Operation Torch was the Allied forces first major effort of the war. It served as a proving ground, in many ways, of the American Army. Much was learned at all levels, including which of the pre-war Army leadership was fit for actual combat command. General Lloyd Fredendall failed the test of Operation Torch, but his failure provides many interesting plot points which could be incorporated into a Weird War Two game.
During Torch, Fredendall commanded the Central Task Force for their landings in Algeria, then later led the entire US II Corps for its push into Tunisia. It was here that he met with Field Marshall Rommel and General von Arnim in the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. Kasserine Pass turned out to be the US Army’s largest defeat in North Africa; Fredendall was soon after relieved of command by Eisenhower.
Fredendall was known to be averse to the front lines. During the Torch landings, he remained aboard his ship until the fighting was over, though he signed his orders (issued from the Grand Hotel in Oran) “from the field.” This trend continued throughout his time in North Africa. He never ventured too far forward, though he routinely scrutinized field reports and disregarded their intelligence. He seemed petty, distrusting other officers and, by all accounts, made several major tactical errors that led to the American’s defeat at Kasserine Pass.
Dispatch Ultra knows the truth, however. It can thus salvage some of Fredendall’s reputation. Fredendall was notoriously concerned with his own safety. He ordered an entire engineer company to blast his Corps headquarters out of the side of a Tunisian mountain. This bunker complex was 70 miles from the front, reached 160 feet into the hillside, and took three weeks to build. He then ordered an entire anti-aircraft battalion to protect this bunker. All of this earned Fredendall questions from his superiors and scorn from his troops. But what if Fredendall was looking for something?
Fredendall was a poor field commander because he was distracted, focused on finding, recovering, and protecting ancient secrets lost in the desert. Imagine, if you will, that a certain American archaeologist failed in his Army-sponsored attempt to recover the Ark of the Covenant. What that archeologist did do, however, was gain valuable intelligence on the eve of the American entry into the war and wreak enough havoc to significantly set Nazi plans back several years.
Enter Fredendall and the II Corps. Certainly, they were to drive the Nazis out of African and gain the Allies much needed experience before the assault on Fortress Europe. But, unknown to almost anyone, Fredendall was given another task — find the Lost Ark. His decisions, which were certainly poor military ones, make more sense when his secret is brought to light. Of course, that giant bunker was not a headquarters at all, but instead an archeological excavation. Fredendall’s paranoia about this rear position is justified, given that it might just be the resting place of a prize American and Nazi forces have been searching for for years. Kasserine Pass becomes Rommel’s attempt to reach this bunker and recover the Ark. Fortunately, his advance stalled 20 miles or so from Ark’s resting place.
Or maybe Fredendall is incompetent, and his desert excavations unleash some sort of horrible evil which, of course, he tries to cover up.
And PC’s? Perhaps they are soldiers, initially critical of Fredendall but gradually come to learn of the secret their General is trying to protect. Perhaps they are OSS agents, assigned to assist Fredendall, but they can’t let anyone know who they are or what they are up to. Maybe they are time travelling super-agents, called in to repair things after Fredendall wakes some sort of unspeakable desert evil in his paranoid desire to build himself an impenetrable bunker. It’s The Mummy meets Indiana Jones meets Kelly’s Heroes.
Who’s the REMF, now?