[Includes 11 tables, 2 charts, 34 maps and 93 illustrations]
The history of initial actions in a war contains lessons of special value for the professional soldier and for all students of military problems. Northwest Africa abounds in such lessons, for it covers the first massive commitments of American forces in World War II. The continent of Africa became a gigantic testing ground of tactics, weapons, and training evolved through years of peace.
The invasion stretched American resources to the limit. Simultaneously the country was trying to maintain a line of communications to Australia, to conduct a campaign at Guadalcanal, to support China in the war against Japan, to arm and supply Russia’s hard-pressed armies on the Eastern Front, to overcome the U-boat menace in the Atlantic, to fulfill lend-lease commitments, and to accumulate the means to penetrate the heart of the German and Japanese homelands. The Anglo-American allies could carry out the occupation of Northwest Africa only by making sacrifices all along the line.
Two campaigns occurred there: Operation TORCH which swiftly liberated French North Africa from Vichy French control, followed by a longer Allied effort to destroy all the military forces of the Axis powers in Africa. The latter concentrated in Tunisia, where the front at one time extended more than 375 miles, and fighting progressed from scattered meeting engagements to the final concentric thrust of American, British, and French ground and air forces against two German and Italian armies massed in the vicinity of Bizerte and Tunis.
The planning, preparation, and conduct of the Allied operations in Northwest Africa tested and strengthened the Anglo-American alliance. Under General Dwight D. Eisenhower a novel form of command evolved which proved superior to adversities and capable of overwhelming the enemy.