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Bardia to Enfidaville

The Casablanca Conference

The Casablanca Conference

In Tunisia in the meantime the reorganisation of the front continued, combined with a gradual build-up of Allied forces. In particular 2 United States Corps attained its full strength of four divisions, one of which was armoured. The Americans, who were on the southern end of the front, gradually took up positions on a line, albeit a thin one, from Fondouk through Faid to Gafsa. Next to the north was the French 19 Corps, holding from Fondouk to Pont du Fahs, and then the British 5 Corps disposed through Medjez el Bab and thence to the north-west. The Allied line was progressively weaker as it passed from north to south, and the American sector resembled a long arm stretched out towards Eighth Army. The latter by mid-February was in touch with the enemy forces on the Tunisian frontier.

At the Casablanca Conference in Morocco on 14 February it was decided that Eighth Army should come under Eisenhower's command when it entered Tunisia, although it would continue to be supplied from Egypt, that an Army Group Headquarters should be formed to control both First and Eighth Armies and to be known as Eighteenth Army Group, and that General Alexander (then Commander-in-Chief Middle East Forces) should be appointed to command this Group under the direction of General Eisenhower, and at the same time should be appointed Deputy Commander-in-Chief to the whole Allied Expeditionary Force. General Alexander page 128 then assembled a small tactical staff and arrived in Algiers on 15 February to take command. The directive issued to him by General Eisenhower on 17 February gave as his mission the early destruction of all Axis forces in Tunisia.

It was at this conference that the air forces were reorganised,1 the old Western Desert Air Force becoming the group of the Tactical Air Force primarily intended for continued co-operation with Eighth Army.

The period about the middle of February 1943 was thus one of a major recasting of organisation and plans in the Allied forces. At this time the two wings of Eighteenth Army Group were still separated by at least 150 miles.

1 See p. 12, note 1.