On this date 70 years ago the American forces taking part in the invasion of North Africa, called Operation Torch, left their various anchorages, including Maine and Virginia.
Operation Torch was a remarkable endeavor. It was the first major offensive taken by the United States since the beginning of the war, almost a year earlier. It involved an amphibious invasion across the entire Atlantic Ocean, making it among the longest direct invasion voyages ever undertaken. And it did this while most of the amphibious techniques and equipment that would later make over-water operations almost routine for US forces were still being developed. The lessons from Operation Torch would pay dividends for the rest of the war.
By a few days, the USS Massachusetts beat out her sister ship the USS South Dakota and near sister USS Washington for the first shots fired by the 16-inch gun in action and the first battleship duel in US Naval history.
The entire force was organized as Task Force 34, otherwise known as the Western Task Force.
The sub groups were:
Task Group 34.1 Covering Group with the new battleship USS Massachusetts, heavy cruisers Wichita and Tuscaloosa, four destroyers and an oiler,
TG 34.8 Northern Attack Group with the old battleship USS Texas, the light cruiser Savannah, two escort carriers, nine DD, eight transports, five support ships and a submarine.
TG 34.9 Center Attack Group with the heavy cruiser Augusta and light cruiser Brooklyn, 10 DD, 15 transports and six minecraft.
TG 34.2 Air Group with the fleet carrier USS Ranger and the escort carrier Suwannee, the light cruiser Cleveland, five DD, an oiler and two submarines,
TG 34.10 Southern Attack Group with the old battleship USS New York, light cruiser Philadelphia, escort carrier Santee, eight DD, six transports, three minecraft, two oilers, a tug and a submarine.