The front page of the British magazine "THE WAR ILLUSTRATED" published, July 24, 1942. The page is taken up by a photograph of an American sailor standing on the deck of a destroyer with a rifle over his shoulder, an American flag waving behind him, and two larger American ships looming close behind.

This exhibit tells the story of Operation Torch, the code-name for Allied landings in French North Africa in 1942, mainly as told in the pages of a British magazine, War Illustrated. This weekly publication used maps, reports and photographs to represent the war to a large audience. Most images in this exhibit can be clicked on to enlarge them, view additional pictures, and read transcribed text.

Torch was the first important Anglo-American operation of World War II, and the first large-scale Allied amphibious landing. The operation marked the first involvement of American forces – and Battleship Texas herself - in the war against Germany. America’s arrival was welcomed in War Illustrated as a step on the Allied road towards the liberation of Europe. However, Torch was not just a practice run for the D-Day landings. In 1942 America had only just entered the war, and the outcome was far from certain. Success in Torch would provide a victory at a critical time: cooperation was vital, but alliances can be difficult to make and even more challenging to maintain.

America, Britain, and
The World War

In 1942 the situation still looked doubtful for the Allies. British cities had been bombed in the ‘Blitz.’ Much of Europe had been under Nazi occupation for nearly two years. German U-boats threatened Britain’s supply lines in the Atlantic. The attack on Pearl Harbour had brought the Americans into the war. On the Eastern Front the Soviet Union’s war against the bulk of Germany’s armies was supported by convoys through the Arctic protected by American and British ships. Mass production of ships, planes, tanks and guns was the United States’ essential contribution to the Allied cause. ‘In this war’, President Roosevelt declared, ‘we are all soldiers, whether in uniforms, overalls or shirt sleeves.’

The Widening War

Meanwhile, American bomber crews arrived in Britain to begin their daylight air offensive against Germany. Many had not been abroad before and were given booklets to help them settle in. After the Battle of Midway, America was finally on the attack in the Pacific with the landings at Guadalcanal. Although a ‘second front’ was eagerly anticipated, the Allies would not be ready for the invasion of Europe until at least 1943. A joint operation in 1942 was necessary, for the Allies to gain experience, to do something to push back the Axis powers and above all to boost morale.


Links With the Glorious Past

In a spirit of vindictive hostility for our legitimate attacks on Nazi war-centres, the Germans bombed and machine-gunned selected English cities from April 23 to 28. Here are some of the scenes of devastation following those raids. 1, A church at York. 2, All that was left of the Market Hall, Exeter. 3, The Boar's Head Inn, Norwich, which was built in 1495.

Broken by the Nazi Iconoclasts

Sacred buildings, colleges and fine old houses were like so much kindling to a diabolical holocaust. In spite of the heroic efforts of the fire brigades, many treasures were destroyed, though many more were saved. 4, Ruins of St. Luke's Diocesan Teachers' Training College, Exeter. 5, Firemen at work at Bath. 6, Damage close to Bath's famous Circus.


Image reproduced courtesy of The University of Sheffield Library Special Collections.


Take-off at Dawn for the Day's Stern Task

Preliminaries completed, Fortresses await the arrival of trailers laden with one-ton bombs (1). With their loads aboard, one by one the great engines of estruction head down the runway (2) for take-off. Airborne (3), each takes up its appointed position in the formation, which is soon above the clouds (4) and headed for a German industrial centre-without an advance-guard of planes mounting anti-aircraft guns, as the Nazis fancifully declare !

Dead on the Target the Bombs Rain Down

Enemy planes sighted, a Fortress waist-gunner goes into action (5) and at least one would-be interferer is blasted out of the skies. Five miles above the target an oxygen-masked bombardier (7) calls over the intercom, " Bombs away ! " A glance downward, and he gives the American counterpart of the thumbs-up sign. Smoke and flames from the target—the 100-acres FW 190 factory at Marienburg, 200 miles beyond Berlin—soar high as the last Fortress turns for home (6).


Image reproduced courtesy of The University of Sheffield Library Special Collections.

Lighting The Torch →