Operation Torch - November / December 1942: The Anglo-American Invasion of Vichy French North Africa
Operation Torch' was the code name given to the first Anglo-American amphibious operation of World War Two. It began on 8 November 1942 and was the invasion of Vichy French controlled Morocco and Algeria. Over 400 ships and 70,000 men were involved with overall command being the responsibility of American Lt Gen Dwight D Eisenhower. Air cover for the allied ground forces, was initially provided by aircraft flown from Royal Navy and US Navy aircraft carriers. The RN's Fleet Carriers HMS Victorious, HMS Formidable and HMS Furious and the escort carriers HMS Biter, HMS Dasher, HMS Argus and HMS Avenger, which had every current operational Fleet Air Arm aircraft type embarked from the relatively newly introduced Seafires to Sea Hurricanes, Fulmars, Martlets, Albacores and Swordfish, plus Walrus from the Catapult Flights of battleships and cruisers. The US Navy carriers included the Fleet Carrier USS Ranger and the escort carriers USS Santee, USS Suwannee and USS Sanamon, plus USS Chenango which was carrying P-40F Warhawks of the USAAF's 33rd Fighter Group. US Navy aircraft involved were F4F Wildcats, TBF Avengers and SBD Dauntlesses from the carriers with Curtiss SOC Seagulls and Vought OS2U Kingfishers from the battleships and cruisers. The airfield at Gibraltar was also packed with aircraft ready to be flown into the newly liberated Moroccan and Algerian airfields, with over thirty squadrons of RAF and USAAF fighters and bombers amongst them. Facing this force was the Vichy French Armee de l'Air and AeroNavale, with almost 500 aircraft including the Dewoitine D.520, Morane Saulnier MS.406, Curtiss Hawk 75, Douglas DB-7, Martin 167, Loire et Olivier LeO 451, Bloch 174 and Potez 63.11, plus a range of fighter/fighter-bomber, dive-bomber, multi-engined bomber and transport aircraft from dozens of Luftwaffe units that were urgently sent to help. With the gaudy red and yellow Vichy French identification stripes and Torch Star' markings, the aircraft involved were not only an eclectic mix of types, but a very colourful one too!