November 30, 1943, 4 p.m. Secret
In opening the meeting, the President said he assumed that most of those present were familiar with what had transpired at the meeting of the British and American staffs earlier in the day, but he suggested that General Brooke be asked to read the conclusions which were reached at that meeting.
Marshal Stalin and the Prime Minister agreed.
General Brooke said that at the meeting of the British and American staffs they had agreed to recommend to the President and Prime Minister that they should inform Marshal Stalin that the Anglo-American forces would launch OVERLORD during the month of May, in conjunction with a supporting operation against the South of France, on the largest scale that would be permitted by the landing craft available at that time.
The Prime Minister said it is of course understood that we shall keep in close touch with Marshal Stalin and the Soviet military authorities in order that all operations may be coordinated with each other. He said that the Anglo-American-Soviet forces would be closing in on Germany from all parts of a circle and it was essential that the pressure be exerted by all forces at the same moment. For this purpose, he proposed to keep the Soviet authorities informed of the Anglo-American plans. He added that it would be possible to hold 8 to 10 German divisions on the Italian front, and he expressed the hope that the Yugoslavs could continue their good work in holding German divisions in that country. He said that if Turkey could be brought into the war, so much the better, and emphasized again the necessity for the three great Powers to work together as one team.
Marshal Stalin said that he understood the importance of the decision that had been reached by the Anglo-American staffs. He emphasized that there would be difficulties in the beginning and possibly dangers. The greatest danger would be that at the time of the attack the Germans might endeavor to transfer divisions from the Eastern Front to meet it and attempt to prevent its success. In order to deny the Germans freedom of action and [not to?] permit them to move their forces to the West he stated that the Soviets would undertake to organize a large-scale offensive against the Germans in May in order to contain the maximum number of German divisions on the Eastern Front and thus remove the difficulties for OVERLORD. He added that he had already made such a statement to the President and Prime Minister but felt it necessary to repeat it at the Plenary Session of the conference.
The President said that the Marshal’s statement concerning the timing and coordination of operations was extremely satisfactory and it forestalled a question on that subject he was about to ask. He suggested that now that the staffs of the three nations had gotten together it was essential they should maintain close contact with each other, with particular emphasis on making certain that all future operations were timed with relation to each other.
The President then said he had told Marshal Stalin that the next step was the appointment of the Supreme Commander for the OVERLORD operation. He said that he and the Prime Minister would take up this matter with their staffs and make the decision within three or four days, certainly soon after their arrival in Cairo.
The President said that the only military matters remaining for consideration were details of the OVERLORD operation which would have to be worked out between the combined British and American staffs, and suggested it might be more convenient for them to return to Cairo at once for this purpose.
After ascertaining from Marshal Stalin that he had no more matters which he wished presented to the Combined British and American Staffs, the President and Prime Minister agreed that the staffs should return to Cairo on the following day.
The Prime Minister said there are many details about the OVERLORD operation which remain to be settled. He said that the necessary landing craft would have to be found, but he could not believe that the two nations, with their great volume of production, could not make the necessary landing craft available. He said also that he would like to add weight to the operation as it is now planned, especially in the initial assault. In all events, he wished to make sure that the armed forces of the three nations would be in heavy action on the Continent of Europe during the month of June. If this were so, he added, it would make it very difficult for “that man.” If Hitler attempts to meet the Soviet attack from the east, the Anglo-American forces will move in on him. On the other hand, if he attempts to stop the Anglo-American forces, the Soviet forces will be able to advance into Germany.
Marshal Stalin said that he understood the necessity for the detailed staff planning and concurred that it would be a good idea for the staffs to return to Cairo at once.
The Prime Minister then indicated that since the military business of the conference was concluded, there were some political matters of extreme importance which remained to be decided. He hoped it would be possible for the three Heads of State to meet on the first and second of December and not to leave Tehran until December 3. He said it would be well if they remained until all questions of importance had been decided. He indicated that he was prepared to delay his departure, and the President and Marshal Stalin agreed to stay the extra day.
The President brought up the subject of the communiqué, particularly as it referred to the military decisions. He suggested that the military staffs draft something for the President and Prime Minister’s approval.
Marshal Stalin agreed that this should be done insofar as military matters taken up at the conference were concerned.
The Prime Minister said he thought the communiqué should strike the note that all future military operations were to be concerted between the three great Powers.
Marshal Stalin added, certainly those in Europe from both the east and west.
The Prime Minister said that the preparations for OVERLORD are bound to be known to the enemy. Numerous depots are being constructed in Southern England, the entire appearance of the coast is changing and photographs indicate these changes in detail.
Marshal Stalin said that it was difficult, if not impossible, to hide such a large operation from the enemy.
The Prime Minister then asked if any arrangements had been made to provide a combined cover plan for the operations in May as between the three great Powers.
Marshal Stalin said that on such occasions the Soviets had achieved success by the construction of false tanks, airplanes and airfields. They move these items to sectors in which no operations are planned, and such movements are immediately picked up by the German intelligence. In sectors from which blows are to be launched, all movements are made quietly and mostly under cover of darkness. In this manner they had often succeeded in deceiving the Germans. He noted that at times up to 5,000 false tanks and 2,000 false airplanes had been used, as well as the construction of a number of airfields which were not actually intended to be used. Another method of deception practiced by the Red Army was by the use of radio. Unit commanders communicate freely by radio giving the Germans false information and evoke immediate attacks from the German air forces in areas where such attacks can do no harm.
The Prime Minister observed that truth deserves a bodyguard of lies.
Marshal Stalin said, “This is what we call military cunning.”
The Prime Minister said that he considered it rather military diplomacy. He suggested that arrangements be made for liaison to be established between the three great Powers as regards the deception and propaganda methods to be adopted.
It was agreed that the Chiefs of State and their Foreign Ministers should meet on the following day at 1600.