Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Allocation of Forces
Assignment to London
After Pearl Harbor
Operation Torch
Operation Overlord
Changing of the Guard
Colonel Walter I. Jordan
General Franklin A. Hart
Colonel Peter J. Ortiz
Colonel William A. Eddy
Major General Homer L. Litzenberg
Colonel Francis M. Rogers
Brigadier General Richard H. Jeschke
Major General Robert O. Bare
Special Subjects
Marine Detachment: American Embassy, London, England

A DIFFERENT WAR: Marines in Europe and North Africa
by Lieutenant Colonel Harry W. Edwards, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)

Operation Torch

A part of the high-level planning conducted by the American and British governments called for the formation of a military ring around Germany to be tightened as the war progressed. The occupation of French North Africa was seen as a first step in that process. It also would open the Mediterranean to Allied supply convoys and save the long haul around the Cape of Good Hope.

Rear Admiral H. Kent Hewitt became the Commander of Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet (ComPhibLant) in April 1942, and the planning for the North African operation, to be known as Operation Torch, was begun in earnest.

During the planning, PhibLant expanded from a force of three transports to one of 28 transports, in anticipation of transporting 37,000 Army troops and 250 tanks, plus their combat equipment and supplies.

The operation called for U.S. forces to establish firm and mutually supporting lodgements in the Casablanca area of French Morocco, on the Atlantic coast of Africa, and simultaneously, with a combined American-British landing force, to seize the Oran-Algiers-Tunis area in the Mediterranean.

The objectives would be to seize control of the entire area of French Morocco, Algeria, and possibly Tunisia; to be prepared to take action against Spanish Morocco; and to facilitate air and ground operations against Axis forces in the western desert.

There were important political considerations involved, since this area was under control of the Vichy French Government. It's president, Marshal Henri Petain, according to the terms of the French surrender, had agreed to collaborate with the Germans. It was known that the French Navy, represented by Admiral Jean Darlan, was intensely loyal to Petain and, under the watchful eyes of the Axis powers, would probably oppose the landing.

The Vichy French, especially members of the naval service, were known to be bitter toward the British Royal Navy, and hostile toward the activities of the Free French, represented by General Charles de Gaulle. Under these circumstances, it was impossible to predict the kind of reception the task forces could expect in French North Africa.

There was a slight American presence in North Africa during the period, working among the French in an effort to ease the way for the landing force. The two most prominent individuals were Robert Murphy, U.S. counselor accredited to the Vichy Government, and his principal military assistant, Marine Colonel William A. Eddy, who had been assigned to the American Legation in Tangier, Algeria, as an assistant naval attache for air in April 1942. Their diplomatic efforts helped to modify the resistance to the eventual landing operations. Eddy's assistant, Marine Lieutenant Franklin Holcomb, contributed to the cause by locating and smuggling out of Morocco two boatmen from Casablanca who were familiar with the complex hydrographic problems in the area. They helped to pilot the landing force.

Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower established his headquarters in London as Commander-in-Chief, Allied Expeditionary Forces (CinCAEF) on 14 August, in time to get involved with the planning for Operation Torch. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham was given overall command of the operation. Colonel Eddy traveled from Morocco to brief Eisenhower and his staff on the operation. Eddy went on to Washington to brief the service chiefs and President Roosevelt. Eisenhower, favorably impressed, appointed Colonel Eddy to be the senior military attache for Africa.

Col William T. Clement
Col William T. Clement, who narrowly escaped capture by the Japanese at Corregidor in Manila Bay, was assigned to work on the plans for the cross-channel invasion of France on D-Day, 6 June 1944. At the end of this duty, he was promoted to brigadier general and assigned as assistant division commander of the 6th Marine Division, then on Guadalcanal preparing for Okinawa. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 522257

Meanwhile, it was determined that weapons training was needed for U.S. Navy boat crewmen who would be involved in the Algerian portion of the landing as part of the Eastern Task Force. In September 1942, Marine Corps instructors were brought in from Londonderry and London to establish a three-week training camp at the naval base in Rosneath, Scotland.

From Londonderry, Lieutenant Colonel Louis C. Plain and Captain William E. Davis led a detail of 25 enlisted Marines. The London Detachment sent First Lieutenant Fenton J. Mee and 15 enlisted men. At the end of the training period these three officers and 30 of the enlisted group were divided up into six teams and assigned to six different ships as a part of the landing force; the remaining 10 enlisted men returned to their base in Londonderry.

On 31 October 1942, the Marine Detachment in London was disbanded and most of the unit transferred to Rosneath to establish a Marine Barracks there. Captain Thomas J. Myers, formerly a company commander with the unit in London, was placed in command. He was assisted by Lieutenants Frank R. Wilkinson, Horton J. Greene, Truman J. Lyford, and Alexander D. Cereghino. Lieutenant Weldon James was also present as a public affairs officer. Lieutenant Colonels Walter I. Jordan and John B. Hill visited Rosneath briefly before being reassigned to the States in November. Some key enlisted personnel remained in London on detached duty, to carry on their original assignments at ComNavEu.

Command of the Western Naval Task Force (TF 34), for the landing in Morocco, was given to Rear Admiral Hewitt. It was comprised entirely of U.S. forces. Two of his key staff members were Marine officers — Lieutenant Colonel Homer L. Litzenberg, as assistant operations officer, and Major Francis Millet Rogers as assistant intelligence officer.

Major General George S. Patton's Western Task Force provided the troops for the Morocco landings. Ships of the task force left from various east coast ports in late October 1942 and, once assembled in convoy, formed an armada of 100 ships, dispersed over the ocean in an area of some 20 by 30 miles. Yet it was said "that a flag hoist on Admiral Hewitt's ship, Augusta (CA 31), could reach the entire fleet in ten minutes."

LtCol Homer L. Litzenberg
Then-LtCol Homer L. Litzenberg served on the staff of Task Force 34 commander, RAdm H. Kent Hewitt, in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. He later served with the 4th Marine Division in the Pacific War and retired after the Korean War as a lieutenant general. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A31943

The task force was heavy on fire power to counter the threat from the French capital ships Richelieu and Jean Bart (with 15-inch guns), and the possible intervention of German warships. Included were the new battleship Massachusetts (BB 59) (with nine 16-inch guns); the Texas (BB 35) and New York (BB 34) (each with ten 14-inch guns); the carrier Ranger (CV 4) and four escort carriers; heavy cruisers Wichita (CA 45), Tuscaloosa (CA 37) and Augusta; light cruisers Savannah (CL 42), Brooklyn (CL 40), Philadelphia (CL 41), and Cleveland (CL 55); 38 destroyers; four submarines; and many lesser ships. Marine ship's detachments were on board all of the capital ships and the carrier.

Unlike the French army, the French navy had not been hammered by the Axis and was still full of fight and prepared to resist. In France, the navy was responsible for coastal defense in the broadest sense, including coast artillery and offshore aerial reconnaissance. These activities were under the command of Vice Admiral Francois Michelier.

The convoy crossed 4,000 miles through submarine-infested waters at an average speed of 14 knots, in order to fulfill a scheduled D-Day of 8 November 1942. The principal operation plan called for a main landing at Fedala, 14 miles north of Casablanca, with secondary landings at Port Lyautey, 65 miles north, and at Safi, 125 miles south, of Casablanca.

H-hour was 0400 but there was confusion in the dark of night, so the first wave landed more than an hour late. Naval shore batteries supplied the principal opposition to the landing, supplemented later by strafing attacks by French aircraft. Many ships of the French navy were involved. Some were sunk by U.S. ships, others escaped. Several U.S. task force ships were lost to shore battery fire and German submarine torpedoes. However, fighting on shore in the Fedala area was over in a matter of hours. Colonel Litzenberg went ashore in this area and remained for a few days with General Patton's headquarters. By 11 November U.S. soldiers were in position to attack Casablanca, but since the French defenders declared an armistice, that attack was cancelled.

Major Rogers, who was fluent in French and Arabic, went ashore at Fedala with the mission of arranging the berthing in Casablanca of Admiral Hewitt's flagship, Augusta. On D-Day, Rogers went into hostile territory to seek out French Vice Admiral Francois Michelier, to try to negotiate the surrender of all French military personnel in Morocco. He was subsequently used as an interpreter for peace negotiations with French officials and was awarded a Silver Star Medal for his courageous efforts. Rogers remained on Hewitt's staff throughout all of his subsequent amphibious operations in the Mediterranean area .

Major General Homer L. Litzenberg, USMC

As a major, Homer L. Litzenberg was assigned to Headquarters, Commander-in- Chief, U.S. Fleet, and served in England during combined planning with the British on the conduct of the war. He also participated in the amphibious assault of Casablanca, French Morocco, in November 1942.

General Litzenberg was born in 1903 and began his service in the Marine Corps as an enlisted man. In 37 years of service he proved himself to be a leader in combat with the award of the Navy Cross, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, three Silver Star Medals, and the Legion of Merit.

He served with the 24th Marines in the Marshall Islands and the V Amphibious Corps in the Saipan and Tinian campaigns.

As commander of the 7th Marines, he went to Korea on 1 September 1950, and led that unit in the Inchon landing and the Chosin Reservoir campaign that followed.

Subsequently, Litzenberg served as the base commander of Camp Lejeune, and then as Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island; senior member of the Military Armistice Commission in Korea; and Inspector General of the Marine Corps, before his retirement on 31 May 1959.

He died on 27 June 1963.

The landings in the Port Lyautey area were successful, but stiff resistance was later encountered and the shore batteries were not silenced until the following day. The town was taken on the 9th and the airfield the following day. An armistice was declared on the 11th.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division