teer. Launched in 1940, she remained incomplete
owing to the armistice, but her 35,000 tons and
15-inch guns demanded attention. During the
attack, one SBD was shot down and three were
damaged during successive missions. The pace of
operations was unrelenting: Most Ranger pilots
logged four sorties that day.
Vichy ground forces offered little more than
token resistance, but the airmen decided to fight.
During three days of combat, the largely untried
Wildcat pilots gave far better than they got from
the more experienced French, flying Curtiss
Hawk 75s and Dewoitine 520s. The largest combat occurred on the 8th, when carrier aviators
claimed 18 victories. Thirteen fell to Lt. Cmdr.
C. T. Booth’s VF- 4 in a dogfight north of Cazes
Airfield. The commanding officer of their Ranger
teammates, VF- 9’s Lt. Cmdr. John Raby, added
one more. The remaining four were claimed by
F4Fs of VGF- 26 aboard Sangamon. A recognition
error, however, resulted in Suwannee Wildcats
downing a Royal Air Force (RAF) Lockheed Hudson from Gibraltar.
Later in the day, the French Navy appeared
with two surface forces steaming seaward. One
unit closed within four miles of the U.S. transport ships, but intense strafing by Wildcats
delayed their progress. Ranger Dauntlesses and
Suwannee Avengers subsequently attacked, claiming three bomb hits in exchange for an SBD. The
interval allowed U.S. warships to intervene, driving the Frenchmen back to port. Between them,
U.S. warships and aircraft put a light cruiser
Ordnancemen aboard Ranger
(CV- 4) take a quick dinner
break while preparing 500-lb.
bombs for the Torch invasion.
(Photo courtesy of Stan Piet)