Meanwhile, Ranger launched three U.S. Army
Piper L-4s to provide reconnaissance support
ashore. Led by Capt. Ford Allcorn, the light-planes easily got off the deck into a 35-knot
headwind. But the Cubs were double-damned.
They were fired upon by nervous sailors who had
never seen the type, and Allcorn was downed by
Vichy ground fire. He side-slipped to the ground,
fanning flames away from the cockpit, and exited
moments before the Piper exploded.
The next day, the 10th, SBDs logged their only
aerial combat beyond the Pacific, when Ensign
Donald Pattie of VGS- 29 led a recon mission. His
wingman’s SBD was damaged by ground fire and
returned to Santee, but Pattie continued alone.
He shook off three Vichy fighters by descending
through the cloud deck to emerge over an air-
field near Marrakech. The runway was lined with
fighters and twin-engine bombers as he related
in his memoir:
“I saw one of the planes (a US-built DB- 7) start-
ing to take off. It was necessary to stop him in a
hurry as my SBD would be no match for his speed
and power. Whipping around in a run from
above, my rear gunner was instructed to shoot
up as many of the parked planes as possible while
I concentrated on the one taking off.
“It was shades of WW I. SBDs had two forward-firing . 50 calibers in the engine cowling…syn-chronized to fire through the propeller. As I came
in, picking him up in my sight, I squeezed the
trigger and cut a patch of bullets right through
“After another pass at the parked planes the
place was coming alive like a beehive so I figured
I’d better make tracks…Climbing through the
overcast, I broke radio silence to notify the ship
of the location and headed for home.”
Pattie noted the irony of the situation with two
Douglas aircraft pitted against one another. Nearly
three years later, flying from the light carrier USS
Langley (CVL- 27), he led perhaps the only U.S.
Navy night torpedo attack.
Meanwhile, Ranger’s VS- 41 returned to Casablanca hoping to finish Jean Bart, scoring two
hits of nine bombs. A following strike of seven
SBDs bombed the troublesome El Hank AA battery with 500-pound bombs.
Suwannee’s Ensign Robert O’Neil had an
in-flight engagement when his tailhook grabbed
an arresting wire before the wheels touched the
deck. The TBF was pitched overboard, and its
depth charges exploded on impact, killing the
Late on the 10th, a mixed Sangamon formation
diverted to a French armored column between
Rabat and Port Lyautey. In one of the longest
missions of the campaign, a dozen VGS- 6 SBDs
and TBFs, escorted by 10 F4Fs, conducted very
low-level attacks to get at the vehicles in a grove.
Despite heavy ground fire, all the tailhook aircraft returned.
VGF- 29, another Santee squadron, downed a
twin-engine Potez 63 fighter inland.
Finally, on the morning of November 11, a
Santee Dauntless and Wildcat attacked Marrakech
During Operation Torch, pro-Axis “Vichy Air Force” D.520s
of GC (Fighter Group) III/3
were engaged in combat with
the Allies over Oran, while
those of Flottille (Regiment)
1F saw action against
Grumman F4F Wildcats
over Casablanca. Depicted is
D.520, No. 368, “White 4,” of
the 5th Squadron of GC III/6,
photographed in Catania, Italy,
in mid-1941. (Photo courtesy
of Dénes Bernád)