Military history

“An Orgy of Disorder”

CASABLANCA provided Vichy with its best anchorage south of Toulon, and the French navy had chosen to defend the Moroccan port with valor worthy of a better cause. Not one French sailor in a thousand knew the identity of the hostile fleet that appeared in the morning haze at dawn on November 8. But just after seven A.M., the great coastal battery at El Hank had opened fire, followed moments later by the four fifteen-inch guns on the front turret of the berthed battleship Jean Bart. Searing plumes of orange flame and cylindrical smoke rings blossomed from the muzzles. At eighteen thousand yards—ten miles—El Hank’s first salvo straddled the battleship Massachusetts, whose skipper the previous evening had uttered those fine Latin words about seeking peace with a sword.Jean Bart’s shells then lifted immense gouts of seawater 600 yards off the starboard bow. Massachusetts and her sisters soon answered, and what the U.S. Navy cheerfully called “an old-fashioned fire-away Flannagan” had begun.

Kent Hewitt was on Augusta’s flag bridge when excited calls of “Batter up!” and “Play ball!” began spilling from the radios, signaling, respectively, hostile fire and the authorization to reply in kind. After two weeks of relative indolence during the passage from Hampton Roads, during which he had eaten too much, exercised too little, and put on weight, Hewitt had been relentlessly busy since deciding to trust his aerologist’s weather eye and proceed with the three Moroccan landings. He knew that the assault on Safi in the south was going well, although only the sketchiest reports had come from General Truscott’s force at Mehdia in the north. The cloak-and-dagger efforts by the OSS to stage a coup through the rebel general Émile Béthouart had evidently failed; Hewitt could only guess that the resident-general, Auguste Noguès, had chosen to resist the invasion. At Fedala, just above Casablanca, where 20,000 of the Army’s 33,000 assault troops aimed at Morocco were to land, the first craft had reached shore two hours earlier. Despite calm seas and mild surf, many boats had broached or capsized, but at least some soldiers were on the beach and preparing to advance on Casablanca. Hewitt had dutifully reported these developments in coded dispatches every couple of hours, unaware that, because Navy signalmen had neglected to classify the messages as urgent, Eisenhower had received hardly a syllable.

Hewitt considered that Divine Providence was still with him, but he had begun to fret about his “velvet.” The aerologist, Steere, warned that the weather was likely to begin deteriorating within a day. Enemy submarines would hardly remain at bay forever, despite the destroyers patrolling the fleet’s flanks and the eight minelayers scattering sea mines around the troop transports. Another large convoy from Hampton Roads was scheduled to arrive on Friday, November 13, despite Hewitt’s efforts to persuade the Army to delay the follow-on force until he could guarantee enough secure berths in Casablanca harbor.

Now it appeared the French intended not just to fight but to fight with passion. At first the defensive fire on the beaches had seemed sporadic, more symbolic than lethal. The captain of the cruiser U.S.S. Brooklyn had signaled Hewitt at 5:39 A.M.: “Have noticed gunfire and am moving into position to take care of eventualities.” But the shells from El Hank and the Jean Bart were ship-killers; they opened what became one of the most intense naval battles of the Atlantic war.

Within ten minutes of the first salvos, the sky seemed to leak steel across Casablanca’s moles and harbor basins. American shells gouged great divots from the docks, spraying concrete shrapnel against hulls and across decks. Ten merchantmen lay defenseless at their moorings, and there they would sink, along with three French submarines. The last of 2,000 civilian refugees who had arrived from Dakar on three passenger ships the previous evening fled down piers soon pounded to rubble. Dozens of sailors, including several captains, died on the docks short of their gangplanks and the dignity of a seagoing death.

The Jean Bart—France’s newest dreadnought, with turrets heavy as a frigate—was still unfinished: she could not leave her slip. A sixteen-inch shell from Massachusetts burrowed through the battleship’s forward turret. Another hit the turret’s armored apron, immobilizing the guns. After firing just seven rounds, Jean Bart fell silent. Three other shells from Massachusetts punched through the armored decks, the side, and the keel, and Jean Bart settled on the bottom along the Môle du Commerce. Oddly, not one of the shells exploded; they, along with more than fifty other American duds—the consequence in part of fuzes dating to 1918—spared Casablanca worse destruction.

The commander of the French 2nd Light Squadron, Rear Admiral Gervais de Lafond, was as ignorant as his seamen of the enemy’s identity. Haze prevented him from making out the battle pennants on the enemy ships, and he had received no authoritative reports from his superiors or from the beaches. But Lafond clearly saw a disaster in the making. Only by putting to sea and slipping along the coastline under the blinding glare of the rising sun could his squadron escape obliteration.

Lafond failed to realize that his foes had radar. The admiral issued his orders, boarded the destroyer Milan, and headed for the harbor entrance at 8:15 A.M. Attacking dive-bombers struck the commercial basin even as French submarine crews muscled a few final torpedoes aboard before casting off. A brave figure in a black cassock, the fleet chaplain, sprinted through the bombardment to the end of the pier, where he waved the sign of the cross at each warship as it sortied past. Along the corniche the wives and children of French sailors gathered on rooftops to cheer the sixteen ships into battle. They would have an unobstructed view as American fire whittled away the familiar silhouettes of the Casablanca fleet.

French shells were dye-loaded to help gunners see the fall of shot. Majestic geysers of green, purple, magenta, and yellow erupted around the American ships. On the presumption that no two enemy rounds would land in the same spot, helmsmen were ordered to “chase the splashes”—an especially difficult maneuver when gunfire straddled a ship. Cruisers, destroyers, and the Massachusetts swerved to and fro, battle ensigns snapping. The battleship was hit once, suffering little damage; another shell tore her colors to tatters. The concussion of their own big guns knocked out the radar range finders on Tuscaloosa and Massachusetts, so the gun teams had to aim crudely, by sight, wasting quantities of shells. Shock waves from Augusta’s number three turret jarred a radio receiver from its mountings. It smashed to the deck, thus producing one among many communications problems that by noon led to the sacking of several signal operators for incompetence.

Concussion from the flagship’s aft turret claimed another victim: the landing craft Patton intended to ride to the beach had its bottom blown out while hanging from davits over the port rail. His kit—except for the ivory-handled Colt Peacemaker and Smith & Wesson .357, which he had just strapped on—plunged into the Atlantic. In Norfolk Patton had vowed to land with the first wave and die at the head of his troops; now, immaculately dressed in his shiny two-star helmet and cavalry boots, he was trapped onAugusta. “Goddammit,” he barked at an aide. “I hope you have a spare toothbruth with you I can use to clean my foul mouth. I don’t have a thing left in the world, thanks to the United States Navy.”

He stopped fuming long enough to scribble a letter to Bea—“It is flat calm. God was with us”—and record the morning events in his diary:

I was on the main deck just back of number two turret, leaning on the rail, when one [French shell] hit so close that it splashed water all over me. When I was on the bridge later, one hit closer but I was too high to get wet. It was hazy and the enemy used smoke well. I could just see them and make out our splashes. We had the [Massachusetts], the Brooklyn, the Augusta and some others all firing and going like hell in big zig-zags…. You have to put cotton in your ears. Some of the people got white but it did not seem very dangerous to me—sort of impersonal.

Hewitt was too busy to fret over Patton’s impatience or his snippy assessment of naval combat. This sea battle would certainly dispel any doubts Patton still held about the Navy’s desire to fight. So engrossed was the Navy in the duel with Jean Bartand the shore batteries that the warships soon found themselves nearly thirty miles south of Fedala—with Admiral Lafond’s squadron angling straight for the vulnerable American transports. A report from a spotter plane alerted Hewitt to the French sortie from the harbor, and shortly before 8:30 A.M. he ordered Augusta, Brooklyn, and two destroyers to intercept the French at flank speed. The historian Samuel Eliot Morison, aboard Brooklyn as a naval reserve officer, reported that “the four ships went tearing into action like a pack of dogs unleashed.”

It was a near-run thing. The rising sun, the glare, and the sporadically malfunctioning Navy radar reduced the French ships to black dots dancing on the horizon. Visibility was further cut by the pall from oil tanks blazing ashore and by the French squadron’s smoke generators. Shooting at the agile Vichy destroyers was likened to “trying to hit a grasshopper with a rock.” Shells from a shore battery holed the destroyer U.S.S. Palmer—one blew through a galley trash can without scratching the two sailors carrying it—and severed the mainmast; she fled west at twenty-seven knots. The destroyer U.S.S. Ludlow, firing so furiously that her deck guns appeared to be squirting a solid stream of tracers, hit Lafond’s flagship, Milan, and set her ablaze, only to be answered with a six-inch shell that wrecked the wardrooms and ventilated the port bow. Every swatch of unchipped paint seemed to burn like tar paper. Ludlow also fled. Those French submarines that escaped the carnage of the harbor nearly took their revenge:Massachusettsthreaded a four-torpedo spread, with number four missing the starboard paravane by fifteen feet. Several minutes later Tuscaloosa avoided another four torpedoes, from Méduse, and Brooklyn dodged five others, fired by the Amazone.

Four miles from the transports, French luck ran out for good at eleven A.M. The carrier Ranger and the escort carrier Suwannee had been plagued by light winds that complicated takeoffs and landings. Both ships tacked aggressively, searching for the riffled water that signaled stiffer breezes needed for sufficient lift. A squadron of Grumman Wildcats finally launched from the Ranger and tangled with Vichy fighters in a dogfight that cost four American and eight French aircraft. Fuselage and aileron fragments rained down on Casablanca’s minarets. Planes damaged beyond saving flipped belly-up so the pilots could more easily parachute out. The repair crews on Ranger mended so many bullet holes in the Wildcats that they ran short of adhesive tape and broadcast an appeal throughout the carrier for personal supplies of Scotch tape.

Patched and vengeful, the American planes swarmed out of the sun from 8,000 feet. Fighters do not fight, the French writer Antoine de St.-Exupéry once observed: they murder. Each Wildcat carried six .50-caliber guns, and each barrel fired 800 rounds per minute—some armor-piercing, some incendiary, and some tracer rounds. Working from fantail to forecastle, pilots strafed Lafond’s flotilla so savagely that the French ships glittered from all the bullets richocheting off their superstructures. “The first pass was, I believe, devastating,” one flier reported. Flying bridges disintegrated, and the men on them were sliced to ribbons. A single strafing run against one destroyer killed every sailor on deck, except for the gunners crouched in the armored turrets. Their gun ports smudged with carbon, the planes returned to the carrier decks to reload and launch again.

The air attacks and weight of American gunfire soon told, although none of the forty-one bombs dropped on El Hank scored a direct hit. Green- and red-dyed Navy shells rained down by the score, then by the hundreds. Brooklyn alone fired 2,600 rounds;Massachusetts used more than half her supply of sixteen-inch shells. One shattered French destroyer “heeled over as if she had been pushed by the smokestacks,” a pilot noted. The Fougueux sank by the bow even as her stern guns continued to fire.Frondeur, her engine room flooded, limped back to port and capsized; Brestois, too, returned to a jetty only to roll over and sink. The destroyer Boulonnais, hit eight times as she maneuvered to launch torpedoes, went down so quickly that a final green shell fromMassachusetts simply marked the grave. With her bow crushed and all hands on the bridge wounded, including Lafond, Milan beached herself. Albatros was hit twice, then shelled and strafed while under tow back to Casablanca; she, too, was beached, with more than a hundred casualties. One by one, the green flecks vanished from American radar screens.

The most operatic death was left to the largest ship in the 2nd Light Squadron, the Primauguet. When the American attack began, all four of the cruiser’s gun turrets had been in various states of undress. By nine A.M., three of the four had been reassembled, a crew of 553 men was aboard, and with help from two tugs Primauguet had sortied to join the mêlée. Building to twenty-one knots, she was soon in a running gunfight with Massachusetts and both American cruisers. Three shells hit Primauguetwithout exploding before a strong shock, then another, staggered the ship. Holed five times below the waterline, her boilers winking out, she hemorrhaged smoke and wallowed back toward Casablanca at four knots. Wildcats caught her off the beach at Roches Noires, killing the captain and twenty-eight other men on the bridge. A laconic distress call reported that fire had become “conspicuous.” Men plunged overboard to escape the flames. Terrified pigs broke loose from a pen in the hold and savaged the helpless wounded lying on deck. With more than half her crew dead or injured, Primauguet burned for more than a day.

Of the French ships that had sortied, only Alcyon returned to port unscathed, and it was left to her to search for survivors. She found little more than whiffs of cordite and brine. Sixteen other vessels—including eight submarines—had been sunk or crippled, with 490 men dead and 969 wounded. Four American ships had taken a single shell each, and Ludlow took two. Navy casualties totaled three killed in action and twenty-five wounded. Among the dead was a gunner on a dive-bomber who had rejected more than $200 from a comrade eager to buy a seat in the first wave; with his leg severed at the knee by anti-aircraft fire, the gunner died trying to knot his silk muffler into a tourniquet. He was buried at sea from Ranger’s hangar deck as the carrier made a sweeping, ceremonial turn to starboard. A few downed American pilots were captured. From their prison window in Casablanca, they cheered each successive bombing wave, then bathed in champagne purchased from their jailors in a desperate effort to rid themselves of the fleas infesting the cell.

Diehard French officers tried to form another battle fleet, but with only two sloops intact, the rally quickly petered out. Sailors hauled a sixteen-inch American dud from the port to Admiralty headquarters, where it was displayed near the entrance with a placard, in French: “We Come As Friends!” Surviving crewmen were rounded up, issued a rifle and five cartridges, and formed into infantry companies for the defense of Casablanca. Leaning on a cane, the wounded Admiral Lafond took the salutes of his sailors as they passed in review before heading to the front.

Patton finally reached Fedala’s Beach Red 1 by crash boat at 1:20 P.M. Sunday afternoon. In better times, the fishing port of 16,000 residents catered to swells from nearby Casablanca who came to enjoy the racetrack and seafront casino. Now the town was almost deserted. Soaked to the waist and escorted by bodyguards cradling submachine guns, Patton scuffed across the sand to a cabana at the seawall. His leather jacket was stained with yellow dye from the French shell that had splashed him on Augusta that morning. At last, after so many years of preparing himself for war, he was in the fight. Large and unhasty, he took stock.

“I cannot stomach fighting the French if there is a way to avoid it,” Patton had confessed to another officer on Augusta. That deep Francophilia would now have to be put aside. As ignorant as virtually every other commander in TORCH, Patton knew little of what was happening beyond this beach at this hour. Unlike many, he was comfortable with ambiguity: that trait would inform his generalship for the next two and a half days and then the next two and a half years. A message received on the Augusta at noon reported that the French garrison in Safi had surrendered almost seven hours earlier, but it would take at least a day or two for the Sherman tanks unloaded there to travel the 140 miles north to Casablanca. At Mehdia, fifty miles north of Fedala, Truscott had signalled “Play ball!” at 7:15 A.M., but nothing had been heard since, in part because the Army’s tactical radios on Augusta had also been knocked out by concussion from the ship’s guns. The immediate challenge was to organize the three regiments from the 3rd Infantry Division landing at Fedala to capture the town’s little harbor, then swing into position for the assault on Casablanca ten miles to the north.

That would be no easy task. Patton had once described combat as “an orgy of disorder,” and Fedala confirmed that view. Instead of being concentrated on a four-mile beachhead, troops were sprinkled up and down the coast for forty-two miles. Of seventy-seven light tanks in the convoy, only five had reached shore. Of nine fire control parties landed, just two could communicate with the Navy ships whose guns they were supposed to direct. Inexperienced radio operators tried to extend their range by increasing transmitter power, but succeeded only in jamming other channels. Pilfering natives worked the strand like beachcombers, shouting the passwords “George!” and “Patton!” and wondering why—as they surmised on seeing the big white stars on the invaders’ vehicles—a Jewish army had come to Morocco. Soldiers flung away their cumbersome bazookas, and when confronted by Senegalese infantry some just pointed to the American flags pinned to their sleeves, as if that should explain everything. “Had the landings been opposed by Germans,” Patton later conceded, “we would never have gotten ashore.”

While trapped on Hewitt’s bridge during the naval battle, Patton had lamented, “I wish I were a second lieutenant again.” Now he acted like one. Flailing and cursing, he scattered Moroccans and timid soldiers alike. He sprinted past the cabanas, rousting slackers from the dunes. “If I see another American soldier lying down on this beach,” he roared, “I’ll court-martial him!” Patton believed in “words of fire which [would] electrify his chessmen into frenzied heroes,” one of his colonels later said. Electrified if not yet heroic, the troops shambled inland. A useful rumor that Berber tribesmen were castrating prisoners tended to curb straggling.

Five French infantry battalions with 2,500 men and forty-six artillery pieces faced nearly 20,000 Americans. Confused and disorganized though they were, the landings at Fedala effectively bisected the French forces defending the coast above Casablanca. The Army’s first success came against a four-gun coastal battery at Pont Blondin, three miles northeast of Fedala. Soldiers from the 30th Infantry Regiment dumped mortar shells onto the fort, while a platoon leader shouted, “Rendezvous!” over and over, in the conviction that it meant “Surrender.” Several Navy ships contributed a brutal bombardment, which killed four French defenders and drove others into the shelter of a sturdy stone toilet. The shells also killed six Americans in a glade along the Nefifikh River. “When our own naval barrage is falling into our position it is most demoralizing,” a major reported. After yellow smoke grenades—the signal to cease firing—failed to halt the Navy’s cannonade, an Army officer radioed, “For God’s sake stop shelling Fedala! You’re killing our own men…. The shells are falling all over town. If you stop, they will surrender.”

The shelling stopped. A white handkerchief fluttered from a window on the point of a bayonet, and seventy-one dazed French defenders emerged from the fort. An American captain offered water and a cigarette to a French sailor who lay in a stairwell, both legs severed. A Catholic chaplain gave last rites to the dead and dying from each side.

Patrols pushing into Fedala captured ten members of the German Armistice Commission—some still in pajamas—as they trotted across the municipal golf course toward a waiting airplane. Their rooms at the Miramar Hotel yielded stacks of secret documents and an ornate Prussian military helmet. The helmet’s owner, General Erich von Wulisch, the head of the commission, had escaped to Spanish Morocco, although not before a weepy farewell phone call to General Noguès: “This is the greatest setback to German arms since 1918. The Americans will take Rommel in the rear, and we shall be expelled from Africa.”

Rommel was still 2,000 miles away and the Americans had yet to take even Casablanca. To offer the French “the choice of peace or getting hell knocked out of them,” Patton dispatched a francophone colonel, William Hale Wilbur, in a jeep with a white flag. Wilbur, whose negotiating credentials included captaincy of the West Point fencing team thirty years earlier, set off in search of General Béthouart, unaware that he was immured in a Meknès prison and had been charged with treason. Wilbur motored through French defenses, greeting Senegalese machine-gunners with a chipper, “Good day, my friends! You’re well this morning?” At the Admiralty building, where wounded French marines sprawled across the bloody courtyard cobblestones, Wilbur was sent packing. Dodging his own navy’s gunfire, he drove back to American lines, joined a tank attack on a coastal battery, and later was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. A second emissary also made it to the Admiralty building just as El Hank loosed another salvo at two P.M. “Voilà votre réponse,” a disdainful French officer said, and shut the gate. “The French navy,” a staff officer told Patton, “is determined to slug it out with us.”

The fight would be to the finish. Patton was sad, but not very. While still trapped on Augusta, he had felt the singular loneliness of command, compounded by his frustrating inability to reach the battlefield. Now he was in his element. “My theory is that an army commander does what is necessary to accomplish his mission and that nearly 80 percent of his mission is to arouse morale in his men,” he once wrote. On Sunday night, as his aide barked “At-ten-tion!” to staff officers in the candlelit Miramar Hotel dining room, Patton strolled to the table wearing his pistols, polished cavalry boots, and von Wulisch’s shiny white casque emblazoned with a Prussian double eagle. To gales of laughter he announced over champagne, “I shall wear it for our entrance into Berlin.”

That night, before falling asleep, he scribbled in his diary, “God was very good to me today.”

God withdrew his beneficence on Monday. Following what one Fedala resident described as “the calmest day in sixty-eight years,” the Atlantic turned nasty with six-foot waves before dawn on November 9. Unloading slowed, then nearly stopped. Although 40 percent of the invasion force was ashore, barely one percent of the 15,000 tons of cargo had left Hewitt’s ships. Of 378 landing craft and tank lighters, more than half were breached, sunk, or stranded. Navy cooks lowered lard pails full of coffee to exhausted boat crews. Sloppy loading in Norfolk, and Patton’s chronic neglect of logistics—“Let’s do it and think about it afterwards,” in his chief engineer’s tart phrase—now cost him dearly.

Shore parties lacked forklifts, pallets, rope, and acetylene torches. Soaked cardboard boxes disintegrated. Guns arrived on the beach with no gun sights; guns arrived with no ammunition; guns arrived with no gunners. Critical radio equipment had been stowed as ballast in the most inaccessible depths of the holds simply because it was heavy. Medical supplies remained shipbound for thirty-six hours. Boat and vehicle shortages left dozens of wounded soldiers stranded on the beaches, along with the trussed-up dead. Ammo was so desperately scarce that it was towed to shore on life rafts. Patton had imprudently relegated his chief logistician to the follow-on convoy, which was still days from Morocco. Press-ganging Moroccans to work as stevedores—at a wage of one cigarette per hour—simply gave many locals a better chance to steal.

A company of 113 military policemen was dispatched in four boats from the Leonard Wood with instructions to “bring order out of chaos on the beaches.” In the predawn gloom on Monday, the lead coxswain mistook the burning Primauguet for his intended navigation beacon, an oil fire near Beach Yellow in Fedala. The boats puttered fifteen miles down the coast and into the fairway of Casablanca harbor, where an M.P. hailed what he thought was a U.S. Navy destroyer. “We are Americans!”

At a range of fifty yards, the French vessel opened with machine-gun fire, killing the company commander. The astonished soldiers in the lead boat stood with raised hands, some ripping off their undershirts to wave in frantic surrender. The French bore down, answering with 20mm cannon fire and a three-inch shell that shattered the motor and sank the boat in less than a minute. The second craft, only twenty yards behind, swerved to escape, but a shell blew off the coxswain’s leg and machine-gun fire crippled a lieutenant who jumped up to take the wheel. “The air,” one survivor recalled, “was full of metal.” Burning gasoline spread from the stern in a crackling blue sheet. Those still alive leaped over the side as the two trailing boats fled through swarms of tracer fire. Twenty-eight Americans were killed or wounded; French sailors fished forty-five prisoners from the sea. A few men swam to shore, vomiting oily seawater. French civilians dragged them to the seawall and wrapped them in overcoats.

Two hours later, Patton reappeared on the Fedala beach with a determination “to flay the idle, rebuke the incompetent, and drive the timid.” After wading through the surf to help reel in corpses from another overturned boat—“they were a nasty blue color,” he later reported—Patton halted further unloading except in Fedala’s tiny harbor. “The beach was a mess and the officers were doing nothing,” he told his diary. Upon spotting a soldier gibbering on the beach, “I kicked him in arse with all my might…. Some way to boost morale. As a whole the men were poor, the officers worse. No drive. It is very sad.”

One officer quoted Patton in waist-deep water summoning soldiers to help him shoulder a stranded landing craft from a sandbar: “Come back here! Yes, I mean you! All of you! Drop that stuff and come back here. Faster than that, goddamit. On the double!…Lift and push. Now! Push, goddamit, push!”

Scourging would not calm the sea or replenish empty caissons. The 3rd Infantry Division on November 8 had barely pushed south from Fedala toward Casablanca when troops were halted for lack of supplies. By late morning on November 9, the motor pool of the 15th Infantry Regiment still consisted of only a few camels, a few donkeys, and five jeeps, hardly the makings of a blitzkrieg. A four-battalion attack that began at seven A.M. on Monday stopped several hours later, again for want of wheels and munitions. At day’s end Patton gave his customary acknowledgment to the Creator, but this time the diary entry had a perfunctory tone: “Again God has been good.”

As dawn broke on November 10, the Americans were still five miles from Casablanca. The 7th Infantry on the right, and the 15th Infantry on the left, tramped forward to the sound of scuffing boots and howls from mongrel dogs flanking the columns. French sailors, dismasted but dangerous, appeared in skirmish lines with their five cartridges. On a distant ridgeline spahi cavalrymen in brilliant robes could be seen with their long battle pennants and longer rifles. “Enemy cavalry!” an American officer shouted. “Direct front!” Horses pranced in the morning sun, the silver fittings on their bridles flashing; American sharpshooters debated whether to aim at horse or man, only to have the targets vanish in the haze. Then artillery fire fell from at least a dozen French 75s, and a battalion from the 7th Infantry broke for the rear until steadied by their officers 500 yards back.

“Today has been bad,” Patton told his diary late Tuesday. A message from Eisenhower at Gibraltar added to his vexation: “Dear Georgie—Algiers has been ours for two days. Oran defenses crumbling rapidly…. The only tough nut left is in your hands. Crack it open quickly.”

To his diary entry on November 10, Patton added, “God favors the bold, victory is to the audacious.” He now believed that only by flattening Casablanca could he take it. Sherman tanks from Safi had nearly reached the southern suburbs. Hewitt’s ships and carrier planes had sovereignty at sea and in the air. Third Division troops invested the city from north and east. The road to Marrakesh had been cut.

Patton notified his staff and subordinate commanders: at first light on Wednesday they would crack open the city, quickly and terribly.

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