Defense Files

United States Minutes1

Subject: Super-Gymnast.

The President suggested that the status of Super-Gymnast be discussed.

Mr. Churchill stated that he understood that the Staff had produced a time table which was approved in principle; that it looks [Page 186] as if Rommel might get away; that if defeated his defeat would be preceded by a stern chase; that the British are getting a new armored brigade into the Near East and there will be a battle soon; that information had been received of a convoy arriving at Tripoli with additional German matériel; that the possible date at which the Germans will be pushed back to Tripoli will be delayed, and that more time exists for the completion of Super-Gymnast.

The President stated that politically there is more time available; that there is a tendency on the part of Vichy to say No to German demands; that reports received indicate that a growing number of French Army officers have been making inquiries as to whether their overtures would be accepted if they did something.2 That Admiral Darlan had asked if he would be accepted into a conference; that the answer had been—not under present circumstances. That if he brought the French Fleet over to the Allies, the situation would change. However, more time exists for Super-Gymnast; it was desired to get a fairly well settled time table which would be fitted into the time of the negotiations. That as soon as the negotiations commence, the Germans are sure to know; that when the negotiations start, we should have the Army aboard ships ready to land in a week or ten days. (It had been figured that a period of three weeks grace could be obtained from the time the Germans commenced their movement into the Iberian Peninsula.)

The President then asked about the transports.

General Marshall stated that both Staffs had engaged in negotiations last night and had reached a tentative agreement3 which involved a reduction of the schedule of troops to Ireland. Also, a reduction of the cargo ships available for the Magnet Expedition, which brought up the question of quarters and supplies for troops involved in Magnet.

Mr. Churchill stated that there was no question about the quarters there; that one British Division was being moved out of Northern Ireland and the British will have quarters ready for the American troops.

General Marshall then explained briefly the substance of the plan agreed upon by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in substance as follows:

21,800 American troops to sail from the East Coast January 20th, to arrive in the ABDA Area approximately February 14th. This convoy to consist of 10,000 ground troops for New Caledonia, which with the artillery brigade now in Australia, would furnish approximately a division for New Caledonia. The remainder of the expedition would consist of engineers and other ground service troops for the bombers now arriving in the ABDA Area. Also moving out were [Page 187] 20 cargo ships, carrying 250 pursuit, 86 medium bombers, 57 light bombers, 220 ship tons of cargo, and 4½ million gallons of gasoline. The airplanes were to replace attrition.

General Marshall further stated that in order to permit this expedition to depart, the following changes would have to be made in existing plans:

In the first convoy, for Magnet, the troops scheduled for Iceland on January 15th would be reduced to 2500; the 16,000 scheduled for Ireland would be reduced to 4,000. The Queen Mary could carry 7,000 troops to Ireland February 1st; then transport whatever British troops were desired to the Middle East.

Three Navy transports—the West Point, the Wakefield, and the Mount Vernon—now being used to transport troops from the Middle East to the Far East by Suez, would be available for one round trip to move British troops over the same route. In addition, 4,400 more troops could be moved to Ireland on the George Washington early in February. This procedure would result in approximately 24,000 troops being in Ireland by the 25th of February.

The involvements in this plan are as follows:

It would cancel the present movements to Ireland and Iceland, which have already been arranged for.
It would cause some confusion in the Port of New York, due to the necessity of unloading ships.
It would require the utilization of the Kungsholm, which at present is being held for the State Department.
Some difficulty would be incurred in crating the medium bombers scheduled for the ABDA convoy.
It would be necessary to use two vessels now on the South American route, and would involve the loan of three British ships.

The President asked, with reference to the ABDA convoy, about the matter of refueling.

Admiral King stated that refueling would not be necessary en route. General Marshall then stated that another serious consideration was the fact that the proposed ABDA convoy would result in a 30% reduction of lend-lease to Russia for a period of four months, and would also reduce the lend-lease matériel going to Basra.

The President stated that the plan sounded good.

Mr. Churchill asked what utilization was being made of the Queen Elizabeth and the Aquitania.

General Marshall stated that the Queen Elizabeth is being used for a third convoy to the Far East, which would involve the movement of 3 antiaircraft regiments; also there are being moved from the West Coast, 7,000 troops on January 12th; 14,000 on January 30th; 11,000 early in February. It was understood that the Aquitania would not be available until the end of February. With regard to [Page 188] the ABDA convoy from the East Coast, it would take three weeks to assemble the freight boats, and the American troops arriving on January 20th would arrive before their equipment, which would involve some complications in the convoy, but this was the best possible arrangement that could be made.

The President asked about troop accommodations in New Caledonia.

General Marshall observed that owing to the tropical nature of the climate, little difficulty could be expected in finding shelter for the troops; that they could take tents.

Mr. Churchill observed that the plan as prepared would result in some confusion; that a fact to be given consideration was the delay of shipments to Russia; that the Russians would undoubtedly be disappointed.

He asked if the plan had been the subject of joint discussion between the Chiefs of Staff.

General Marshall stated that it had; and that this particular question had been brought up but there was no use sending troops to the ABDA Area without their equipment. That if a cut becomes necessary, the New Caledonia increment should be eliminated. It is of urgent necessity that the air reinforcements be sent.

Admiral Pound stated that the matter had been discussed in the Joint Chiefs of Staff Conference and that the people in London were working on a slightly different shipping schedule, particularly with respect to the use of American transports to the Middle East, to the Far East, and the possible use of the Queen Mary from England to the Middle East; that an answer on this could be received by tomorrow noon.

The President asked, if the occupation of New Caledonia was eliminated, could we carry out our Russian promises?

General Marshall stated that he could not be sure, but if anything was to be pared, the New Caledonia occupation should be first.

Mr. Hopkins observed that 30% of the shipping to Russia involves only seven ships, and that we should be able to find seven ships, even if it involved stopping the shipment of some reserve equipment to England; that with the 1200 merchant ships we have available, locating seven should not be too difficult.

Admiral King observed that if Archangel is closed now, there is a question as to whether Russia could absorb the shipments.

The President stated that the Russians deny that Archangel is closed, and state that they can absorb the shipments.

Admiral Stark stated that the primary question was which was of the greatest importance—the 30% reduction of lend-lease to Russia, or immediate reinforcements for the Far East.

Mr. Churchill observed that the fighting in the Far East and the fighting the Russians are doing should take priority over other things; [Page 189] that Magnet and the Iceland relief are secondary. That he was sorry about reducing Magnet, but he could understand the necessity therefor.

General Marshall observed that an early decision must be reached in order that the January 15th Magnet shipment may be delayed.

General Arnold stated that there was no use sending planes to the Far East without their ground service crews.

Admiral Pound observed that the only immediate commitment was the matter of unloading the January 15th convoy for Magnet.

General Marshall stated that if we unload this convoy, we must immediately commence loading for the Australian convoy.

Mr. Churchill again asked whether this matter had been taken up with the British Chiefs of Staff.

General Marshall replied that they had worked most of last night together.

The President stated that he liked General Marshall’s program, if only some means could be found to take care of the Russians.

Mr. Hopkins suggested that Admiral Land be directed to find 6 or 7 more ships a month for Russia; that he did not think General Marshall should be held up by the necessity for Russian lend-lease.

Lord Beaverbrook stated that he would be very sorry to see ships diverted from the Atlantic because of the increased strain which would result; also that it was important that certain items be continued to England in order to keep up production schedules, and he hated very much to stop shipments to Russia.

The President agreed that there might be unfortunate repercussions in Russia if at the very time they are pinched as at present we let them down. He then asked how important is the occupation of New Caledonia.

Admiral King replied that this is on the line of Naval communication and is a potential subject for Japanese occupation.

The President asked if it would be easy to re-conquer.

Admiral King replied that none will be easy to re-conquer once they are occupied.

General Arnold stated that as far as flying routes are concerned, both New Caledonia and the Fiji Islands can be jumped if necessary.

Admiral King observed that the urgent question was assistance to the Far East.

Mr. Churchill agreed that it should come ahead of New Caledonia.

The President observed that the only thing holding up General Marshall’s plan is the seven cargo ships.

Mr. Hopkins asked if Russia were not involved, would General Marshall’s plan be approved?

It was agreed that it would be.

[Page 190]

Mr. Hopkins then suggested that the President and the Prime Minister take the responsibility of getting lend-lease matériel to Russia, and not hold up General Marshall’s plan on this account.

Mr. Churchill suggested that the present ships on the Russian run continue, and that we find other ships to make up the deficit. He then asked if the Chiefs of Staff agreed on the mechanics of the plan.

Admiral Pound stated that it must be approved in London, because they had been working on a slightly different arrangement.

The President asked Mr. Hopkins if he could get enough ships to take care of the Russians.

Mr. Hopkins stated that if the President would get Admiral Land and Salter in and tell them the situation, he was sure it could be done.

General Marshall said that Admiral Land had told him earlier in the day that under our present protocol agreement with Russia, we were behind in furnishing materials.

Mr. Churchill suggested that the plan be accepted and a search made for the 7 ships, and asked if the British were behind in their deliveries to the Russians.

Lord Beaverbrook stated that the British are behind in some items, but that he anticipated that they would catch up.

General Marshall added that what we are doing in the Far East would help the Russians anyway.

Mr. Churchill observed that there was a possibility, if Japan continued to succeed in the Far East, of a Pan-Asiatic movement all over the Far East including all the brown and yellow race, which might complicate our situation there; that a symbolic landing in Ireland would be satisfactory except that he hoped matériel for England would not be piled up on the docks in New York awaiting ships.

Lord Beaverbrook observed that additional shipping had been scraped up for convoy movements to the ABDA Area; and that more could be found, he thought.

Mr. Churchill stated that the ABDA plan makes no provision for Super-Gymnast.

General Marshall stated that no ships arranged for combat loading are being used for ABDA.

The President suggested that [asked], assuming that we go through with the ABDA plan, and enough shipping for Russia could be found, when would Super-Gymnast be possible.

Mr. Churchill stated that the Joint Staffs had already established that some days would be required for planning; and if January 7th was established as the beginning of planning, D–Day (the day loading would commence) would be February 4th; and the earliest arrival in Casablanca would be March 23rd.

General Marshall stated that the shortage was not in troop carriers but in cargo carriers.

[Page 191]

Mr. Churchill stated that the Staffs should get data as to the effect of this plan on Gymnast.

Admiral King stated that, for purposes of a round calculation, the date which the ships could be available for Gymnast would be determined by the turn around between the East Coast and Australia, which would amount to approximately three months, which would set back the possible date of loading for Gymnast to about April 15th. Also Admiral King stated that 15,000 troops, combat loaded, can be embarked for Gymnast without delay at any time.

Mr. Churchill then observed that the whole problem is to get planes to the Far East.

General Arnold stated that this is the only way we can stop the Japanese advance to the south.

The President then stated, [“]we approve General Marshall’s plan. We will make Beaverbrook and Hopkins find ships and will work on Super-Gymnast at the earliest possible date.[”]

Air Marshal Portal pointed out that one point of the agreement which the Chiefs of Staff had come to was that the ABDA movement would not interfere with the movement of pursuit ships to the Far East.

Mr. Churchill then stated that the Staff is to check up on the actual impact of the plan on Gymnast and establish the earliest date on which it would be possible; and also what would be available for the expedition if an invitation arrived suddenly.

At 6:40 p.m. the Conference adjourned.

  1. The source text is a copy from the files of the War Department. The minutes were taken presumably by Lieutenant Colonel Sexton.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. ii, pp. 237238.
  3. This is the memorandum of January 12, 1942, post, p. 229.