Tuesday, November 10th, 1942…
In Stalingrad, the German 50th Pioneer Battalion attacks the Commissar's House again, and this time breaks into the building by using satchel charges and demolitions. As the Germans charge in, the Russians run into the cellars. The Germans storm in, tear up the floor, and start pouring cans of gasoline. The Germans also lower satchel charges into the basement, and start igniting the lot. Outside, German troops light up smoke cartridges to blind anyone who runs out of the basement. The building explodes with powerful blasts, killing everyone inside. The Germans have taken the Commissar's House.
At the Fuhrerbau in Munich, Hitler finally reacts to continual Rumanian complaints and concerns that their 3rd Army, holding Paulus's left flank north of Stalingrad, requires support. The Fuhrer orders 48th Panzer Corps, under Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Heim, to move out of its laagers behind Italian 8th Army and into position to support Rumanian 3rd Army. On Hitler's chinagraph maps, 48th Panzer Corps is an elite outfit with 40,000 men in three battle-ready panzer divisions. In reality, it consists of two divisions, the 22nd Panzer Division and the 1st Rumanian Panzer Division.
1st Rumanian Panzer Division bears a pompous name, as it only fields 108 tanks, few of them capable of battling modern winter-equipped Soviet armor. But 98 of them are Czech Pz 38s, unequal to the Soviet Union's T-34s.
22nd Panzer, on the other hand, has been stripped of its Panzer Grenadier regiment and Engineer battalion. The engineers are fighting in Stalingrad. The 22nd's tanks - in Col. Hermann Von Oppeln-Bronikowski's 204th Panzer Regiment - are mostly Czech Pz 38s, with a few Mark III and Mark IV machines. The division has been inactive since September, and so short of fuel, it cannot even conduct training exercises. The tanks have been dug in, protected against reconnaissance planes and frost by straw and reeds.
When the 22nd Panzer Division gets its movement orders, tank crews remove the camouflage and try to start the division's 104 tanks. To little avail. 65 of them catch fire or refuse to move. Their electrical systems develop short circuits and fires. After stamping out the fires, mechanics go to work.
They find the straw has attracted mice, who have in turn developed a taste for electrical wiring. Hard work in the garages enables 42 of the 65 disabled machines to get on the road. To make things worse, more problems show up in 204th's tanks. They lack track sleeves for winter operations. They continue to suffer faulty electrical lines. They slide off roads and into the mud. The regiment's Tank Workshop Company lacks fuel to follow the panzers, so nobody can carry out major repairs en route. Oppeln-Bronikowski, a 1936 equestrian Gold Medallist, is not a happy panzer leader.
In Stalingrad, Chuikov gloomily watches vast floes and chunks of ice slosh down the Volga River. The ice makes his supply situation even worse. He orders a strict priority on ferries: men and ammunition first; food second; warm clothing third. Chuikov argues that a cold, hungry soldier with a full rifle is better than a warm, well-fed soldier with an empty rifle. However, the Deputy Head of Supply Services, General Vinogradov, on the east bank, does not want his soldiers to freeze to death. He ships over earflaps and felt boots to the point that Chuikov has to send Khrushchev back to make Vinogradov go away. 62nd Army's warehouses are full of warm-weather clothing.
The party boss does the job, and Vinogradov departs. Chuikov puts Navy Sailors and Marines to work building their own boats and rafts, hauling ammunition and food over from the east bank. Chuikov accumulates 12 tons of chocolate as an emergency reserve.
In French North Africa, Operation Torch moves into its third day of combat, verbal and military. By daybreak, Oran is surrounded by advancing American troops on all sides, as Maj. Gen. Terry Allen's 1st Infantry Division moves in. At his headquarters in a tiny schoolroom, lit by a gasoline lantern, Allen orders an attack at 7:15 a.m. He gives "Field Order No. 3" to Col. D'Alary Fetchet to take to the 16th and 18th Regiments. The order's punch line is "Nothing in hell must delay or stop this attack."
Fetchet drives off with newsman H.R. Knickerbocker through sleet and winds and a fluid battle area to find the two regiments. Fetchet tells Knickerbocker to carry a carbine to "ride shotgun." Knickerbocker doesn't tell Fetchet that he has never loaded or fired a carbine.
Fetchet tells his driver, "Remember the password is 'Hi-yo, Silver,' and the response is 'Away!'" With jittery and inexperienced American sentries all over the place, the Lone Ranger will be very important that night.
Fetchet's jeep zooms down bumpy roads. At one point, an American sentry yells, "Better not go up there, they're machine-gunning the crossroads.' Fetchet's driver takes another turn, to find a column of men marching along the muddy road, in the sleet. It's the 16th Infantry. Fetchet and Knickerbocker locate Col. Henry Cheadle, the regiment's CO, in his command car, near two trucks full of wounded French PoWs.
Fetchet hands Allen's orders to Cheadle and says, "You are to attack at 7:15 a.m. and take Oran."
Cheadle answers: "My boys are exhausted, they've had no sleep for 48 hours and nothing to eat in two days."
Fetchet is not impressed. "Makes no difference. The general says you've got to attack with everything you've got. You will not talk that way. You will attack." Cheadle's response is not recorded.
Fetchet and Knickerbocker head off through gusty wind and find 18th Infantry's Command Post at 4 a.m. Col. Frank Greer and his staff are fast asleep in their jeeps and command cars, exhausted. Fetchet wakes up Greer and hands him the attack orders. Greer is not a happy man. He argues with Fetchet, and Knickerbocker is treated to the sight of two colonels hurling insults at each other. His regiment has had no sleep and only one can of rations to eat all day. Greer finally says, "We'll jump off at 7:15 as ordered."
To strengthen the American attack, the Royal Navy moves in the battleship HMS Rodney, and the cruisers HMS Jamaica and Aurora to punch out the French coastal batteries west of Oran. Albacore dive-bombers warm up on the flight deck of HMS Furious. Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt's force, moving in from Beach Y at Les Andalouses, is ordered to "shoot the works at once" with his 26th Infantry Regiment. From the south, Combat Command B of 1st Armored is delayed by French gunfire at Valmy. 1st Armored Regiment's tanks finally overrun the 75 mm guns on their way up north from Tafaroui Airfield.
At 7:15 a.m., one of Greer's howitzers fires a registration round -- an initial shot to check the accuracy of the fall of shot -- and everyone at regimental CP hits the dirt and everyone at the regimental CP hits the dirt, thinking it's incoming mail. After the artillerymen get a good laugh, the officers regain their military bearing and the 18th Regiment attacks across an open field, amid sleet and wild wind. The French defense is desultory. In a short time, four French officers and 25 native enlisted men (other ranks), slouch in as PoWs. Knickerbocker heads over to an advance aid station to find 30 American wounded, in bloody, mud-soaked bandages.
Knickerbocker whips out his notebook and asks a gray 18-year-old kid, "Where'd you get hit?"
"A bullet in the stomach," the GI answers. A medic injects morphine…and the soldier dies minutes later.
The 18th Infantry continues to attack, coming under machine-gun and artillery fire. Knickerbocker watches more and more GIs arrive at his aid post, lying on stretchers, covered with blood and mud.
At 9 a.m., Robinett is finally ready to advance. With light tanks, armored infantry, and tank destroyers, he rumbles north into the city, while Col. John Waters - Patton's son-in-law - advances on his right, up the road from La Senia. Clouds of dust prevent French gunners from sighting shots until the Americans are on top of them. The French defenders collapse.
At 10:15 a.m., Robinett's vehicles enter Oran, without realizing they've entered the city. They find the only defenses are pesky snipers. The only barricades stand around major buildings, not in the streets. Waters' tanks run into a pair of French 75s being deployed for action. The Americans simply drive over the guns before the Frenchmen can stop them, then clatter off. The morose gun crew is left behind to inspect the twisted remains of their guns. Waters' tanks then rumble along Boulevard Paul Doumer, to impress the natives. But as his tanks approach the cathedral, they run out of gas.
Lt. Col. John Todd is ordered, "Take your tanks in and mill around." His vehicles rumble down the Boulevard de Mascarad and reach Oran Bay too late to stop most of the sabotage, but in time to prevent the French from flooding the port with fuel oil and setting it alight.
Robinett sends a column to the French Military Headquarters at the Chateau Neuf, and another from 1st Battalion/6th Armored Infantry under Lt. Col. William Kern to Camp St. Phillippe to free the 500 PoWs (from 2nd Battalion/6th Armored Infantry) taken on the 8th in the disastrous harbor raid. The freed PoWs, paratroopers, pilots, British sailors, and 2nd/6th men cheer while the French guards form up, stack arms, and march back to their barracks.
A third column rumbles around the city, looking for snipers, while a fourth heads east to hook up with the rest of the incoming 1st Infantry Division.
As the Americans fan out in Oran, zigging through narrow streets and past curious local citizens, they start running out of gas. The tankers refuel their vehicles from French gas stations (often chemist's shops) and fuel points. The noise and strength of the Americans so frightens Oran's French mayor, that he appears with a white flag to surrender the city, doing so by rapping on a tank hull. The Americans don't quite know how to tackle that request.
Some of the drive into Oran takes on features that will become increasingly familiar to Allied soldiers as the war rolls on - the joyous liberation. Pretty girls blow kisses and drop flower garlands onto tank turrets from balconies on the Boulevard Joffre. Children and adults dance around the tanks and armored vehicles. Die-hard snipers take potshots at American soldiers.
Meanwhile, Waters himself drives all the way through disintegrating French lines to the 1st Infantry's lead positions, hooking up with Fredendall and Allen. The weary men of the 16th and 18th Regiments are delighted to hook up with advancing armor. Fredendall climbs onto Waters' tank, and rides it back into Oran.
At Fort du Santon, however, HMS Rodney's guns and HMS Furious' dive-bombers pound the French defenses, to little avail.
Fredendall, joined by his staff and a Royal Navy officer, reaches Chateau Neuf to find that General Robert Boisseau and a French Navy representative have already accepted an armistice. Boisseau is happy to see Fredendall, so as to put an end to the useless fight.
Fredendall and Boisseau meet at 12:30 to sign the surrender, near a tinkling fountain full of golden carp. The Tricolour will continue to fly, with a white flag below it. French troops will be confined to quarters with their weapons, while American troops will occupy key positions in Oran, the port, the airfields, and the port defenses. Boisseau retains his command and control of the Oran police. All PoWs, Allied and French, are to be freed. The Americans raise a large blue pennant over the Chateau, to signify Oran's fall
With that done, Fredendall liberates Royal Navy Capt. Frederic Peters, who led the Oran harbor charge. Peters has been a PoW for two days. Now he will receive a Victoria Cross for his leadership. With the hero in tow, Fredendall and his staff drive over to the Grand Hotel, to set up headquarters and liberate the liquor supply. Waters himself finds 10 barrels of red wine, and fills the helmet of every member of his battalion. A tank destroyer unit throws a party for Allen and Roosevelt, who promptly get drunk.
More sober liberators get down to serious work. The quartermasters take over a local bullring to use as a food warehouse. Unfortunately, it smells of bulls. The provost marshal sets up a compound for 150 soldiers who contracted venereal disease in England, and are now showing its effects. "Casanova Park" is designed to make these miscreants "feel like heels."
Thousands of Oran residents, learning of the surrender, turn out to cheer the invaders, not knowing their nationality. An American officer sticks his head out of his Stuart tank's turret hatch, and hears someone call out in French, "What country are you from?" The American doesn't know French, so he replies in English. Somehow, the crowd recognizes his American accent, and cheers the Americans, "Vive les Americaines! Vive les Etats Uni! Vive la Liberte!" The GIs suspect that the locals are merely cheering the latest passing show.
However, it is easier to start a war than stop it, and communications are still an incredible mess on both sides. The 26th Regiment is still attacking the guns of Fort du Santon in the west, with gunfire support of HMS Rodney, when the cease-fire order arrives. The battleship checks fire, and the French defenders climb out of their batteries.
At Ain et Turk, the 26th Regiment drives a batch of exhausted Zouaves from the hills, when the cease-fire order comes down. The Americans break out canteens and C-rations to feed the exhausted Zouaves.
One group of obstinate Frenchmen still holds St. Cloud. The 1st/18th keeps attacking the surrounded town, and the French are still hanging on when Boisseau's orders to surrender come in. The French give up 400 men, 14 75 mm guns, eight heavy and 15 light machine-guns, four 37 mm guns, and four 60 mm mortars. With the surrender of St. Cloud, the battle for Oran is over - the only one of the three target ports that is taken solely by force of arms.
In the city of Oran, Waters tells his men of the surrender, and they start cheering and slapping each other on the back in triumph. Waters calls the men together, and says, "We did very well against the scrub team. Next week we hit the Germans. Do not slack off in anything. When we make a showing against them, you may congratulate yourselves."
That evening, two truck convoys haul British and American naval salvage parties from Arzew to Oran to start sorting out the large harbor. The salvage men find the port a titanic mess, with sunken ships blocking the channel and wrecked hulks all over the docksides. Among the wrecks: two cutters and three French submarines. Fortunately for the salvage crews, the outer port has not been damaged, so the Royal Navy starts unloading supplies and anti-submarine defenses. French authorities provide all their tugs, lighters, and other facilities to Rear Adm. Andrew C. Bennett, who also gains the title of Commander, U.S. Naval Operating Bases, Oran Area. Presumably, his first mission is to secure an officers' mess.
The Centre Task Force, having faced more severe opposition than any other task force, has done its job. 1st Infantry Division reports casualties of 23 officers and 343 men. That comes to 85 killed, 221 wounded, and seven missing. The Americans capture 1,364 PoWs. 165 Frenchmen lie dead in Oran.
About 37,000 Americans now occupy a beachhead 70 miles wide and 15 miles deep. Fredendall's dispatch to Ike reads, "Everything is rosy." Ike cables London, "Now we must get ports in shape and rush eastward without delay. This business of battle is just rush and rush. But I like it."
Casualties, except for the coup de main party in Oran Harbor, are below expectations, and the only failure in the operation has been the coup de main and the airborne assault. Not bad for a hurriedly-planned and improvised operation. The landing craft include refitted passenger liners and Venezuelan oil tankers. Doctrine and tactics are untried and in some cases faulty, the troops green. But the Allies have won.
Allen puts it in his report: "The one single factor which contributed most to the success of this operation was the joint planning in London where the Army staffs and Navy staffs worked side by side through the whole planning stage."
In Morocco, Maj. Gen. George Patton's advance continues from Safi, Fedala, and Port Lyautey.
Harmon's column of tanks continues to drive north in the dark to Mazagan. At 2 a.m., Harmon and Col. Dewey, leading the column, are stalled again. They head to the front, and find several tankers standing in a circle in the road's middle. Just beyond that is a solitary light, blazing in the gusty night.
Harmon decides to lead from the front, hiking ahead to find out what's going on. What he sees staggers him. It's a gigantic rock on the side of the road, covered with a placard reading, Egalite, Fraternite, Republique Francaise." On top of that is an ancient Frenchman, in a uniform festooned with ribbons from long-forgotten wars. The Frenchman holds up a lantern, and speaking to the American troops standing there.
The Yanks can't understand the Frenchman, but Harmon is a veteran of the Argonne. He barks at the Frenchman, asking what he's doing there.
The Frenchman's answer is unique. He'd been ordered to set up a barricade against the American attack. This, however, is a symbolic barricade - the Americans can either push round the rock or move it away.
Despite the early hour, Harmon finds the situation amusing. It seems to be a microcosm of the French attitude to the American invasion. Harmon politely asks why the Frenchman is holding up a lantern if he wants to halt the Americans.
The Frenchman answers that he wanted to provide enough light so that the young Americans don't injure themselves at this symbolic barricade.
It's the first laugh Harmon's had in days, and he enjoys it. He tells the Frenchman that he's lucky he wasn't shot by the jittery Americans, and tells the old man gently to go back home to his family. He's done his job.
Harmon's tankers mount up and clatter past the barricade and lantern, and reach Mazagan just before dawn. Harmon sets up his tanks for a set-piece assault on the town and the Azemmour highway bridge beyond, which is reportedly well-defended. The tanks roll into the town at 6 a.m., without a shot being fired. Then on to the Azemmour Bridge, which is also undefended. Then a formal ceremony to surrender the town. Finally Harmon can get on the road again, re-supplied and re-fueled, with a message from Patton: be ready to attack the southern exits to Casablanca at 11 a.m. Harmon does the math, and realizes it will take him hours just to refuel his thirsty tanks. He tries to radio Patton about the delay, but his radio doesn't work.
Many radios aren't working. Communications between the invading forces and Gibraltar are an incredible snarl. Eisenhower and his team get most of their news from Vichy radio, including that of Oran's surrender. No word from Patton. Eisenhower signals his old friend: "Dear George: Algiers has been ours for two days. Oran defenses are crumbling rapidly with navy shore batteries surrendering. Only tough nut left to crack is in your hands. Crack it open quickly. Ike."
Patton digests this masterpiece at his Hotel Miramar headquarters late in the day, and sits baffled, wondering if Eisenhower is understanding his difficulties, or prodding him? Nonetheless, Patton determined to crack the last nut, Casablanca.
Just after midnight, the 7th and 15th Infantry Regiments move down the Moroccan coast from Fedala, heading for the city. Weary from days of combat and heavy loads, the Americans plod south through French artillery, small arms fire, and howling dogs, to their start lines.
At 7 a.m., the attack goes in against grounded sailors, each of whom is armed with five cartridges. 2nd/7th attacks down the Casablanca road and comes under heavy fire from mounted Spahi cavalrymen, killing two company commanders. The battalion scatters under the fire, and the headquarters company is pinned down. The Americans rally and put three French 75mm guns out of action, but remain stalled. French counterbattery fire from artillery and two corvettes (La Gracieuse and Commandant Delage) hammer the 10th Field Artillery Battalion, killing its CO, Lt. Col. Kermit Davis. Despite these setbacks, the 7th Regiment grinds its way towards Casablanca.
The 15th Regiment has to postpone its attack until it can bring up artillery. 39th Field Artillery uses a French civilian to do so, finding the defending Frenchmen in the village of Tit Mellil holding some concrete buildings. The 15th still doesn't have its Cannon Company or Anti-tank Company with them (they still haven't unloaded), but it uses some 37mm anti-tank guns as assault guns. The 15th Infantry tries to envelope Tit Mellil, but the French retreat to a nearby 135-meter ridge, called Er Refifida.
The French Navy, despite its mauling on D-Day, is not finished yet, either. With two corvettes supporting the defenses, the American cruiser Augusta, joined by four destroyers, (Edison, Boyle, Tillman, and Rowan) move in to dispose of the French ships. At 11:25 a.m., Edison and Tillman open fire on the corvettes, joined by Augusta at 11:39. The corvettes take a few hits, spew out a smoke screen, and flee. The Americans cheer the victory - until massive 15-inch shells explode just ahead of Augusta, sending plumes of water 60 feet into the air. The battleship Jean Bart, considered knocked out (because of her drooping main guns), is back in action.
The battleship's crew has repaired the jammed main turret, but left its guns drooping to make the Americans think Jean Bart is unserviceable, guns jammed in train. Her gunnery officer peers through binoculars at Augusta, beckoning the cruiser, saying, "Come a little closer, come a little closer." Two of Jean Bart's four guns are capable of hurling ordnance the 14,000 yards (eight miles) to the cruiser.
Under shellfire, Augusta reverses course, as 15-inch shells explode around her, drenching the bridge crew with water colored orange from dye markers. Augusta calls up the carrier Ranger and requests an air strike. At 3 p.m., Ranger answers the request with nine SBDs of VS-41, which attack the immobile dreadnought with 1,000-lb. bombs. VS-41 scores two hits, one of which rips open an enormous hole in the battleship's main deck near the bow, the other ripping 20 feet off the battleship's stern, with impressive displays of smoke and flame. Strike leader Lt. Cdr. Embree radios, "No more Jean Bart!"
He's right and he's wrong. Jean Bart is finally out of the battle, but the ship is ultimately repaired. Her service in World War II, however, is over. She will be used for spare parts to keep her sister ship, Richelieu, in service with the Free French Navy. Even Jean Bart's 15-inch guns will be removed to replace damaged guns on Richelieu. Jean Bart will not be completed until 1949, the last battleship to enter service in any Navy in the world.
Shells and bombs fall all over Casablanca harbor, missing civilian installations by intent, and harbor installations by poor shooting. However, several shells rip open holes in the liner Porthos, which has just evacuated civilians, including women and children, from Dakar. The liner rolls over on her side as she sinks. Luckily the women and children have already been disembarked.
Patton takes time to write to Eisenhower: "I regret that you are mad with me over my failure to communicate; however, I cannot control interstellar space and our radio simply would not work. (However) the only person that lost by it was myself, as by my failure to communicate with you, the press was probably unable to recount my heroic deeds." Turning serious, Patton writes, "I feel that in successfully accomplishing the job you handed me, this force achieved the impossible …I am forced to believe that either my proverbial luck or more probably the direct intervention of the Lord was responsible."
Late in the day, Patton learns that an infantry platoon leader has held a lighthouse against an entire French battalion. Patton asks the Lieutenant, "What is your rank?" The officer replies, "Second Lieutenant, Sir." Patton snarls, "You are a liar, sir, you are now a First Lieutenant!" thus promoting the officer on the spot.
By evening, both regiments reach the edge of Casablanca. 7th Infantry has lost 27 killed and 72 wounded, while 15th Infantry has lost 11 wounded. Force Brushwood overall has lost 36 killed and 113 wounded this day, the costliest since D-Day. French air power is out of the game, and supplies are being unloaded at a faster rate than the stevedores can move them off the docks. However, 1st/67th Armored Regiment's Sherman and Lee tanks are ashore and moving south. The French still outnumber Patton's men, but he believes that with vigour, dash, and naval support, he can capture the city on the 11th. Patton plans a massive bombardment of Casablanca. Using aerial photographs, gunners plot aqueducts and power lines on their maps as targets.
"Today has been bad," he diaries. "God favors the bold, victory is to the audacious."
At Port Lyautey, the Americans are still pinned down by the Kasbah at Mehdia, but Lucian Truscott shows his usual determination in attack. At 1 a.m., the 1st/60th, attacking Port Lyautey from the west, comes under heavy machine-gun fire, while its B Company moves north towards the airfield. The Americans spot a blacked-out building ahead of them at 4:30 a.m., which they believe is a barracks. B Company surrounds the building in textbook manner: machine-guns to cover the exit roads and paths, troops moving in stealthily, an officer with a loudspeaker to demand surrender. When all is ready, the Americans call upon the Frenchmen to give up. 75 defenders emerge from the building, yielding wine-glasses and cutlery. The building isn't a barracks, it's a café. What B Company's CO has to say about battalion S-2 (intelligence) goes unrecorded. The 75 Frenchmen, along with 100 more in the area, go in the bag.
At 2:00 a.m., Truscott sends in his daring bid to seize Port Lyautey. The old four-pipe destroyer Dallas, commissioned in 1920 and converted into an assault ship, heads toward the Oued Sabou, loaded with 75 troops and French pilot Rene Malavergne, a Lyautey native, former Chief Pilot of Port Lyautey, and De Gaullist brought by the OSS to England for this operation. Codenamed "Shark," Malvergne's job is to pilot in the old tincan. Dallas has her superstructure and masts removed to save weight and lighten her draft. The destroyer's mission is to take the raiders down the river to seize the airdrome.
At 2:30, the destroyer's net-cutting party, under Lt. Mark W. Starkweather, snips the inch-and-a-half wire of the boom inside the river's jetties, under heavy French machine-gun fire. Battling an ebb tide, Dallas slides down the river amid heavy rain. Malavergne takes the wheel at 5:30 a.m., trying to remember sandbar shifts, and squeezes along, peppered by French machine-guns. Code-named "Sticker," Dallas lives up its monicker by running aground, narrowly missing the breakwater rocks. Lt. Cdr. Brodie, the ship's CO, orders full ahead and the ancient tin can shoves through the mud, just as French shells start whirring in from the Kasbah. One shell lifts her stern off the mud, and the little destroyer races past and cranks up to 18 knots (25 knots on the engine-room dials, reduced in actuality by the mud), to ram and break apart the boom blocking the river.
Dallas's bow rips the boom apart and she trundles along, now coming under 75mm fire. Dallas opens up with her 3-inch guns and silences the 75mm gun and, unknowingly, a French anti-tank gun that is giving the 1st Battalion some grief.
Just after 4:30 a.m., B Company of the 60th captures Col. Charles Petit, Lyautey's commander, and a staff officer of the 1st Moroccan Tirailleurs Regiment. Petit orders the 1st Moroccans to cease firing. That makes life easier for some of the 60th Regiment's men, but a battalion of Foreign Legionnaires fights on, determined to uphold the honor of Cambronne. Petit himself is released on parole to his headquarters, where Maj. Pierpoint Hamilton, Truscott's emissary from D-Day, is still being held. Now Hamilton is in charge of Petit. Hamilton realizes that the situation of a prisoner being in charge of his captor, who is in turn a prisoner on parole, is something not covered in his West Point classes on the laws of war.
Like the little engine that could, Dallas sails on. Malavergne adroitly maneuvers the destroyer between two small steamers scuttled in the river to block passage. As dawn breaks, two seaplanes from Savannah race over to provide air cover, and Dallas grounds herself in the soft mud near the apparently deserted airport at 7:37 a.m. The French open fire with another 75-mm battery, 2,600 yards away, but Dallas's guns answer it. After 10 minutes of gunfire, one of Savannah's seaplanes drops a depth charge on the battery, which incinerates the ammunition.
B Company of the 60th plods on, all the way to the south edge of Port Lyautey, finding Tirailleurs eager to surrender and Foreign Legionnaires eager to fight.
At dawn, 60th Infantry is still struggling, with 1st Battalion split in two parts, one 3,000 yards south of the airport, tending 200 PoWs, the other portion trying to advance over high ground southwest of the airport. 2nd Battalion is under orders to finally take the Kasbah, and has been reinforced with two self-propelled 105mm assault guns.
This novelty is the M7 "Priest", so named for its "pulpit" observation turret, which shows the source of the M7 design, the Lee/Grant tank, with its turreted 75mm gun. The Lee and Grant have proven inadequate to deal with the modern German tanks because of their high silhouettes (10 feet tall) and limited 75mm turret traverse, so the hulls are being converted. As the M3 Lee/Grant, the hull is not too successful against the Germans. As the M7 Priest, it's successful against everybody.
Meanwhile, 3rd Battalion, north of the Oued Sebou, has one company next to the airport on the north, backed by artillery, ready to attack. And Col. Semmes' light M3 Stuart tanks are ready to take on any French reinforcements coming from Rabat. Offshore, the battleship Texas, cruiser Savannah, and destroyers Eberle, Roe, and Kearny, are ready to hurl shells at the French.
2nd/60th launches its attack on the Kasbah at dawn, with the M7s blasting away at the French defenses. The artillery support and the time taken in preparation make the difference, and 2nd/60th slices through the entrenchments and machine-gun nests. Col. De Rohan personally leads the assaults against the fort's gates. Two M7s shell the fort at point-blank range, but the immense walls withstand the high explosives. The Americans are running short of water, ammunition, and bandages, and more than 200 wounded await transportation from the beach. Truscott is running out of men, but not ideas.
De Rohan sends in 125 engineers of the 540th and 15th Engineers, and the 871st Aviation Engineers. The force includes cooks, clerks, and drivers, who get a 10-minute course on how to use the Thompson machine-gun. Capt. Verle McBride of the 540th Engineers leads this miscellaneous band, which braves intense machine-gun fire and heavy rain to reach the fort. French troops stand up on the crenellated defenses, shooting the advancing Americans, and hurling grenades at them. An observer is reminded of the movie "Beau Geste."
Navy Lt. D.C. Dressendorfer, the air liaison officer, calls De Rohan to call Truscott to call the Navy to bomb the Kasbah, and within four minutes, a flight of SBD Dauntless dive-bombers from Sangamon attacks the fort. The Americans wait between 100 and 200 yards from the targets, while the SBDs plaster the French with accurate strikes. Before the smoke has cleared, Truscott's artillery opens fire as well, blasting holes in the Kasbah's walls. Screaming and whooping, 2nd/60th storms into the blazing fort, and 250 shocked and exhausted defenders come shuffling out of their positions, hands raised, joined by another 150 from nearby trenches.
As soon as the Kasbah falls, transports move in from their remote positions and anchor 1,500 to 3,000 yards off the river's mouth, free of the worry of French shellfire. The Americans start unloading supplies. This is a great relief to the shore parties, whose small boats have either foundered or been wrecked from the choppy seas.
At the Kasbah, 2nd/60th starts securing the area against counterattacks, snipers, and saboteurs. Then 2nd/60th moves off to grab the ridge overlooking the Port Lyautey airfield. The Americans move through a native village and up the main highway to the airfield.
On Dallas, the raiders break out their rubber boats and paddle ashore at 7:37 a.m., seizing the airfield by 8 a.m. The destroyer blasts the French defenses with 3-inch guns, silencing them. Neither the raiders nor the Dallas suffer a single casualty. American naval guns and dive-bombers pound nearby gun batteries. USS Texas opens fire on a column of trucks carrying soldiers from Meknes to Port Lyautey. At 8:42, her 14-inch guns hurls shells 17,000 yards. At 11:31, Texas checks fire, having expended 214 rounds. The truck column halts, reverses, and then scatters in complete disorganization, unable to withstand 14-inch ordnance.
Rear Adm. Monroe Kelly, who commands Task Group 34.8, the Port Lyautey attack group, has also had enough. He broadcasts a radio message to the people of Port Lyautey, saying, "Join with us. Stop this useless waste of lives and use them later in the fight against your real enemy - Germany."
At 10:30 a.m., the first of 76 P-40s from the Army's 33rd Fighter Group launched from USS Chenango start landing at the airport, struggling through shellholes. Despite battle damage, the airfield is usable, and the squadron's mechanics are able to ready the P-40s for the morning. The P-40s, however, are not. Seventeen are damaged on landing, one is lost in the fog, and none will fly into battle during Torch.
On the southern flank at Lyautey, the French keep counterattacking, with little success.
At 2:30, 2nd/60th grabs a hill overlooking the airport from its French defenders by using their M7 and a Stuart tank. About 150 French defenders surrender. By 5:30, the airfield is secure.
By now, the beaches at Medhia are a mess, so the minesweepers Osprey and Raven get a new job - river lighters, hauling supplies up to the piers at Port Lyautey. While they steam back and forth, the Americans put the captured French vessel Contessa into service for the same purposes. The harbor pilot Malvergne also gets that job, guiding Contessa up the river with its load of 1,000 tons of ammunition and fuel to the airbase. It shears across a jetty, settles into the mud, and the forward hold floods. Malvergne, unfazed, orders full steam, and backs up the river to the airfield for three days of unloading. Malvergne himself heads home to his amazed wife and children, wearing the American Silver Star.
Meanwhile, the Americans move into Port Lyautey, finding most French defenders retreating. However, sniping continues. The Americans blame the French. The French blame the local Arabs, claiming the latter have stolen rifles and ammunition from poorly-guarded American stocks.
But at 10:30 p.m., Gen. Mathenet phones the French headquarters at Port Lyautey, where Hamilton and Petit are still holed up, asking for Hamilton. The American comes on the line, and Mathenet tells Hamilton he wants to discuss a cease-fire. Hamilton shows some initiative by hopping into a staff car with Col. Leon LeBeau, Port Lyautey's XO, and a French army bugler. The bugler blows "Cease-fire" as the car rolls through town to a point on the airfield where Company C, 70th Tank Battalion, has arrived. American troops, hearing the bugle, assume that it's the French version of "Charge," and open fire, damaging the car's chrome.
Hamilton uses one of the tank radios to call up Col. Semmes on the south side of the beachhead. Hamilton doesn't trust this message to radio - he drives up to Truscott's Tac HQ. The two officers radio back to Hamilton to approve the cease-fire, with surrender talks to follow at the Kasbah gates at 8 a.m. the next day.
Another general is close to the end, too, Nogués. He realizes that further resistance is pointless, and sends word to Patton that he is ready to negotiate surrender. Patton ignores the message, saying that it is a bad idea to change plans at the last minute. He orders an all-out assault on Casablanca the following morning, but warns Hewitt to be ready to call off the planned air strike.
The military combat in Algiers is over, but the political combat is just beginning. Shortly after midnight, Dorange meets with Giraud at the latter's villa. The problem Dorange is here to solve is who is the French leader: Darlan or Giraud? Dorange cuts to the heart of the situation: "General Giraud legal, yes. Rebel, no." Giraud is exhausted from days of escape and negotiation. Any solution will suit him, as long as France fights Germany. Giraud is willing to hand over the political reins and stick to military duties.
Dorange jumps at that, suggesting that Giraud be appointed to a military post. Dorange and Giraud drive over to Juin's home at the Villa des Oliviers. Juin, in a bathrobe, awaits the two officers. Juni argues that Giraud has Allied support, while Darlan is the senior French officer on the spot in North Africa. They have to be united so Darlan can bring the Vichy French territories into the war on the side of the Allies. Giraud agrees, believing he will be Commander in Chief of French forces.
Now Dorange has to convince Darlan to accept this situation. He knocks on Darlan's door at 4 a.m., finding the admiral "fatigued and dejected" but ready to do business. "Yes, yes," the admiral mumbles. "I certainly had a feeling of friendship for Giraud. I suppose I still do. But it is too early yet."
Early in the morning, Maj. Gen. Mark W. Clark puts on his formal uniform and formal attitude to meet with Darlan in a St. Georges Hotel conference room. Beyond huge windows is a beautiful garden of flowers and palm trees, followed by the Mediterranean.
Clark, aware that he is an unknown to the Frenchmen, stations a platoon of GIs outside the hotel for psychological effect, and assumes his most forceful demeanor. Opposite Clark sits a glittering array of French flag officers: Darlan, Koeltz, and Juin lead the team. The other French naval men are Moreau, Maritime Commander of the Fourth Region; Vice Adm. Fenard, Secretary-General of the North African Government; and Rear Adm. Rebou-Hector Berlioz, Chief of Staff of the Fourth Region. Army bigshots include Brig. Gen. Sevez, Juin's chef de cabinet, and Gen. Mendigal, Superior Commandant of Air in North Africa.
Against this wall of képis and gold braid Clark fields Holmes, Murphy, Commodore Dick, and Lt. Jack Beardwood, keeping the notes of the meeting. Darlan strikes Clark as a "little man with watery blue eyes and petulant lips. He seemed nervous and uncertain, obviously ill at ease. Again and again he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his forehead. He shifted in his chair and his hands fumbled with the papers on the table in front of him."
Clark faces more than the pride of St. Cyr and the heritage of Napoleon. His slender force is the best America has at the moment, and he has to force these proud Frenchmen to accept American command. Clark wants to end the fighting, thus saving French, American, and British lives, lives desperately needed for the battle with the Nazis in Tunisia.
He also wants the French to keep order in the Allied rear, and support the Allied drive. North Africa has 21 million Arabs and hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen. The former population is eager to be rid of their occupiers, and the latter have divided loyalties. In addition, Clark wants the pro-Allied generals and officers who have helped the invasion set free to continue to work with the Allies. Lastly, Clark dislikes Darlan as an opportunist and collaborator.
For a full minute, Clark stares at the sweating Darlan through Murphy, "We have work to do to meet the common enemy (Germany). Are you ready to sign the armistice? It will cover all French forces in North Africa. It is essential we stop this waste of time and blood."
Darlan stalls. "I sent a resume of the terms to Vichy. Laval was away. There will be no reply until the Council of Ministers meets this afternoon."
Clark is enraged by this obvious stall. He starts banging the table with his fist, which does not impress Juin. The latter tells his wife later that he and his colleagues were browbeaten by "a big American who does nothing but shout and pound the table." Ironically, Juin will serve under Clark in Italy and become one of Clark's best field commanders and closest friends.
Clark snarls, "Do you understand that relations between France and the United States were broken off in the last 24 hours?"
Darlan goes through his papers, and says he has had no official confirmation. "I have been given strict orders by Vichy not to enter negotiations until orders arrive from Marshal Petain and the Council of Ministers. A livid Clark pounds the table, and Darlan adds, "However, my associates and I feel hostilities are fruitless."
"I do not propose to wait for any confirmation from Vichy," Clark retorts, banging the table, and shouting harshly.
"I can only obey the orders of Petain," Darlan retorts.
"Then I will end these negotiations and deal with someone who can act," Clark answers, threatening to end the conference in 30 minutes. "It may be necessary to retain you in protective custody."
"I am giving my opinion that it is stupid to continue hostilities here. I urged acceptance of the terms. I am confident that Petain will agree."
Clark then warns that if Darlan will not issue a cease-fire, "I will go to General Giraud. He will sign the terms and issue the necessary orders."
"I am not certain that the troops will obey," Darlan says. He can't assume responsibility for a cease-fire order, as the Germans would immediately occupy Vichy France. Clark argues that Oran has fallen to the Americans. "This all boils down to one question. Are you going to play with the Vichy Government or go with us?" Darlan stands on his oath of loyalty to the Marshal. "This is one time when we must lean on our inclinations and not on our orders. You are under domination. Here is an opportunity for all Frenchmen to rally and win the war. Here is your last chance."
Clark runs out of patience. "We all want to do the same thing, and we must get an order for cessation of hostilities this morning. We have the means. We have 150,000 American and British troops in French North Africa. We have the means of equipping the French Army and making this the base from which we can go into France. How anybody can fail to join us in an operation that can mean the liberation of France is beyond my understanding."
Darlan won't act until he hears from Petain. Clark says, "Giraud will sign the terms of the armistice." Darlan says the army is still with him. "Do you want Giraud without the army, or the army without Giraud?"
Juin adds, "Giraud has no power. General Nogues commands in Morocco, and General Barre in Tunisia. No one will follow Giraud."
"In that case," Murphy says to Darlan, "though the situation is as painful for him as it must be for you, General Clark is going to find it necessary to take you under his protection."
"That's my last word," Clark says, rising to leave.
Juin places his wounded arm on Clark's. "Five minutes, please," he says in English. "Five minutes."
"O.K.," Clark says. "Five minutes." He and his team leave the room for fresh air and coffee.
Eight minutes later, Fenard bounces back to the Americans to say that Darlan has "been won over." Clark and his colleagues rejoin the Frenchmen in the conference room, finding Darlan pale and shaking.
The little admiral starts writing a directive to the French armed forces, ordering them to break off hostilities with the Americans and observe strict neutrality. "In the name of the Marshal," Darlan says, "I assume authority in North Africa. The present military troops retain their commands, and the political structure and administration remain intact. No changes may be effected until further orders from me." Darlan turns to Murphy. "All French troops retain their arms?"
Murphy looks at Clark, and nods. "The high military authorities subordinate will make contact with the local commanders of the American forces in order to apply the armistice."
All that remains are the fates of the pro-Allied French officers, like Mast and Monsabert, who, Darlan says, "have failed to keep their oath. I do not wish to collaborate with these people. I will not accept an officer who disobeys his chief!" Clark answers, "I understand your position. They will never hold command so long as Admiral Darlan remains Commander in Chief."
Clark also offers something that moves Darlan: to fly his ailing son, suffering from polio, to Warm Springs, Georgia, where FDR and other polio victims undergo treatment. Darlan is impressed by this generosity.
Finally, Darlan asks about Giraud. He isn't even present. Clark says that problem can't be solved until the cease-fire has gone into effect. With that, all hands are done. Clark asks Darlan about the French fleet at Toulon. Will that sail to Africa and join the Allies? Darlan doubts he can pull that rabbit from his hat. "I can assure you one thing. It will never fall into German hands."
Clark and his pals head back to his hotel room to draft a message to Ike, and Darlan heads back to his car to return to his HQ. On his way out, Darlan says to Murphy, in English, calmly, "Will you please to me a favor, Mr. Murphy? Please remind Major General Clark that I am a five-star admiral. He should cease shouting at me and treating me like a junior lieutenant."
Meanwhile, Clark signals Ike: "I now have two kingpins on my hands," referring to Darlan and Giraud. Darlan's message goes quickly to Petain - who approves Darlan's measures - but even quicker to Laval, the shifty power behind Petain's throne. Petain is ready to send the fleet to sea and scatter the Vichy army to the French Alps to act as guerrillas. Laval hears the word on his car radio, while driving to Munich to meet the Fuhrer. Laval is enraged. He orders his chauffeur to stop at the nearest telephone, and puts through a call to Petain.
By phone, Laval threatens to resign, and warns that German reprisals against France will be ferocious. Petain tears up his plans and reinstates his order to North Africa to continue fighting, with Nogues as commander-in-chief while Darlan is in Allied hands. Petain's order goes out by radio to Algiers, and is intercepted by the British and Americans, who pass it on to Ike, who is stunned.
Indeed, the situation in Vichy is becoming tense. At noon Petain and his cronies learn that Darlan has ordered a cease-fire in Algiers and that the French Navy would be welcomed there or at Oran. To do so, the fleet must raise steam immediately and sail in the next few hours. Admiral Jean de Laborde, in command, will not move without a direct order from Petain. He'll fight anybody, Britons, Germans, Americans, or Japanese, but only with Petain's direct order.
Petain is meeting with Auphan and Weygand, his World War I chief of staff and commander of France's defenses in 1940, when Darlan's cease-fire order lands. Auphan sees the political possibilities in sending the ships south - Germany will be angry, but that will be easier to take if Darlan's stand is approved. Petain also has to contend with Laval's angry phone call and threat to resign, saying that such a step will bring the Wehrmacht down on Vichy's head. Petain takes a firm stand in mid-air. He publicly orders Darlan to fight on and secretly tells the admiral of his complete confidence in him and explains that the order to fight on is merely a bluff to gain time. And the fleet stays in port.
The next question for Petain and his crew to discuss with General Bridoux, the Secretary of War, and Chief of-Staff General Revers, is the massing of German and Italian troops on the borders and armistice lines. Clearly the Germans plan to enter the unoccupied zone. Should Vichy resist? The officers are eager to preserve honor, but they are very aware that the small French post-Armistice army is even less capable of a stand-up fight against the panzers than in 1940. The marshal decides to broadcast a solemn protest by radio, but there will be no armed resistance.
If the politics in Vichy is becoming complex, the politics in Algiers is becoming Byzantine. Murphy and Clark find themselves holding an agreement with Giraud and a cease-fire with Darlan, who hate each other. Murphy and Clark decide to untangle this Gordian knot by doublecrossing Darlan and placing Giraud in command. They visit the pompous general, who bristles with anger and his formidable moustache.
The Americans ask Giraud to serve as both civil and military leader in North Africa. Giraud refuses. "I am no statesman. I merely wish to command the armed forces of France." Murphy and Clark argue for half an hour, but Giraud is obstinate. The Americans head back to the hotel to negotiate with Darlan. Giraud goes to Fenard's villa to swear allegiance to Darlan. When Giraud gets there, he finds out that Petain has relieved Darlan. "I am lost," Darlan says. "I can only give myself up."
Clark and Murphy arrive a few minutes later in a flurry of MP sirens, to find Darlan staring gloomily at the floor. He tells the Americans the latest bad news, and says, "There is nothing I can do but revoke the order I signed this morning."
In a day of continual emotional bombshells, Clark takes the latest firmly. "Damned if you do," he snaps.
"Then you'll have to make me a prisoner," Darlan says.
"That's okay by me," Clark answers. He deploys a platoon of men to make sure Darlan cannot leave the villa. Clark mumbles that Darlan is worthless, as he can neither bring over the French fleet nor apply the armistice just signed. Giraud, watching this display, suggests that perhaps after all he should be allowed to take over. Clark doesn't even try to answer that one, but the two generals and Murphy head back to the hotel to meet with the other French generals. The GIs assigned to guard Darlan take up their positions, knowing only that they're guarding "some French bigshot."
Back at the St. Georges Hotel, the staff is still coping with their bizarre guests with Gallic sang-froid. Clark summons Giraud, Juin, Koeltz, and others to get their take on Darlan's rejection by Petain. Clark complains that Darlan is worthless. Giraud tells Clark that he has information from his sources that the Germans are about to invade Vichy France. Finally, the pompous moustache says something useful: "We are at the end of our rope. It is an appalling situation. It is time for all Frenchmen to get together. It's our responsibility to get together to save North Africa."
It's the first good news Clark has heard all day, but he doesn't think that will happen. But the other French commanders say they are adhering to the signed armistice. Giraud also says he will no longer demand to be supreme commander of all Allied forces, just "Commander in Chief of all French forces in North Africa or any place in the French Empire." That's tolerable to Clark, but the other French officers in the room aren't as thrilled. So everybody retires to sample the St. Georges' cuisine.
Another general in Algiers continues his difficult job aboard HMS Bulolo, uninvolved with the machinations ashore. Lt. Gen. Kenneth Anderson, the dour, unsmiling, Scot who commands British 1st Army, has the job of launching the seaborne assaults on Bougie and Bone. Anderson's assets for the assault are limited: 36th Infantry Brigade and 78th Infantry Division, both British. Anderson's talents to lead this assault are also limited: Patton regards Anderson as "earnest but dumb." That echoes Maj. Gen. Sir Percy Hobart's assessment from the 1920s, when Anderson was a student at the Quetta Staff College. Hobart was commandant then, and wrote it was "questionable whether (Anderson) had the capacity to develop much." Other Army Council members have doubts about Anderson, but "hoped that he might suffice."
Anderson is a long-serving soldier. He was born on Christmas day 1891, in India, son of a railroad executive. From childhood, Anderson was fluent in French, and learned Italian as a schoolboy, travelling in Tibet and the Middle East, often on foot. After Charterhouse and Sandhurst, he was commissioned in 1911 in the Seaforth Highlanders. Six feet tall, blunt, abrasive, he was promoted to captain in 1915, and wounded on the Somme the following year, earning the Military Cross. In 1917 and 1918, he served with his regiment under Lord Allenby in Palestine and Syria.
From there, Anderson went on to command the 2nd Seaforths on the Northwest Indian frontier, where he was Mentioned in Dispatches, and then in Palestine. In 1934, Anderson took command of 11th Infantry Brigade, which became part of Maj. Gen. Bernard Montgomery's 3rd Infantry Division in France. During the retreat to Dunkirk, Monty was promoted to corps command and Anderson gained 3rd Division temporarily. Anderson then rose to command the division after Dunkirk, the 2nd Corps, the 7th Corps, and Eastern Command.
His fluency in languages made him the senior British officer in Eisenhower's headquarters and the logical choice to lead the British 1st Army. An American officer says he has "an air of grinning preoccupation" and "the jutting chin that gives force to personality." A Briton suggests that Anderson looks more like "a moderately successful surgeon than soldier." Clean-shaven, thin-lipped, deeply religious, he looks that part.
But other officers are harsher on "Grouch" or "Sunshine." One British general calls Anderson "a good plain cook." Ike says "he studies the written word until it burns through the paper." Fluent in three languages, he doesn't speak much in any of them, threatening to expel war correspondents who quote him. Anderson himself has some gift for self-analysis, writing of his struggle against "a queer sort of inhibition, or shyness, which prevents me coming out of my shell…Often I would like to expand, but find it very difficult. A queer thing, human nature." He attributes his laconic nature to God's will, writing, "it is good medicine to one's self-esteem to meet with serious setbacks at timely intervals."
Today, however, Anderson, wearing his usual breeches and puttees, is putting himself in Eisenhower's good graces by demonstrating his willingness to proceed with Operation Perpetual, the invasion of Bougie and Bone, despite small numbers. As the ships sail towards the two ports, Anderson's ground drive, consisting of a small mobile armored column of the 5th Northamptons and the 56th Reconnaissance Regiment, rolls out of Algiers, heading east. "Hart Force" is the leading ground edge of the Allied drive on Tunisia.
The ships head out, too. Among them is the New Zealand transport Awatea, loaded with commandos, RAF personnel, stores, and petrol, to grab the airfield near Bougie at Djidjelli.
With Algiers relatively secure, Anderson moves his HQ ashore to the Hotel Albert, and publicly announces his intention to "kick Rommel in the pants as soon as possible." But he tells reporters off the record, "The German is a good soldier and I expect hard fighting."
In Gibraltar's damp caves and tunnels, Eisenhower and his staff continue to follow the invasion of North Africa. Reports trickle in all day…Oran's surrender…German attacks on the transport Leedstown…Clark's report that Darlan has signed an armistice. Butcher diaries, "Vichy had broken off relations with U.S., Tut, tut."
The Germans continue their build-up in Tunisia and Bizerte. German logistics officers at Kesselring's headquarters in Frascati scramble to find troops and supplies. Kesselring's HQ guard is pulled out of the bistros and guard huts and shoved onto Ju 52s. Supply officers divert guns tagged for Rommel and Tripoli onto Me 323 transports for Tunisia, still wrapped in shipping paper.
Kesselring's personal guards arrive in Tunis in gliders towed by Ju 88 bombers, escorted by Me 109 fighters. When the planes land, they find French armored cars waiting on the tarmac. Both sides stare at each other until more Ju 52 transports arrive, bearing a platoon of the 5th Parachute Regiment, airlifted from Naples. The paratroopers hop out of their Ju 52s on arrival and set up small anti-tank guns and MG 42 machine-guns, trained on the French. The French withdraw to the outer perimeter.
In Tunis, The Germans scramble to organize as well. With gasoline scarce, paratroopers use heating pellets made from grass to power their vehicles. Officers commandeer taxicabs as staff cars.
Meanwhile, Kesselring phones Loerzer to tell him that German radio intercept teams have picked up messages from Esteva and Barre to the Allies via a secret radio on the US Consulate's roof. Loerzer has to shut this radio down and cut the communications link. Loerzer flies straight to Tunis to find his paratroopers still sorting out their gear. An officer of the German Armistice Commission salutes Loerzer and tells him that the situation is extremely delicate. Worried, Loerzer heads into town, studying the French troops all over the place, who have machine-guns and anti-tank guns pointed at the airfield.
Loerzer meets Barre's frostily polite aide, who tells the German that Vichy has given orders to let the Nazis use the Tunis and Bizerte airfields and nothing else. If the Germans leave the airports, the French will shoot. Loerzer drives back to the Tunis airfield and tells Kesselring to go ahead and send in more troops…but don't leave the airfields yet. He notes, "There can be little doubt that the small air forces with their planes on the ground would have been easy prey for the French troops in readiness there if they had attacked in this situation." But the French, as in so many other battles, lack resolve, and the Germans gain their bridgehead and badly needed time.
The German move into Tunisia is not a solo affair. Benito Mussolini, flamboyant as ever, orders his troops into Tunis, stunning the German command. The Nazis have told Vichy the Italians would not be permitted to send troops to Tunisia. But a flight of Italian fighters is reportedly en route anyway. Kesselring complains to Comando Supremo, which tells Kesselring the movement cannot be stopped - the troops are on their way. Actually the fighters don't leave Sardinia until two hours after Kesselring complains, in yet another fiasco for the star-crossed Italian war machine.
Nonetheless, the Italians get there, and when that happens, Barre moves his HQ to Beja in the Tunisian mountains, and starts pulling his 9,000 men of the Tunis Division towards Algeria.
Mussolini's next move comes when Hitler appoints Kesselring as Il Duce's deputy. Mussolini suggests to the cheery German that the Axis forces attack the Americans with poison gas and transport military supplies in hospital ships. Kesselring - who will later himself stand trial for complicity in the massacre of civilians - politely opposes Mussolini's criminal suggestions. Instead, he argues that Tunisia can and must be held. Mussolini agrees.
In Munich, Ciano meets with Hitler again as both review the frightening news that Darlan is negotiating a deal with the Americans. Ciano again presses for occupation of Corsica. Hitler concurs. Ciano heads to his phone to call Mussolini.
Laval arrives around midday and meets with Ribbentrop. The "Second Bismarck" offers Laval an alliance. Laval turns it down. Otto Abetz, Germany's political representative with the Vichy government, shows Laval German intercepts of Darlan's cease-fire order. Laval phones his ministers in Vichy, on a line the Germans have tapped. Nazi eavesdroppers hear Laval tell his colleagues, "I shall be received presently by Hitler: therefore, do nothing for the moment. Everything will be broken off and I shall resign, if you negotiate with the Americans without my having got back and been able to talk to you. I want to know what is the Marshal's decision." They tell Laval that Petain has ordered the French to defend North Africa.
Hitler's aides show Laval into the Fuhrerbau's main salon. It is the room where Daladier and Chamberlain delivered up Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938. Now Laval, in "white tie and middle class French peasant attire, is very much out of place in the great salon among so many uniforms," Ciano writes. "He tries to speak in a familiar tone about his journey, and his long sleep in the car, but his words are unheeded. Hitler treats him with frigid courtesy."
The Fuhrer opens his lengthy diatribe curtly, as usual. France has two options: lean definitely and clearly on the Axis or lose her entire colonial empire, from Guiana to Tahiti. Someone has to pay for this war, and it certainly won't be Germany, which had neither wanted the war nor began it. However, Hitler is eager to work with France and preserve her colonial empire. France must accept Axis aid to drive the Americans and British out of Algeria and Morocco.
Having absorbed this, Laval makes his presentation. After thanking Hitler for his time and interest, Laval argues that France needs more firepower for her own defense. He points out that Darlan has ordered a cease-fire in Algiers, and that Petain has taken personal command, disavowing Darlan's orders. With Nogues in Morocco and Esteva in Tunisia loyal to Vichy, it is still possible to fight.
Laval continues to talk about the warm relationship between Germany and France, including Nazi generosity to Vichy in letting the French keep their empire. There is no question Germany will vanquish England and liquidate the East. If France had been more supportive of Hitler, perhaps England would have been defeated earlier. Laval continues his obsequies and talk about the future of Europe as a whole, but Hitler cuts him off. The Germans must have access to the bases in Tunis and Bizerte. Can Laval deliver them?
Laval prevaricates. He has to go to Petain. In any case, there are numerous considerations, including respect for French sovereignty. The Germans and Italians have periodically sought control of French soil, including Italian demands for Corsica, Nice, and Tunis. That agitates Hitler. France received no such comprehensive assurances when Hitler met Petain at Montoire. German and Italian claims are reasonable.
The argument rambles on. Germany and Italy are allies. Italy and Germany will need bases in Tunisia and other areas. If Germany falls, bolshevism will overrun Europe, Hitler warns. "No Atlantic Charter can be erected against the wild eastern storm of the Soviet savages." France must help "in creating the moral conditions in France in favor of collaboration with Germany. The present state of Franco-German relations is pictured by many Frenchmen as a one-way street."
With that, Laval leaves to report to Petain. Nothing has changed, including Hitler's plan to occupy France. While Laval smokes his cigarette outside of Hitler's anti-smoking presence, the Fuhrer continues to give his orders to invade Vichy France.
While French and American generals stew in Algiers, the British continue the next stage of the drive on Tunisia, launching Operation Perpetual. Precisely at 6:30 p.m. a fast convoy sets sail from Algiers, headed for Bougie. Four Royal Navy infantry landing ships, Karanja, Marnix, Awatea, and Cathay, carrying the 36th Infantry Brigade sail out, behind six escorting warships. They hook up with a slower group of five cargo vessels and 10 warships that sailed at 4 p.m. the whole force is escorted by the aircraft carrier HMS Argus. Their objective: Bougie and Djidjelli airfield.
Faced with the massive Allied invasion of North Africa, the German U-Boat command reacts with characteristic speed. Hitler orders his Mediterranean U-Boats the following: "The existence of the Afrika Korps depends on the destruction of the Gibraltar force. I expect a ruthless, victorious operation."
The force commander on the spot, Leo Kreisch, has nine U-boats to hurl at the armada, with three more heading west. Six of his boats are dockyard cases in Italy. Fooled by British deception measures, the U-Boats race to Bougie Bay, expecting to find the invasion. Instead the Allies have landed at Oran and Algiers. Kreisch orders his U-Boats further westward, and shuffles their priorities: for once, U-boats attacking a fleet group (as opposed to a convoy) are to attack amphibious forces and merchant ships.
The Nazis have also sent seven U-boats of Group Dolphin from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, even though such a deployment is more than the Italian-managed U-Boat bases can handle. Group Dolphin heads for Oran, while the Mediterranean U-Boats, formed into Group Shark, head for Algiers.
Early in the morning, U-81, commanded by Kapitanleutenant (Kaleu or Kaleun for short) Fritz Guggenberger, who already has a Knight's Cross, pounces on the 2,000-ton British freighter Garlinge in convoy and sinks it. Two hours later, Kaleu Wilhelm Dommes' U-431 blasts open the new (1941) British destroyer HMS Martin (2,000 tons) and sends her to the bottom. Mechanical trouble takes U-81 out of the game.
That evening, the City of London honors Prime Minister Winston Churchill for his two years of inspiring leadership. After introductory remarks and platitudes, the man who has mobilized the English language and sent it into battle delivers one of his more defining speeches. He reminds the listeners of his 1940 promise of "blood, toil, tears, and sweat," and then reports that after two years of this, the British Army has won a massive victory at El Alamein. "The bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers and warmed and cheered all their hearts." Churchill lauds Alexander and Montgomery, saying that the Afrika Korps has been "very largely destroyed as a fighting force.
"Now this is not the end," Churchill continues. "It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps, the end of the beginning."
Next he hails Operation Torch, paying tribute to FDR and the massive American role in it. He calls FDR "the author of this mighty undertaking…in all of it, I have been his active and ardent lieutenant."
Churchill's rhetoric then spans the globe. France will rise again. He hails de Gaulle and Giraud equally. He says Alsace-Lorraine should be returned to France and Britain has no ambitions anywhere else.
Then Churchill addresses an "Open Letter to the People of England" published in Life magazine a month before, saying that the United States is definitely not fighting to preserve the British Empire. Churchill says, "Let me, however, make this clear, in case there should be any mistake about it in any quarter: we mean to hold our own. I have not become the King's First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire. For that task, if ever it were prescribed, some one else would have to be found…"
42 RAF bombers fly to the Biscay coast of France and the Frisian Islands to lay mines. Two Lancasters crash on returning to England.
The US Army Air Force is also busy, supporting the Allied drives across North Africa. B-24s bomb Benghazi harbor in Libya while B-17s pound Canea in Crete.
In New Guinea, B-26 Marauders attack Japanese AA guns and supply dumps on the Sanananda-Soputa trail.