Morocco Before and During World War II

The complete pacification of Morocco under the sheriff’s authority (1934) coincided with the abandonment, by the successors of Lyautey, of a policy of careful and considered aiding in the evolution of modern Morocco, which had been able to link the most of the new Moroccan ruling class. The tendency towards an excessive exploitation of Moroccan possibilities and the economic crisis of the years preceding the war, favored the birth and development of a strong nationalistic movement, which began in Paris in 1934 – with the creation, by a group of intellectuals, of a Moroccan Action Committee – and gradually gathered around the young and intelligent sultan who, having ascended the throne in 1927, is now regarded as its main representative. The General Noguès’s administration, appointed general resident in late 1936, showed remarkable skill in avoiding the dangerous consequences of the nationalist movement. The abolition of abuses, a greater respect for the will of the indigenous population, especially the young element, managed to lead Morocco to the test of the Second World War in a condition of full loyalty towards France. In fact, the 1940 crisis did not result in any attempt to break up, despite the presence of a German armistice commission (with headquarters in Fedhala) which did not fail to try to remove the Moroccan nation from France. The attempts at Moroccan unity promoted by Franco also remained unsuccessful. Only at the end of 1943, when Morocco, after the allied landing in November 1942, he had passed over to the degollists’ side, and when gen. Noguès had been replaced at the residence by G. Puaux (June 1943), the young Moroccan nationalism began to stir with the establishment of the United Independence Party (Istiqlāl), led by Ahmed Belafrej, already expelled from Morocco in 1937. The movement, who founded not a few hopes on an Anglo-American intervention in favor of Moroccan independence, presented in January 1944 two petitions to the resident general and to the sultan, asking for independence for Morocco and a form of constitutional government under the sole authority of the sultan. The lack of support for Istiqlāl by the latter (which instead declared itself determined to collaborate with France, while promising extensive reforms) and the decision shown by the French authorities, which in January 1944, following the outbreak of revolts in Rabat, Fez, Marrakech, arrested the most important leaders, including Belafrey, made the new nationalist wave fail. However, together with the French and the sultan, the announced reform program was initiated, which was subsequently vigorously continued by the new resident general É. Labonne (March 1946-May 1947). They consisted in a wider recourse to the indigenous element in the administration, in an expansion of school services, in the codification of Moroccan law and, especially, in the resolution of the serious agricultural problem of a country in which the constant increase of the population is not offset by an adequate increase in production. On the other hand, Labonne met with the opposition of the nationalists and the sultan, worried about the resident’s “socialist” ambitions, which would have led to a tighter control of the Moroccan economy by the French. To these contrasts with the residence must be attributed the attitude of pan-Islamic inspiration, proclaimed by the sultan in his speech of 10 April 1947 in Tangier. A new nationalist complication, in the same year 1947, came with the escape of the former Moroccan leader ‛Abd el-Krīm, who settled in Egypt at the end of May, currently the center of pan-Arab activity.

American landings during World War II. – In November 1942, as an integral part of the Anglo-American expedition to Algeria, US troops landed on the Atlantic coast of French Morocco. The convoy carrying the 35,000-strong expeditionary force departed from Hampton Roads on 23 October. The naval force for escorting the convoy and supporting the landing consisted of 3 battleships, a team aircraft carrier, 4 auxiliary aircraft carriers, 3 large cruisers, 3 light cruisers, 36 destroyers. The naval complex was not attacked during the crossing and arrived in Moroccan waters in the night of 8 November, to carry out the landings simultaneously with those in the areas of Algiers and Oran. The prospects for the expedition’s success were based on strategic surprise with respect to the powers of the Axis and on preventive agreements with some military leaders of French North Africa. The landing plan was established with the criterion of obtaining possession of the ports as quickly as possible, so that the ships would not remain exposed to attack by submarines: the communication routes with Algeria also had to be ensured. The occupation of the port of Casablanca was therefore the main objective: the area chosen for landing was the beach of Fedhala, 14 miles north-east of said port. At the same time, two secondary landings were scheduled, one 65 miles north of Casablanca for the occupation of Port Lyautey (important for its position in relation to Spanish Morocco) and the other at Safi (125 miles south of Casablanca).

At midnight on November 8, 12 transport ships and 4 cargo ships anchored, in calm sea, at a distance of 6 to 8 miles from the Fedhala beach, putting into sea the motorized landing vehicles onto which the troops of the first wave were transshipped. For Morocco 2013, please check

The force that landed before dawn, estimated at 6000 men, was actually 3500. The beach was deserted; the French military authorities did not take any disposition against the landed troops, while the coastal batteries of the navy obeyed the order of resistance given by the governor, gen. A. Noguès, and started the fire, but were soon forced to surrender. The defense of the Casablanca seafront consisted of two medium-caliber coastal batteries and the battleship Jean Bart, which at 7 am on 8 November opened fire against the American naval group, consisting of the battleship Massachussets. and by two large cruisers, which she crossed about 18,000 meters from the square. The American group, in an action that lasted about a quarter of an hour and with the collaboration of aviation, silenced Jean Bart.

In the same morning, while the landing on Fedhala beach was continuing, a group formed by the 8000 t light cruiser Primauguet, two flotilla conductors and two destroyers, left the port of Casablanca, heading towards the anchored convoy; but the attempt was quickly cut short (a French destroyer was sunk), the French ships then returned to the port and hostilities were suspended pending the outcome of the negotiations underway in Algiers.

On the first day of operations, the Americans landed on Fedhala beach were 7,750; 137 landing craft out of a total of 347 (ie 40%) were lost due to inexperience. In the aforementioned fighting the French had had 400 dead and 969 wounded. The American forces had suffered only minor damage, but had not achieved their objectives. Since the negotiations had not yet concluded, the ships of the convoy on the third day of operations remained anchored in the open sea, in a precarious situation due to the possibility of attack by Axis submarines.

On the morning of November 10, the group of French light units headed back to Fedhala, opening the cook on the landed American troops and attempting an attack on the transports that was repelled by American cruisers and protective destroyers. On the morning of November 11, the American naval force was ready to carry out the naval and aerial bombardment of Casablanca, when it was announced from Algiers that an agreement had been reached for the cessation of resistance. On that day, German submarines managed to sink an American transport ship and a destroyer. The next day (12 November) the steamers that were anchored in the open sea were again attacked by submarines; three of them were torpedoed and set on fire.

For the occupation of Port Lyautey, the landing at Mehdia at the mouth of the Oued Sebou was carried out on the night of November 8, without reaction. At dawn on November 8, a 138 mm battery. opened fire on the landed troops but was soon silenced by the shooting of the battleship Texas ; on day 10 the attacking troops occupied the Kasbah. On 11 November the French general commanding the sector, following orders received from Algiers, agreed to surrender. Similarly, in Safi, the firing of the battleship New York silenced the ground battery that defended that location.

Morocco World War II

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