Note by the British Chiefs of Staff
Cairo, 25 November 1943 CCS 409 Secret
OVERLORD and the Mediterranean
For some time past it has been clear to us, and doubtless also to the United States Chiefs of Staff, that disagreement exists between us as to what we should do now in the Mediterranean, with particular reference to the effect of future action on OVERLORD. The point at issue is how far what might be termed the “sanctity of OVERLORD” is to be preserved in its entirety, irrespective of developments in the Mediterranean Theater. This issue is clouding the whole of our future strategic outlook, and must be resolved at SEXTANT.
At the outset we must point out that, since the decisions taken at QUADRANT, there have been major developments in the situation. The Russian campaign has succeeded beyond all hope or expectations and their victorious advance continues. Italy has been knocked out of the war; and it is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that Turkey will come in on our side before the New Year. In these changed conditions, we feel that consideration of adjustments of, if not actual departures from, the decisions taken at TRIDENT and QUADRANT are not only fully justified but positively essential.
Nevertheless, we emphasize that we do not in any way recoil from, or wish to sidetrack, our agreed intention to attack the Germans across the Channel in the late spring or early summer of 1944, or even earlier if RANKIN conditions were to obtain. We must not, however, regard OVERLORD on a fixed date as the pivot of our whole strategy on which all else turns. In actual fact, the German strength in France next spring may, at one end of the scale, be something which makes OVERLORD completely impossible and, at the other end, something which makes RANKIN not only practicable, but essential. Consequently, to assume that the achievement of a certain strength by a certain date will remove all our difficulties and result in shortening the duration of the war is entirely illusory. This policy, if literally interpreted, will inevitably paralyze action in other theaters without any guarantee of action across the Channel.
With the Germans in their present plight, the surest way to win the war in the shortest time is to attack them remorselessly and continuously in any and every area where we can do so with superiority. The number of places at which we can thus attack them depends mainly on the extent to which they are stretched. Our policy is therefore clear; we should stretch the German forces to the utmost by threatening as many of their vital interests and areas as possible and, holding them thus, we should attack wherever we can do so in superior force.
If we pursue the above policy, we firmly believe that OVERLORD (perhaps in the form of RANKIN) will take place next summer. We do not, however, attach vital importance to any particular date or to any particular number of divisions in the assault and followup, though naturally the latter should be made as large as possible consistent with the policy stated above. It is, of course, valuable to have a target date to which all may work, but we are firmly opposed to allowing this date to become our master, and to prevent us from taking full advantage of all opportunities that occur to us to follow what we believe to be the correct strategy.
In the light of the above argument, we submit the following proposals for action in the Mediterranean:
Unification of Command
Unification of Command in the Mediterranean, as outlined in COS (W) 919 is an essential and urgent measure which should be put into effect irrespective of any other decisions taken about this theater.
The Italian Campaign
The Offensive in Italy should be nourished and maintained until we have secured the Pisa-Rimini line.
Yugoslavia, Greece, and Albania
Our policy should be to place on a regular military basis and to intensify our measures to nourish the Partisan and irregular forces in these countries.
We should bring Turkey into the war this year.
We should aim to open the Dardanelles as soon as possible.
We should undermine resistance in the Balkan States and do everything possible to promote a state of chaos and disruption in the satellite Balkan countries.
If the above measures necessitate putting back the date upon which the forces agreed to be necessary for OVERLORD will be available in the United Kingdom, this should be accepted since it does not by any means follow that the date of the invasion of France will be put back to the same extent.
To sum up, our policy is to fight and bomb the Germans as hard as possible all through the winter and spring; to build up our forces in the United Kingdom as rapidly as possible consistent with this; and finally to invade the Continent as soon as the German strength in France and the general war situation gives us a good prospect of success.