of the Sebkha and several marshy areas just south and southwest of the Gulf of Arzew, proved very satisfactory for the maneuver of armored vehicles during the operation.

South of the plain are the rugged Mountains of Tessala separating the Oran area from the plain of Bel Abbes in which lies Sidi-Bel-Abbes, famous as the home of the French Foreign Legion.
Rivers and streams in the area have rocky bottoms and steep banks; crossings, however, can be found at irregular intervals. The streams, are generally dry except near their motiths, but a few days of rain will make even small streams impassable for fording.

The highway net in the plaln south of Oran and east to Arzew is adequate. The road running southwest of Oran to Lourmel goes through a defile between the Sebkha and the Djebel Murdjadjo.
There is one coast road west from Oran to Les Andalouses but there are many defiles on it along the coast, and it can be easily blocked. This same road is the only one running across the mountains from Les Andalouses to Lourmel.
Railroads in this area are very poor, and are both standard, and narrow gauge.
Airfields are located at La Senia and Tafaraoui with small emergency fields at Lourmel and Oggaz.

Enemy Situation (Map 1).

Forces in the Oran area were part of the Oran Division. West of the division was the Fes (Moroccan) Division and to the east was the Algerian Division. Troops of the Fes and Algerian Divisions did not affect the operations at Oran because they were kept busy or immobilized by the attacks of the Eastern and Western Task Forces at Algiers and Casablanca.

French Navy units manned the coastal defenses of Oran and Arzew. Oran was defended by forty-five coast defense guns of calibers ranging from 3 to 9.4 inches.
There were also six guns at Arzew.
Many of these guns were sited with allaround traverse so that they could be used inland.

French Air Forces located at La Senia and Tafaraoui airfields consisted of fighters, bombers, torpedo bombers, and reconnaissance planes totaling about 100 in all.
The estimate of the mobile troops of the Oran Division, all of which were froin 15 per cent to 20 per cent understrength, was as follows:(See fig 1 below).

Except for the Foreign Legion, troops of the Oran ,Division were considered second class troops, inasmuch as they were of mixed nationalities and lacked sufficient training. This lack of training was due primarily to equipment shortages imposed on them by he Axis. The Foreign Legion was considered to have excellent fighting troops, but was likewise ,handicapped by shortages of equipment. All units were short of organic vehicles.
There had been no replacements of vehicles since 1939, and the Axis had curtailed spare parts and material to snch an extent that proper maintenance and repair had, been impossible. The gasoline allowance was almost nil. Many vehicles had been converted to alcohol or charcoal burning motors with a resulting loss of efficiency. This situation, together with the difficulty of moving troops over the poor railroad net, made the Oran Division relatively immobile.

In spite of this lack of mobility it was considered possible for the French to concentrate the following trops in defense of Oran by the times indicates:(see fig 2 below)

Plan of Operation, II Corps will follows ASAP. Please let me know if the article is useful for you. Regards. Tigre.
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Employment of Armor in the invasion of Orán

Post by tigre » 08 Apr 2006 04:40

Hello guys, you are now talking about planes and the attack on Ploiesti, but how this thread started talking about tanks in north Africa, I will proceed with this article. As General of the Mountain troops Dietl use to say "nothing of scheme".

Plan of Operation, II Corps.

The plan for the capture of Oran is shown graphically on Map 2.
The 1st Infantry Division, reinforced, less the 26th Regimental Combat Team, was to land at Arzew and attack Oran from the east after establishing a beachhead at Arzew beach. The 26th Regimental Combat Team, reinforced, was to land at Les Andalouse& secure the heights of the Djebel Murdjadjo, and attack Oran from the west.

Combat Command “B”, let Armored Division, divided into two armored task forces, was to swing wide of the infantry attack, block avenues of approach from the south, southwest and southeast, capture the airfields at La Senia, Tafaraoui, and Lourmel, and assist the infantry in the capture of Oran by an attack on the city from the south.

The 3d Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, was to invade Oran from the north by sea assault, landing from the cutters HMS Walney and HMS. Hartland. Their mission was to seize the port facilities and hold them uutil relieved by other invading forces in order to prevent sabotage of the installations.

Airborne assault by the 2d Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment was also included in the plan. This battalion was to drop on the two main airfields and hold them until relieved by the armor.

Plan of Operation, Combat Command “B.

As Combat Command “B” (CCB ) was to be operating on its own away from the division for several months, the staffs of the Combat Command and the 13th Armored Regiment were combined into one operating staff in order to control and administer the troops of the commaud more efficiently. This combined staff worked so well that it remained intact for the balance of the North African Campaign.

For the initial phases of the operation, CCB was divided into two task forces, (TF ) Red and Green, as shown on page 51. TF Red was to land at Arzew Beach after the beach had been secured by the 1st Infantry Division, advance rapidly inland, seize and secure Tafaraoui and La Senia airfields and assist the 1st Infantry Division in the capture of Oran. TF green was to secure its own beachhead at Mersa-bou-Zedjar, advance rapidly to the east, capture the airfields at Lourmel, assist TF Red in the capture of Tafaraoui and La Senia airfields, and protect the west flank of Center Task Force.

The plan to carry out CCB’S mission was to have the reconnaissance elements af each force land first and proceed inland at once to the initial objectives.
Following the reconnaissance elements of each force was a light armored column called the Flying Column. This was to move’ out as soon as it could unload and get organized. The Flying Column of each force consisted of a light tank company, an armored infantry company, an a,,mored engineer platoon and a tank di stroyer platoon. The mission of the two Flying Columns was to advance rapidly inland, by-passing resistance, to seize and secure each of the Combat command objectives until relieved by other forces.

In order to expedite the landings of the Flying Columns, CCB was allocated three ,"maracaibos". These were shallow raft, flatbottomed, seagoing ships which had been converted by the British to carry tanks. They had a gate in their bows and telescoping ramps. Essentially they were crude fore-runners of our present LSTS (Landing Ship, Tank). When the British converted these ships they rated their capacity very conservatively.

In order to make the Flying Columns as strong as possible it was necessary to load the “maracaibos” to their maximum capacity. This later proved extremely fortunate, as few vehicles, other than those loaded on the “maracaibos,” got ashore in time to participate in the operation.

As TF Green was only about one-half the size of TF Red, one of the “maracaibos” was allotted to it. and the other two went to TF Red.
Center Task Force issued instructions that there would be no firing unless the French opened fire first, because it was hoped that the French would not resist and that the whole invasion could be accomplished without bloodshed. Consequently
no preliminary bombardment of the beaches was planned.

The Invasion will follows ASAP. Cheers. Tigre.
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Post by Michael Emrys » 08 Apr 2006 14:09

Very good article, tigre, but you must give the source for it.


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Post by tigre » 08 Apr 2006 15:37

Publicado: 24 Mar 2006 15:54

Hello to all. The following article is one of the monographs prepared by officers attending the 1946-1947 class of the Command and General Staff College.—

Employment of Armor in the Invasion of Oran by Lieutenant Colonel Bogardus S. Cairns, Cavalry.
Hello Michael, glad to greet you; for the source, please, see the first page (sorry if I was not clear about it) :D . By the way as moderator, could you joint all this related posts?. Cheers. Tigre.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 08 Apr 2006 21:31

tigre wrote:
Publicado: 24 Mar 2006 15:54

Hello to all. The following article is one of the monographs prepared by officers attending the 1946-1947 class of the Command and General Staff College.—

Employment of Armor in the Invasion of Oran by Lieutenant Colonel Bogardus S. Cairns, Cavalry.
Hello Michael, glad to greet you; for the source, please, see the first page (sorry if I was not clear about it) :D . By the way as moderator, could you joint all this related posts?. Cheers. Tigre.
It would be best by far if you would include mention of the source in every post that quotes from it. Otherwise, it is too easy to overlook it, as I did.

As for joining your posts in a single thread, that can be done, but I'm not sure that it can without destroying some of the sense of the discussion. Let me look and think about it.

EDIT: I have split the thread into two parts. The discussion of air units continues here:


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Post's sources.

Post by tigre » 08 Apr 2006 22:04

No problem, I'll do it. Thank you for your advertisement. Cheers. Tigre.

PD: the post is OK now.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 10 Apr 2006 16:50

Hello tigre,

I recently acquired a CD entitled World War II Army Pictorials from http://www.paperlessarchives.com that has scans of three books on it that were published by the Center for Military History. One of the books scanned is THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY AND ITALY: MEDITERRANEAN AND ADJACENT AREAS, edited by Kent Roberts Greenfield. In it are quite a few pics devoted to Torch, one of several thousand on the CD as a whole. Below is a sample that relates to your posts.

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pics devoted to Torch

Post by tigre » 10 Apr 2006 17:31

Hello Michael, thanks for sharing it with the forum; good complement indeed. Cheers. Tigre.

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Employment of Armor in the invasion of Orán

Post by tigre » 16 Apr 2006 14:15

The Invasion.

Zero hour for the landing was 0100, 8 November 1942. The assault waves of TF Green at Mersa-bou-Zedjar were delayed, because a French convoy moving east, along the coast passed between the assault anchorage and the beach. When this convoy had passed, the assault waves continued on into the beach and landed at 0143 without opposition. By 0346 the 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry; had secured the headlands, and high ground surrounding the beach and had reported the entire beachhead area clear except for a French corporal and his squad who were found in the town. They promptly welcomed the Americans to Africa and set to work helping unload the landing craft, as they hit the beach. At 0400, the Bachaquero, the “maracaibo” carrying the Green Flying Column, hit a sandbar some distance from the beach and it became necessary for the engineers to construct a treadway bridge from the ship to the beach before unloading could begin.

This was finally completed, and at 0700 the Flying Column started unloading and moving into its assembly area for dewaterproofing.

In the meantime, the Reconnaissance Platoon had been unloaded under difficulty.
The beach had proved to be very soft, requiring Summerfelt track and dozers to construct the beach exits. The platoon finally moved out at 0605 toward its first objective, Lourmel.

At 0900, just as the Flying Column started for Lourmel, the Reconnaissance Platoon reported that it had been fired on by a French armored car just east of Lourmel and that the armored car had withdrawn toward Bou-Tielis. The platoon was ordered to hold Lourmel until relieved by the Flying Column, and then to proceed to the south and establish a road. block in the vicinity of RIO Salado to prevent enemy movement toward Lourmel from that direction.

By 1130 the Flying Column had occupied Lourmel and had sent the 2d Platoon, Company A, 16th Armored Engineer Battalion, to assist the Reconnaissance Platoon in maintaining the road block at Rio Salado.

At noon word was received from TF Red that the Red Flying Column had captured Tafaraoui airport and that the new objective of TF Green was the capture of La Senia.

Leaving Company B, 6th Armored, Infantry, less the 2d Platoon, to garrison Lourmel, the Green Flying Column moved out on the road to La Senia. One mile west of Bou-Tielis they ran into stubborn resistance by armored cars and antitank guns. The column overcame this roadblock and another one at Bredea and then continued on toward Misserghin where it was forced to by-pass some very determined resistance. It then bivouacked for the night in the Sebkha. Shortly after the fight at Bredea, radio contact was lost between the Flying Column and Headquarters, TF Green, which by this time had moved to Lourmel. No contact of any kind was again made unlil late the next afternoon.

At 1800 the infantry in Lourmel was sent to relieve the Reconnaissance Platoon at the road block in Rio Salado and the platoon ordered to extend its reconnaissance as far to the southwest as Ain Temouchent.
Headquarters, TF Green, then moved to the east with the additional combat vehicles which had been unloaded during the day. These consisted essentially of a light tank platoon, several command half-tracks, the reconnaissance platoons of the regiment and 1st Battalion, an assault gun platoon and a platoon of Battery C, 27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion.

At 2100 this column bivouacked in the Sebkha about two miles west of Bredea.
In the meantime, TF Red had beached its two “maracaibos” on Arzew Beach in the vicinity of St Leu after the beach head had been secured ,by the 1st Infantry Division. By 0800 they were completely unloaded, and Reconnaissance Company, 13th Armored Regiment, less the platoon with TF Green, moved out on its mission toward St. Barbe-du-Tielat, Tafaraoui, and St. Denis-du-Sig.

At 0835 the Red Flying Column moved out for Tafaraoui. The attack on the airport was launched at about 1100 and by 1215 it had been captured together with, about 300 prisoners. French planes from La Senia bombed the field once during the afternoon but by 1630, the field was in shape and a squadron of Spitfires from Gibraltar had started using it.

Headquarters, Combat Command “B” went ashore at 0930 that morning and established its Command Post at St. Leu.
The night of 8-9 November was uneventful.
The Green Flying Column had maneuvered into position to attack La Senia at dawn in a coordinated attack with the Red Flying Column. The attack was. launched at 0745, and by 0840 the Green Flying Column had captured the airfield, taking 160 prisoners and some 3,000 gallons of gasoline. The Red Flying Column had started its move to La Senia at 0750, but was held up by artillery fire from Valmy and the hills northwest of Tafaraoui. At the same time the Reconnaissance Company reported a column of French tanks and artillery moving north at St. Lucien. Since there was no reserve available to meet this force, the Red Flying Column was forced to abandon its attack on La Senia -and move to protect Tafaraoui from this threat from the
~ou~h. One light tank company and a platoon of infantry was sent to by-pass the opposition at Valmy and reinforce the Green Flying Column at La Senia while the balante of the Red Flying Column attacked the French tanks at St. Lucien destroying fourteen of them.

The unloading of ships at Arzew was proceeding eo slowly that it was some time before any reserve was available to CCB. ‘Finally a force of two” medium’ tanks, five light tanks, and two tank destroyers were dispatched from St. Leu to Tafaraoui to reinforce the Flying Column there and to escort a resupply convoy of gasoline and ammunition.

In mid-afternoon of 9 November, the infantry battalion of the 16th Infantry, charged with, protecting the Corps left flank, was having difficulty in the vicinity of La Macta. CCB sent an infantry company mounted in half-tracks, two platoons of light tanks and a section of tank destroyers to their assistance. This force attacked and advanced about five miles beyond the line held by the battalion and was relieved, except for one platoon of light tanks and the section of tank destroyers which remained with the battalion. The balance of the force returned to St. Leu.

TF Green, in the meantime, was having its difficulties. The Flying Column at La Senia was under frequent fire of the coast defense batteries in the vicinity of Oran and by two batteries of 75-mm guns at Valmy. At 1700 the fire from Valmy became too much to take so a platoon of light tanks and a platoon of infantry attacked Valmy and destroyed three enemy guns and drove the ‘rest off to the east.

The main body, of the Green Force, which had bivouacked near Bredea on the night of 8-9 November, moved out early on 9 November to join the Flying Column at La Senia and prepare to attack Oran. This column came to an abrupt halt when it ran into the strong force of infantry, artillery and antitank guns which the Flying Columns had by-passed at Misserghin.
Three attacks were made on the town without success. Word was finally received from the Flying Column at La Senia that they were low on gasoline and ammunition and needed help. Reconnaissance was started immediately to locate a route through the Sebkha to by-pass Misserghin. At 1800 the main body, which had grown in strength as additional vehicles were unloaded and sent forward from the beach, moved out to by-pass Misserghin to the south. At 0100, after seven hours of very slow progress through the treacherous Sebkha, the main body joined the Flying Column. By 0600 Company A, 6th Armored Infantry, Company B, 13th Armored Regiment, and the balance of Battery C, 27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and three trucks of gasoline and ammunition, arrived from the beach using the same route through the Sebkha. This brought TF Green up to sizable strength for the attack on Oran.

Also during the night, 2d Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, moved from St. Leu to relieve the Red Flying Column at Tafaraoui to permit it to take part in the assault on Oran. A coordinated attack on Oran by Red and Green forces was scheduled for 0730, 10 November. The Green Force was to by-pass the town of La Senia to the west, attack Oran and seize the port facilities.
The Red Force was to attack Oran east of the Valmy—La Senia road and reduce any resistance holding up the 1st Infantry Division.

The Redeolumn was held up for a short while by a road block north of the La Senia airport and by fire from artillery and antiaircraft guns near Valmy and Sidi Chami. This caused a delay in the attack which finally jumped off at 01:00. By noon the Commanding General of the Oran Division had surrendered to the Green column commander and the Mayor of Oran had surrendered to the Red column. The cease firing order was given at 1215, 10 November.

Conclusions will follows. Regards. Tigre.

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Employment of Armor in the invasion of Orán

Post by tigre » 21 Apr 2006 03:39

The last part of this article.

1. The plan for the employment of armor in this situation was sound. The characristic mobility of the armor was exploited to the utmost in assigning objectives well in the enemy’s rear. These objectives were seized with a speed that could not be matched by the counter efforts of the enemy.

2. The landing of the Green Force at Mersa-bou-Zedjar was a "calculated risk" that was entirely successful. The terrain was such from the beach to Lourmel that a comparatively small force could. have bottled the Green Force in the beach area for some time. A French officer stated later that the beach at Mersa-bou-Zedjar was not defended because they could conceive of no one being fool enough to attempt a landing on such a small beach.

3. The intelligence estimate of the situation and the capabilities of the French was reasohably accurate as far as troop, dispositions and reactions were concerned, except for the assumption that the French might capitulate without a struggle. One French officer stated later in reply to a question as to why the French resisted whsets should be checked immediately uponen we came as friends, “We are Soldiers. We were ordered to fight so we fought.”

4. The decision to load the “maracaibos” to the maximum proved sound, because practically the whole operation, with the exception of the final assault on Oran, was conducted with the units loaded on the “maracaibos.” Unloading of other units was so slow that their effect on the operation was negligible.


1. Engineer dozers should be landed early in amphibious operations in order to assist the landing of other vehicles over difficult beacties.

2. The effect of seawater on the running gear of vehicles is negligible provaided a high grade lubricant is used in all parts of the gear, and that salt water is washed off the vehicle within a few days after the landing.

3. In amphibious operations where radios are to remain silent over long periods, sets should be checked immediately upon the lifting of radio silence in order to make certain that radio contact can be maintained.

4. Promiscuous firing at airplanes by troops other than- antiaircraft causes more damage to our own troops than to enemy airplanes. The first three casualties in TF Green were caused by the firing of all weapons by all personnel on the beach at
an enemy plane which passed over the beachhead at 0830, 8 November.

5. When a, task force loses radio contact with its higher headquarters, efforts should be made to re-establieh contact by some other means as rapidly as possible.

It's all folks. Regards. Tigre.

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Post by George Lepre » 23 Apr 2007 00:15

Hi All -

I have something of an interest in the Torch operation and have assembled some documentation from the U.S. National Archives II as well as the SHAT regarding the fighting.
David Lehmann wrote:FRENCH ORDER OF BATTLE - MOROCCO – 8th November 1942
I don't exactly know who they were subordinated to, but elements of the the Goums Marocains should be included on this list. The 22e Tabor was active against the U.S. 30th Inf. Rgt., 3d ID, this confirmed by the fact that two Americans were taken prisoner by the Goumiers and the GIs captured two French officers and four Goumiers, this taking place in an engagement on the morning of 11 November. Also, Capitaine Hubert Le Bouteiller's 79e Goum assaulted the U.S. 60th Inf., 9th ID near Port Lyautey. This is certain because Le Bouteiller was killed in the battle (See SHAT 3H 2536, d. 1).

The 100mm battery damaged the destroyer but it was hardly bombarded by the 203mm guns of the CA-31 Augusta. This battery is also assaulted by the US infantry but they lost about 100 KIA in front of it.
I don't know whose casualty figure this is, but the Sub-Task Force Brushwood after action report confirms that the entire task force lost only 85 dead during all of Operation Torch, and of these only 58 men were infantry (20 died on 8 Nov, 4 died on 9 Nov, 28 died on 10 Nov, and 6 died on 11 Nov). These numbers include losses from drownings at sea, friendly fire casualties sustained from naval gunfire, and casualties caused by French air assets.
David Lehmann wrote:During the operation 150 landing ships (LCMs) out of 347 were destroyed by the French defenses.
Most American landing craft losses (for example, 57 out of 119 craft lost during the initial wave of the Brushwood landings alone, and more in later waves) were lost due to the landing craft crashing against rocky bluffs as they approached the beaches rather than hostile action. If such a large number of U.S. boats had actually been destroyed by French fire, American casualties would have been astronomical, when in fact the entire Western Task Force sustained only 142 hostile and non-hostile deaths during Torch.
David Lehmann wrote:In Mehdia there were about 89 US and 133 French KIA.
The entire Goalpost Sub-Task Force lost only 79 KIA during Operation Torch.
David Lehmann wrote:CONCLUSIONS
The 8th November 1942 landings at Fedhala, Mehedia and Safi were not precisely an US Army success and the day had to be saved by the excellent US Navy fire. The US troops were unable to arrive, after 3 days of fighting, in front of Casablanca (not to mention the same idea to occupy that town) and were allowed to enter there only on 12th November after the French Admiral Darlan had signed a truce with General Clark which led him to power in French North Africa.
The Safi landings were practically unopposed and all fighting ended at 1530 on the first day. The Brushwood Sub-Task Force was repeatedly held up by friendly naval gunfire and was forced to wait until it ceased. As the sub-task force approached Casablanca, the troops were again ordered to halt six miles short of the city on the afternoon of 9 November to allow additional trucks from the supply trains to land. (The vehicles were delayed because the lighters used to land them were too heavy and the vehicles in some cases took on water, shorting their electrical systems.) This halted the advance for the remainder of the day. The statement that "naval gunfire saved the day" is misleading should be viewed with caution. Both sides used it with varying effectiveness.

George Lepre

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Post by phylo_roadking » 21 Jun 2007 00:20

The combats/contact between the M5 Stuarts of Patton's recce forces and Vichy FT-17s are detailed in an article in a british magazine, "Classic Military Vehicles" some time in the last six months. Covered in some detail, engagement by engagement.

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