U.S. State Department (September 12, 1944)
||Field Marshal Brooke
||Marshal of the Royal Air Force Portal
||Admiral of the Fleet Cunningham
||Field Marshal Dill
|Lieutenant General Somervell
|Vice Admiral Willson
|Rear Admiral Cooke
||Lieutenant General Macready
|Rear Admiral McCormick
||Air Marshal Welsh
|Major General Handy
||Major General Laycock
|Major General Fairchild
|Major General Kuter
|Brigadier General McFarland
||Major General Hollis
Combined Chiefs of Staff minutes
September 12, 1944, noon
Chairmanship of the Combined Chiefs of Staff
Admiral Leahy said that the United States Chiefs of Staff would be glad if Sir Alan Brooke would take the Chair at the forthcoming series of meetings.
Sir Alan Brooke thanked Admiral Leahy for this proposal which he would be glad to accept.
Sir Alan Brooke said that he felt that the problem of the use of personnel shipping after the defeat of Germany should be examined during the Conference. There would be heavy calls for personnel shipping both for the transfer of U.S. troops other than occupational troops from Europe to the United States or the Pacific, as well as for the reorientation of British forces to the Far East. In addition, the New Zealand and South African divisions and certain Canadian forces now in Europe would have to be returned to their homelands. He suggested that the experts should be instructed to examine this problem to see how best it could be met.
Admiral Leahy said that he could see no objection to this review but it would be impossible to reach any decisions during the Conference.
Sir Charles Portal, in agreeing with Admiral Leahy, said that he felt that the scope of the problem should be examined.
General Somervell stated that he had only one shipping expert at present at OCTAGON but agreed with a proposal made by Sir Alan Brooke that he should discuss this matter with Lord Leathers.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff: Invited General Somervell to confer with Lord Leathers on this matter.
Agenda and hour of meeting
At the suggestion of Admiral Leahy, the Combined Chiefs of Staff:
a. Agreed to meet daily from 1000 to 1300.
b. Approved the program for the Conference as set out in CCS 654/6, subject to the transfer of the items for Saturday, 16 September, to Tuesday, 12 September. (Approved program subsequently circulated as CCS 654/7.)
Situation report from SCAEF (Scaf 78)
Sir Alan Brooke said that, while agreeing in general with General Eisenhower’s appreciation (Scaf 78), the British Chiefs of Staff felt that sufficient emphasis had not been laid on two points: firstly, the importance of securing sea communications and the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, and secondly, the importance of a strong attack being launched on the northern flank. General Eisenhower in his telegram had spoken of three possible routes of advance into Germany. In his (Sir Alan Brooke’s) view the most important was the northern route of attack which should be strengthened as much as possible, the remaining two routes being retained as alternatives. The most energetic efforts should be made to secure and open the port of Antwerp as a valuable base for future operations on the northern flank. In order to open the sea approaches to Antwerp, it seemed desirable to stage an airborne operation to capture the islands at the mouth of the Schelde.
General Marshall said that in view of the apparent massing of German forces on the islands guarding the port of Antwerp, and the lack of cover which existed on the ground, it appeared that a more profitable operation would be the bombing of enemy positions rather than an airborne operation.
Sir Alan Brooke felt that bombing alone would not achieve the required results and occupying forces would have to be introduced.
Sir Alan Brooke presented a draft reply to Scaf 78 approving General Eisenhower’s proposals and pointing out the advantages of the northern line of approach into Germany as opposed to the southern and the necessity for opening up the northwest ports, particularly Antwerp and Rotterdam.
After further discussion, the Combined Chiefs of Staff: Approved the dispatch to the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force of the draft telegram proposed by the British Chiefs of Staff. (Subsequently dispatched as Facs 78).
Situation report from the Mediterranean (Medcos 181 and Naf 774)
Admiral Leahy presented a statement of the views of the United States Chiefs of Staff with reference to the future role of the Fifth Army and of the Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces (CCS 677).
General Marshall said that a message had just been received from the U.S. Military Attaché in Switzerland to the effect that a German withdrawal of forces in northern Italy had already begun. If this was so, it would seem that, of the two situations envisaged by General Wilson in Part II of Naf 774, situation “a” would be ruled out unless the Allied armies could drive ahead with great speed, and situation “b” would exist, that is, there would be no possibility of another major offensive till the spring.
Sir Alan Brooke said that as he visualized it, if the Allied armies could break through to the Plains the enemy forces remaining in northwest Italy would be badly placed. A threat to Verona would cut off these forces and might result in their retirement to the westward and later the retirement of the German forces in northeast Italy back to the Alps. It was to be hoped that a large number of these eastern forces could be broken up. The attack by the Fifth Army was planned to take place on 13 September and a successful advance north of Florence might well result in driving the enemy forces back to the Po and Piave.
The indications were that the enemy was attempting to withdraw forces from Greece and Yugoslavia, though there was some doubt whether he could succeed in getting them out through bad lines of communications threatened by the Bulgarians, Marshal Tito’s army and the Greeks. The enemy might, however, get some forces out and it appeared that he was likely to endeavor to hold a line running through Yugoslavia. In such an event the enemy might be reduced to covering the Ljubljana Gap and endeavoring to hold a line through Yugoslavia and Istria. In these circumstances any withdrawal of forces from the Fifth Army would be most regrettable.
General Marshall said that it was not the intention to weaken the Fifth Army at the present time.
Continuing, Sir Alan Brooke said that the forces to be maintained in Italy might later be limited by logistics and terrain, He saw, however, great advantages in a right swing at Trieste and an advance from there to Vienna. However, if German resistance was strong, he did not visualize the possibility of our forces getting through to Vienna during the winter. Even so, the seizure of the Istrian Peninsula would be valuable as a base for the spring campaign or as a base from which our forces could be introduced into Austria in the event of Germany crumbling. It had not only a military value but also political value in view of the Russian advances in the Balkans.
In view of the possibility of amphibious thrusts on the Istrian Peninsula, Sir Alan Brooke asked the United States Chiefs of Staff their intention with regard to the U.S. landing craft now operating in support of DRAGOON.
Admiral King said that these craft were earmarked for other operations but no orders had been issued for their withdrawal. He too had in mind the possibility of amphibious operations in Istria. Naval forces on the other hand were in course of withdrawal for rehabilitation.
Unless a decision to mount an amphibious operation were taken soon the landing craft would lie idle, though required for operations in other parts of the world, for instance, against Rangoon.
In reply to a question by General Marshall, Sir Alan Brooke said that General Wilson was planning now for an amphibious operation and the picture should be much clearer in a short time, particularly if the German forces withdrew from north Italy.
There was general agreement that a decision with regard to the launching of an amphibious operation should be made by 15 October.
General Marshall said that if operations in the Alps were undertaken in winter there was available the PLOUGH Force now in south France and the necessary sleds are obtainable.
Referring to the views of the United States Chiefs of Staff on the future role of the Fifth Army, Sir Charles Portal said that he felt that primary emphasis should be laid on the securing of a victory in Italy. As he saw it, the possible withdrawal of units of the Fifth Army to France would be dependent on the successful outcome of the campaign in Italy.
Admiral Leahy asked if it was Sir Charles Portal’s thought that these forces should be retained in Italy if General Eisenhower was in need of them in France.
Sir Charles Portal pointed out that it was a question of short-term as opposed to long-term advantages. The important point as he saw it was to prevent the German troops getting away in north Italy if it could be avoided.
Admiral Leahy said it was not the intention to withdraw troops from the Fifth Army unless the German troops withdrew.
Sir Charles Portal said that he would point out that the withdrawal of forces from an army had a greater effect on that army than the actual number of formations withdrawn, since such withdrawals had a discouraging effect on the morale of the command and of the army itself.
Admiral Leahy reemphasized that the United States proposal was contingent on the destruction or withdrawal of a large part of the German Army.
General Marshall said that there was no intention in the mind of the United States Chiefs of Staff to effect the withdrawal of forces from Italy at the present time.
Admiral King confirmed that an option on the U.S. landing craft now in the Mediterranean could be retained provided a decision was reached by 15 October.
In reply to a question by Sir Alan Brooke, General Marshall confirmed that while there was no intention of moving major units of the Fifth Army at the present time, small individual units (i.e., the Japanese battalion) might be withdrawn.
After further discussion, the Combined Chiefs of Staff:
a. Agreed that no forces should be withdrawn from Italy until the outcome of General Alexander’s present offensive is known.
b. Agreed that the desirability of withdrawing formations of the United States Fifth Army should be reconsidered in the light of the results of General Alexander’s present offensive and of a German withdrawal in northern Italy and in the light of the views of General Eisenhower.
c. Agreed to inform General Wilson that if he wishes to retain for use in the Istrian Peninsula the amphibious lift at present in the Mediterranean, he should submit his plan therefor to the Combined Chiefs of Staff as soon as possible, and not later than 15 October; and took note that the British Chiefs of Staff would prepare a suitable message for consideration.
Combined intelligence report on the situation in Europe (CCS 660/1)
The Combined Chiefs of Staff: Took note of the estimate contained in CCS 660/1.
Command of DRAGOON forces (CCS 674)
Admiral Leahy presented a draft telegram to General Eisenhower approving his proposals in Scaf 77 (CCS 674/1).
Sir Charles Portal drew attention to a telegram (FX 28818) from General Wilson to General Devers, inquiring as to how soon General Devers’ communications with General Eisenhower would be sufficient to permit General Eisenhower to assume command.
It was generally agreed that this matter must be left to the commanders concerned and that General Eisenhower’s proposal to assume command of DRAGOON forces on 15 September would have taken account of this factor.
General Marshall said that while General Eisenhower had been anxious that General Devers should set up his headquarters and be able to take over the lines of communications, logistic problems and civil affairs, he also wished General Patch to continue in charge of the present battle. Undoubtedly additional U.S. troops would be transferred at a later date to General Patch from the center group of armies and further American divisions would join him through the port of Marseilles. At that time the 6th Army Group could be conveniently split, General Patch assuming command of the United States forces and the French forces forming an army of their own.
Sir Alan Brooke said that there was one point he would like to make. He hoped the setting up of a large headquarters by General Devers would not unduly deplete General Clark’s staff organization.
General Marshall reassured Sir Alan Brooke on this point. General Devers’ staff had been formed for some time in Corsica and General Clark’s forces would not be affected.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff: Agreed to dispatch to General Eisenhower and General Wilson the message proposed by the United States Chiefs of Staff in CCS 674/1. (Subsequently dispatched as Facs 76 and Fan 413, respectively.)
At this point the Combined Chiefs of Staff recessed until 1430.