Meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, 2:30 p.m.
|United States||United Kingdom|
|Admiral Leahy||General Brooke|
|General Marshall||Air Chief Marshal Portal|
|Admiral King||Admiral of the Fleet Cunningham|
|General Arnold||Field Marshall Dill|
|Lieutenant General Somervell||Lieutenant General Ismay|
|Vice Admiral Willson||Admiral Mountbatten|
|Rear Admiral Cooke||General Riddell-Webster|
|Rear Admiral Bieri||Lieutenant General Carton de Wiart|
|Rear Admiral Badger||Major General Laycock|
|Major General Handy||Captain Lambe|
|Major General Fairchild||Brigadier Sugden|
|Brigadier General Kuter||Air Commodore Elliot|
|Captain Doyle||Brigadier Cobb|
|Colonel Roberts||Brigadier Head|
|Captain Freseman||Brigadier McNair|
|Commander Long||Lieutenant Colonel Dobson|
|Present for the Last Item Only|
|Lieutenant General Lin|
|Vice Admiral Yang|
|Lieutenant General Chou|
|Major General Chu|
|Major General Tsai|
|Lieutenant General Stilwell|
|Major General Stratemeyer|
|Major General Chennault|
|Brigadier General Merrill|
Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
November 24, 1943, 2:30 p.m. Secret
Sir Alan Brooke said that since the following day would be Thanksgiving, he had made inquiries into the possibility of holding a service in the cathedral in Cairo and had found that this would be possible at 1800 hours. The British members of the Conference would, if agreeable to their American colleagues, like to join them in attending this service.
Admiral Leahy thanked Sir Alan Brooke for this gesture. It was very much appreciated by the United States Chiefs of Staff, who would gladly attend.
Conclusions of the 128th Meeting
The Combined Chiefs of Staff: Accepted the conclusions of the 128th Meeting. The detailed report of the meeting was also accepted, subject to minor amendments.
Combined Chiefs of Staff – United Chiefs of Staff (CCS 406 and 406/1)
Sir Alan Brooke said the British Chiefs of Staff had considered the U.S. proposals and saw certain difficulties. The United Chiefs of Staff, if organized to exercise executive functions and take decisions, would in effect be superimposed on the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Only three members of the United Chiefs of Staff would be able to sit together at any one time since Russia and China were not fighting the same enemies, and the organization would be unable to take the wide global outlook which was the function of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The Combined Chiefs of Staff now functioned day in and day out and dealt with day-to-day problems of global strategy. He felt it better that Russian and Chinese representatives should be asked to attend all future conferences, such as SEXTANT, to discuss matters in which they were directly concerned.
Admiral King felt it important to have ready some possible plan to meet future demands for stronger representation.
Admiral Leahy said he felt sure the Combined Chiefs of Staff would be put under pressure to alter their present machinery. He agreed that no other body could be superimposed above the Combined Chiefs of Staff, since such a body could never take major decisions.
Sir Charles Portal said that he felt that a distinction should be drawn between the day-to-day work of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington and the major decisions which were taken at the special conferences. He felt that if pressure were applied for permanent representation, the demand would be withdrawn if it were suggested that the Chinese or Russian Representatives concerned would have to be able to speak with the full authority of their governments.
Sir John Dill pointed out the special position of the United States and Great Britain in that they only were fighting a global war and were completely integrated and united on all fronts.
Sir Alan Brooke suggested that the Combined Chiefs of Staff should not go further than to agree that, for the present, the Russians and Chinese should be asked to attend those meetings at future special conferences at which their own problems were being discussed.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff:
a. Took note of CCS 406 and CCS 406/1.
(1) That the Combined Chiefs of Staff should not take the initiative in putting forward any proposals for machinery to secure closer military cooperation with the USSR and China.
(2) That if the USSR and/or the Chinese should raise the question, the difficulties of and objections to any form of standing United Chiefs of Staff Committee should be frankly explained to them. It should be pointed out:
(a) That the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington are responsible for the day-to-day conduct of the Anglo-American forces which are closely integrated in accordance with the broad policy laid down at the formal conferences such as Casablanca, TRIDENT, QUADRANT, and SEXTANT which are convened from time to time; and
(b) That the USSR and/or Chinese Governments will be invited to join in any formal conferences which may be convened in the future to take part in the discussion of any military problems with which they are specifically concerned.
Agenda for EUREKA
Sir Alan Brooke said that he regarded the EUREKA Conference as primarily a political meeting at which certain points would probably be referred to the Combined Chiefs of Staff for their advice. He felt that it would be wise to consider at this conference the best method of coordinating Russian military effort with our own, particularly with regard to Russian action during and prior to the OVERLORD assault. It was essential that this attack should not take place during a lull in the fighting on the Eastern front.
Admiral Leahy agreed with this view and pointed out that there were several other items which might be raised, including the question of the provision of Russian bases for shuttle bombing. He agreed that it was wise to have in mind certain special points for discussion but that the work of the conference would be inevitably affected by the political discussions.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff: Agreed:
a. That no formal agenda need be produced at this stage because the military problems to be considered would arise from the political discussions which would be held at the start of the conference.
b. That the three main military topics for consideration would appear to be:
(1) The coordination of Russian operations with Anglo-American operations in Europe.
(2) Turkish action on entry into the war.
(3) Supplies to Russia.
At this point Admiral Mountbatten, General Wheeler, General Wedemeyer, Brigadier Cobb, and Lt. Colonel Dobson entered the meeting, and Admiral Leahy withdrew.
Operations in Southeast Asia Command
General Marshall reported that he had discussed the proposed operations in the Southeast Asia Command with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The Generalissimo disapproved of the present plan, which he felt would lead to heavy losses and possibly defeat. The Generalissimo had made the following stipulations: Firstly, that there must be an amphibious operation carried out simultaneously with the land attack in Burma. In this connection the Generalissimo had suggested action against the Andaman Islands. Secondly, that the advances by the columns as now envisaged in the plan should all be aimed at a line running east and west through Mandalay, including the occupation of Mandalay by one of the columns. The Generalissimo was satisfied that the Yunnan force should not advance beyond Lashio, its present objective.
He (General Marshall) had pointed out that the plan as explained to the Generalissimo was only the first stage of the operations to recapture Burma and was a conservative one and much less dangerous than that suggested by the Generalissimo. In view of the Generalissimo’s extreme interest in the naval situation in the Bay of Bengal, he suggested he be given, as soon as possible, the buildup of the British naval forces. Admiral Mountbatten should see him and explain his plan, pointing out that it was the first step only of a long campaign and that it was in the nature of a safe and conservative first step.
Admiral Mountbatten explained that the plan was based on the principle that the advance should end at the time that the monsoon would break. This would prevent Japanese repercussions. He stressed the point that it would be impossible to remain stationary in the positions captured at the end of the first stage. It would be essential therefore to have collected sufficient resources by October for the next step forward.
Sir Alan Brooke said that in taking the first step we were committing ourselves to the recapture of all Burma. There could be no question of holding a halfway line and we should probably have finally to undertake an airborne attack on Rangoon and amphibious operations. The alternatives were to continue the Burma land campaign to a finish or to give up the campaign altogether and endeavor to open the Malacca Straits. It was probably now too late to reverse our decision. This decision would, of course, affect the final plan for the defeat of Japan, and this must be realized.
Admiral King said he felt there was one alternative – to attack Bangkok instead. This would sever the Japanese lines of communication into Burma.
In reply to a question, General Marshall confirmed that the Generalissimo did not feel that the Chinese force from Yunnan should advance further than Lashio. The Generalissimo’s fear with regard to the present plan was that it would enable the Japanese to attack and defeat in detail the various columns, particularly the Chinese.
Admiral Mountbatten asked for direction from the Combined Chiefs of Staff as to what he should say to the Generalissimo with regard to future operations after the monsoon. These operations were largely dependent on the amount of air transport he could obtain in order to make his columns fully mobile. It might be possible to launch an amphibious operation in the Prome area and to put in more long-range penetration groups. He again emphasized that at the end of the monsoon it would be essential either to advance, in which case sufficient resources would have to be provided, or to retire. To remain stationary was impossible. He would have liked to advance as far as Mandalay in the present dry season if the resources had been available but the lines of communication to Mandalay did not permit this. Further, he had no reserve divisions. He hoped to gain his present objectives by early April when it might be expected that the monsoon would break. During the monsoon, long range penetration groups would operate. He asked that the Combined Chiefs of Staff should consider as early as possible the provision of resources to enable him to renew his advances at the end of the next monsoon.
General Marshall said that the Chinese fear appeared to be mainly that they might be left to carry out their Yunnan advance unsupported.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff: Took note of the above statements.
Boundaries of the Southeast Asia Command (CCS 308/7)
The Combined Chiefs of Staff considered a memorandum presented by the United States Chiefs of Staff on the revision of the boundaries of the Southeast Asia Command.
Admiral Mountbatten said that the proposals in the paper dealing with the boundaries themselves were acceptable to him but he did not believe that a committee sitting in Chungking should deal with political matters in Thailand and Siam. He pointed out that the Kra Isthmus was far removed from Chungking with which there was no communication. The Siamese and the French were not suspicious of the United States or Great Britain acting in concert, but rather of the Chinese themselves. His two main considerations were that preoccupational activity by such agencies as the SOE and OSS into Thailand and Siam must be permitted from his theater and that political questions should not be dealt with in Chungking, but either through the ordinary machinery of Government or perhaps even by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff: Agreed to defer action on CCS 308/7.
At this point General Shang Chen, Lieutenant General Lin Wei, Vice Admiral Yang Hsuan Ch’eng, Lieutenant General Chou Chih Jou, Lieutenant [Major] General Chu Shih Ming, Major General Tsai Wen Chih, Lieutenant General Stilwell, Major General Chennault, Major General Stratemeyer and Brigadier General Merrill entered the meeting.
Discussions with representatives of Chinese Government on operations in Southeast Asia Command
Sir Alan Brooke asked if the Chinese representatives had now had time to consider the plan for operations in the Southeast Asia Command put forward by Admiral Mountbatten.
General Shang confirmed that he had had time to study the plan. He had certain questions and comments. Though there might be differences of opinion, these comments were offered in a spirit of helpfulness and he hoped they would be accepted in the same spirit.
With regard to enemy intelligence, there were certain points of difference but he did not propose to raise these at the meeting but rather to exchange views with the appropriate staff officers. General Shang then put the following questions:
a. How many purely British units would be used in the area?
b. Would there be any further British units other than those now in the area?
c. Were there any armored or special troops?
d. What was the fighting experience of the formations which would be engaged?
Admiral Mountbatten and Brigadier Cobb outlined in considerable detail the nature of the British and Indian formations which would be engaged in the coming operations. Further details which might be required would be available from the staff of the Southeast Asia Command.
General Shang then asked for the plan for the employment of the Imphal column. Admiral Mountbatten explained that this column would fight its way through as far as possible. Strong resistance was, however, expected in the Kalewa area. He had insufficient air transport to supply this column from the air and, therefore, its rate of advance would be limited by the line of communications which could be built up behind them. All of the columns would advance as far as possible and exploit to the full the success they achieved.
General Shang then asked for details with regard to the Indaw column.
Admiral Mountbatten said that Indaw would be captured by the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade and the 26th Indian Infantry Division would then be flown in to hold it. It was essential to hold Indaw since it would serve as an essential base for the operations of long-range penetration groups against the Japanese lines of communication. An airfield was essential for this purpose since insufficient parachutes were available to supply the column by this means. The LRP groups were invaluable, not only for harrying lines of communication but also for killing Japanese.
In reply to a further question, Admiral Mountbatten explained the operations which would take place from Fort Hertz. He pointed out that the details of the coordination of these operations with those of General Stilwell’s Yunnan force had not yet [been] worked out. Plans with regard to amphibious operations could not yet be disclosed. There would, of course, be a land advance in the direction of Akyab which would be exploited to the full. He hoped to put an LRP group in by gliders west of the Salween River, commanded by an officer well known to the Chins who inhabited this area.
General Shang then made certain comments. The Generalissimo had instructed him to emphasize his conviction that the land operations in Burma must be synchronized with naval action and a naval concentration in the Bay of Bengal. The Generalissimo would be most disappointed if he was not fully apprised, before leaving the Conference, of the intention with regard to the strength and time of the arrival of the naval forces in the Bay of Bengal. The Generalissimo also considered that in the present plan the columns did not advance far enough. He considered that the plan also should cover the recapture of all Burma with Rangoon as an objective and the Mandalay-Lashio line as the first stage. Lastly the Generalissimo was insistent that, whatever the needs of the land campaign, the airlift to China must not drop below 10,000 tons a month. Though this might be thought to hinder the land operations, it must be remembered that operations in China and in Burma were closely related and the pressure exerted from China on Japanese forces must be maintained. The Generalissimo was most insistent with regard to the maintenance of the airlift to China.
Sir Andrew Cunningham said that he could state definitely that by the time that the land operation in Burma started, there would be adequate naval forces in the Bay of Bengal. The details of strength and date of this concentration would, he was sure, be communicated by the Prime Minister to the Generalissimo.
Admiral Mountbatten said that the plan for the first stage as outlined by General Shang was very similar to the one he had originally considered but logistic difficulties made it impossible. His staff could explain these difficulties in detail to the Chinese representatives. It was illogical to demand in the same breath that this extensive plan should be carried out and a 10,000-ton airlift to China maintained. He then outlined the relatively small reductions below 10,000 tons which would be necessary over a period to enable his present operations to take place. He pointed out that the 10,000-ton lift had never, in fact, been reached and was no more than a target. In his opinion, the U.S. Air Force had achieved miracles in reaching their present capacity over the “hump.” It was essential that the Chinese should make up their minds whether to insist on a 10,000-ton lift to China or whether they wished his present operations carried out. The Generalissimo had told him that he would regard with sympathy any small reductions below 10,000 tons necessary to enable the operations to be undertaken which, in fact, were designed to open the Burma Road to China. He must know where he stood. China could not have both the 10,000 tons and the land operations to open the road.
He would like an explanation with regard to the questions asked as to the numbers of British and Indian troops engaged. Did the Chinese Representatives wish to infer that the fighting qualities of the Indian troops were bad? This suggestion he most strongly refuted. The Indian divisions had fought magnificently in the North African campaigns. If, on the other hand, the Chinese Representatives wished to imply that British troops were remaining in India without playing an active part in the operations, he wished it to be clearly understood once and for all that this was not the case. There were only two British divisions not engaged; one of those was training for an amphibious role and the other was being broken up to form the long-range penetration groups.
General Shang explained that he had asked the questions referred to merely in order to have full details of the position and that, of course, he wished in no way to criticize the fighting qualities of either the Indian or British troops. With regard to tonnage over the “hump,” 10,000 tons per month was an absolute minimum, essential to maintain and equip the Chinese Army. Had it been possible to obtain it, they would have asked for ten times this amount.
Admiral Mountbatten pointed out that, in order to make the airline safe or to open the Burma Road, it was essential to put everything into the present battle. He considered that the Chinese, at this stage, should only equip troops which would actually take part in the present battle and that tonnage designed to equip or maintain the remainder must be foregone until the battle had been won.
General Marshall pointed out that the present campaign was designed to open the Burma Road, for which the Chinese had asked, and that the opening of the Road was for the purpose of equipping the Chinese Army. The Chinese must either fight the battle for opening the Road or else call for more American planes to increase the airlift over the “hump.” Any further increase in those American planes, at this time, he was opposed to. There must be no misunderstanding about this. The battle was to be fought to open the Burma Road. Unless this road were opened there could be no increase in supplies to China at this time since no further aircraft or equipment could be provided from the United States due to commitments elsewhere to meet serious shortages.
General Shang said that all were agreed that the Burma Road should be opened but in spite of that he felt that 10,000 tons per month was necessary for the China area. These supplies would not be hoarded or sold but would be used against the enemy. All the 10,000 tons was required for the Yunnan force and for the Chinese Air Force.
Admiral Mountbatten said that the requirements for the campaign had been calculated in consultation with General Stilwell and General Chennault. These requirements were met by the reduced tonnages he had suggested. The figure of 10,000 tons was a purely arbitrary one whereas his own were based on exact calculations. The Generalissimo had promised him that he would regard minor reductions sympathetically, and he, Mountbatten, hoped that he would now do so.
General Shang said that he was not in a position to give any decision with regard to a reduction in the tonnage over the “hump” but would report the points which had been made.
General Stilwell said that he had been instructed by the Generalissimo to put forward four points which the Generalissimo considered essential: Firstly, naval and amphibious operations to be synchronized with the land campaign; secondly, that the Indaw and Imphal advances should continue as far as Mandalay; thirdly, that the Yunnan force should advance to Lashio; and lastly, that the needs of the Chinese Air Force should be met.
General Chennault outlined the present and projected strengths of the 14th Air Force and the Chinese Air Force, together with the additional monthly tonnages required to maintain these forces. The present role of the Chinese Air Force was to defend the Szechwan basin, but the Generalissimo considered it must be equipped and trained to undertake an offensive role. The tonnages required by this plan for the two air forces in China amounted to some 10,000 tons per month.
General Arnold asked how it was proposed to use this 10,000 tons which, if all diverted to the air, would leave no lift for the ground forces.
General Chennault said that it was proposed to build up the Chinese and United States Air Forces equally. The figures he had given were the requirements to meet the plan. He was not putting forward any recommendations.
General Marshall suggested that the Chinese Representatives should arrange for Admiral Mountbatten to wait on the Generalissimo to explain his operations and the considerations with regard to the airlift to China.
Sir Alan Brooke said that he had believed that the Generalissimo earnestly desired that the Burma Road should be opened. This could only be done if the airlift to China was reduced.
General Shang undertook to arrange a meeting between Admiral Mountbatten and the Generalissimo.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff:
a. Took note with interest of the discussion between the Chinese military representatives and Admiral Mountbatten on the subject of the operations planned in Burma in the Southeast Asia Command.
b. Noted that the Chinese military representatives undertook to arrange a meeting between Admiral Mountbatten and the Generalissimo at which details of the plan, the reasons underlying it, and the considerable effort involved, could be explained to the Generalissimo as well as the implications on the airlift to China.