"Operation 'Torch'"

By Ed Olson, 1940

This is an excerpt from Ed Olson's recollections of "Operation 'Torch."  This took place in November of 1942 during the invasion of French Morocco, North Africa. Ed, a 2nd Lieutenant, was a tank commander in five-tank platoon with the 756th Provisional Tank Battalion (Light). His platoon was to have landed during darkness the morning of D-Day, November 8, 1942. He was designated to make a solo run and the four other tanks were to follow. Unfortunately his LCM lost its bearing and ended up heading out to sea, luckily they were able to signal a destroyer and got turned around. The story continues in his words after they landed:

By this time, things were quiet on the beachhead, and our landing was "dry track" in that we-drove off the ramp of the landing craft onto dry sand. All our work in waterproofing proved to be unnecessary. There was a seawall in front of us so we ran alongside it and proceeded to de-waterproof the tank under what little cover it gave us. Obviously, I had no idea where the other four tanks of my platoon were, and had no luck raising them by radio.

However, I did see a light tank on up the beach with the crew digging around the front, indicating a track had been thrown. While the rest of my crew continued de-waterproofing, I ran up the beach to what I hoped might be one of my platoon. It turned out to be an "A" Company tank with Lieutenant Donald F. Gourley and his crew down on hands and knees trying to clear the track. In relief at seeing familiar faces, I blurted out a greeting such as "well, Gourley, this is a hell of a place to throw a track."

With that, a voice exploded in my ear -- "who are you, what are you that you don't salute me when you come alongside me?" Unfortunately, I had paid no attention to a man standing off to one side with his back turned toward me as I approached. Much to my horror, I turned and looked into the blazing eyes of a face now inches from my own -- the face of General George S. Patton, Jr. -- Old Blood 'n Guts himself. There he was, in full array, unsaluted. He demanded to know what I was doing, what my mission was and what I planned to do next. After what seemed like an hour's lecture on military courtesy followed by my explanation, he then became rather fatherly, pointed up the beach toward a tank canted up on some rocks, and said "now, Lieutenant, might that be one of your tanks?" I assured him I would find out, gave him my best salute, and took off to check. It turned out not to be one of mine, but another "A" Company mishap with no crew in sight.

Not wanting to become further involved, I thought that by my going up on the dunes for my return I could avoid meeting my commanding general again. In doing so, I came to some small cottages overlooking the beach, so I stepped between two of them to survey the situation. First I looked down on the beach, and then glanced over to the porch of the cottage on my right. There, sitting on a chair with his feet up on the railing was -- you guessed it -- General Patton. His query was whether it was my tank, I said no sir, saluted, and left. I saw him a few times later in the war, but never again under such circumstances.


University Archives, 701-231-8914
Published by the University Archives, NDSU
Last Updated: 8/27/04