Cairo, 26 November 1943
Control of Strategic Air Forces in Northwest Europe and the Mediterranean
In CCS 400 the United States Chiefs of Staff have proposed that the U.S. Strategic Air Forces operating from the United Kingdom and from Mediterranean bases, the 8th and 15th Air Forces respectively, should be placed under a single Command – the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe – with a Headquarters in the United Kingdom. The object of this proposal is to achieve the more effective exploitation of U.S. heavy bomber capabilities which, it is hoped, the new Headquarters will secure in two ways:
a. By organizing mutually supporting operations of the two Strategic Air Forces in order to obtain the maximum dispersal of enemy defenses;
b. By enabling advantage to be taken of changing weather and tactical conditions by switching heavy bomber forces quickly from one theater to another.
This proposal affects directly only U.S. heavy bomber forces, and we recognize the ultimate right of the United States Chiefs of Staff to decide the organization of U.S. forces in any theater of operations. We feel bound, however, to record our view that the adoption of this proposal would entail serious disadvantages far outweighing any advantages to be derived from it.
To deal first with the advantages which are expected from the present proposal:
a. Great operational benefit would undoubtedly result if an effective combination of operations in the two theaters could be achieved. The operation of a large force of heavy day bombers is however a considerable undertaking and a period of up to 24 hours is required for the preparation and loading of aircraft and the briefing of crews. Unfortunately, the weather in the European theater is so uncertain that the decision to dispatch heavy bomber forces can only be taken a few hours before the time of takeoff and it is then too late to make changes in targets and the timing of attacks. The conduct of operations in accordance with a settled policy in either theater is therefore a matter of great difficulty and frequently much effort is wasted, both in abortive operations and in standing by for operations which have to be canceled. A fortiori, the detailed coordination of attacks from two bases so far apart as the U.K. and Italy would be still more difficult and would in fact prove impossible. A commander set up to control the two forces would find in practice that he could do no more than insure that the subordinate commanders in each theater worked to a general plan and kept him and each other closely informed of the situation on their own front so that the general plan could be altered as necessary. Coordination of this type can be secured with the present organization without the introduction of a new headquarters.
b. The possibility of switching heavy bomber forces from one theater to another is at first sight an attractive one. In order to obtain full benefit from the plan, it would however be necessary to build up a margin of facilities in the two theaters involving the preparation of heavy bomber airfields, runways, and maintenance depots over and above what is required for the forces already based in the theater, and the locking up of additional maintenance personnel. If these additional facilities were not provided, the serviceability and effectiveness of the heavy bombers would fall considerably as soon as they were transferred and the operations carried out would be on a smaller scale and less effective than if the forces had to remain at their normal bases. The Air Ministry have, in the past, given very careful consideration to this plan but they have been forced to the conclusion that, except on rare occasions, the results would not justify the effort involved. Such occasional transfers of forces as are likely to be profitable can be secured by the present machinery.
c. The provision of the necessary margin of facilities which, if a large transfer of force is envisaged, may be considerable, must of necessity conflict in the U.K. with other service and governmental requirements. In Italy or other active theaters of war they can only be provided at the expense of other service requirements.
There is therefore a potential conflict of interest between the commander of the Strategic Air Force on the one hand and the U.K. Government and theater commanders on the other.
Our conclusion is that the setting up of a new higher headquarters would not achieve the advantages which are claimed from it and would not in fact be any improvement over the existing machinery. It would, moreover, entail certain disadvantages which we consider to be serious, namely the following:
a. The most serious disadvantage is that it would destroy the present arrangements for the close coordination of the 8th Air Force and the RAF including the 2nd Tactical Air Force. This depends for its effectiveness on the fact that general direction over their operations is exercised by the Chief of the Air Staff, RAF. The latter, with his headquarters in London, possesses not only a complete operational staff but is also served by the central Intelligence Staff of the three Services, the Ministry of Economic Warfare, and the Secret Intelligence Service, and is in the closest touch with the Admiralty, Foreign Office, Ministry of Home Security, and other Government departments. The Air Staff is also in constant touch with the Mediterranean Air Command on matters concerned with operations and Intelligence, and very close liaison arrangements have been made between the different commanders in the Mediterranean theater and in the United Kingdom.
The interposition of a new link in the chain of control would, we are convinced, cause a reduction in the efficiency of these arrangements, and the reduction would be even more serious if, as indicated in paragraph 3 of the directive proposed to [in?] CCS 400, the Commanding General of U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe is placed as an interim measure directly under the Combined Chiefs of Staff. This latter proposal would mean the termination of the arrangement agreed to at Casablanca whereby the CAS exercises general direction over the operations of the 8th Air Force in furtherance of the combined bomber offensive and would, in our opinion, be a retrograde step. It would in fact mean that the ultimate control required for the direction of the bomber offensive would have to be effected in Washington rather than as at present in London. Since all the Intelligence and administrative services which are essential for the efficiency of the bomber offensive are centralized in London, there could not fail to be a grave reduction in efficiency from this change.
The final arrangement proposed is that the new Commander should come directly under the Command of the Supreme Allied Commander for Operations in NW Europe. In our opinion, it would be fundamentally wrong in principle that the direction of a large part of the strategic bomber offensive which affects operations on all fronts in the European theater should be exercised by the Theater Commander of any single theater.
b. The new Commander would presumably require a large staff of all kinds in order to exercise operational and the necessary administrative control. We cannot help thinking that the provision of the large numbers of specialized and skilled staff officers needed must be a matter of considerable difficulty at the present time and, since the benefits expected from this proposal are in fact attainable under the present organization, that it would be highly wasteful in skilled manpower.
c. The proposal would also cause serious difficulties in the Mediterranean Air Command not only by a division of operational from administrative responsibility but also because it would mean that the night bomber component of the Mediterranean Strategical Air Force would be served by a different chain of information and would be under a different authority from the day bombing component though operated by the same headquarters staff in the Mediterranean theater. This could only make for confusion.
To summarize, we consider that the present proposal:
a. Would not secure any advantage over the present system of control;
b. Would mean breaking up the present highly integrated system of control, which has achieved considerable success, and the replacement of it by a less closely integrated and less effective system;
c. Would be wasteful in skilled staff.
We recognize however that there is much to be gained by having a single authority charged with the general direction of the heavy bomber offensive against Germany – someone who can interpret the Combined Chiefs of Staff directives by issuing detailed instructions from time to time according to the changing situation and who can exercise a general supervision over all bomber operations against Germany and the administrative support that they require, and over the provision of Intelligence and Tactical information so as to secure the most effective use of the heavy bomber forces engaged in the Combined Bomber Offensive. We do not see how such an authority can be on a lower level than a Chief of Staff since only on this level can the supervising authority keep in touch with all the strategical political and administrative factors which affect the bombing programme. Our conclusion is that the authority best able to exercise this general control is the Chief of the Air Staff. The latter, acting as the agent of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, is already charged with the coordination of the operations of the 8th Air Force and the RAF. This coordination has been of the closest and, in our opinion, has enabled the best possible use to be made of the available forces. It would not be difficult to extend this system to the 15th Air Force by giving the CAS authority to regulate, in conformity with the plans of the Commanders of RAF Bomber Command and the 8th Air Force in this country, the priority of objectives to be attacked by the 15th Air Force. The CAS would also be in a position, subject to the Theater Commander’s assessment of his administrative capacity, to transfer strategical forces from the United Kingdom to the Mediterranean and back if this seemed profitable.
The United States Chiefs of Staff may wish to consider this alternative arrangement to secure the advantages which they have in mind in putting forward their present proposal.