Casablanca 1942: the only real naval battle between France and USA



Did you know that in addition to the historical first american airborne assault in Oran, another unique event took place during Operation Torch, which is the only real naval battle between the United States and France? It is the battle of Casablanca. If the French forces of Vichy greeted the American paratroopers with heavy fire (with their DCA and their Dewoitine planes) in Oran, the French army’s naval defense system was violently attacked by the American army in Morrocco’s economical capital, late during the night of November 8th. General Patton and his 35 000 soldiers was in charge of this assault, which was justified by the threat represented by the French fleet, composed of the Jean Bart battleship (although it was not finished constructing yet, it could open fire at the enemy), numerous cruisers, as well as the Richelieu battleship, which was stationed in Dakar. During the night, aircraft carrier Ranger, battleship Massachusetts, cruisers, destroyers and submarines approached the coast of the city, while infantry troops landed on the beaches. At sunrise, without warning, the United States attacked. Casablanca’s French fleet tried to resist against admiral Hewitt’s fleet, which was superior in number and in technology. The fight ended at the beginning of the afternoon. There had been heavy French casualties, notably multiple submarines, cruiseships, and destroyers. The day of the 9th was relatively calm but drenched in confusion and apprehension. In Algeria, the operations had succeeded, so Eisenhower started pressuring Patton, who wasn’t making as much progress: despite the encirclement, Casablanca was resisting. On the 10th, the French marine, supported by the Senegalese riflemen, fought the American soldiers. Two French avisos escaped a fatal destiny against the Augusta heavy cruiser. Around 4pm, while the surrender agreement had been signed but was not yet communicated, the American forces kept attacking the Jean Bart. Casablanca finally capitulated after 3 days of furious fights, which could have been avoided if the United States had prepared their operations better, considering that a great part of the French forces in the zone was keen to join the Allies.

General Patton and Admiral Hewitt on USS Augusta – © US Navy
Casablanca - Vue aérienne
Aerial view of the Casablanca harbor – © Library of Congress
The Jean Bart
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