||Prime Minister Churchill
||Foreign Secretary Eden
||Admiral of the Fleet Pound
||Air Chief Marshal Portal
||Field Marshal Dill
||Vice Admiral Mountbatten
||Lieutenant General Ismay
|Brigadier General Deane
Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
August 19, 1943, 5:30 p.m.
After welcoming the Combined Chiefs of Staff, the President and Prime Minister agreed that they should read through the Report of Progress which had been submitted to them. (NOTE: The amendments to the report that were directed by the President and Prime Minister have been included in a revised copy of the report and have been published as CCS 319.)
Mr. Hopkins raised the question as to whether POINTBLANK included air operations from Italy.
Sir Charles Portal said that it did not but it was anticipated that it might include such operations in the future. He said that one of the chief objectives of the POINTBLANK operation (in its first stage) was to destroy German fighter factories. Some of these can be better attacked from Italy.
General Arnold agreed and said it was contemplated that part of the POINTBLANK forces would eventually move so as to operate from Italian bases when they became available.
The President asked if the operation included attacks on Ploești.
General Arnold replied that the oil industry was one of the major objectives in the third phase of the plan and attacks on Ploești, if not specifically mentioned in the plan, could be included in that phase provided suitable bases had become available.
The President indicated that if we could reach bases as far north as Ancona in Italy they would be within striking distance of Ploești.
It was then agreed that the plan for the combined bomber offensive should include attacks from all convenient bases.
The Prime Minister discussed the paragraph pertaining to OVERLORD. He indicated that he was in favor of the plan but that it must [be] understood that its implementation depends on certain conditions being fulfilled regarding relative strengths. One of these was that there should not be more than 12 mobile German divisions in Northern France at the time the operation was mounted and that the Germans should not be capable of a buildup of more than 15 divisions in the succeeding 2 months. If the German strength proved to be considerably greater than this, the plan should be subject to revision by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
Mr. Hopkins said he did not feel that the Allies should take a rigid view of these limitations. He suggested that there might be 13 German divisions, or even 15 German divisions at two-thirds strength. Also it would be difficult to assess what the German fighter strength would be at that time. In this regard, he felt that General Morgan’s report was inelastic.
The Prime Minister agreed that there should be elasticity in judgment in deciding as to whether or not the operation should be mounted. He wished to emphasize that he strongly favored OVERLORD for 1944. He was not in favor of SLEDGEHAMMER in 1942 or ROUNDUP in 1943. However, the objections which he had had to those operations have been removed. He said that every effort should be made to add at least twenty-five per cent strength to the initial assault. This would mean an increase in the landing craft necessary but there are nine months available before the target date and much can be done in that time. The beaches selected are good but it would be better if at the same time a landing were to be made on the inside beaches of the Cotentin Peninsula. The initial lodgment must be strong as it so largely affects later operations.
General Marshall agreed that an increase in initial assault would greatly strengthen the OVERLORD operation.
The President said that he would like to have the time of arrival of U.S. troops in England stepped up, and General Marshall indicated that a study with respect to this was now being made. He wished to emphasize that the shortage of landing craft places the greatest limitation on all of our operations. He cited the case of the Mediterranean, at the present time, and indicated that we could have made an entry into Italy before this, had landing craft been available.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Mr. Lewis Douglas, Mr. Averell Harriman, and Lord Leathers had made an intensive study on the shipping situation which indicates that a large increase will be available as a result of our success in anti-U-boat warfare.
Admiral King said that the prospects are excellent that there will be more landing craft available than we had previously anticipated.
The President said that a study is now being carried on looking toward the possibility of converting excess dry cargo ships into troop carriers. Such conversion takes about six months, but he felt that it should be carried out to the extent necessary to bring the cargo lift and troop lift into balance.
General Marshall reported that General Somervell is optimistic over the prospects of making up our present backlog in troop lift.
In discussing the paragraph pertaining to Italy, the President asked if it was contemplated sending French troops to Sardinia and Corsica. He thought it desirable to use them in an operation against Corsica but considered it best not to use them in an operation against Sardinia.
Sir Alan Brooke expressed the thought that an attack against Sardinia depends entirely on what the Germans do with the forces they now have on that island. There is a possibility in the case of a collapse of Italy that the German force will be withdrawn entirely. In that case Sardinia will fall with Italy and a military operation to obtain it will not be necessary.
The Prime Minister wanted it to be definitely understood that he was not committed to an advance into Northern Italy beyond the Ancona-Pisa Line.
Sir Alan Brooke doubted whether we should have enough troops to go beyond this line, but it was not yet possible to say.
The President asked if it was necessary to go further into Northern Italy in order to reach Germany with our aircraft.
Sir Charles Portal replied that it was not necessary but there was a distinct disadvantage in permitting the Germans to occupy the airfields in Northern Italy south of the Alps. This had a particularly bad effect in improving the warning service for all raids into Germany. Additionally, the airfields in Northern Italy have greater capacity than those in Central Italy. These need considerable work done on them before they can accommodate our big bombers.
In discussing the paragraph pertaining to a diversion in Southern France, the Prime Minister indicated that he would be hesitant in putting our good divisions into that area to meet the resistance which might be anticipated, and he doubted therefore if French divisions would be capable of an operation of the kind suggested.
Sir Alan Brooke said that such a diversion would, of course, depend on what the German reactions had been and that troops would only be landed in Southern France if the Germans had been forced to withdraw a number of their divisions from that area. There are two routes by which it might be accomplished: from West Italy if our forces in Italy had been able to advance that far north; otherwise the landing in Southern France would have to be an amphibious operation.
Mr. Eden asked if there would be adequate air cover for an amphibious operation against Southern France.
Sir Charles Portal replied that the air cover would not be good.
The Prime Minister thought that it would be well to consider, as an alternate plan, the possibility of flying supplies in for guerrillas who might be operating in the mountains thirty miles from the coast. This mountain area would constitute an excellent rendezvous point for Frenchmen who objected to being sent into Germany and who might take refuge there. He described such an operation as “air-nourished guerrilla warfare.”
It was agreed that the possibilities of this proposal should be explored.
With reference to the Balkans, the President asked if plans were being prepared as to the action we should take in the event that the Germans withdrew from the Balkans to the line of the Danube.
Sir Alan Brooke replied that of course any such action would depend on the forces available. He did not think there would be any surplus from our main operation.
The President said that he was most anxious to have the Balkans [sic] divisions which we have trained, particularly the Greeks and Yugoslavs, operate in their own countries. He thought it would be advantageous if they could follow up, maintain contact, and harass the withdrawal of the Germans if they should elect to withdraw to the Danube.
The Prime Minister suggested that Commando forces could also operate in support of the guerrillas on the Dalmatian coast.
The President then referred to a suggestion made by the Netherlands Government that 1,500 potential officers should be trained in the USA with a view to organizing, if the Germans withdrew, formations in Holland to take part in the struggle against Germany.
General Marshall said that this would present no difficulty.
The discussion then turned to the garrison requirements and security of lines of communication in the Mediterranean.
It was generally agreed that there would be about forty-seven divisions available for operations in that area. These include the French, Greeks, Yugoslavs, and Poles in addition to the divisions of the U.S. and U.K. Seven of the latter were due to be brought back to the U.K. for OVERLORD.
The Prime Minister said that there are several British divisions that have to be reconstituted and that every effort is being made to do this as soon as possible. One expedient is the sending of nine independent battalions to North Africa to take over the guard duty now being performed by active formations.
Sir Alan Brooke said, that the operations now envisaged made use of all the divisions that will be available. This, of course, is subject to fluctuation depending upon the enemy’s reactions. He estimated, however, that seventeen to twenty divisions would be required in Italy, one in Corsica and Sardinia, and these, together with garrison troops in Cyprus and North Africa, would limit those available for other offensive operations. There was also a shortage of antiaircraft artillery. So long as the Germans occupy Crete and Sardinia maintenance of anti-aircraft defense will be necessary in North Africa, However, every effort was being made to remedy this deficiency.
The President reiterated his desire to use the Yugoslav and Greek divisions in the Balkans if the opportunity arose.
The Prime Minister said that he believed that, barring the necessity to retain the oil output in the Balkans, it would be to the Germans’ advantage to withdraw from that area.
Sir Alan Brooke pointed out that there were other raw materials, particularly bauxite, which the Germans secured from the Balkans that would cause them to hesitate to withdraw.
The discussion then turned to the occupation of the Azores.
The President suggested that within a week or ten days after the British occupation of the Azores, he would send the Prime Minister a notice that a British and American convoy and some British and American air units were proceeding to the Azores and would expect to use the facilities of those islands. The British could then say to the Portuguese “that they were frightfully sorry that their cousins from overseas had descended upon them but that, having done so, there was little that they could do about it.”
The Prime Minister agreed to this plan. He pointed out that the British were not at fault in failing to obtain the immediate use of these facilities for the United States. He had kept the President informed of events. He said the British have not given President Salazar any assurance as to what forces would be sent to help Portugal in case of attack. The British had only committed themselves to declare war on Spain in the event that she attacked Portugal, and to afford such help to Portugal as was in their power against an attack by the Germans. He said that, if on the 8th of October, the British have entered the islands and no attack against Portugal had resulted, President Salazar would feel much better about permitting United States use of the Azores’ facilities. Immediately upon occupancy, the British will make every effort by diplomacy to obtain the permit for United States entry.
Mr. Eden said that it had always been visualized that this would be done. He suggested that the proposed American-British convoy might sail in about a fortnight after the British entry. He thought that timing was an extremely important factor but he felt confident that the situation could be handled to everyone’s satisfaction.
In discussing the command situation in Southeast Asia, the Prime Minister pointed out that the setup agreed upon did not exactly coincide with the Mac Arthur model. He asked General Marshall if it might not be possible to have a British liaison officer appointed to General MacArthur’s Staff.
General Marshall said that arrangements to accomplish this were under way at the present time, and, in addition, he was taking the necessary steps to see that the situation in the Southwest Pacific was adequately reported to the Prime Minister at frequent intervals.
When an examination of the final report had been concluded, the Prime Minister referred to the long-term plan for the defeat of Japan, on which he understood work had been proceeding ceaselessly since the last Conference. This plan was both strategical and technical. It would deal with such things as the best method of gaining access to China, the securing of airfields from which to bomb Japan, and the provision of synthetic harbors and HABBAKUKS. There was no doubt that the combined resources of the United States and the British Empire could produce whatever special equipment might be required to permit of the concentration of the enormous air forces which would be released to attack Japan after the defeat of Germany. But apart from such considerations, there were many political factors to be taken into account. Great Britain would be faced with difficulties in moving her veterans, many of whom would have been on continuous service for several years, forward into a new campaign. It might prove somewhat easier to arrange matters in the Navy and the Air Force, and in the war against Japan it would be the air which would be of vital importance. These difficulties would, of course, be overcome. Nevertheless he hoped that the work of the Planning Staffs would only be taken as foundation data. With their comparatively circumscribed viewpoint, the Planners could not be expected to produce final solutions to the problems confronting our two nations. He hoped the Combined Chiefs of Staff would not think themselves limited by the results of the Planners’ study of the war against Japan.
Admiral King said that the Chiefs of Staff never felt themselves so limited.
Continuing, the Prime Minister said that he did not view with favor the idea that a great expedition should be launched to retake Singapore in 1945. He was most anxious not to set an aim for that year which would paralyze action in 1944. The campaign of 1942-43 had been most ineffective, and he felt ashamed that results in this theater had not been better. It was now proposed in the coming winter to extend the operation of the long-range penetration groups in Northern Burma, and he thought this should be supplemented by the seizure of the tip of Sumatra. If a strong air force could be lodged there, the Japanese could be brought to action, their shipping could be bombed, and they would be forced to gather resources to react against our initiative. Options would be kept open for subsequent action in either direction. Whatever happened, we must not let an ultimate objective paralyze intervening action, and he earnestly hoped that the Combined Chiefs of Staff would examine the possibilities in the Southeast Asian Theater, with the object of doing the utmost possible to engage all forces against the Japanese. Only in this way would our overwhelming superiority achieve rapid results against the waning strength of the enemy.
The President said that he looked at the problem from a rather different angle. The position occupied by the Japanese might be compared to a slice of pie, with Japan at the apex, and with the island barrier forming the outside crust. One side of the piece of pie passed through Burma, the other led down to the Solomons. He quite saw the advantage of an attack on Sumatra, but he doubted whether there were sufficient resources to allow of both the opening of the Burma Road and the attack on Sumatra. He would rather see all resources concentrated on the Burma Road, which represented the shortest line through China to Japan. He favored attacks which would aim at hitting the edge of the pie as near to the apex as possible, rather than attacks which nibbled at the crust. Thus, provided Yunnan could be securely held, an air force could be built up through Burma in China, which would carry out damaging attacks on Japanese shipping. At the same time the attack through the Gilberts and Marshalls to Truk would strike the opposite edge of the slice of pie. If one might judge by the operations in the Solomon Islands, it would take many years to reach Japan, but the other side of the picture was the heavy attrition to which the Japanese forces were subjected in these operations.
The Prime Minister expressed his agreement with the President’s simile, but inquired whether the conquest of Southern Burma was really necessary. The problem in Burma was not so much the finding of forces to deploy, but rather of overcoming the difficulties of an exiguous line of communication, and of a monsoon which limited operations to six months in the year. Burma was the worst possible place in which to fight, and operations could only be carried on by a comparatively small number of high-class troops. There were large forces in the Southeast Asia Command, and it was for this reason that he hoped to see an attack on the Sumatran tip. An attack on Akyab could hardly be regarded as profitable.
The President said that he also had never thought much of the idea of taking Akyab or Rangoon. The Generalissimo had favored the attack on Rangoon, because he thought that it would interfere with the Japanese communications, but these probably now ran across land from Bangkok, and the Japanese were in any event not so dependent on their line of communication as the Allied troops.
The Prime Minister said that he favored the extension of Wingate’s operations in Northern Burma, and the supporting advances; but he wished to emphasize his conviction that the attack on Sumatra was the great strategic blow which should be struck in 1944. CULVERIN would be the TORCH of the Indian Ocean. In his opinion, it would not be beyond the compass of our resources. We should be striking and seizing a point of our own choice, against which the Japanese would have to beat themselves if they wished to end the severe drain which would be imposed upon their shipping by the air forces from Sumatra.
The President suggested that the Sumatra operation would be heading away from the main direction of our advance to Japan.
The Prime Minister said that nevertheless it would greatly facilitate the direct advances. The alternative would be to waste the entire year, with nothing to show for it but Akyab and the future right to toil through the swamps of Southern Burma, He earnestly hoped that careful and sympathetic study would be given to this, the Sumatra project, which he was convinced was strategically of the highest importance. He would compare it, in its promise of decisive consequences, with the Dardanelles operation of 1915.
The Prime Minister then read to the meeting a telegram recently received from General Auchinleck, reporting the opinion of Admiral Somerville that greater resources than had hitherto been deemed necessary would be required for the operations at Akyab.
The Prime Minister observed that Akyab, the importance of which had apparently been overlooked in the retreat from Burma, and which we had failed to take last winter, had now been turned into a kind of Plevna. It was against this that we proposed to employ the whole of our amphibious resources in the Indian Ocean in 1943-44. He could not believe that this was right.
The President inquired whether the possession of Akyab was essential for an attack on Rangoon.
General Arnold said that it would certainly be useful in improving the scale of air attack which could be brought to bear on Rangoon, and possibly on Bangkok, but he doubted whether it was essential.
Admiral King said that he had always understood that Akyab was required in order that attacks might be made against the Japanese line of communication northward from Rangoon.
General Marshall said that the principal importance of Akyab was as a stepping-stone to the conquest of Southern Burma.
Reference was then made to the air route to China, and General Arnold reported that the figure of 7,000 tons was almost certain to be reached in August.
The President then inquired what would be the relationship between the Generalissimo and the new Allied Commander-in-Chief of the Southeast Asia Command.
He was informed that their relationship would be that of two neighboring Commanders-in-Chief. Liaison would be insured by the fact that General Stilwell would be the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Southeast Asia Command, and also Chief of Staff to the Generalissimo. The arrangements made for the new command guarded against the diversion of resources destined for China, unless agreed upon by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
The President then suggested that it would be necessary to include in the final report a carefully considered paragraph relating to our action in support of Russia.
He was informed that this was under consideration, and an appropriate paragraph would be included.
The meeting then adjourned.