Operation Blackstone

This was the US landing of Major General George S. Patton’s Western Task Force at Safi on French Morocco’s Atlantic coast within 'Torch', and part of the US attempt to take Casablanca (8 November 1942).

This part of Patton’s three-element landing was undertaken by the Southern Attack Group (Task Group 34.10) comprising the battleship New York and light cruiser Philadelphia screened by the destroyers Mervine, Knight and Beatty, six transports covered by the destroyers Cowie, Quick, Doran, Cole and Bernadou and three minecraft, the fleet oilers Housatonic and Merrimack, and the air group provided by the escort carrier Santee screened by the destroyers Rodman and Emmons, and the submarine Barb.

The land forces of the Western Task Force comprised Major General Ernest N. Harmon’s 2nd Armored Division, Major General Jonathan W. Anderson’s 3rd Division and two-thirds of Major General Manton S. Eddy’s 9th Division, totalling 34,305 men as well as 54 medium and 198 light tanks).

'Blackstone' used adapted destroyers to land the 47th Infantry on three beaches in the port area to the north of the town. The landings were initially conducted without covering fire, in the hope that this might persuade the Vichy French forces not to resist, but when the Vichy French coastal batteries opened fire, the attacking force’s warships returned the fire. By the time Harmon, in local command, reached the beach, Vichy French fire had pinned the assault troops, almost all of whom were in combat for the first time, on the beaches.

Most of the landings occurred behind schedule, and carrierborne air support destroyed a French convoy of trucks intended to reinforce the defences. The Americans were later able to advance and achieve most of their objectives, and the Vichy French defenders of Safi surrendered on the afternoon of 8 November. Two days later the surviving Vichy French forces had been pinned down and the bulk of Harmon’s force was advancing to the north in the direction of Casablanca.