Torch: North Africa and the Allied Path to Victory
By Vincent P. O’Hara
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015
6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, ix + 371 pages
Photographs, maps, tables, bibliography, index. $49.95
Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, was the largest amphibious assault in history to that time and the first such Allied operation against the Axis. Vincent P. O’Hara provides a highly readable account of this important event, drawing on a wide range of sources, including many often overlooked, such as French operational records from the period.
The author begins with a broad overview of the strategic and diplomatic situation that led the United States and Great Britain to launch an assault on Vichy France’s North African holdings in November 1942. He then continues by discussing Allied preparations, demonstrating that the Western Allies were unprepared for such a major amphibious operation, due to poor training, lack of critical supplies, inadequate support doctrine, shortage of forces, and inexperienced leadership. He concludes that Operation Torch saved the Allies from embarking on a potentially disastrous early assault on Continental Europe and provided time for training forces and leaders and developing effective amphibious doctrines.
O’Hara shines in his description of the details of operations, particularly the naval engagements between French and Allied forces off Oran and Casablanca. The inclusion of his own clear maps and relevant contemporary photographs make for compelling chapters. He is less effective in placing Operation Torch in the larger context of the struggle for Europe, devoting only one brief chapter to an analysis the campaign’s results, most of which addresses only the short-term outcomes in French North Africa.
Torch: North Africa and the Allied Path to Victory will probably become the definitive combat study of this invasion, since O’Hara has succeeded in bringing together so much blow-by-blow detail from both sides during the operation. Readers looking for this level of operational analysis will be more than satisfied. Those readers seeking a study placing this operation in a broader strategic context will need to look elsewhere.