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Operation Torch: Invasion of North Africa

Operation Torch took place November 8-10, 1942, during World War II (1939-1945).

In 1942, having been persuaded of the impracticality of launching an invasion of France as a second front, American commanders agreed to conduct landings in northwest Africa with the goal of clearing the continent of Axis troops and preparing the way for a future attack on southern Europe.

Intending to land in Morocco and Algeria, Allied planners were forced to determine the mentality of the Vichy French forces defending the area. These numbered around 120,000 men, 500 aircraft, and several warships. It was hoped that, as a former member of the Allies, the French would not fire on British and American forces. Conversely, there was concern about French resentment over the British attack on Mers el Kebir in 1940, which had inflicted heavy damage on French naval forces. To aid in assessing local conditions, the American consul in Algiers, Robert Daniel Murphy, was instructed to gather intelligence and reach out to sympathetic members of the Vichy French government.

While Murphy conducted his mission, planning for the landings moved forward under the overall command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The naval force for the operation would be led by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham.

Initially dubbed Operation Gymnast, it was soon renamed Operation Torch. The operation called for three main landings to take place across North Africa. In planning, Eisenhower preferred the eastern option which provided for landings at Oran, Algiers, and Bône as this would allow for a rapid capture of Tunis and because the swells in the Atlantic made landing in Morocco problematic.

He was ultimately overruled by the Combined Chiefs of Staff who were concerned that should Spain enter the war on the side of the Axis, the Straits of Gibraltar could be closed cutting off the landing force.  As a result, the decision was made to land at at Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. This would later prove problematic as it took substantial time to advance troops from

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