FACT: America and France Fought Each Other during World War II
As darkness fell, U.S. troops could feel French resistance begin to fade. Telephone lines had already been humming for hours, carrying conversations between General Noguès in Rabat and Admiral François Darlan, the Vichy commander in North Africa, speaking from his Algiers headquarters. Sometime after 1930 hours Darlan issued a formal order declaring a suspension of hostilities. In Port Lyautey, Maj. Gen. Mathenet had taken command of Vichy forces. At 2330 he sent messengers to arrange a parley with Truscott the next morning.
At 0800 hours on November 11, the immaculately dressed French general passed through American lines under a flag of truce. Truscott, flanked by an honor guard of Harry Semmes’ tanks, met Mathenet at the Kasbah to direct terms for the cease-fire. After a final exchange of salutes, the two men took their leave of one another—no longer enemies but not yet allies. The battle for Port Lyautey was over.
The remains of 84 U.S. soldiers who lost their lives during this operation were laid to rest in a newly established military cemetery near the Kasbah. Another 11 sailors perished during the three-day fight, while 275 Americans were listed as wounded or missing. French casualties amounted to some 350 men killed, injured, or missing in action. In return for these losses, the Allies gained an air base sorely needed to keep critical sealanes open along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Northwest Africa.
American commanders also acquired valuable experience in the intricate art of amphibious operations, skills they later put to good use at Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and Normandy. Torch had been an initiation into the universe of combat for many U.S. fighting men, although their first taste of battle against the French left many officers and men with mixed feelings.
Truscott best expressed their doubts in his official report. “The combination of inexperienced landing crews, poor navigation, and desperate hurry resulting from lateness of hour,” he wrote, “finally turned the debarkation into a hit-or-miss affair that would have spelled disaster against a well-armed enemy intent upon resistance.”
The troops of Sub-Task Force Goalpost would experience that well-armed enemy soon enough. Even as Truscott’s soldiers were congratulating themselves on a successful invasion, battle-hardened German forces began pouring into neighboring Tunisia. Defeating those veterans would take months of tough combat, as well as the lives of many more Allied fighting men.
Patrick J. Chaisson is a retired U.S. Army officer, who during his military career held commands in armor, cavalry, and airborne units. He resides in Scotia, New York.
This article originally appeared on Warfare History Network.
Image: Wikimedia Commons / South Africa PD