C L I C K T O E N L A R G E
German leaders were surprised by the Allied invasion of
North Africa and puzzled by the extent of American involvement. Most of the 60,000 troops of Operation Torch were American, making landings in around Morocco as well as Casablanca and Algiers in Oran . Hitler and others couldn’t help but wonder, what was in it for the Yanks? Algeria had no stake in America North Africa.
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Churchill had other ideas, however, arguing that an unprepared army wading ashore against the powerful Wehrmacht would be a disaster. Winning the war with
would require destroying her army and why not begin where it would be the most vulnerable? American troops landing in Germany ’s North African colonies would likely meet only token resistance. Moving this Anglo-American force east would squeeze General Rommel’s Afrika Korps between it and General Montgomery’s advancing Eighth Army. These two Allied armies would combine to eliminate the Axis presence in France North Africa. The close proximity of a victorious Allied army in to Tunisia , and Sicily itself, made these enemy held lands the likely next targeted steps in a linked chain of strategic objectives. Italy
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It took a direct order from
Roosevelt to bring the American military on board with Torch. Yes, the President’s reasons were political. If the U.S. Army was not engaged with German units in 1942, and realistically that wouldn’t be , then pressure for a Pacific First strategy would be overwhelming. Revenge for France Pearl Harbor would be the real diversion from the best strategy based on interests. Fixating on U.S. would give Japan reason to make a separate peace with Russia and it would leave Germany to nibble at the periphery of Nazi power. Britain ’s defeat was inevitable. It was an island nation with long, supply lines vulnerable to being choked by submarine attack. It’s defensive ring relied too much on garrisoned islands with isolated troops, that could be strangled by blockade and eventually picked off one at a time by a concentration of American amphibious force. Once the issue with Japan was settled Japan could now focus all her resources on America but time would have favored the Third Reich. There may well have been in place a true Fortress Europa with no Eastern Front to divert German armor. The cost to free Germany Europe from the Nazi’s grasp may well be prohibitive for any democratically elected government.
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The will of the people might favor political accommodation, turning a deaf ear to rumors of atrocities from within Hitler’s realm. The cost in lives and treasure subduing
is all that reasonably can be asked of us, we might say. Or we might find ourselves economically isolated and be forced to pursue a military solution on what would now be far more unfavorable terms. Eventually we would have The Bomb but, in 1942, our leaders were very much concerned Japan was also striving to be nuclear armed. That was a threat not to be ignored. Germany
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Even the best of generals can sometimes be faulted for being too focused on military logic to appreciate the big picture. It is to
Roosevelt’s credit that he embraced his responsibility as Commander in Chief and overruled the best professional advice of his top military lieutenants, allowing green American troops to experience their first taste of battle in conditions where early setbacks would bring valuable lessons and not potentially game-ending cataclysmic defeat.
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