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Editorial Note on TORCH Plan Negotiations
August 28-September 5, 1942
The deadlock on TORCH plans evident at the August 28 Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting was primarily over the location of the central thrust of the assault. United States military planners wanted the chief force of Allied power to strike in Morocco and western Algeria (specifically at the port cities of Casablanca and Oran) with any reductions because of shipping and naval escort shortages to come at the expense of landings in central and eastern Algeria (i.e., at Algiers, Philippeville, and Bone). The British wanted the reverse; they considered Casablanca an especially dubious site for amphibious landings because of its normally difficult surf conditions and emphasized the need to establish Allied forces in Tunisia before the Axis could seize and reinforce the area. A key unknown factor was the weight of naval power and shipping that could be brought into the operation, and the U.S. Navy was reluctant to commit itself to supplying escorts, especially in view of the frequent battles taking place in the Solomon Islands. (Howe, Northwest Africa, pp. 27-28; Michael Howard, Grand Strategy, volume 4, August 1942-September 1943, a volume in the History of the Second World War [London: HMSO, 1972], pp. 118-27. See also Mark W. Clark, Calculated Risk [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950], pp. 43-53.)
To break the military advisers’ deadlock, Churchill and Roosevelt exchanged lengthy messages between August 30 and September 5 in which, the British official history observed, “the two civilian leaders, guided by their military advisers, were amicably and intelligently to work out an agreed programme in a fashion which will long remain a model of how Allies should discuss and resolve their differences.” (Howard, Grand Strategy, 4: 128.) On September 2 Roosevelt told Churchill that the United States would agree to provide forces for three simultaneous assault landings: thirty-four thousand for the western (Casablanca); twenty-five thousand for the central (Oran); and ten thousand for the eastern (Algiers). Churchill replied that ten to twelve thousand assault troops should be shifted from the western landings to the eastern, where the majority of the thirty-eight thousand British troops were concentrated. The president modified the first paragraph of the War Department’s proposed reply of September 4 to read:
I am willing to reduce the Casablanca force by the number of combat loaders capable of carrying a force of one regimental combat team approximately 5,000 men. Since a similar reduction was made in original Oran assault force this releases a total of British and U.S. combat loaders for some 10,000 men for use at Algiers. This combat loaded force of American troops can be used as the nucleus on which to complete that force the same size as the middle one. I am sure that the additional troops can be found in the UK.
(Italics added. This version of Message from President to Prime Minister, [September 4, 1942], is in NA/RG 165 [OCS, 381 TORCH]. To avoid any confusion as to the number of United States assault troops to land at Algiers, Marshall emphasized to Eisenhower that ten thousand was the total U.S. contribution to the Algiers landings and that no more were being added despite Churchill’s request. (Marshall to Eisenhower, Radio R-368, September 4, 1942, DDEL/ D. D. Eisenhower Papers [Pre-Presidential].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 345-346.