3-284 Memorandum for the President, August 20, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 20, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

August 20, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Torch Operation.1

The detailed plans are being developed in London and as yet we have not a clear picture of the operation which can be mounted. The general outline of the initial detailed plan was sent to us by courier. While it was en route material changes were made in the plan in England and only roughly indicated to us by radio. This has resulted in a temporary confusion as to exactly what can be done, which should be cleared up during the course of the next three days. General Handy, the Chief of Operations for the War Department, arrived in London yesterday to clear up various points and I have not yet heard from him.

In brief the original concept has been seriously modified by deficiencies in aircraft carriers, combat loaders and naval supporting craft. The recent loss of carriers in the Malta convoy alone has directly affected our planning.2

Furthermore our best trained division for landing operations, the 1st Division, apparently will be barred from the initial operation because of the grounding of a ship carrying its artillery weapons in Halifax Harbor.

This necessitates employing troops of the 34th Division now in Ireland who have not been particularly trained for such an operation and lack the high general standard of efficiency of the 1st Division.

For your information, and for a simplified portrayal of the development of the project, there are attached four charts to illustrate graphically material alterations (reductions) in our plans.3 The abandonment of an initial landing at Casa Blanca has been forced on us. While we hope to find it possible to approach Casa Blanca both with land forces from Oran and from the sea within a month after the initiation of Torch, we will be confronted with the dangers inherent in a line of communications via the Gibraltar entrance to the Mediterranean.

Present Plans

All our efforts at the present time are concentrated on a sailing date from the United States of October 1st. Plans contemplate simultaneous landings at Oran, Algiers and Bone, with the immediate objective of seizing airfields and ports and establishing lines of communication for a further advance towards Tunisia, and Casa Blanca. The United States will be responsible for the attack on Oran, and the British for that on Algiers and Bone.

Ground Forces

It has been found that available shipping will only permit an initial landing by 35,000 U.S. troops at Oran and 12,000 British and U.S. troops at Algiers and Bone. We may find that the British will be able to muster some additional troop carriers (not combat loaders but suitably equipped to handle heavy troop equipment which can be transferred to smaller boats for landing on beaches).

Eventually a total of 13 divisions are to be landed of which 6 will be British and 7 American. The U.S. force will consist of 2 armored divisions and 5 triangular divisions.

Initial Assault

Plan contemplates landing the initial assault at Oran from two separate convoys, the first of 35,000 to be combat loaded, to be followed four days later by a force of similar strength, but convoy loaded. The composition of the first convoy from Britain is not yet known. Combat loaders are available for 12,000 men. Our Ranger Battalion is to lead the assault at Bone. The troops of the 1st or 34th Division will lead the assault at Algiers.

Air Support

The initial air support will be provided from carriers. We had originally planned for the use of three large carriers in the Casa Blanca operation but apparently we will be reduced to the Ranger and one Long Island type converted carrier for the operation at Oran (100 aircraft). For the operation at Algiers and Bone there will be available 1 CV and 3 AVG’s4 (93 aircraft). A small British carrier will be available with a Naval covering force to the eastward of Bone.

Army air support will be moved into the theater as rapidly as possible.

The U.S. Torch Air Force is being built up in England of the following units:

2 Heavy Bombardment Groups

3 Medium Bombardment Groups

1 Light Bombardment Group

1 Reconnaissance Squadron

2 Spitfire Groups

2 P-38 Groups.

All except the Spitfire groups can be flown from the United Kingdom to Algeria via Gibraltar. Just how the Spitfires are to be put in Africa we do not yet know.

Naval Support and Escorts

There is sufficient U.S. and British naval surface craft to support the contemplated landings. The U.S. Navy will escort the initial convoy from the U.S. and succeeding convoys at the approximate rate of two per month.


The build-up of U.S. and British forces must be pushed with the greatest possible rapidity. The limiting factors will be hostile action against convoys entering the Mediterranean and port capacities. Oran can receive 4,000 long tons daily, Algiers 5,000, and Bone 2500. This will permit the passage through these ports of approximately four divisions per month. The seizure of the port of Casa Blanca with its capacity of 8300 tons per day will be urgently necessary. It is estimated that if Casa Blanca can be opened to our traffic within five weeks, seven U.S. divisions can be landed in Africa by D+123.5

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. The previous day President Roosevelt had requested a brief outline of plans and logistics, including air, for TORCH. “Give me number and types of combat planes in various theaters, including Continental United States, indicating whether or not the planes are ready for combat. Include planes on the way to various theaters.” (Roosevelt to Marshall, August 19, 1942, FDRL/F. D. Roosevelt Papers [PSF, Safe].)

2. The operation PEDESTAL convoy to supply Malta had come under attack in the Mediterranean between August 1 and 13. The escort, the most powerful ever to accompany a Malta convoy, included three aircraft carriers; one was sunk by a German submarine (H.M.S. Eagle) and one badly damaged by German dive bombers (H.M.S. Indomitable). Nine of the fourteen supply ships were sunk. (Playfair, Mediterranean and Middle East, 3: 316-24.)

3. The attached charts, not printed here, are in NA/RG 165 (OCS, 381 TORCH).

4. AVG is the U.S. Navy designation for aircraft escort vessel.

5. See Marshall Memorandum for the President, August 24, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-289 [3: 314-15].

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. 306-308.

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