(Includes maps) The history of initial actions in a war contains lessons of special value for the professional soldier and for all students of military problems. Northwest Africa abounds in such lessons, for it covers the first massive commitments of American forces in World War II. The continent of Africa became a gigantic testing ground of tactics, weapons, and training evolved through years of peace. The invasion stretched American resources to the limit. Simultaneously the country was trying to maintain a line of communications to Australia, to conduct a campaign at Guadalcanal, to support China in the war against Japan, to arm and supply Russia's hard-pressed armies on the Eastern Front, to overcome the U-boat menace in the Atlantic, to fulfill lend-lease commitments, and to accumulate the means to penetrate the heart of the German and Japanese homelands. The Anglo-American allies could carry out the occupation of Northwest Africa only by making sacrifices all along the line. Two campaigns occurred there: Operation TORCH which swiftly liberated French North Africa from Vichy French control, followed by a longer Allied effort to destroy all the military forces of the Axis powers in Africa. The latter concentrated in Tunisia, where the front at one time extended more than 375 miles, and fighting progressed from scattered meeting engagements to the final concentric thrust of AmericaQ, British, and French ground and air forces against two German and Italian armies massed in the vicinity of Bizerte and Tunis. The planning, preparation, and conduct of the Allied operations in Northwest Africa tested and strengthened the Anglo-American alliance. Under General Dwight D. Eisenhower a novel form of command evolved which proved superior to adversities and capable of overwhelming the enemy.
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About the Author
George F. Howe, a graduate of the University of Vermont, received the Ph. D. degree in History from Harvard University in 1930. He was a member of the faculty of the University of Cincinnati from 1926 to 1945. In 1932-33 he studied and traveled in England, France, and the Mediterranean area as a Fellow of the Social Science Research Council. In 1945 he became a staff member of the Historical Branch, G-2, War Department. Until 1952 he was writing the present volume as a member of the Mediterranean Theater Section, Office of the Chief of Military History. He then became Defense Historian, Department of the Interior. He is now Historian with the Department of Defense. Dr. Howe is the author of a biography of Chester Alan Arthur, of a General History of the United States Since 1865, and of The Battle History of the First Armored Division.