Of Operation TORCH’s objectives, what specific operational level objective achieves the military end state for the operation?

Of Operation TORCH’s objectives, what specific operational level objective achieves the military end state for the operation?


When the conduct of the Second World War is broken down using current theater geometry

terminology, it is clear that the war was fought in two Theaters of War—the European Theater of War

(ETW) and the Pacific Theater of War. Both were further subdivided into theaters of operations. The

ETW was broken into the Atlantic Theater of Operations (ATO), the Mediterranean/North African

Theater of Operations (M/NATO), and the European Theater of Operations (ETO). Just as Operation

OVERLORD was a major operation of the greater European campaign to liberate Western Europe,

Operation TORCH, conducted in an Area of Operations within the M/NATO. TORCH was a

Major Operation in a larger North African campaign.

North Africa began as an Italian theater that Germany initially considered a sideshow compared to the

pending operations in Russia. However, early in 1941, Hitler was forced to bolster his Italian ally’s

operations against the British Eighth Army in Egypt by providing Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel's

Afrika Korps. With the German failure to defeat USSR in 1941, Hitler began to retool his strategy for a

longer protracted war. It was a heavily resource driven strategy. He appointed Albert Speer to expand

war related industrial production. The spring 1942 offensive in Russia was directed at the Caucasus

region to gain oil resources there. Ideally Axis forces in North Africa wanted to cut the Suez and gain

access to and deny British access to mid-east oil.

Over the next 2 years (1941-1942), the British Eighth Army and what became Rommel's Panzer

Armee Afrika pushed each other back and forth across the Libyan Desert. Each army in turn galloped

forward until its momentum was exhausted, (operational reach and culmination) and then was compelled

to gallop back to avoid annihilation. In the jargon of Allied troops, this became known as the Gazala

Gallop. This was caused almost exclusively by logistics and, like a piece of elastic, the line of supply of

both armies could be stretched only about 300 to 400 miles from its principal base—Tripoli for the Axis

forces and Alexandria for the British. The Allies had to find another approach to defeating the Axis forces

in North Africa.

Since both sides were separated from their homeland base of support by considerable distances over

long stretches of water, each could have had their elastic snapped if the sea lines of communication were

threatened (Critical Vulnerability). In this respect the British had the advantage, even though they were

required to resupply their army in Egypt around the Cape of Good Hope and through the Suez. While the

eastern Mediterranean was dominated primarily by the Axis, between the Sicilian straits and Crete the

British held the island of Malta. This was a British base for aircraft, destroyers, and submarines which

severely curtailed the flow of supplies and reinforcements from Italy to Tripoli, forcing the Axis to select

less threatening routes. The Axis, however, operating from Sicily and Italy, had a substantial air

capability, particularly in the central Mediterranean. Thus, even though Tripoli was the main operating

base for the Axis forces, by transloading further west in Tunis and bringing reinforcements and resupply

through Tunisia they could, if necessary, shorten their exposure time to British attacks from Malta.

Since the fall of France (June 1940) brought the Vichy French government into collaboration with the

Nazis, there was no need for the Axis to station forces in the French Northwest Africa—French Morocco,

Algeria, and Tunisia. In effect the Vichy French secured the Axis flank/rear. So, at the time of planning

for TORCH, all of North Africa, minus most of Egypt, was under Axis control, either directly or

indirectly through Vichy France. The only major concentrations of non-French, Axis forces were located

in/near Tripoli or in the Western Desert between Egypt and Libya. (NOTE: France was not formally

part of the Axis alliance.)

The German-French armistice allowed for the military provision of the French colonial empire

overseas. The function of these forces was to keep internal order and to defend French territories from

Allied assault. The French forces were to remain under the overall direction of the German armed forces.

The French Army in North Africa consists of 14 divisions with 55,000 troops in Morocco and another

50,000 in Algeria. While poorly equipped they have a fair degree of training and the benefit of

professional leadership. However the leaderships’ loyalty was questionable. The French Navy based in

and around Casablanca is also professional having 10 warships including a battleship. There are also 11

submarines in Casablanca. The Air Force has 500 aircraft of which half are a match for allied fighters.

Relations between the United Kingdom and the Vichy government were difficult. The Vichy government

broke off diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom on July 5, 1940, after the Royal Navy sank the

French ships in port at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria. The destruction of the fleet followed a standoff during

which the British insisted that the French scuttle their vessels, sail to a neutral port or join them in the war

against Germany. These options were refused and the fleet was destroyed. This move by Britain hardened

relations between the two former allies and caused more of the French population to side with Vichy

against the British-supported Free French. If the French forces should act as a unit and oppose the

invasion, attaining TORCH objectives could be at serious risk. The loyalty of French force’s leadership to

Vichy France and the terms of the armistice with Germany is questionable and the unity or cooperation

between French Army, Navy, and Air Force all depends on the decisions and degree of loyalty of the

senior leadership of their respective services. Because of questionable loyalty, command and control and

synchronization for Vichy forces would be problematic.

Two other factors relating to Northwest Africa that affected Operation TORCH were:

(1) The narrow strip of northern Morocco that was a Spanish protectorate. Despite being fascist,

Franco's Spain was neutral, making Spanish Morocco neutral as well. So, unless Spain

denounced its neutrality and joined the Axis, or the Axis violated its neutrality, Axis troops

were prevented from being stationed there.

(2) This fact, if it remained unchanged, was an advantage for the Allies, since the British also

occupied the peninsula of Gibraltar that controlled the western entrance to the Mediterranean

through the Straits of Gibraltar.

The final impetus for the TORCH operation was the British Eighth Army's defeat in a spectacular

tank battle with German forces at Knightsbridge in Libya, on 13 June 1942, and the subsequent fall of

Tobruk in eastern Libya on 21 June, followed by the rapid advance of Generalfeldmarschall Erwin

Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika toward Alexandria and the Suez Canal.


It is now early September 1942. You are a staff officer with the Combined Chiefs of Staff, European

Theater of Operations. As a recent ILE graduate, your supervisor has tasked you to review the Norfolk

Group's plan and related documents. The Combined Chiefs will meet soon to be briefed on the planning

thus far in order to advise President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill on the status of Operation

TORCH. Your supervisor's instructions to you are:

"I want you to review this outline plan and the associated communications and give

me your assessment of how well TORCH supports M/NATO theater objectives and

how well TORCH includes the main elements of operational design. Accept as a

given that the theater strategic CoG for the Axis is the German Army in Libya and

for the Allies it is the British 8 th Army in Egypt. Do not give me a national or

European strategy assessment. Answer the questions I have provided and give me

some responses I can give the Combined Chiefs. Remember that TORCH is a major

operation subordinate to a larger North African Theater Campaign. The Chiefs will

be here in about six hours so you don't have much time."

Read each question carefully!


1. (15 points) The focus of a campaign or major operation is the achievement of the Theater of War

or Operations objective(s)—the military condition(s) or end state that defines success for Theater, and

which ultimately contribute to achieving National or Alliance objectives. Considering the strategic

guidance provided to General Eisenhower in the Directive for Commander-in-Chief Allied Expeditionary

Force, and based on the outline plan:

1a. What is the end state that defines success for the Allied M/NATO Theater /North African Campaign?

Justify your selection?

1b. What do you deduce is the Axis (German/Italian) Theater Strategic Objective in North Africa?

1c. Of Operation TORCH’s objectives, what specific operational level objective achieves the military

end state for the operation?


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