To call the nearly year long campaign in Tunisia North Africa the "Battle of Tunisia" is false. In the end, the reasons the Allies were able to succeed at Tunisia are the same reasons the Axis was able to hold Tunisia for so long in the beginning: more men and supplies, superior air power, a strong command structure and experienced fighting men.
The taking of the Tunisia by the Allied American and British forces from November 1942 to May 1943 was not one battle but many. The race by the Allies to take Tunisia came upon the heels of of Rommel's defeat to Montgomery at the last battle of El Alamein. In Egypt, General Bernard Montgomery's British Eighth Army was able dislodge General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Group Army( a group made up of Germany and Italian troops). Rommel and his men in retreat raced west for Tunisia where it's mountains and narrow valleys would provide the perfect staging area to hold it's position and keep Tunisia in Axis hands. Within four days of Rommel's retreat ,on November 4th 1942, Operation Torch would begin.
Torch, the combined landing operation mounted by the United States and Great Britain, was the first operation to make use of all aspects of the Armed Services, the first large scale amphibious operation and the first major American British combined operation. Operation Torch had three objectives: 1) land and secure immediate positions, 2) Move to and secure Casablanca, Oran and Algiers, all port cities in Northern Africa and 3) Move eastward into Tunisia to take control of Tunis and Bizerte, port cities in Northern Tunisia, before he German Army could get there. Three task forces were set up to accomplish this. The Western Task Force commanded by Major General George S. Patton which would take Casablanca, the Central Task Force headed by Major General Lloyd R. Fredendall headed for Oran and the Eastern Task Force with Major General Charles Ryder which would land in Algiers. Before the landing could begin the issue of French resistance to the landing had to be addressed.
French resistance had to be planned for and addressed before the invasion. There was a distinct chance, a 50/50 chance, the French in North Africa would fight against the taking of these cities. Robert D. Murphy a United States diplomat when consulted by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, believed if the invasion got support from Henri Giraud, a well respected soldier in the French Army, and Jean François Darlan, Commander in Chief of all French military forces of the Vichy government, resistance would be lessened or nonexistent. Major General Mark Clark of the United States Army, Major General Charles Emmanuel Mast, Deputy commander of French ground forces in Algiers, and other pro-U. S. French officers met with Giraud sixteen days before the landings. They tried to persuade Giraud to the back the invasion when U. S. forces landed. Giraud made no firm substantial commitments.
On November 8, 1942 at 1 am Operation Torch was launched. When news of the landings in Algiers were relayed to General Alphonse Pierre Juin, commander of all French North Africa ground troops, by Murphy, Juin reused to order a halt to French resistance. Juin knew Darlan out ranked him and could very well reverse his orders. Murphy then urged Juin to seek permission from Darlan before making the order. Meanwhile upon hearing of the invasion Gen. Mast in Algiers order his anti-Vichy forces to not resist the Allies. In Oran Allied the local Vichy French General Robert Boissau ordered resistance to the Central Task Force before they could even get to shore. While the men where having a hard time landing ashore, paratroopers were supposed to be dropped in the countryside to take the nearby airfield btu do to bad weather and fog the paratroopers were delayed. Out of the thirty-nine planes that left Corwall England only twelve dropped troops, (but they were too far from their objectives), 20 had to land due to low fuel and four of those were captured and seven didn't even make it to Algeria. Oran wasn't subdued until November 10th. In Casablanca the transports were attacked from the harbor by the French 35,000 ton battle ship Jean Bart. The Jean Bart was bombed by United States' bombers but it wasn't the only ship that put up resistance. The portion of the French Navy stationed in and around Casablanca frustrated the efforts of Western Task Force to complete its landing. On November 1th just as General Patton was to give the order to bomb the whole port word came, the French and Allies had come to an agreement.
Tags: World war 2, WW2, battlefields, Tunisia, world at war, axis, allies, operation torch, algeria, Army, panzer, afrika corp, Rommel, Casablanca, french, Vichy, Eisenhower, hitler, luftwaffe, western task force, death, destruction
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