Both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt knew that they had to make some tangible moves against the Germans in 1942. And despite Josef Stalin’s insistence that western allies open a second front, Churchill knew that would end in disaster.

So the powers decided that they’d first pacify North Africa, where the British Eighth Army and the German Afrika Korps had been fighting back and forth since 1940. After much disagreement, it was decided to invade Morocco and Algeria and establish a base where the supply lines for the Germans in the Mediterranean could be cut. This would open as Mr. Churchill called it the “soft underbelly of Europe.” But this first foray for the Americans into the war against Nazi Germany was a victory, not so much militarily but politically as the allies were treading on a slippery slope dealing with the Free French as well as Vichy and the inexperienced Americans.

President Roosevelt had wanted to execute “Operation Sledgehammer”, the joint Allied invasion of Western Europe into France, but Field Marshal Rommel’s attack in Egypt had come with 120 miles of Alexandria. General Marshall and Admiral King of the US had argued that the British didn’t want to invade France or Belgium in either 1942 or 1943. But they were ordered by the President to go along, one of only two times during the war years that he so invoked that privilege.

The Plan: The Allies decided on the operation to be done with three separate task forces. The overall commander was General Eisenhower with his deputy of General Mark Clark. Clark would come ashore by submarine early and in a bit of cloak and dagger, try to convince the French not to fight.

The Western Task Force under General George Patton consisted of the 2nd Armored Division, and the 3rd and 9th Infantry Divisions. Patton’s forces would land in Spanish Morocco at Fedala outside of Casablanca, Safi, and Mehdia outside of Port Lyautey. He’d have 35,000 troops and 100 ships under his command.

The Central Task Force was commanded by General Lloyd Fredendall and consisted of the 1st Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division as well as the 509th Parachute Infantry. The would land in Western Algeria at Oran and at two landing sites on either side of it. They totaled 18,500 total troops.

The Eastern Task Force was commanded by Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson but once the troops hit the ground, they’d be led by General Charles Ryder commander of the 34 Infantry Division. They would also have a brigade from the British 78th Division and two British Commando Units (1 and 6 Commando). They totaled 20,000 troops and would land around Algiers.

The Allies organized the three amphibious task forces to simultaneously seize the key ports and airports in Morocco and Algeria, targeting Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. Successful completion of these operations was to be followed by an eastwards advance into Tunisia. This would cut off the German retreat as they were being pushed westward by the British Eighth Army.