Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943

By Richard M. Leighton; Robert W. Coakley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
The Descent on North Africa

With the grudging American acceptance of the North Africa invasion project at the end of July 1942, British strategic views won a notable victory. As Churchill later put it in one of his cadenced passages, " 'Sledgehammer' fell by the wayside, and s'Gymnast' came into its own."1 Anglo- American strategy turned again upon the path that had been optimistically charted and then abandoned the preceding December and January during the first war- time meetings of the leaders and staffs after Pearl Harbor. There now remained the task of reaching agreement on the scope and timing of the new GYMNAST -- now called TORCH -- a task that was to consume six tedious weeks while preparations to mount the operation floundered in uncertainty.2


The Essay Contest

The point at issue in this "transatlantic essay contest," as one contemporary called it, was whether the operation's center of gravity should be in the west, with the principal landings on the Atlantic coast, or inside the Mediterranean.3 The former conception was held by the American staffs in Washington, the latter by the British and to some degree also by Eisenhower's staff in London. American plans for GYMNAST, as late as July, had ruled out inside landings altogether, aiming at occupying French Morocco, funneling all the forces through Casablanca and a few satellite ports, and allowing about three months to consolidate holdings in the west before driving eastward. The impelling consideration was the belief that because of the dangers of a hostile Spanish reaction, a German move through Spain, or, at the very least, passive opposition by the North African French, it was imperative first to secure the approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar and overland communications to the east against the possibility that the Strait passage might be closed. There was also an underlying reluctance on the part of Marshall and his advisers to commit a large part of Allied strength to operations deep in the Mediterranean.4

The British conception was much bolder. They saw the whole operation as

____________________
1
Churchill, Hinge of Fate, p. 447.
2
(1) Discussion of strategic planning for TORCH in this chapter, unless otherwise indicated, is based on Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning: 1941-1942, Chs. XII-XIV. (2) See above, Chs. VI, XIV. (3) See also George F. Howe, Operations in Northwest Africa: 1942-1943, a volume in preparation for the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. (4) Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK -- August 1942 to December 1943, Vol. II in THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II ( Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1949) (hereafter cited as Craven and Cate, AAF II).
3
Capt. Harry C. Butcher, My Three Years With Eisenhower ( New York, Simon and Schuster, 1946), p. 83.
4
(1) OPD ping studies in Item 53, Exec 10, and Item 6, Exec 1. (2) Memo, Chief of Ping Div OCT for G-4, 1 Jul 42, sub: Shipg Available for Sp Project, NATOUSA Convoy Info folder, OCT HB.

-417-

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