The President to the Secretary of State
Tehran, 29 November 1943
Deliver to Secretary Hull from the President. Your message transmitted as White 55, I think it more advisable to appoint Winant as our representative.
Tehran, 29 November 1943
Deliver to Secretary Hull from the President. Your message transmitted as White 55, I think it more advisable to appoint Winant as our representative.
|United States||United Kingdom||Soviet Union|
|President Roosevelt||Prime Minister Churchill||Marshal Stalin|
|Mr. Hopkins||Foreign Secretary Eden||Foreign Commissar Molotov|
|Mr. Harriman||Sir Archibald Clark Kerr||Marshal Voroshilov|
|Admiral Leahy||Field Marshal Dill||Mr. Pavlov|
|General Marshall||General Brooke||Mr. Berezhkov|
|Admiral King||Admiral of the Fleet Cunningham|
|General Arnold||Air Chief Marshal Portal|
|Major General Deane||Lieutenant General Ismay|
|Captain Royal||Lieutenant General Martel|
|Captain Ware||Major Birse|
November 29, 1943, 4 p.m. Secret
The President said that since there was no agenda for the conference he thought it would be a good idea to have a report from the military staffs who had met this morning, and if there was no objection they might hear from General Brooke, Marshal Voroshilov and General Marshall.
General Brooke said that the committee had not finished its work and had merely made a survey of the various operations mentioned, and had also examined the Operation OVERLORD, taking into account the period of time which must elapse before OVERLORD was put into effect. He said that the committee considered the fact that if active operations were not undertaken in the Mediterranean during this period it would provide the Germans with an opportunity to remove their forces from that area either for the Soviet front or for the defense against OVERLORD. The committee also examined the advantages of continuing the operations up the leg of Italy until they had brought the Germans to a decisive battle. The committee briefly reviewed the question of providing the Partisans in Yugoslavia with aid and supplies in order to assist them in containing German forces. The advantages of Turkey’s participation in the war from the point of view of opening up the Dardanelles, the supply route to Russia and its effect on the Balkans was [were] also considered. The possibility of an operation in southern France in connection with OVERLORD was also briefly discussed. The effect of the air attacks on Germany was outlined to the committee by Air Marshal Portal, and General Marshall provided the figures of the United States buildup in England, and General Brooke himself had described the changeover from the defense to offensive preparations in England. General Brooke concluded that Marshal Voroshilov had put forth a number of questions and had received answers.
General Marshall said he had little to add to what General Brooke had said and he did not intend to go into any detail. He said that the chief problems were landing craft and suitable airfields to afford fighter protection for any operation. He emphasized that the question of adequate landing craft came first in importance, and added that by landing craft he meant those capable of carrying 40 tanks. He said that he had endeavored to make clear to the committee the manner in which preparations for OVERLORD were proceeding; that the flow of troops from the United States were [was] on schedule and that one million tons of material had already been shipped to England. He repeated that the variable factor was production of landing craft and that the schedule of production had been stepped up. He said that some veteran divisions had already been transferred from the Italian theater to England.
Marshal Voroshilov said that the answers which he had received to his questions at the committee meeting had been confirmed here at the conference by General Brooke and General Marshall. He added that the questions of Yugoslavia and Turkey mentioned by General Brooke had not been considered in detail.
Marshal Stalin then inquired who will command OVERLORD.
The President replied that it had not yet been decided.
Marshal Stalin said that nothing would come out of the operation unless one man was made responsible not only for the preparation but for the execution of the operation.
The Prime Minister said that General Morgan had been in charge of the preparatory work for some time but that the actual Commander had not yet been appointed. He said the British Government was willing to have a United States General in command in view of the fact that from the United States would come the bulk of the troops, and that possibly the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean would be a British General. He suggested that the question of who should command OVERLORD had best be discussed between the three of them rather than in the large meeting.
The President said that the decisions taken here will affect the choice of the particular officer to command OVERLORD.
Marshal Stalin stated that the Russians do not expect to have a voice in the selection of the Commander-in-Chief; they merely want to know who he is to be and to have him appointed as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister expressed agreement and said that he thought the appointment could be announced within a fortnight. He then went on to say that he was a little concerned at the number and complexity of the problems which were before the conference. He said many hundreds of millions of people are watching this conference, and he hoped that it would not break up until an agreement had been reached on big military, political and moral questions. He said that the British Staff and himself had given prolonged thought to the Mediterranean theater and that they were most anxious to have the armies there fight against the enemy and not have them stripped of essential elements. He stated that their Soviet allies had now had an opportunity to survey the scene and that he would appreciate learning their views as to the best [use?] which could be made of the British forces in the Mediterranean area. He said the question of what help could be given from the Mediterranean theater to OVERLORD and the scale and timing of such help was of great importance. The operation into southern France from northern Italy had been mentioned but not studied and should, therefore, be explored more fully between the United States and British Staffs. Mr. Churchill said that Marshal Stalin had correctly stressed the value of pincers movement but that the time element was important and a premature subsidiary attack might be wiped out. He went on to say that personally all he wanted was landing craft for two divisions in the Mediterranean and that with such a force many operations would be feasible, for example, it could be used to facilitate the operations in Italy or to take the island of Rhodes if Turkey will enter the war, and could be used for these purposes for at least six months and then employed in support of OVERLORD. He pointed out that this force of landing craft could not be supplied for the forces in the Mediterranean without either delaying OVERLORD six to eight weeks or without withdrawing forces from the Indian theater. That is the dilemma. He said he would appreciate the views of Marshal Stalin and his military aides on the general strategy. The Prime Minister continued that the questions of Yugoslavia and Turkey were more political than military. He said that there are now in the Balkans 21 German Divisions and 21 Bulgarian Divisions, a total of 42. He added that there were 54,000 Germans scattered around the Aegean islands which would be an easy prey. If Turkey came in, the nine Bulgarian Divisions from [in?] Yugoslavia and Greece would be withdrawn, thus endangering the remaining German Divisions. No important operations were envisaged for the Balkans but merely supply and commando raids to assist Tito and his forces to contain the German forces there. Mr. Churchill added that Great Britain had no ambitious interests in the Balkans but merely wanted to pin down the German Divisions there. With regard to Turkey Mr. Churchill said that the British Government as allies of Turkey had accepted the responsibility to persuade or force Turkey to enter the war. He would need, and he hoped to obtain, help from the President and Marshal Stalin in his task in accordance with the agreement reached at Moscow. He added that the British Government would go far in pointing out to the Turks that their failure to respond to the invitation of our three great powers would have very serious political and territorial consequences for Turkey particularly in regard to the future status of the straits. He said this morning the military committee had discussed briefly the question of aid to Turkey, but it appeared to be more political than military, and there was no thought of using a major army, and that at the most two Divisions apart from the air and anti-aircraft forces would be sent to Turkey. Mr. Churchill proposed that the two foreign secretaries and the representative of the President meet to discuss the political aspects of the Turkish question as well as other political questions involving the Balkans area. Mr. Churchill said that he had asked some questions yesterday regarding Bulgaria, in particular if Bulgaria attacked Turkey would the Soviet Government consider Bulgaria as a foe. The Prime Minister concluded that if Turkey declared war on Germany it would be a terrible blow to German morale, would neutralize Bulgaria and would directly affect Rumania which even now was seeking someone to surrender unconditionally to. Hungary likewise would be immediately affected. He said that now is the time to reap the crop if we will pay the small price of the reaping. He summed up the task before the conference as: (1) to survey the whole field of the Mediterranean, and (2), how to relieve Russia, and (3), how to help OVERLORD.
Marshal Stalin said that Mr. Churchill need have no worry about the Soviet attitude toward Bulgaria; that if Turkey entered the war the Soviet Union would go to war with Bulgaria, but even so he did not think Turkey would come in. He continued that there was no difference of opinion as to the importance of helping the Partisans, but that he must say that from the Russian point of view the question of Turkey, the Partisans and even the occupation of Rome were not really important operations. He said that OVERLORD was the most important and nothing should be done to distract attention from that operation. He felt that a directive should be given to the military staffs, and proposed the following one:
(1). In order that Russian help might be given from the east to the execution of OVERLORD, a date should be set and the operation should not be postponed. (2). If possible the attack in southern France should precede OVERLORD by two months, but if that is impossible, then simultaneously or even a little after OVERLORD. An operation in southern France would be a supporting operation as contrasted with diversionary operations in Rome or in the Balkans, and would assure the success of OVERLORD. (3). The appointment of a Commander-in-Chief for OVERLORD as soon as possible. Until that is done the OVERLORD operation cannot be considered as really in progress. Marshal Stalin added that the appointment of the Commander-in-Chief was the business of the President and Mr. Churchill but that it would be advantageous to have the appointment made here.
The President then said he had been most interested in hearing the various angles discussed from OVERLORD to Turkey. He attached great importance to the question of logistics and timing. He said it is clear that we are all agreed as to the importance of OVERLORD and the only question was one of when. He said the question was whether to carry out OVERLORD at the appointed time or possibly postpone it for the sake of other operations in the Mediterranean. He felt that the danger of an expedition in the eastern Mediterranean might be that if not immediately successful it might draw away effectives which would delay OVERLORD. He said that in regard to the Balkans, the Partisans and other questions are pinning down some 40 Axis Divisions and it was therefore his thought that supplies and commando raids be increased to that area to insure these Divisions remaining there. The President then said he was in favor of adhering to the original date for OVERLORD set at Quebec, namely, the first part of May.
Marshal Stalin said he would like to see OVERLORD undertaken during the month of May; that he did not care whether it was the 1st, 15th or 20th, but that a definite date was important.
The Prime Minister said it did not appear that the points of view were as far apart as it seemed. The British Government was anxious to begin OVERLORD as soon as possible but did not desire to neglect the great possibilities in the Mediterranean merely for the sake of avoiding a delay of a month or two.
Marshal Stalin said that the operations in the Mediterranean have a value but they are really only diversions.
The Prime Minister said in the British view the large British forces in the Mediterranean should not stand idle but should be pressing the enemy with vigor. He added that to break off the campaign in Italy where the allied forces were holding a German army would be impossible.
Marshal Stalin said it looked as though Mr. Churchill thought that the Russians were suggesting that the British armies do nothing.
The Prime Minister said that if landing craft is [are] taken from the Mediterranean theater there will be no action. He added that at Moscow the conditions under which the British Government considered OVERLORD could be launched had been fully explained, and these were that there should not be more than 12 mobile German divisions behind the coastal troops and that German reinforcements for sixty days should not exceed 15 Divisions. He added that to fulfill these conditions it was necessary in the intervening period to press the enemy from all directions. He said that the Divisions now facing the allies in Italy had come from the most part in France [for the most part from France?], and to break off the action in Italy would only mean that they would return to France to oppose OVERLORD. Turning again to the question of Turkey, the Prime Minister said that all were agreed on the question of Turkey’s entrance into the war. If she refused, then that was the end of it. If she does enter, the military needs will be slight, and it will give us the use of Turkish bases in Anatolia, and the taking of the island of Rhodes which he felt could be done with one assault Division. Once Rhodes was taken the other Aegean islands could be starved out and the way opened to the Dardanelles. Mr. Churchill pointed out that the operation against Rhodes was a limited operation and would not absorb more effectives, and that in any case the troops for this purpose would come from those now used for the defense of Egypt. Once Rhodes was taken these forces from Egypt could proceed forward against the enemy. All he wanted was a small quantity of landing craft. He then said that he accepted Marshal Stalin’s suggestion that terms of reference be drawn up for the military staffs.
Marshal Stalin interposed to ask how many French Divisions were being trained in North Africa.
General Marshall replied that for the present there were five Divisions ready and four in training, and that one of these five was in Italy with the American Fifth Army and another was en route. He said that from the battle experience gained it would be possible to decide how best to utilize the other French Divisions.
The President then proposed that instead of three directives to the three Staffs that one directive be agreed upon here. He then proposed a joint directive as follows: (1). That the military staffs should assume that OVERLORD is the dominating operation. (2). That the Staffs make recommendations in regard to other operations in the Mediterranean area, having carefully in mind the possibility of causing a delay in OVERLORD.
Marshal Stalin said he saw no need for any military committee here, that the questions involved should be decided at the conference. He also saw no need for any political subcommittee. Marshal Stalin then said he wished to ask Mr. Churchill an indiscreet question, namely, do the British really believe in OVERLORD or are they only saying so to reassure the Russians.
The Prime Minister replied that if the conditions set forth at Moscow were present it was the duty of the British Government to hurl every scrap of strength across the channel. He then suggested that the British and American Staffs meet tomorrow morning in an endeavor to work out a joint point of view to be submitted to the conference. It was further agreed that the President, Marshal Stalin and the Prime Minister would lunch together at 1:30, and that Mr. Eden, Mr. Molotov and Mr. Hopkins would likewise lunch together separately.
The meeting adjourned until 4 P.M., November 30, 1943.
November 29, 1943, 4 p.m. Secret
The President said he had no formal agenda for today’s meeting. He thought it would be a good idea if Marshal Stalin, the Prime Minister, and possibly Marshal Voroshilov, would give the meeting their ideas.
Marshal Stalin asked whether the military committee had completed its work.
General Brooke gave an outline of the proceedings of the conference this morning. (See Minutes of Military Conference, 29 November 1943 at 1030.)
General Marshall stated that he had little to add to the statement of General Brooke but that the problems concerning the United States are not those of troops nor equipment but rather problems of ships, landing craft and airfields in sufficient proximity to the scene of immediate operations under consideration. Furthermore, he said, in speaking of landing craft, he was speaking particularly of a special type which carries about 40 tanks or motor vehicles. He said he desired to make clear, as far as the United States forces for OVERLORD are concerned, that the buildup has proceeded according to schedule. Especially should it be noted that the supplies and equipment have now been assembled to the extent of one million tons in the United Kingdom, in advance of the arrival of the troops anticipated. All supplies and equipment have been set up according to schedule. The variable or questionable factor is the subject of landing craft. He said there was a schedule of landing craft construction which had been accelerated both in the United Kingdom and the United States. The purpose of this acceleration is involved with two considerations, (a) the matter of the initial assault for OVERLORD, and (b) operations in the Mediterranean, which could be done if additional landing craft could be made available. In brief, the OVERLORD buildup is going ahead according to schedule as regards ground troops, air forces and equipment. Discussions and problems regarding OVERLORD were related almost entirely to the employment and movement of available landing craft. Transfer of certain United States and British divisions from the Mediterranean to the United Kingdom for the OVERLORD buildup had virtually been completed at the present time.
Marshal Voroshilov said that the information given by General Brooke and General Marshall corresponded to the talks which had been held this morning on the questions concerning OVERLORD – specifically, technical questions. Continuing, Marshal Voroshilov said as far as the matters discussed by General Brooke concerning [concerned?] Italy, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Southern France, it was hoped that these matters would be the subject of the next meeting of the ad hoc committee. The committee also had under discussion the date of OVERLORD and the details of that operation, with the thought that they would be able to discuss these matters further at the next meeting.
Marshal Stalin asked who will be the commander in this Operation OVERLORD.
The President and Prime Minister interpolated this was not yet decided.
Marshal Stalin continued, “Then nothing will come out of these operations.” He further inquired as to who carries the moral and technical responsibility for this operation. He was informed by the President and Prime Minister that the British General Morgan, who is Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (Designate), is charged with the plans and preparations which have been and are continually being made and carried out by a Combined U.S.-British Staff.
In reply to a question from Marshal Stalin as to who has the executive responsibility for OVERLORD preparations, the President replied that we have already decided the names of all the commanders except that of the Supreme Commander.
Marshal Stalin said that it could happen that General Morgan might say that all matters were ready; however, when the Supreme Commander reports, he, the Supreme Commander, might not think that everything necessary had been accomplished by the Chief of Staff. He felt that there must be one person in charge.
The Prime Minister informed Marshal Stalin that General Morgan had been charged with the preparation and carrying out of plans in the preliminary stages for OVERLORD. His Majesty’s Government had expressed willingness to have Operation OVERLORD undertaken under the command of a United States commander. The United States will be concerned with the greatest part of the buildup, and this United States commander will have command in the field.
Mr. Churchill added that in the Mediterranean the British have large naval and air forces which are under direct British command under the Allied Commander in Chief. A decision had not yet been reached between the President and Prime Minister regarding the specific matter of high command. Decisions here at this conference will have a bearing on the choice. Therefore, the President can name the Supreme Allied Commander for OVERLORD if he desires to accept the British offers to serve under a United States commander. The Prime Minister further suggested that Marshal Stalin be given an answer in confidence between the three Chiefs of State regarding who the Supreme Allied Commander would be.
Marshal Stalin said he desired it to be understood that he did not presume to take part in the selection of a commander for OVERLORD but merely wanted to know who this officer would be and felt strongly that he should be appointed as soon as possible and be given the responsibility for preparations for OVERLORD as well as the executive command of the operation.
The Prime Minister agreed it was essential that a commander be appointed for the OVERLORD operation without delay and indicated that such an appointment would be made within a fortnight. He hoped that it might be accomplished during his current meeting with the President.
The Prime Minister then went on to say that he was concerned with the number and complexity of problems which presented themselves before the conference. He said that the meeting was unique in that the thoughts of more than 140,000,000 people were centered upon it. He felt that the principals should not separate until agreements on political, moral, and military problems had been reached. He said that he wished to present a few points which would require study by a subcommittee. Both he and the British Staff had given long study to the Mediterranean position, in which area Great Britain has a large army. He was anxious that the British Mediterranean army should fight throughout 1944 and not be quiescent. From that point of view, he asked the Soviets to survey the field and examine the different alternatives put before them and submit their recommendations.
The Prime Minister said that the first point which required study was what assistance could be given to the OVERLORD operation by the large force which will be in the Mediterranean. He asked in particular what the possibilities of this force might be and what should be the scale of an operation that might be launched from Northern Italy into Southern France. He did not feel that such an operation had been studied in sufficient detail but he welcomed the opportunity to give it close examination. He thought it might be well for the U.S. and U.K. staffs to consider this matter together in the light of their special knowledge concerning resources available. He pointed out that Marshal Stalin had stressed the value of pincer operations. He said that for such operations timing is of great importance. A weak attack several months in advance might result in its being defeated and permit the enemy to turn his whole strength to meet the main attack.
The Prime Minister said he wanted landing craft to carry at least two divisions. With such an amphibious force it would be possible to do operations seriatim, that is, first, up the leg of Italy by amphibious turning movements, thus offering the possibility of cutting off the enemy’s withdrawal and capturing the entire German force now in Central Italy; second, to take Rhodes in conjunction with Turkey’s entry into the war; and, third, to use the entire force for operations six months hence against the southern coast of France in order to assist OVERLORD. He said that none of these operations would be excluded but that the timing would require careful study. This force of two divisions cannot be supplied in the Mediterranean without either setting back the date of OVERLORD for six or eight weeks or without drawing back from the Indian Ocean landing craft which were now intended to be used against the Japanese. He said that this is one of the dilemmas which the Anglo-American staffs are balancing in their minds. In reaching their conclusions they would be greatly assisted by the views of Marshal Stalin and his officers. He welcomed these views because of his admiration for the military record of the Red Army. He therefore suggested that the military staffs continue to study these subjects.
The Prime Minister then said that the second matter which must be settled was political rather than military because of the small military forces involved. He referred to the question of Yugoslavia and the Dalmatian Coast. He said that in the Balkans there were 21 German divisions plus garrison troops, of which 54,000 troops are spread about among the Aegean Islands. There were also about 21 Bulgarian divisions or a total of 42 divisions in all.
The Prime Minister later corrected these figures to indicate that there were 42 divisions in all, 12 of which were Bulgarian divisions in Bulgaria.
He said that if Turkey came into the war the Bulgarian divisions would be used to face the Turks on the Thrace front. This withdrawal of Bulgarian divisions as garrison troops in the Balkans would endanger the remaining German divisions left on that duty by operations of the guerrillas. He said that he did not suggest that the Anglo-American forces put divisions into the Balkans, but he did propose that there be a continuous flow of supplies, frequent commando raids and air support furnished as and when needed. He felt it was shortsighted to let the Germans crush Yugoslavia without giving those brave people now fighting under Tito weapons for which they might ask. He emphasized that the Balkan operations would be a great factor in stretching the Germans and thus giving relief to the Russian front. He added that the British had no interests in the Balkans that were exceptional or ambitious in nature and all they wanted to do was to nail the 21 German divisions in that area and destroy them. He suggested that the Foreign Secretaries of the U.K. and the USSR and a representative of the United States whom the President might designate should hold discussions to see if the proposed activities in the Balkans presented any political difficulties.
The Prime Minister then came to his last point, which was in reference to Turkey. He said that the British are allies of Turkey and that the British have accepted the responsibility of endeavoring to persuade or force Turkey into the war before Christmas. He said that if the President would come in with the British or take the lead, it would be agreeable to him, but he should certainly want all possible help from the U.S. and USSR in accordance with the agreements made at the Moscow Conference.
The Prime Minister said that the British would go far in warning Turkey that her failure to enter the war would jeopardize her political and territorial aspirations, particularly with reference to the Dardanelles, when these matters were being discussed at the peace table.
The Prime Minister indicated that the military staffs had already discussed the military aspects of Turkey’s entry into the war. He said, however, that the question was largely political since only two or three divisions of soldiers were involved. He again posed the question as to how the USSR would feel about Bulgaria. Would they be inclined to tell Bulgaria that if Turkey did enter the war against Germany and Bulgaria helped Germany, the USSR would regard Bulgaria as a foe? He felt that such a statement might have a great influence on Bulgaria’s attitude because of her relationship with the Soviets. He suggested that the Foreign Secretaries study this matter, also particularly as to the methods to be used and the results which might be expected. He said that he personally felt that the results might well be decisive, particularly in their moral effect. He said that Turkey, being an ally of Germany in the last war and now turning against her, would have a profound effect on the remainder of the Balkans. He pointed to Rumania’s desire to present an unconditional surrender at this time and to other indications of unrest in the Balkans, as evidence of the fact that Turkey’s entry into the war would have a great effect.
The Prime Minister concluded by saying he felt that the whole Mediterranean situation should be carefully examined to see what could be done to take weight off the Soviet front.
Marshal Stalin said, as far as the question of the USSR versus Bulgaria is concerned, as soon as Turkey comes into the war we can consider that the matter is closed. The USSR will take care of Bulgaria. If Turkey declares war on Bulgaria, the USSR will declare war on Bulgaria. Even under these circumstances Turkey will not enter the war.
As far as military matters are concerned, Marshal Stalin said he understood that two or three divisions would be made available to help Turkey should she come into the war or to help in the Partisan movement in Yugoslavia. There is no difference of opinion on this point. We feel it desirable to help in Yugoslavia and to give two or three divisions if it would be necessary to do so. The Soviets do not think, however, that this is an important matter. Even the event of the entry of Turkey into the war or the occupation of Rhodes is not the most important thing. If we are here in order to discuss military questions, among all the military questions for discussion we, the USSR, find OVERLORD the most important and decisive. Marshal Stalin said he would like to call the attention of those present to the importance of not creating diversions from the most important operation in order to carry out secondary operations. He suggested that the ad hoc committee, which was created yesterday, should be given a definite task as to what they were to discuss. He said if a committee is created in the USSR, we always give that committee a specific directive or instructions. Marshal Stalin suggested that the military ad hoc committee be given a specific directive. He said it was, of course, true that the USSR needed help and that is why the representatives of the Soviet are here at this conference. He said the Soviets expect help from those who are willing to fulfill Operation OVERLORD. The question now was what shall be the directive to the ad hoc committee? What shall be the instructions that should be given to the committee under the guidance of General Brooke? First of all, this directive must be specific with regard to the fact that OVERLORD should not be postponed and must be carried out by the limiting date. Secondly, the directive to the committee should state that Operation OVERLORD must be reinforced by a landing in the South of France a month or two before undertaking the OVERLORD assault. If not possible two or three months earlier, then the landing in the South of France should be at the same time. If a landing cannot be effected in the South of France at the same time as OVERLORD, possibly this operation could be mounted a little later than OVERLORD.
Marshal Stalin thought this operation in the South of France would be an auxiliary or supporting operation and would help and be considerably effective in contributing toward OVERLORD. On the other hand, operations against Rhodes and other operations in the Mediterranean would be diversions. Operations in the South of France would influence and contribute directly to OVERLORD. He said that the directive to the ad hoc committee must also state that the appointment of the Supreme Commander for OVERLORD should be made forthwith. The decision regarding the OVERLORD commander should be made here in Tehran. If it cannot be done here, it should be done within a week at the latest. The Soviets believe that until such a commander has been appointed, no success from OVERLORD can be expected in the matter of organization for this operation. He added that it is the task of the British and the United States representatives to agree on the commander for OVERLORD. The USSR does not enter into the matter of this selection but the Soviets definitely want to know who he will be. The above are the points of the directive which should be given to the ad hoc committee, and the work of this committee should be completed immediately.
Marshal Stalin asked the conference to seriously consider the points which he had just outlined. He added that he felt if the three points he had made were carried out, they would result in the successful and rapid accomplishment of OVERLORD.
The President said he was tremendously interested in hearing all angles of the subject from OVERLORD to Turkey. He said that if we are all agreed on OVERLORD, the next question would be regarding the timing of OVERLORD. Therefore, if we come down to a matter of questions, the point is either to carry out OVERLORD at the appointed time or to agree to the postponement of that operation to sometime in June or July. There are only one or two other operations in the Mediterranean which might use landing craft and air forces from some other theater. The President said there are two dangers in creating a delay in OVERLORD. One of them is that the use of two or three divisions in the Eastern Mediterranean would cause a delay to OVERLORD and would necessitate the sending of certain landing craft for those operations which in turn could not be withdrawn from the Eastern Mediterranean in time to return for the OVERLORD date. He said it was believed that once we are committed to specific operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, we would have to make it a supreme operation and we probably could not then pull out of it.
Marshal Stalin observed that maybe it would be necessary to utilize some of the means for OVERLORD in order to carry out operations in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The President continued that in the Balkans and Yugoslavia he believed all aid should be given which could be possibly sent to Tito without making any particular commitment which would interfere with OVERLORD. He said he thought that we should consider the value of the 40 divisions the Germans have in the Balkans and if we can do certain operations with a minimum effort, these divisions might be placed in a position where they could no longer be of any value.
The President said he felt that commando raids should be undertaken in the Balkans and that we should send all possible supplies to Tito in order to require Germany to keep their [her?] divisions there.
Marshal Stalin said that in Yugoslavia the Germans have eight divisions; they have five divisions in Greece, and three or four divisions in Bulgaria. He stated that the figures given by the Prime Minister regarding German divisions in the Balkans were wrong.
In reply to a question, Marshal Stalin said there were 25 German divisions now in France.
The President said we should therefore work out plans to contain these German divisions. This should be done on such a scale as not to divert means from doing OVERLORD at the agreed time.
Marshal Stalin observed, regarding the President’s statement, “You are right – You are right.”
The President said we again come back to the problem of the timing for OVERLORD. It was believed that it would be good for OVERLORD to take place about 1 May, or certainly not later than 15 May or 20 May, if possible.
The Prime Minister said that he could not agree to that.
Marshal Stalin said he observed at yesterday’s conference that nothing will come out of these proposed diversions. In his opinion OVERLORD should be done in May. He added that there would be suitable weather in May.
The Prime Minister said he did not believe that the attitudes of those present on this matter were very far apart. He said he (the Prime Minister) was going to do everything in the power of His Majesty’s Government to begin OVERLORD at the earliest possible moment. However, he did not think that the many great possibilities in the Mediterranean should be ruthlessly cast aside as valueless merely on the question of a month’s delay in OVERLORD.
Marshal Stalin said all the Mediterranean operations are diversions, aside from that into Southern France, and that he had no interest in any other operations other than those into Southern France. He accepted the importance of these other operations but definitely considered that they are diversions.
The Prime Minister continued that in the British view their large armies in the Mediterranean should not be idle for some six months but should be, together with the United States Allies, working toward the defeat of Germany in Italy, and at the same time be active elsewhere. He said for the British to be inert for nearly six months would be a wrong use of forces, and in his opinion would lay the British open to reproach from the Soviets for having the Soviets bear nearly all the burden of land fighting.
Marshal Stalin said that he did not wish the British to think that the Soviets wished them to do nothing.
The Prime Minister said if all the landing craft were taken away from the Mediterranean, they will not affect the battle. Marshal Stalin must remember that at Moscow it was stated under what conditions OVERLORD could be mounted and that under those conditions alone could it be launched. Operation OVERLORD was predicated on the assumption that not more than 12 German mobile divisions would be located behind the coastal troops, and furthermore, that not more than 15 reinforcement divisions could enter the fray within 60 days. He said that that was the basis on which he (Mr. Churchill) had stated the British would do OVERLORD. On those conditions, the Allies will have to utilize as many divisions in the Balkans and so forth as are necessary to contain German troops. If Turkey comes into the war, this will be particularly necessary. The German divisions now in Italy have largely come from France. Consequently, if there should be a slackening off in Italy, it would mean that the German divisions would withdraw and appear in the South of France to meet us there. On the other hand, if we do the Eastern Mediterranean, we will contain more German divisions and will create conditions indispensable to the success of OVERLORD.
Marshal Stalin inquired, “What if there are 13 divisions, not 12?”
The Prime Minister replied, “Naturally.” He continued by saying there was one more word about Turkey. All are agreed here that she should enter the war. If Turkey does not enter the war, then that ends that. If she does enter, the only necessary thing to do would be to use an air attack from the Turkish bases in Anatolia and an operation to take the Island of Rhodes. For the purpose of the Rhodes operation, one assault division would be ready in the near future and that would be sufficient. Having gotten Rhodes and Turkish air bases, a course could be steered north and operations undertaken to drive and starve all German divisions out of the Aegean and then open the Dardanelles. Essentially, these specific operations were limited operations, and therefore they could not be considered as military commitments of an indefinite character. If Turkey comes into the war and we get the air bases, it would be a simple matter to open the Straits. If Turkey does not come in, we do not pay any further attention to the matter. If Turkey comes into the war and we hold Rhodes and the Aegean, we will be able to use the air squadrons now in Egypt. All could move forward and help the Soviets. They now play no part except in the defense of Egypt. We can use the same troops which are now guarding Egypt to drive the Germans back. This is a big matter and should not be lightly considered.
The Prime Minister said he felt that our future will suffer great misfortune if we do not get Turkey into the war, for in such case troops and planes will stand idle.
The Prime Minister added that he agreed with General Marshall in his statement that the chief problem is one of transportation across the water and that that matter is largely a question of landing craft. He said that the British were prepared to go into the matter in great detail, and a very small number of landing craft could make the subsidiary operations feasible. If these landing craft cannot be kept in the Mediterranean because of OVERLORD or cannot possibly be found from some other arrangement [area?] such as the Indian Ocean, then this matter should be resolved by the technical committee. A landing in Southern France will require a great number of landing craft. He begged that this important point should be carefully weighed.
The Prime Minister said in conclusion that he accepted the proposal that a directive should be drawn up for this technical committee. He further suggested that the Soviet Government draw up terms of reference, that the United States draw up terms of reference, that Great Britain draw up terms of reference and then he felt sure that all three nations would not be far apart.
The President inquired how long will the conference be in session until the staff comes to a conclusion on these matters.
The Prime Minister in this connection said he can give his own opinion on behalf of the British Government tonight.
In reply to a question from Marshal Stalin as to how many French divisions were in the Allied Armies and how many troops there were in French divisions, the President replied he understood there were now five combat divisions and four more will soon be ready, making a total of nine. Some of these divisions are now engaged in Sardinia and Corsica.
General Marshall said that the French Corps is to become a part of the U.S. 5th Army in Italy and will occupy the left flank. He said that one division was now en route to the Front and will get a trial of battle. As a result of this it would be possible to judge better regarding the employment of other French divisions. All equipment for the French divisions is now in North Africa. There was some delay in four or five divisions being brought up to strength and completing their training. He said the French divisions were training with United States equipment and under the instruction of United States officers and non-commissioned officers.
In reply to a question from Marshal Stalin as to how many men there were in these French divisions, General Marshall replied, French divisions have the same number of men as the United States – 15,000 men per division. The men are mostly native troops with French officers and some noncoms. In the armored command only one quarter are native troops.
Marshal Stalin said, with regard to the remarks of the Prime Minister, if Turkey does not enter the war, it cannot be helped.
The Prime Minister replied if Turkey does not come into the war, he had no intention of asking for any troops for operations in Rhodes or Asia Minor.
In reply to a question from Marshal Stalin as to how many more days this conference would continue, the President said that he was willing to stay here until the conference is finished.
The Prime Minister said he would stay here forever, if necessary.
The President suggested that if the three Chiefs of State were in agreement, the committee need not have any written directive because they have been confronted with every suggestion made at this afternoon’s meeting. He said if the Chiefs of State could agree on the proceedings of the afternoon conference as a directive, then the staff would definitely have only one directive.
Marshal Stalin said he considered that the ad hoc committee was unnecessary. It could not raise any new questions for the military conference. He believed that all that was necessary to be solved was the selection of the commander for OVERLORD, the date for OVERLORD and the matter of supporting operations to be undertaken in Southern France in connection with OVERLORD. He furthermore believed that the committee of Foreign Secretaries proposed by the Prime Minister was unnecessary. He considered that all matters could be solved here and that committees were unnecessary. He said he must leave on the first, anyway, but that he might stay over until the second of December if it had to be – then he must go away. He said that he must know when he can get away. There are two days remaining, the 30th of November and the first of December. He said the President would remember that he had said he could come to the conference for three or four days.
The President then read a proposed directive for the Ad Hoc Committee of the Chiefs of Staff:
The Committee of the Chiefs of Staff will assume that OVERLORD is the dominating operation.
The Committee recommends that subsidiary operation(s) be included in the Mediterranean, taking into consideration that any delay should not affect OVERLORD.
Marshal Stalin observed that there was no mention regarding the date of OVERLORD in the proposed directive. He said for the USSR it is important to know the date OVERLORD will be mounted in order that the Soviets could prepare the blow on their side. He said he insisted on knowing the date.
The President remarked that the date for OVERLORD had been fixed at Quebec and that only some much more important matter could possibly affect that date, that is to say, this was the President’s view.
The Prime Minister said he would like to have an opportunity to reply to the President’s remarks. He said there was no decisive difference in principle. He would be very glad to stay until the first of December and make a decision. It was not clear to him what the President’s plans were, however. He said he was in favor of the continuance of the ad hoc committee if that could be done. With regard to the political subcommittee, Marshal Stalin has clarified matters with regard to Bulgaria and help to Yugoslavia. Therefore, the meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries and Mr. Hopkins would be of great advantage. It would throw light on the problems and would be particularly important on the political questions. He would be grateful for Marshal Stalin’s prompt answers to his questions. If it were decided to do so, the Prime Minister thought that on the whole this procedure would be of advantage. He considered that the timing of the supreme Operation OVERLORD as regards any subsidiary operations would be most necessary as a condition for the success of OVERLORD. Furthermore, he believed that the ad hoc staff committee should recommend what subsidiary operations should be carried out. The Prime Minister believed that we should take more time in drawing up a proper directive to the ad hoc committee.
The President said he found that his staff places emphasis on OVERLORD. While on the other hand the Prime Minister and his staff also emphasize OVERLORD, nevertheless the United States does not feel that OVERLORD should be put off.
The President questioned whether it would not be possible for the ad hoc committee to go ahead with their deliberations without any further directive and to produce an answer by tomorrow morning.
Marshal Stalin questioned, “What can such a committee do?” He said, “We Chiefs of State have more power and more authority than a committee. General Brooke cannot force our opinions and there are many questions which can be decided only by us.” He said he would like to ask if the British are thinking seriously of OVERLORD only in order to satisfy the USSR.
The Prime Minister replied that if the conditions specified at Moscow regarding OVERLORD should exist, he firmly believed it would be England’s duty to hurl every ounce of strength she had across the Channel at the Germans.
The President observed that in an hour a very good dinner would be awaiting all and people would be very hungry. He suggested that the staffs should meet tomorrow morning and discuss the matter.
Marshal Stalin said that he believed that that was unnecessary. The staffs will not in any way speed our work; they will only delay matters. It is proper to decide matters more quickly.
The Prime Minister said he thought the talks of the foreign officers would be most profitable.
The President observed that a few political problems might be discussed during luncheon together by the Foreign Secretaries and Mr. Hopkins in a different place from that where the Chiefs of State had their luncheon.
Marshal Stalin commented, “Then at four o’clock tomorrow afternoon we will have our conference again.”
The President suggested that the Chiefs of State have luncheon together tomorrow about one thirty.
|United States||United Kingdom||Soviet Union|
|President Roosevelt||Prime Minister Churchill||Marshal Stalin|
|Mr. Hopkins||Foreign Secretary Eden||Mr. Berezhkov|
|Mr. Harriman||Sir Archibald Clark Kerr|
|Mr. Bohlen||Major Birse|
November 29, 1943, 8:30 p.m. Secret
The most notable feature of the dinner was the attitude of Marshal Stalin toward the Prime Minister. Marshal Stalin lost no opportunity to get in a dig at Mr. Churchill. Almost every remark that he addressed to the Prime Minister contained some sharp edge, although the Marshal’s manner was entirely friendly. He apparently desired to put and keep the Prime Minister on the defensive. At one occasion he told the Prime Minister that just because Russians are simple people, it was a mistake to believe that they were blind and could not see what was before their eyes.
In the discussion in regard to future treatment of Germans, Marshal Stalin strongly implied on several occasions that Mr. Churchill nursed a secret affection for Germany and desired to see a soft peace.
Marshal Stalin was obviously teasing the Prime Minister for the latter’s attitude at the afternoon session of the Conference, he was also making known in, a friendly fashion his displeasure at the British attitude on the question of OVERLORD.
Following Mr. Hopkins’ toast to the Red Army, Marshal Stalin spoke with great frankness in regard to the past and present capacity of the Red Army. He said that in the winter war against Finland, the Soviet Army had shown itself to be very poorly organized and had done very badly; that as a result of the Finnish War, the entire Soviet Army had been reorganized; but even so, when the Germans attacked in 1941, it could not be said that the Red Army was a first-class fighting force. That during the war with Germany, the Red Army had become steadily better from [the] point of view of operations, tactics, etc., and now he felt that it was genuinely a good army. Pie added that the general opinion in regard to the Red Army had been wrong, because it was not believed that the Soviet Army could reorganize and improve itself during time of war.
In regard to the future treatment of Germany, Marshal Stalin developed the thesis that he had previously expressed, namely, that really effective measures to control Germany must be evolved, otherwise Germany would rise again within 15 or 20 years to plunge the world into another war. He said that two conditions must be met:
At least 50,000 and perhaps 100,000 of the German Commanding Staff must be physically liquidated.
The victorious Allies must retain possession of the important strategic points in the world so that if Germany moved a muscle she could be rapidly stopped.
Marshal Stalin added that similar strong points now in the hands of Japan should remain in the hands of the Allies.
The President jokingly said that he would put the figure of the German Commanding Staff which should be executed at 49,000 or more.
The Prime Minister took strong exception to what he termed the cold-blooded execution of soldiers who had fought for their country. He said that war criminals must pay for their crimes and individuals who had committed barbarous acts, and in accordance with the Moscow Document, which he himself had written, they must stand trial at the places where the crimes were committed. He objected vigorously, however, to executions for political purposes.
Marshal Stalin, during this part of the conversation, continuously referred to Mr. Churchill’s secret liking for the Germans.
With reference to the occupation of bases and strong points in the vicinity of Germany and Japan, the President said those bases must be held under trusteeship.
Marshal Stalin agreed with the President.
The Prime Minister stated that as far as Britain was concerned, they do not desire to acquire any new territory or bases, but intended to hold on to what they had. He said that nothing would be taken away from England without a war. He mentioned specifically, Singapore and Hong Kong. He said a portion of the British Empire might eventually be released but that this would be done entirely by Great Britain herself, in accordance with her own moral precepts. He said that Great Britain, if asked to do so, might occupy certain bases under trusteeship, provided others would help pay the cost of such occupation.
Marshal Stalin replied that England had fought well in the war and he, personally, favored an increase in the British Empire, particularly the area around Gibraltar. He also suggested that Great Britain and the United States install more suitable governments in Spain and Portugal, since he was convinced that Franco was no friend of Great Britain or the United States. In reply to the Prime Minister’s inquiry as to what territorial interests the Soviet Union had, Marshal Stalin replied, “there is no need to speak at the present time about any Soviet desires, but when the time comes, we will speak.”
Although the discussion between Marshal Stalin and the Prime Minister remained friendly, the arguments were lively and Stalin did not let up on the Prime Minister throughout the entire evening.
U.S. Navy Department (November 29, 1943)
Islands in the Gilberts are being developed according to plan.
A few enemy stragglers remain in the northern end of Tarawa Atoll.
Seventh Army Air Force Liberators continue their raids against Nauru and the Marshalls.
The Pittsburgh Press (November 29, 1943)
Flying Fortresses battle through Nazi fighters and icy weather
By Phil Ault, United Press staff writer
Italian front lull ends; flame tanks fail to stop veterans
By C. R. Cunningham, United Press staff writer
Lisbon hears Roosevelt, Churchill wait for Stalin in Cairo; German people may get big three ultimatum
January quota of 350,000 is highest since June; Navy needs greatest
Inquirers into federal workers’ loyalties further must not ask any questions about unions
Agency accused by investigators of exceeding its authority
‘I put my arms around her and lost my head,’ former sailor confesses
Senators want to know if he figured in other incidents
Adm. Kincaid, new Southwest Pacific commander, confirms reinforcement report
By William C. Wilson, United Press staff writer
1,000 more Japs slain as Americans advance on Bougainville
By Brydon C. Taves, United Press staff writer
Stalin informed of approximate date for second front and is believed to be satisfied with time
By William Philip Simms, Scripps-Howard staff writer
By Richard W. Johnston, United Press staff writer
With the U.S. Marines at Tarawa, Gilbert Islands – (Nov. 26, delayed)
The Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack flutter peacefully over the shattered cocopalms and down on the beaches, the surf ripples among the bodies of our dead, but here on the landing strip at Tarawa the Seabees are working like demons.
They are working to convert the bomb-picked Jap landing strip – once a major threat to our island positions in the Pacific – into a new air base for the planes which will help us take a few more steps toward Tokyo when we have consolidated our positions at Tarawa and Makin.
The Seabees swarmed over the airstrip while Jap machine-gun bullets still whistled overhead from their last-stand positions on the north end of the island.
Our fighter planes soon will come in.
There is still occasional gunfire as our patrols mop up Jap remnants huddling in the flame-seared wreckage of their cocolog blockhouses. You can never tell when you will run into a straggling sniper.
One fired a burst of rifle shots at Lt. John Popham of New York and me the other night as we headed for our foxholes in anticipation of a Jap nuisance raid. He missed us by inches but hit a Seabee, Fireman C. R. Witmer of Maxwell, Iowa, in the foot.
This dispatch is written while folks at home are sitting down to platters of Thanksgiving turkey. We share that spirit of Thanksgiving. Most of all, we are thankful to be alive. But for the chance of battle, we would be in one of the cemeteries on the island, hanging grotesquely from the barbed wire in the surf or lying among the wounded who have been taken aboard ships en route to hospitals.
Imposing record shows vast possibilities of underseas craft
By Col. Frederick Palmer, North American Newspaper Alliance
Yanks kill 4,500 of enemy but suffer heavy losses
By B. J. McQuaid
Betio Atoll, Tarawa, Gilbert Islands – (Nov. 24, delayed)
“Look at all those dead Japs down there,” someone in our plane cried out as we flew low over Betio’s reef and our pilot coursed slowly back and forth “dragging” the treacherous waters for a safe landing area.
There were scores of these bodies, floating in gruesome incongruity upon the surface of this deceptive smiling southern sea.
But when we got ashore, we found that they were not Jap bodies.
Most of them were the corpses of young Americans who died off Betio’s glistening beaches in order that their comrades and fellow Marines might successfully storm some of the most formidable shore defenses in the history of warfare.
Losses may be heaviest
Among the assault troop personnel, the total casualties, when finally tabulated, will probably run the heaviest of any engagement in this war.
Maj. Gen. Julian C. Smith of Elkton, Maryland, 58-year-old commander of the 2nd Marine Division which took Betio, today personally escorted Maj. Gen. Holland M. Smith, commander of all amphibious troops in these Gilbert Islands operations, on a three-hour hike around the battleground. I tagged along, with Bob Trumbull of the New York Times, who flew down from Makin with me and was the only other correspondent to get ashore both at Makin and Tarawa.
Looks like holocaust
What we were shown was a rubble heap of ragged palm stumps, battered installations and rotting corpses. It looked more like the scene of some ghastly holocaust than any battlefield I had seen or of which I had heard or read. Compared to this, our show up at Makin was a pink tea party, Guadalcanal a picnic and Rendova, New Georgia and Vella Lavella penny ante.
The bodies of Marines lining the beaches and the twisted smoke and blackened hulks of their half-submerged landing craft, are but part of this sickening picture of slaughter and desolation – and thank God, a lesser part.
For every American body on the beach, there are many Jap carcasses lying inland within a few yards of shore.
Virtually all killed
With the exception of several score of prisoners, said to be mostly Korean laborers, and a handful of snipers and skulkers, still to be dug out, the Marines killed every Jap on the island.
There were some 4,500 in all, including about 3,500 combatant troops. These were Imperial Marines, the best Japan can put in the field. Judging from the few corpses which were not withered and mangled beyond recognition by our flamethrowers and incendiary shells, these were husky, strapping fellows, many more than six feet tall.
Though about 60 Japs have been killed so far today in isolated pockets, including a nest of snipers which killed two of our own Marines in the area through which Gen. Holland Smith had been escorted a few minutes earlier, this island is now considered “secured.” In half-a-dozen crude cemeteries, our own dead are being buried in long, straight rows. Soon the last traces of battle will have been removed.
Breeze carries stench
But tonight, the breeze over Betio carries the nauseating stench of death and stale cordite and this smell is a fitting accompaniment to the physical appearance of the tiny island.
From far out at sea, Betio’s appearance betrays its ugly secret. Seen 10 miles away, from our low-flying plane, Betio’s flat skyline appeared to have been gnawed by rats or eaten away by locusts.
Nearly all the palms are minus their fronds and coconut clumps. They stand like flame-seared skeletons of telephone poles, as a result of the heavy naval bombardment which prepared the way for the first waves of landing craft. It seems unlikely that any Japs survived this blast until you get ashore and study their installations.
Pillboxes line beach
The Jap’s proficiency as a digger-in is well known, but on this island, he surpassed himself. Pillboxes lining the beaches are less than 10 feet apart – a solid perimeter of defense all around the atoll. Inland, similar defenses are constructed in death mutually supporting each other and covering every square yard of the island except the runways of the airfield.
Betio is only 800 yards across at the widest point and 2.5 miles long. Nowhere on this sliver of land except on the airfield can you take 20 steps in any direction without encountering a prepared defensive position. Some are just deep dugouts covered with multiple layers of coconut logs, coral rock and sand. But many have solid concrete walls and roofs a foot or two, and in some cases as much as five feet, thick.
The Jap dead who litter the interior of nearly all these positions were not the victims of bombing or shelling. The Marines had to go in and kill them, with flamethrowers, rifles, knives, bayonets, grenades, tanks and small-caliber field pieces, which were, in some cases, dragged by hand up to these flame-spitting, heavily machine-gunned fortresses and discharged at point-blank range into their nearly inaccessible apertures.
Took guts and skill
We gave the Marines much new equipment for this job as well as a tremendous amount of naval and air support, but these things, valuable as they were, do not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with what the Marines themselves contributed. What it took to do this job was guts and skill on the part of each individual foot soldier, and competent, devoted leadership by officers and non-coms.
We took Tarawa in three days. We might have failed to take it at all. Had the Japs staged a determined counterattack during the first night, while they had our troops pinned down on several isolated and dangerously shallow beachheads, the headlines and communiqués which America has been reading might have been very different.