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Fighting First

13th Armored Regiment in North Africa

The 13th Armored Regiment fought as Part of the 1st Armored Division “Old Ironsides”. They served with the division in Algeria and Tunisia before taking part in the Anzio landings.

Part 1: The Landings at Oran (Algeria), Operation Torch

November 8, 1942

During the landing the 13th were assigned to Task Force Green under the command of Colonel Paul M. Robinett. It consisted of Colonel Robinett and his regimental staff from the 13th Armored, 1st Battalion 13th Armored (M3 Stuarts), 1st Battalion 6th Armored Infantry (less B Company) under Lt. Colonel William B. Kern, a Detachment of US Troops coming ashore during Operation Torch

A Company 16th Armored Engineers, Armour Artillery of the 27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and the Reconnaissance Company 13th Armored Regiment.

Task Force Green’s objective was the La Senia airfield, it needed to be secured so paratroops could land their C-47 Skytrains rather than jump. The Paratroops had left England with the understanding that the airfields would be secured by the French resistance network on the ground, but mis-communication between the landing forces and the resistance resulted in somewhat poor co-ordination and the airfields remained in Vichy French hands. 

Task Force Green landed at X Beach
The initial landing was delayed and Task Force Green came ashore late, the landing craft beaching at 0400 hours some 360 feet offshore. The men of the 6th Armored Infantry secured the beachhead without opposition while the engineers organised bridging to unload the vehicles of the 6th Armored Infantry and 13th Armored units.
6th Armored Infantry Coming ashore November 8 In the meantime the Reconnaissance platoon had brought its jeeps and halftracks ashore in smaller landing craft and by 0600 had started to reconnoitre the road from Mersa bou Zedjar through to Lourmel and Bou Tlelis.

By 0700 the engineers had finished their work and the M3 Stuarts, self-propelled guns and other vehicles were coming ashore. By 0900 they were on the road to Lourmel.

The first encounter with the French occurred at Van Nostrand, and soon troops were also under fire from Lourmel. French Armoured cars were encountered at Bou Tlelis, one US officer receiving wounds during the exchange of fire.
By noon the remainder of Task Force Green had come ashore from their transports. The advance guard under Lt. Colonel John H. Todd had reached Lourmel and had secured the village and airstrip there. Todd’s arrival allowed the Reconnaissance platoon to continue a further five miles to Er Rahel where they set-up a roadblock just beyond the Salado River crossing on the road to Tlemcen.
Todd received orders from Robinett to advance on La Senia (south of Oran) via the northern edge of the Grand Sebkra Dry Lake. The aim was to stop French aircraft harassing the advancing US forces.

Todd’s Force

1st Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment (Less Companies A and B and a detachment from Headquarters Company)
Two Platoons of Company B, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment
One Platoon of Company C, 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion
One Platoon of Company A, 16th Armored Engineers
6th Armored Infantry Coming ashore November 8

Todd’s force broke through a roadblock at Bou Tlelis defended by French Armoured cars and 37mm guns and then again a little further on at Bredeah. M1897 75mm guns defended the Bredeah roadblock. During their drive the U.S. force left several destroyed vehicles along the way.

The Armored Infantry were left to man roadblocks in the Lourmel area leaving Todd with a force of 20 M3A1 Stuarts and the M3 75mm GMCs of the Tank Destroyer platoon.

At nightfall the force stopped south of Misserghin and set up a bivouac.

Back at the beachhead the rest of Task Force Green was still unloading. Robinett gathered enough troops together to move a force up the road to Lourmel to reinforce Todd’s men there just in case of a French attack from the direction of Oran.

After dark the French forces at La Senia airfield felt sufficiently threatened to fly their remaining planes westward to prevent their capture by US forces. Task Force Red had captured the other major airfield in the area during the day and Allied aircraft had safely landed on it.

November 9, 1942

At daybreak Todd’s force moved out from their bivouac and headed for the La Senia airfield. Using 7 Stuarts and 4 Tank Destroyers he was able to quickly capture the field, now devoid of French operational aircraft anyway. He reported holding the airfield, although his force was under fire and in dire need of supplies and reinforcements.

By early afternoon reinforcements had arrived in the form of Company A, 1st Armored Regiment, one platoon of Company E, 6th Armored Infantry and some medical support.

Todd’s force in Flames of War

C Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Armoured Regiment
Armored Company
(M3 Stuart Tank Company, page 25 Fighting First)

Todd’s Battalion HQ
(M3 Stuart Tank Company HQ, MU101)
2x M3 Stuart (37mm)

4 points
M3 Stuart Tank Platoon (MU102)
5x M3 Stuart (37mm)

10 points
M3 Stuart Tank Platoon (MU102)
5x M3 Stuart (37mm)

10 points
M3 Stuart Tank Platoon (MU102)
5x M3 Stuart (37mm)

10 points
Support Platoons  
B Company, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment 
Armored Rifle Platoon (MU114)
6x M1 Garand rifle team, 5x M1 Bazooka team, 2 M1919 LMG, 1x 60mm mortar, 1x M3 half-track (.50 cal MG), 4x M3 half-track (.30 cal MG)

15 points
B Company, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment
Armored Rifle Platoon (MU114)
6x M1 Garand rifle team, 5x M1 Bazooka team, 2 M1919 LMG, 1x 60mm mortar, 1x M3 half-track (.50 cal MG), 4x M3 half-track (.30 cal MG)

15 points
C Company, 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion
M3 75mm Tank Destroyer Platoon (community card)
4x M3 75mm GMC

10 points
A Company, 16th Armored Engineer Battalion 
Armored Engineer Platoon (Rifle Platoon, MU119)
10x M1 Garand rifle team, 1x M1 Bazooka team
1x M1919 LMG
Engineer Combat Company command card
Softskin Transport command card

8 points
1 point
1 point
1 point
Ahead of Todd’s force was the Recon Platoon.
Armored Recon Platoon (MU107)
2x M3A1 Armored Car,
1x Jeep (MG), 1x Jeep (60mm)

3 points
78 points
A Recon Jeep passes a knocked out French Armoured Car

The two American units fired at each other briefly before eventually recognising each other as friends.

These forces then launched a combined arms assault on the French batteries defending the airfield. A wall of fire was put up by tanks, machine-guns and mortars which silenced the guns. Old Ironsides forces quickly took the position.

Robinett and the rest of the gang

While the rest of Task Force Green were slowly moving off the beach, elements of the force were moving along the road from Bredeah toward Messerghin on the morning of November 9.

They encountered a strong French force entrenched on the high ground (Djebel Murdjado) at Messerghin.

An assault was launched by Robinett’s force with tanks from 1st Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment but French 75mm gunfire drove the US force back leaving behind a knocked out Stuart.

The rugged slopes surrounding the French positions made a flanking manoeuvre difficult and Robinett’s lack of infantry also made him reconsider any further attacks. He eventually decided to bypass the position and during the night moved his column along the northern edge of the Grand Sebkra. 

A M3A1 Stuart that got rather too close to some French M1897 75mm guns
On reaching La Senia airfield Robinett meet with Todd and together they reviewed the situation. Robinett then gathered together his commanders in the area of La Senia by the unusual method of calling to them over a loud speaker and using a flashing light as a gathering point where he issued his orders.
M3A1 Stuarts

November 10, 1942

At dawn Kern’s detachment of Companies A and HQ, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment, some T19 105mm HMCs, 27th Armored Field Artillery, more M3 Stuarts and much needed supplies, ammunition and fuel arrived at the airfield. Some infantry, still waiting for the unloading of their halftracks, rode in 21/2-ton trucks.

With these reinforcements now at hand Robinett planned an attack out of La Senia on Oran. He had available for this next attack the 1st Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment, 2 companies of Armored Infantry,

T30 and T19 self-propelled guns, some M3 75mm GMC tank destroyers and a small detachment of Armored Engineers.

Task Force Green assembled at dawn on the La Senia airfield, but they were quickly (0730 hours) under fire from the French batteries in the area of Valmy. 

Battery C, 27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion responded with their T19 105mm HMCs and the French guns were silenced within half an hour.

At 0940 Task Force Green were moving towards Oran, Todd leading the attack under orders from Robinett.

Under Todd’s command were: 1st Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment and Company A, 1st Armored Regiment for a total of 21/2 companies of M3 light tanks; Cannon Platoon of the 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment; Company A, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment; one section of Company C, 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion; and a squad of Company B, 16th Armored Engineers.
A US MP standing guard over some French prisoners
In reserve under Robinett were: HQ and HQ Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment; and Battery C, 27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion.

The force by passed La Senia village and quickly knocked out roadblocks on the edge of Oran. They entered Oran via Boulevard de Mascara and Boulevard Joffre heading towards the harbour. Task Force Red also entered Oran at about the same time.
Paul M. Robinett

On entering Oran a big concern of the US troops was to find their comrades captured during the first day of the landing. They found the streets clear, but many public buildings had been barricaded. Todd headed straight for the headquarters of General Robert Boissau, the French commander on the ground.

A detachment was sent to Camp St. Philippe where intelligence said prisoners were being held. Colonel Kern commanding the detachment was able to release around five hundred American and British prisoners.

Troops also arrived in time to stop the destruction of the port facilities and resistance fighters had stopped the original French plan to flood the port with fuel oil and set it alight.

Todd reported that French resistance had collapsed and French commander General Boissau was ready to surrender, but only if the HMS Rodney would stop shelling the coastal battery at Djebel Santon. The HMS Rodney was duly signalled and the shelling stopped.

The capture of Oran was not without the odd hitch; saboteurs did manage to scuttle nearly thirty ships, floating dry docks and smaller boats.

The sunken vessels blocked access to the inner harbour and unloading facilities.

The official end to hostilities came at 1215 when the order was give for all French resistance to cease. Official talks were held and French prisoners were returned. Italian and German advisers and representatives were rounded up and held under guard at a city hotel.

Not quite the end

At St. Denis-du-Sig the Reconnaissance Company, 13th Armoured Regiment had been surrounded by a force of 600 Frenchmen at 1030. They fought their way clear while Oran was surrendering. For the next few days occasional sniping occurred and the Allied force stayed on their toes, it seemed not all Frenchmen believed the fighting should be over!
Oran Port Facilities
A view of Oran Harbour A German submarine was beached off Picard, 90 miles east of Oran, after seeing action with the Royal Navy. On the night of 14-15 November a reconnaissance platoon of the 13th Armored Regiment was sent to investigate along with Company E, 6th Armored Infantry. They captured the crew of 3 officers and 45 men.

Old Ironsides and the 13th Armored’s first combat had been successful and the commanders were generally pleased with their performance. Their next deployment in Tunisia though would not be quite so easy.

13th Armored Regiment in Tunisia...

Last Updated On Monday, January 10, 2022 by Wayne at Battlefront