Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

The President’s Personal Representative ( Bullitt ) to the President 1
secret
CR 0584

Following secret for the President from Bullitt.

I hope that you and Churchill in your planning are keeping in mind the vital need to retain Egypt as a secure base not only for operations in Libya, Tunisia, Palestine, The Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey but also for transit of planes to India and the Far East.

As I have noted in previous messages the distances in this area are so immense and the forces engaged relatively so small that a comparatively slight increase in force on the German side might change the picture entirely. For example one large convoy from Italy to Tripoli with sufficient aviation gasoline to furnish the German second flying corps now waiting in Sicily and Italy would enable that Corps to operate in Libya and take control of the air from the British. In view of the present state of the British Naval Forces based on Alexandria2 of which Churchill has certainly informed you the stopping of convoys to Tripoli will not be easy. To draw forces away from this area or to fail to reenforce this area because of demands from the Far East might lead to a repetition of events in Libya when forces were withdrawn to go to Greece. The successes which the British have gained in Libya have been dearly bought and will lead to no decisive result unless Tripoli should be occupied. Some days ago I was shown the telegram in which the British command here stated its requirements. Churchill doubtless has already communicated this to you.3 I wish to add only that the chief asset of the British in this area is their quality of being without fear. I think they need in addition at this moment reenforcements in naval vessels, aircraft, tanks, and transport and signal units.

Bullitt
  1. Sent via Navy channels.
  2. On December 19, 1941, the battleships H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth and Valiant had been damaged by time-bombs in Alexandria harbor and put out of action for several months. See Churchill, The Grand Alliance, p. 576.
  3. Not found.