NORTHWEST AFRICA: SEIZING THE INITIATIVE IN THE WEST. By George F. Howe. (1957, 1985, 1991; 748 pages, 11 tables, 2 charts, 34 maps, 89 illustrations, note on sources, glossaries, index, CMH Pub 6-1.)
This volume is the history of the campaigns in World War II in which U. S. Army forces were first extensively engaged. It covers Operation TORCH, a massive amphibious, surprise assault in November 1942, after which the Allies speedily gained control of French Morocco and Algeria and obtained a toehold in Tunisia. It then describes the campaign in Tunisia which, beginning with stalemate in December 1942, involved broadening fronts, a buildup on both sides, concentration in Tunisia of Allied and Axis forces previously engaged in western Egypt and Libya, seesawing combat, and finally constriction of all Axis forces within northeastern Tunisia, where they surrendered en masse on 13 May 1943.
Other volumes of the United States Army in World War II also discuss TORCH. Its broader strategic connections are treated in Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare: 1941-1942, and its effects on the logistical planning, resources, and capabilities of the Allies are taken up in Global Logistics and Strategy: 1940-1943. But it is here that the reader will find TORCH and the Tunisia Campaign described in their immediate political and military context. The author has drawn on abundant
German sources to illuminate the strategy and tactics of the enemy and produce a two-sided picture. Although primarily concerned with the role of U.S. ground forces, the narrative relates their efforts to the operations of sea and air forces of the several nations in both coalitions and takes into account the plans and operations by which the Allies wrested air superiority from the Axis.
The inexperienced ground forces of the United States were assigned holding or diversionary missions throughout the campaign in Tunisia. But they learned from experience, and in the final Allied drive in the spring of 1943 General Bradley's II Corps broke out of the mountains and occupied Bizerte at the same time that the British took Tunis.
Northwest Africa is a study of the trial-and-error process that characterized America's first large-scale campaign. It has unique interest as the narrative of the first invasion in World War II of territory held by a friendly nation, in which one objective of the Allies was to revive the military resistance of the French to the Axis conquerors. The planning and execution of TORCH were deeply conditioned by political considerations, and throughout both of the campaigns recounted in this volume the Allied command was ceaselessly confronted by difficult political issues along with those of a more strictly military nature.
1. Allied and Axis command structures compared (Chs. XIX, XXIV, XXV).
2. Tactical planning of joint task forces (Ch. III).
3. Problems of a successful command occupying colonial territory of a friendly nation (Chs. IX, XII, XIV).
4. Large-scale amphibious surprise assault on lightly defended shores (Chs. VI, VII, VIII, XI, XIII).
5. Offensive and defensive tactics along a broad front (Chs. XX-XXIV).
6. Establishing an integrated coalition headquarters (Ch. III).
7. Organized cooperation with the French on a clandestine basis (Chs. IV, X).
8. Defense of a mountain pass (Ch. XXIII).
9. Uncoordinated attacks and piecemeal commitment of forces (Chs. XXV-XXVII).
10. Rearmament of the French (Chs. XIV, XVIII, XXV).
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