November 8 This Day During World War ll

November 8, 1942 – The Battle of Port Lyautey began on 8 November 1942 for the city of Port Lyautey, today known as Kenitra, in French Morocco. The battle ended with the United States seizure of the port. The attack was a part of the objectives of the Western task force as part of Operation Torch, a large Allied landing to seize control of North Africa from German control. Within the task force, Sub Task Force Goalpost was tasked with the objective of securing Port Lyautey. There were three objectives to the attack: Capture the beach village of Mehdiya, Capture the fortress which secured the river mouth (the Kasbah34°15′51″N 006°39′27″W) Secure the airfield. The operation was under the command of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the western task force was under the command of General George S. Patton. Sub Task Force Goalpost was under the command of General Lucian Truscott. The Northern Attack Group, Sub Task Force Goalpost, arrived off Mehdia, Morocco, just before midnight, 7–8 November 1942.The battleship Texas and light cruiser Savannah took up station to the north and south of the landing beaches. The transport ships had lost formation in the last part of the approach to Morocco, and had not regained it. Some landing craft from five of the ships were first to carry troops from the other three, much confused searching causing a delay in forming waves for the actual landings. Gen. Truscott was ferried from transport to transport and agreed to postpone H-Hour from 04:00 to 04:30. The messages of President Roosevelt and Gen. Eisenhower were already broadcast from London much earlier, and in the Mediterranean, the landings were well advanced before those at Mehdia commenced. Surprise was lost. Defenses at Mehdia were lightly manned. Naval crews operated two 5 in (130 mm) guns in protected positions on the tableland above Mehdia village and in the vicinity of the Kasbah. Not more than 70 men occupied the fort when the attack started. Two 75 mm (2.95 in) guns were mounted on flat cars on the railroad running beside the river at the base of the bluff on which the Kasbah lay. A second battery of four 75 mms was brought forward after the attack began to a position on the high ground along the road from Mehdia to Port Lyautey. A battery of four 155 mm (6.1 in) guns (Grandes Pussances Filloux) was emplaced on a hill west of Port Lyautey and south west of the airport. The airport was defended by a single anti-aircraft battery. The infantry consisted of the 1st Regiment of Moroccan Infantry and the 8th Tabor (battalion) of native Goums. One group of nine 25 mm (0.98 in) guns had withdrawn from other infantry regiments and one battalion of engineers completed the defensive force. Reinforcements were sent to occupy the entrenchments and machine gun positions which covered approaches to the coastal guns and the fort and to occupy defensive positions on the ridges east of the lagoon. At first light on the 8th, Col. Demas T. Craw and Maj. Pierpont M. Hamilton went by jeep from an early beach landing, to Port Lyautey to consult the French commander (Col. Charles Petit). The emissaries were to give him a diplomatic letter in the hopes of preventing any hostilities from starting. They went ashore as the fire of coastal batteries and warships and strafing French airplanes began. French troops near the Kasbah directed them toward Port Lyautey, but as they neared the town under a flag of truce, a French machine gunner at a road fork outpost, stopped them with a burst of point-blank fire which killed Col. Craw. Major Hamilton was then conducted to the headquarters of Col. Petit, where his reception led to no conclusive reply. The pervading atmosphere at the French headquarters in Port Lyautey was one of sympathy toward the Allied cause and distaste for the current fighting. What was lacking was an authorization from Col. Petit’s superior to stop fighting. Pending receipt of such authorization, the French at Port Lyautey continued to fight Units of the 60th Infantry Regiment began disembarking troops and supplies from their ships just off the Moroccan shore. The first wave of landing boats began circling and grouping together in preparation for the coming invasion. Unfortunately, in the confusion of disembarkation, the first wave was delayed as they looked for guidance to the shoreline; hence the second wave pressed into the shore as planned, on time. As the second wave began their attack, the first wave started in toward their objectives. Confusion was prevalent in the landing operation. Once the first wave made it to shore, the French defenders began resisting with small arms fire as well as cannon fire from a fortress (Kasbah 34°15′51″N 006°39′27″W) overlooking the area. For all of the first day, the 60th Regiment achieved their first objective of securing the beach, but had not secured their other objectives. The night of the 8th was stormy, men were trying to rest anywhere, and many scurried through the blackness to find their units. After the battle, most units involved remained in the area. In January, President Roosevelt visited the area, as a surprise to the troops. He toured the Kasba, and saw the area where the troops had come ashore. In a small cemetery of American dead, he placed a wreath to commemorate their sacrifice. Col. Fredrick de Rohan gave the president an overview briefing of the battle itself. In the tent city erected near the kasba, Pvt. Karl C. Warner of New York had been elected governor of tent city. After the battle, Gen. Patton proclaimed the Battle of Port Lyautey as very serious. Beach conditions were bad, many boats were lost in the landing, and it took more than two days to capture the fort. The French put up a gallant fight.


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