Operation Torch (Vichy Government = puppet gov’t of Nazis)
Operation Torch referred to the British and U.S. landings in French North Africa from November 8 to November 14, 1942 during World War II. The operation was undertaken to open another front against the Axis armies in North Africa and to capture that area for future operations.
When the United States entered World War II against Germany, commanders and politicians disagreed about what U.S. forces should do. Many favored a near-immediate attack on German-held France. The British convinced the United States that occupation of French North Africa was a favorable alternative. On November 8, 1942, Great Britain and the United States undertook the largest amphibious operation in history up to that point. Their navies, with 650 ships, landed more than 107,000 men at three different points held by the French. The landings were around three major ports and aimed at occupying the defenses. The French Vichy government was officially neutral at that time, and the Allied governments had contacted French military commanders to arrange their cooperation with the invasion, but they were unsuccessful. Resistance to the Americans and British was fierce in some places.
At Algiers, the invading force was largely British but commanded by an American. After France fell in June 1940, the British had tried to destroy the French fleet to deny it to Adolf Hitler. Relations between the two countries were therefore tense. French general Alphonse Juin finally surrendered Algiers on the evening of November 8, which allowed the Allies to establish a firm bridgehead within the Mediterranean.
Operations in the Atlantic were protected by the U.S. Navy. On the western coast of Algeria, at Oran, French forces resisted more strongly. The U.S. 1st Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions were not able to capture the city until November 10. On the Moroccan coast, Resident-General August Nogues directed a more spirited defense of the Casablanca area. The French warships in the harbor attacked the invasion fleet. Three submarines were sunk by the Americans, along with several cruisers and destroyers. The battleship Jean Bart fired its main armament against the invaders but was silenced by American gunfire. Overhead, dogfights raged between French fighters and U.S. Wildcats. The Americans under Gen. George S. Patton took three days to consolidate their position and to surround the city. Finally, on November 11, the French surrendered.
The most powerful French figure in North Africa was Adm. Jean Darlan, high commissioner for North Africa, who ordered a general cease-fire on November 10. The Allies had hoped to place Gen. Henri Giraud in command of the French, but Darlan had greater support. Darlan had connections with the Vichy government, and the Allies were uncomfortable dealing with him. Their difficulties were solved on December 24, 1942, when a French nationalist assassinated Darlan. Giraud succeeded him in command.
As a result of the invasion of North Africa, the Germans had the opportunity to occupy that part of France that had not been under their control. They also were able to rush an army to occupy Tunisia in North Africa and protect the rear of the Afrika Korps, commanded by Erwin Rommel. Fighting continued in North Africa until May 1943.
The Vichy administration was a puppet government of France by Nazi Germany from June 1940 to May 1945. Led by Philippe Pétain and socialist politician Pierre Laval, the Vichy regime collaborated both militarily and economically with the Nazis after negotiating an armistice on June 22, 1940.
The terms of the armistice divided France into two zones. In the Occupied Zone, Vichy authorities were required to assist the German military in any way possible. The Unoccupied Zone, however, was intended to be governed by the Vichy authorities without German interference. In fact, both the Unoccupied and Occupied zones were technically sovereign, but according to the surrender agreement, German authorities had the right to veto any aspect of Vichy policy. However, in order to preserve the appearance of sovereignty, the Vichy administration would anticipate German policy by implementing Nazi statutes before actually being required to do so. This was the case for much of the regime's anti-Semitic legislation.
In February 1943, the Vichy authorities enacted the Service du Travail Obligatoire (Forced Labor Service), which forcefully sent French citizens to Germany to help the Nazi war effort. By the war's end, an estimated 700,000 French workers had been sent to Germany for work. In June of the same year, Laval gained German permission to create the Milice (militia), an armed French force that actively pursued and arrested French Resistance members, escapees from forced labor, and Jews in hiding. By the war's end, it was estimated that 75,000 to 80,000 Jews had been deported from France to various German death camps.
After the German capitulation, both Pétain and Laval were arrested on war crimes charges and given the death penalty. Laval was executed in 1945, but Pétain's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Although it has been argued that Vichy spared France from further damage by collaborating, the vast majority of critics contend that the military and economic benefits brought to the Nazi war effort by Vichy's policies may very well have prolonged the war.