Four Moroccan groups (regimental-sized units, about 12 000 men in total) served with the Allied forces during World War II. They specialized in night raiding operations, and fought against the forces of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during 1942-45. Goumier units were also used to man the front lines in mountainous and other rough terrain areas.
North Africa 1940–42
In May 1940, 12 Moroccan Goums were organized as the 1st Group of Moroccan Auxiliaries (French: 1er Groupe de Supplétifs Marocains – G.S.M.) and used in combat against Italian troops operating out of Libya. After the armistice of 1940, the Goums were returned to Morocco. To evade strict German limits on how many troops France could maintain in North Africa, the Goumiers were described as having Gendarmerie-type functions, such as maintenance of public order and the surveillance of frontiers, while maintaining military armament, organization, and discipline.
The 1st GSM fought on the Tunisian front as part of the Moroccan March Division from December 1942, and was joined by the 2nd GSM in January 1943.
The 15th Army Group commander, British General Harold Alexander considered the French Moroccan Goumiers as “great fighters” and gave them to the allies to help them to take Bizerte and Tunis.
After the Tunisia Campaign, the French organized two additional groups and retitled the groups as Groupement de Tabors Marocains (G.T.M.) Each group contained a command Goum (company) and three Tabors (battalions) of three Goums each. A Tabor contained four 81-mm mortars and totaled 891 men. Each infantry Goum was authorized 210 men, one 60-mm mortar, two light machine guns, and seven automatic rifles.
The 4th Tabor of Moroccan Goums fought in the Sicilian Campaign, landing at Licata on July 14, 1943, and was attached to Gen. Patton’s U.S. Seventh Army. The Goumiers of the 4th Tabor were attached to the U.S. 1st Infantry Division on 27 July 1943 and were recorded in the U.S. 26th Infantry Regiment’s log files for their courage. Upon their arrival many Italian soldiers surrendered en masse, while the Germans began staging major retreats away from known Goumiers presence.
The Italian campaign of World War II is perhaps the most famous and most controversial in the history of the Goumiers. The 4th Group of Moroccan Tabors shipped out for Italy in November 1943 and was followed in January 1944 by the 3rd Group, then reinforced by the 1st Group in April 1944.
In Italy, the Allies suffered a long stalemate at the German Gustav Line. In May 1944, three Goumier groupes, under the name Corps de Montagne, were the vanguard of the French Expeditionary Corps (CEF), under General Alphonse Juin, attack through the Aurunci Mountains during Operation Diadem, the fourth and final Battle of Monte Cassino. Here the Goums more than proved their value as light, highly mobile mountain troops who could penetrate the most vertical terrain in fighting order and with a minimum of logistical requirements. Most military analysts consider the Goumiers’ maneuver as the critical victory that finally opened the way to the Italian capital of Rome.