[lit-ideas] Operation TORCH, epilogue

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <Lit-Ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 08:38:07 -0700

Atkinson's An Army at Dawn, the War in North Africa, 1942-1943, page 540-1,


"And what if Tunis had fallen in the first heady rush in November?  The
invasion of Sicily and then the Italian mainland would likely have been
accelerated by months, perhaps allowing the capture of Rome in 1943.  But
Allied shipping and airpower limitations make it hard to conclude that D-day
at Normandy could have been mounted much earlier than June 6, 1944 - or
rather, mounted successfully.


"It remains far from clear that such an acceleration, even if possible,
would have been prudent.  If TORCH provided one benefit above others, it was
to save Washington and London from a disastrously premature landing in
northern Europe.  Given the dozens of Wehrmacht divisions waiting behind the
Atlantic Wall, France would have been a poor place to be lousy in.  TORCH
had been a great risk - 'the purest gamble America and Britain undertook
during the war,' the official U.S. Army Air Forces history concluded - but
it deferred the even greater gamble of a cross-Channel invasion until the
odds improved.  


"For now, the victors celebrated their victory.  For the Anglo-Americans,
Churchill wrote Eisenhower, the triumph was 'an augury full of hope for the
future of the world.  Long may they march together, striking down the
tyrants and oppressors of mankind.'


"Many shared his sentiment.  'Together we had all faced death on a number of
occasions and this experience had created between us a bond which could
never be taken away,' a British captain in the 78th Division wrote.  'We had
gone to the brink and come back.'


"Among those who had not come back was a young American stretcher bearer,
Caleb Milne, who was killed by a mortar round on May 11 while giving first
aid to a wounded soldier.  In a final, prescient letter to his mother, Milne
described the Tunisian campaign as,


                A vivid, wonderful world so full of winter and spring,

                warm rain and cold snow, adventures and contentments, 

                good things and bad.  How often you will have me near

                you when wood smoke drifts across the wind, or the first 

tulips arrive, or the sky darkens in a summer storm. . . .

                Think of me today, and in the days to come, as I am 

                thinking of you this minute, not gone or alone or dead,

                but part of the earth beneath you, part of the air around 

                you, part of the heart that must not be lonely."


Lawrence Helm

San Jacinto



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