U.S. troops, led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, marched onto North African soil for the first time in the war. They secured several ports for the Allies in what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is already calling “the beginning of the end” of the war.
On November 8, U.S. troops, supported by British naval and air forces, landed in advance of an anticipated attack by German and Italian forces.
French forces who previously held the land in North Africa were at first wary of the arrival of American and British troops. Some saw it as an attack on the French. General Eisenhower made an official statement shortly after the troop landings assuring the French military that their motives were pure.
“This is a military operation directed against the Italian-German military forces in North Africa,” Eisenhower said. “Our only objective is to defeat the enemy and to free France. I need not tell you that we have no designs either on North Africa or on any part of the French empire. We count on your friendship and we ask your aid.”
Shortly after this plea from Eisenhower to the French military, Admiral Francois Darlan, acting as commander-in-chief of the French in North Africa, ordered a ceasefire. Following Darlan’s order, resistance in Casablanca, the chief port of Morocco, finally ended. Casablanca was the last remaining point of resistance along the 1,300-mile coastline of French North Africa.
Eisenhower stated in a press conference shortly following the American landing that he was originally disappointed in the resistance of the French but is glad that they have come around and accepted the presence of American and British troops. Eisenhower also praised the American army for its ability to move quickly and take African ports while setting up defense points across the coastline.
Although Eisenhower and President Roosevelt have both given most of the credit for the invasion to U.S. military forces, Eisenhower has been quick to praise the British navy and air force for their aid. General Eisenhower explained that the British navy was up against terrible storms and still managed to deliver materials as well as men on time: “The way the naval staff planned the giant convoys with exact timing was nothing short of wonderful.”
French North Africa coming under the control of the Allied forces is a great tactical position for the military, especially after reports that German and Italian troops were poised to enter North Africa within the next few weeks.
The location of these new ports gives Allied forces direct access to what some call the “soft underside” of Axis-dominated Europe: an area that is not protected well by Nazi forces, separated from Allies by waters that are easily navigable by the powerful ships of the British and US navies.
Although Eisenhower was quick to praise these military advances, he was careful to say that this is no great victory as U.S. troops have yet to face German ground troops in battle. As the general told French forces in North Africa: “The hour of national uprising has not sounded. We have already promised you that we will warn you when this hour shall have come. Today that moment is closer. We will keep our promise.”
- “U.S. Takes Over North Africa.” Life, November 23, 1942, p. 33.
- “2 Commanders Order Capitulation.” New York Times, November 12, 1942, p. 6.
- “Gen. Eisenhower Reassures Invaded Area on U.S. Motives,” The Washington Post, November 8, 1942, p. 2.
- “Eisenhower ‘Well Satisfied’ With Progress in North Africa.” The Washington Post, November 10, 1942, p. 1.
- Trussel, C.P. “U.S. MEETS ‘THREAT’: Big Expeditions Invade North and West Africa to Forestall Axis EISENHOWER AT HEAD President Urges French to Help, Calls Move Aid to Russia U.S. FORCES LANDED IN FRENCH AFRICA.” New York Times, November 8, 1942, p. 1.
- Gallagher, Wes. “’Well Satisfied,’ Says Eisenhower of American Army’s Progress.” New York Times, November 10, 1942, p. 1.