Defense Files

Report by the Planning Committee of the United States and British Chiefs of Staff1
United States: ABC–4/6
British: WW–14

Movements and Projects in the Atlantic Theater—for First Half of 1942

1. We have carried out a study of the relative importance and interrelation of the various military movements and projects which affect the Atlantic Theater and which may be required to give effect to the agreed Grand Strategy during the first part of 1942, and submit our conclusions below.

movements and reliefs

Iceland and Ireland

2. We consider that the move of the United States forces into Northern Ireland and the relief of the British Iceland garrison should proceed as expeditiously as possible in order to relieve British Divisions for the replacement of Australian Divisions in the Middle East and to release forces for operations in French North Africa.

3. The movement of United States Army Air Forces to the United Kingdom should proceed as soon as these forces and shipping become available, so as to increase the weight of attack on Germany.

Relief of Aruba and Curaçao

4. The relief of Aruba and Curaçao, subject to Dutch concurrence, is to be completed before the end of January.

[Page 259]

joint united states—british occupation of french north africa

5. We regard this project as of the first strategical importance in the Atlantic area. We do not, however, possess the resources within the period under consideration to force an entry into French North Africa. We cannot, therefore, initiate this operation unless we are reasonably sure of the assumptions upon which the plan is based, which are:

That, due to Spanish resistance, the Germans will require a period of three months before they can mount a land attack from Spain against Morocco;
That once the Spanish mainland has been invaded by Germany, our forces will be admitted freely to Spanish Morocco, and that the Spanish there will not attack us; and
That French forces will offer only sporadic resistance, if any. During the period in which we await this opportunity we think that plans and preparations should be completed and that the movements referred to above (Paragraphs 2, 3, 4) should continue.

6. If we undertake the North Africa operation, it will have the following adverse effects on other projects:

Reduction in British troop movements to the Middle East and Far East by 25,000 men.
Suspension of major operations against the Canaries, Cape Verdes, and Diego Suarez.
Suspension of the relief of British troops in Iceland by United States troops.
Reduction in the rate of movement of United States troops to North Ireland.
Weakening of British strength in the United Kingdom.
Inability to move sizable forces to Northeast Brazil if such action should become necessary.
Reduction in the supply of British fighter aircraft to Russia.
Serious delay in the despatch of urgently needed United States reinforcements and supplies to Pacific island positions and the Far East, to the Pacific Fleet, and to the outlying island bases.
Reduction in Atlantic convoys to the United Kingdom and Russia, due to diversions of shipping and escorts.

(Note: If any of the other operations mentioned in this paper are undertaken, they will adversely affect other operations in some or all of the above ways to a greater or less extent).

canaries and portuguese atlantic islands

7. A German invasion of Spain will lead to the immediate denial of Gibraltar as a Naval Base and in all probability the involvement of Portugal as well as Spain in the war. In those circumstances, it will be essential to secure the Canaries as a Naval Base. It is possible that [Page 260] the Spaniards would themselves offer us facilities in these islands. On the other hand, the Spaniards may oppose our occupation of the Canaries. While a Spanish offer of facilities would eliminate the need for a large occupying force, it would be necessary to provide sufficient additional air and anti-aircraft defenses to meet the threat of German air forces based on the mainland of Africa, as well as harbor protection for the Naval Base, and for an air patrol of the sea.

8. If we have gained an entry into French North Africa and the Spaniards subsequently acquiesce in a German move into Spain, we could not at the same time undertake an operation to capture the Canaries.

9. If the opportunity to carry out North Africa operations does not occur, and the Germans move into Spain with Spanish acquiescence, the capture of the Canaries, even against opposition, and the occupation of the Azores and Cape Verdes will become essential.

10. It has been agreed that the responsibility for the occupation of the Canaries is a British one, but it would probably be necessary to obtain Naval assistance from the United States. A British assaulting force is already earmarked for this operation and should, we consider, be kept in being.

11. Occupation of the Cape Verdes has been accepted as a United States responsibility. A portion of the United States Army forces set up for North Africa would be used for this operation. The necessary naval support would have to be provided by United States Naval Forces.

12. In the event of a German move into the Iberian Peninsula, it is almost certain that Portugal will admit British forces into the Azores, and probably Madeira. For the security of these islands the chief requirement will be air and anti-aircraft defenses and harbor protection. The provision of these forces is a British responsibility and the necessary forces should be earmarked. Considerable difficulty, however, will be found in providing the shipping for this operation simultaneously with that for North Africa or the Canaries.

13. If the move of British forces to the Azores becomes possible, we are of the opinion that the United States should occupy the Cape Verdes in order to make certain that these islands are denied to the enemy and secured for future use. The occupation of the Cape Verdes will be of considerable importance if we do not succeed in gaining entry into French North Africa and are compelled to undertake operations in French West Africa at a later date.

occupation of french west africa

14. If we fail to occupy North Africa and Axis occupation appears imminent, then the capture of French West Africa will be essential. If we do not obtain French cooperation in French North Africa, it is unlikely that we shall gain free entry into Dakar. It is therefore [Page 261] necessary to plan the capture of Dakar against opposition. With the joint resources available it is not, in our opinion, possible to undertake an operation of this nature until the late Autumn of 1942 when the weather conditions become favorable. It has been agreed that the United States should be responsible for this operation and we suggest that the planning and training should be put in hand. We propose for consideration that as a preliminary, and simultaneously with the occupation of the Cape Verdes, United States Air and other appropriate forces should be moved to the Freetown-Bathurst area. Their presence in this area will increase the security of the Trans- African Reinforcement Route and the naval base at Freetown.

northeast brazil

15. The security of Northeast Brazil is of strategic importance as a link in the communications between America and the Trans-African reinforcement route. Germany established in West Africa immediately becomes a threat to the South American Continent, in addition to the threat to Atlantic sea communications. The danger of an Axis-inspired uprising in Brazil, which would interrupt the air route through Africa to the Middle and Far East cannot be disregarded. The operation is a United States responsibility. Plans have been prepared and formations set up for this task.

diego suarez

16. Although the denial of the naval base of Diego Suarez to the enemy is of considerable strategic importance, no British force will be available to undertake this operation within the period under consideration if the force for the Canaries operation is kept in being. Moreover, if this operation were carried out in the near future it might prejudice our chance of obtaining French collaboration in North Africa. We are therefore of the opinion that we can not hold a force ready to undertake this operation at present.

17. We therefore recommend that:

The movement of United States Army and Air forces to Iceland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom should proceed as expeditiously as possible.
That the perfection of a Joint United States–British Plan and preparations for operations in French North Africa should proceed as rapidly as possible.
That under the hypotheses set out in this paper, the United States should prepare plans for:
The occupation of the Cape Verde Islands both against opposition and by invitation.
The capture of Dakar against opposition for the Autumn of 1942.
That the United States plan for the security of Northeast Brazil should be kept active.
That under the hypotheses set out in this paper, the British should prepare or perfect plans for:
The capture of the Canaries.
The occupation of the Canaries by invitation.
The occupation of the Azores and Madeira by invitation.
The capture of Diego Suarez against opposition.

  1. The source text was Annex 2 to JCCSs–11; see ante, p. 200. This paper is the amended and approved version of the Joint Planning Committee’s report originally serialized as ABC–4/6, WW(JPC)6 (not printed).