Meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff with Roosevelt and Churchill, 2:30 p.m.
|United States||United Kingdom|
|President Roosevelt||Prime Minister Churchill|
|Mr. Hopkins||Field Marshal Dill|
|Admiral Leahy||General Brooke|
|General Marshall||Admiral of the Fleet Pound|
|Admiral King||Air Chief Marshal Portal|
|Lieutenant General McNarney||Lieutenant General Ismay|
|Brigadier General Deane|
Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
May 12, 1943, 2:30 p.m. Secret
The President welcomed Mr. Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff. He recalled that it was less than a year ago when they had all met in the White House, and had set on foot the moves leading up to TORCH. It was very appropriate that they should meet again just as that operation was coming to a satisfactory conclusion. The meeting at Casablanca had set on foot Operation HUSKY, and he hoped that this would meet with similar good fortune. He thought that the keynote of our plans at the present time should be an intention to employ every resource of men and munitions against the enemy. Nothing that could be brought to bear should be allowed to stand idle.
He then asked the Prime Minister to open the discussion.
The Prime Minister recalled the striking change which had taken place in the situation since he had last sat by the President’s desk, and had heard the news of the fall of Tobruk. He could never forget the manner in which the President had sustained him at that time, and the Shermans which had been handed over so generously had made their reputation in Africa. The British came to the present meeting adhering to the Casablanca decisions. There might have to be adjustments made necessary by our success, which also enabled us to take a longer forward view. TORCH was over, HUSKY was near, what should come next? He would put forward some views which had been formed by careful study. These would not be in the shape of fixed plans, but rather of ideas for the common stock. We had been able by taking thought together to produce a succession of brilliant events which had altered the whole course of the war. We had the authority and prestige of victory. It was our duty to redouble our efforts, and to grasp the fruits of our success. The only questions outstanding between the two Staffs were questions of emphasis and priority. He felt sure that these could be solved by mutual agreement.
He did not propose to deal with the U-boat war, and the aerial bombardment of Germany. There were no differences of opinion on these subjects, though there might be a few points of detail to be cleared up between the two Staffs. He would like to put forward for consideration a number of objectives, and questions which might focus subsequent study. The first objective was in the Mediterranean. The great prize there was to get Italy out of the war by whatever means might be the best. He recalled how in 1918, when Germany might have retreated to the Meuse or the Rhine and continued the fight, the defection of Bulgaria brought the whole of the enemy structure crashing to the ground. The collapse of Italy would cause a chill of loneliness over the German people, and might be the beginning of their doom. But even if not immediately fatal to Germany, the effects of Italy coming out of the war would be very great, first of all on Turkey, who had always measured herself with Italy in the Mediterranean. The moment would come when a Joint American-Russian-British request might be made to Turkey for permission to use bases in her territory from which to bomb Ploești and clear the Aegean. Such a request could hardly fail to be successful if Italy were out of the war, and the moment were chosen when Germany could take no powerful action against Turkey. Another great effect of the elimination of Italy would be felt in the Balkans, where patriots of various nationalities were with difficulty held in check by large Axis forces, which included 25 or more Italian divisions. If these withdrew, the effect would be either that Germany would have to give up the Balkans, or else that she would have to withdraw large forces from the Russian Front to fill the gap. In no other way could relief be given to the Russian Front on so large a scale this year. The third effect would be the elimination of the Italian fleet. This would immediately release a considerable British squadron of battleships and aircraft carriers to proceed either to the Bay of Bengal or the Pacific to fight Japan.
Certain questions presented themselves in relation to the Mediterranean. Need we invade the soil of Italy, or could we crush her by air attack? Would Germany defend Italy? Would Italy be an economic burden to us? He did not think so. Would arguments against a general conquest of Italy apply equally against a toe and heel operation to establish contact with Yugoslavia? Finally, there was a large political question for the British and United States Governments. What sort of life after the war should we be willing to accord to Italy if she placed herself unreservedly in our hands? He might observe that if Italy made a separate peace, we should have the use of Sardinia and the Dodecanese without having to fight for them.
The second objective was the taking of weight off Russia. He was much impressed by Stalin’s attitude, in spite of the stopping of the Arctic convoys. For the first time, in his recent speech, Stalin had acknowledged the efforts and victories of his Allies. But we should never forget that there were 185 German divisions on the Russian Front. We had destroyed the German Army in Africa, but soon we would not be in contact with them anywhere. The Russian effort was prodigious, and placed us in their debt – a position from which he would like to emerge. As he had already mentioned, the best way of taking the weight off the Russian Front in 1943 would be to get, or knock, Italy out of the war, thus forcing the Germans to send a large number of troops to hold down the Balkans.
The third objective had already been mentioned by the President in his opening remarks. It was to apply to the greatest possible extent our vast Armies, Air Forces, and munitions to the enemy. All plans should be judged by this test. We had a large Army and the Metropolitan Fighter Air Force in Great Britain. We had our finest and most experienced troops in the Mediterranean. The British alone had 13 divisions in that theater. Supposing that HUSKY were completed by the end of August, what should these troops do between that time and the date 7 or 8 months later, when the cross-Channel operation might first be mounted? They could not possibly stand idle, and he could not contemplate so long a period of apparent inaction. It would have a serious effect on relations with Russia, who was bearing such a disproportionate weight.
The objectives he had so far mentioned all led up to BOLERO, SLEDGEHAMMER, and ROUNDUP. By BOLERO, he meant the administration arrangements necessary for the movement and reception of large American forces in the United Kingdom. He could not pretend that the problem of landing on the Channel coast had been solved. The difficult beaches, with the great rise and fall of tide, the strength of the enemy’s defenses, the number of his reserves, and the ease of his communications, all made the task one which must not be underrated. Much, however, would be learned from HUSKY. The question arose whether anything could be done this year before the weather broke in August or September. All the British landing craft had gone from the United Kingdom to HUSKY, and owing to priority having been rightly given to SICKLE, only one U.S. division was so far available in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, plans were being made for an operation to provoke an air battle, and we were standing ready to exploit a German collapse, should this by any chance take place. He wished to make it absolutely clear that H. M. Government earnestly desired to undertake a full-scale invasion of the Continent from the United Kingdom as soon as possible. They certainly did not disdain the idea if a plan offering reasonable prospects of success could be made.
The fifth objective was aid to China. As a result of Casablanca, Field Marshal Wavell had prepared the best plan he could for Operation ANAKIM, and he thought that it had some prospect of success. The difficulties of fighting in Burma were apparent. The jungle prevented the use of our modern weapons. The monsoon strictly limited the length of the campaigning season, and there was no means of bringing sea power to bear. Should, however, ANAKIM be successfully carried out, he was advised that it would not be till 1945 that the Burma Road could be reopened, and even then its capacity would not be more than 20,000 tons a month. Nevertheless, he had not gone back on the status of ANAKIM. He attached the same degree of importance as before to activity in the Indian Ocean theater of war. Was there any means by which China could be helped in 1943 other than the air route? How could this be improved? The British readily shouldered their responsibility to establish and guard the air facilities required in Assam. If further study showed that it would be better to bypass Burma, he was anxious that another means should be found of utilizing the large forces standing in India. He thought that this alternative might well be found in an operation against the tip of Sumatra and the waist of Malaya at Penang. He was most anxious that we should find in that theater some means of making use of those advantages which had been so valuable in TORCH. In that operation, sea power had played its full part; complete surprise had been possible; we had been able to seize a territory of importance which not only brought in a new Army on our side, but forced the enemy to fight in a place most disadvantageous to him. These conditions might apply to an attack on the area he had described. The fleet to cover the operation would come from the Mediterranean after the elimination of Italy. This meant that the operation could not be launched before March, 1944, which would, however, be a suitable moment from the point of view of weather.
He felt that the time had now come to study the long-term plan for the defeat of Japan. He would like once more to state the British determination to carry the struggle home to Japan. The only question was how best to do it. He thought that the United States Chiefs of Staff should lead in a joint study, on the assumption that Germany would be out of the war in 1944, and that we could concentrate on the great campaign against Japan in 1945. If the underlying strategic conception was agreed, then operations could be planned to fit in, and the requisite specialized apparatus could be got ready in time.
If, of course, Russia could be brought in against Japan, that would prove the best solution of all. Stalin had shown plain indications that Russia would want to be in at the death, but the timing of Russian action must obviously depend upon what happened to Hitler, and when.
In conclusion, the Prime Minister said that he hoped his remarks would be of use in framing an Agenda for Combined Chiefs of Staff Conferences, and would be some guide as to the emphasis and priorities which should be assigned to the various theaters of operation as well as to their relationship and reciprocal reactions.
The President expressed his gratitude to the Prime Minister for the open manner in which he had presented his views. He said that the Combined Staffs must approach their problems with open minds, giving full consideration to the priorities and relative importance of the many problems which they would consider in the course of the conferences.
The President stated that he has always been a firm believer in attrition as an effective weapon. He pointed to the North African campaign and suggested that it might not have been so successful had sufficient force been sent to capture Tunisia on the initial landing. As a result of the Tunisian campaign there will be perhaps some 200,000 enemy casualties. He felt there would have been considerably less had Tunisia been taken at the outset.
He pointed out that the United Nations are now outproducing both the Germans and the Japanese and that if we break even in our losses of airplanes and other munitions we are, in effect, forging ahead.
The President then said that with the large armies and naval forces that are available to the United Nations every effort should be made to keep them engaged with the enemy. He felt that the United Nations were losing ground when their forces remain idle.
The President expressed optimism as far as the situation in Turkey was concerned. When the Prime Minister went on his fishing trip after the Casablanca Conferences, he, the President, had been surprised by the cordial reception that the Prime Minister had received. He felt that Turkey was now in a better political position than she had ever been before. Perhaps Turkey could be brought to a favorable attitude toward the United Nations by diplomacy alone. If so, this would permit the use of her airfields for combined air operations against Ploești and the Germans’ right flank and their lines of communication. If Turkey could be brought into the war, there would be the possibility of combined operations toward the Adrianople line, thus threatening Bulgaria, and inducing that country to withdraw from the war. He felt that the Russians would welcome any effort on the part of the United Nations which would result in breaking the Germans’ lines of communication. He pointed out also that attrition would be at work during any operations from Turkey.
The President then asked “Where do we go from HUSKY?” He said he had always shrunk from the thought of putting large armies in Italy. This might result in attrition for the United Nations and play into Germany’s hand. He indicated that a thorough investigation should be made of what an occupation of Italy proper, or of the heel or toe of Italy, would mean as a drain on allied resources. At the same time, he pointed out that the Mediterranean area contained large armies of the United Nations, perhaps about a total of 25 divisions, and that these must be kept employed. He said there was not much time in 1943, because planning future operations is a lengthy procedure. The question to be decided quickly, is how to use the Mediterranean troops this year. He said that conditions in Italy are known to be precarious. Italy might drop into the lap of the United Nations, who would then have the responsibility of supplying the Italian people. Everyone was agreed that Italy must be reconstituted, but that the mistakes regarding possession of the Northern Adriatic, which occurred at the peace table after the last war, must not be repeated.
Summing up, the President said a survey should be made to determine the cost of occupying Italy or parts of it as opposed to the cost of achieving the same results by air offensives from Sicily or the heel and toe of Italy.
The President said that regardless of operations undertaken in the Mediterranean there would be a surplus of manpower. He said that this surplus should be used to build up BOLERO. Preparations for such buildup should begin at once. He felt that all were agreed that no ROUNDUP or SLEDGEHAMMER was possible of accomplishment this year, but if one or the other were to be mounted in the spring of 1944, preparations should begin now. ROUNDUP and SLEDGEHAMMER have been talked about for two years but as yet none of these operations had been accepted as a concrete plan to be carried out at a certain time. Therefore he wished to emphasize that SLEDGEHAMMER or ROUNDUP should be decided upon definitely as an operation for the spring of 1944.
The President then directed his remarks toward the Pacific. He said that at the present time a landing was being made in the Aleutians, on the Island of Attu. Approximately 3,000 men had already been put ashore. By this operation it was hoped to put Kiska in a box between Attu and Amchitka which would also result in imposing attrition on the enemy. So far, the operations in the Aleutians had resulted in a net gain to the United Nations. The operations in the Solomons and in New Guinea had had the same result.
The President said that while things are apparently going along all right in the Pacific, attention must be devoted to the length of the Japanese supply lines. He likened them to a segment of pie in which Japan proper was at the apex, and the line from the Solomons through the Dutch East Indies to Burma represented the outer crust. While there was some attrition going on against the outer crust, the most effective way to get at the Japanese shipping was to strike at the apex. So far the United Nations have done well in sinking Japanese merchant tonnage. Proof of this has been in the fact that the Japanese have been taking shipping from the Yangtze and using it, together with junks they are building, for coastal runs, in order to release coastal shipping for ocean work. Since the war started the Japanese have suffered a net loss of 1,000,000 tons of shipping or approximately one-seventh of the shipping which they had available at the beginning of the war. If they continue to lose shipping at this rate they cannot maintain the outer rim of the pie and will have to contract in their operations**. The President** said that the same was true with regard to aircraft. Attrition suffered by the Japanese air forces has resulted in their having less strength available now than at the beginning of the war.
The President repeated that the most effective way to strike the Japanese shipping was to strike it leaving Japan proper. This could best be done from bases either in China, or from China and Russia. Therefore much depends upon keeping China a going concern. He said he did not believe the Chinese were crying wolf when reporting the critical condition which exists in their country today. He said that the conference could not justify overlooking the possibility of a Chinese collapse. This brought up the question of the priority for aid to China with regard to 1943 and 1944.
ANAKIM and similar plans proposed at Casablanca might not have an effect which would be immediate enough to keep China in the war; the results of ANAKIM would not be felt until March or April of 1944 and the Burma Road would not be fully open to traffic until 1945. The necessity was for doing something for China now. The President said that the question resolves itself to assisting China by air.
The President said that to assist China by air it was essential to reconstruct and maintain the security of the airfields in Assam to the west of the mountains. They must be made secure regardless of the cost in manpower and matériel, and they must also be protected. On the east side of the mountains the Chinese are building landing fields and now have five or six fields in good condition. General Stilwell has two divisions in training for the protection of these fields. The President said that the Generalissimo does not fear a ground attack in Yunnan.
He said that air in China would accomplish three objectives: it would be able to harass Japanese troops South of Hankow or those advancing from the South against Chungking; it could harass Japanese attacks against Chungking from the North; and it could stop Japanese attacks against Chungking which might be made up the Yangtze. The President said he doubted if reliance could be placed on the Chinese army, excepting those troops being trained in Yunnan and Ramgarh. However, he thought it important to give the Generalissimo, who is the head of both the Army and the State, what he wants at this time. This, he said, is a strong buildup of the American-Chinese Air Forces. Such an air force can be built up to strike against Japanese shipping and against Japan itself. He emphasized that the Chiefs of Staff must bear in mind the political fact that China is in danger of collapse.
The President pointed out that aid to China at the present time does not have an immediate effect of taking weight off Russia but that it would have an ultimate effect when Russia joins up with the United Nations in their war against Japan. This he predicted would take place within 48 hours after Germany has been defeated.
The President said, with regard to taking weight off Russia, that the United Nations [should] continue with strategy which would compel the Germans to fight. It was for that reason that he questioned the occupation of Italy, feeling that this might result in releasing German troops now in that country. He said he felt the most effective way of forcing Germany to fight was by carrying out a cross-Channel operation.
The Prime Minister said that he did not feel that an occupation of Italy would be necessary. In the event of an Italian collapse, the United Nations would occupy the necessary ports and air bases from which to carry on operations against the Balkans and Southern Europe, but they should let an Italian Government control the country, subject to supervision on the part of the United Nations.
The President and the Prime Minister then indicated that the possibility of securing the use of the Azores was under consideration. An attempt would be made to accomplish this by diplomacy, and, if necessary, the diplomacy might be coupled with threats or an actual surprise arrival of forces. They thought that an arrangement might be made with Portugal whereby the use of the Azores could be obtained on a rental basis. However, they indicated that the question was largely political.
Field Marshal Sir John Dill asked if consideration had been given to the present attitude of Spain.
Both the President and the Prime Minister indicated that they felt that Spain was much relieved by the turn of events in Africa, that it was becoming more favorably disposed toward the United Nations, and that it had in mind constantly the threat of the American forces facing Spanish Morocco.
The President announced that the next meeting would be on Friday, 14th May, at 2:00 p.m., at which time it was desired to have the Commanders in Chief, India, and Generals Stilwell and Chennault present to discuss conditions in the Burma-China Theater.