Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The U.S. invasion of French North Africa, code-named "Operation Torch," was met with some initial resistance from French troops under orders from the Vichy government of unoccupied France, but the French high commissioner in North Africa capitulated after a few days and handed over the French territory to the Allies. In less than a year, Axis forces there were forced to surrender, giving the Allies the bases they needed to launch the invasion of Italy. An excerpt from The Post of Nov. 8, 1942:
By Edward T. Folliard
Post Staff Writer
A"powerful" American Expeditionary Force has invaded French Africa, on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.
The Yanks, with their British allies, are moving to drive the Germans and Italians completely off the African Continent.
News of the gigantic movement against Vichy France's rich and strategic colonies came in an electrifying statement from the White House at 9 o'clock last night.
The announcement, signalizing the first great offensive under the Stars and Stripes in this war, came exactly 11 months after Pearl Harbor.
The White House said the American landings in French Africa were aimed at forestalling an Axis invasion, with its "threat to America" across the comparatively narrow sea and to "provide an effective second front assistance to our heroic allies in Russia."
British naval and air forces, it was said, are assisting the American Army, and in the immediate future a "considerable number" of British army divisions will follow.
The momentous American-British landings, in conjunction with Lieut. Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery's shattering drive against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, it was said, would deny the Axis a starting point for an attack on the Americas. ...
The eloquent voice of President Roosevelt, recorded for American and British radio stations "some time ago," told the French people that the Americans would "cause you no harm," and asked them to help "where you are able." Leaflets bearing his words were dropped on French soil from warplanes.
Lieut. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the American forces in the European theater, is commander in chief of the forces moving into French Africa.
He issued an appeal to the French garrisons, saying that he had "given orders that no offensive action be undertaken against you on condition that for your part you take the same attitude." ...
From London came word that this was "the start of the real American war in the European theater of operations."