Meeting the Fox
weather. Their imaginations did not prepare them for reality: high mountains, snow, cold, torrential rains, and mud so thick it would swallow trucks, jeeps, airplanes, even tanks.
Although British units and British commanders would be heavily involved in the operation, a major effort was made to give the landings an all-American look. One reason for this was to let both friend and foe know that the Americans were at last fully involved in the war against Germany. An- other reason was the hope that the French in North Africa, who would be inclined to resist the British, might welcome Americans. Although the British and the French had been allies at the time of the German invasion of France, their re- lationship had turned sour after the French capitulation and especially after the British attacked units of the French fleet at the port of Oran.
As part of this policy, an American, Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, was chosen as overall commander even though neither he nor any of his American subordinates had ever commanded a unit as large as a division in combat. Among his staff, however, were a number of British officers who had been involved in the fighting for several years.
The American units chosen to spearhead the invasion and then to carry the battle to the Germans were not the best trained or the best equipped. They were simply the most readily available. The 1st and 34th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Armored Division were already in the British Isles, training for the invasion of France. They were desig- nated to land at Oran and Algiers. Along with them would come the newly created 1st Ranger Battalion, made up largely of men from the 34th Division. The 3rd and the 9th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Armored Division, training in the United States, were chosen for the landing at Casablanca. The 33rd Fighter Group’s orders to join the British forces in Egypt were abruptly changed, and they were slated to fly ashore as soon as landing fields in the Casablanca area were secured.
The fleet quickly assembled to carry the invading force was one of the strangest ever to put to sea. There was only one real American aircraft carrier, supplemented by a motley collection of escort carriers—tanker ships with aircraft decks