Defense Files

The Secretary of the British Chiefs of Staff (Hollis) to the Secretary, War Department General Staff (Smith)1

At a meeting held in the White House at 6 p.m. this evening, at which the President and the Prime Minister were both present, certain urgent matters arose.

In order to meet the immediate need for reinforcements in Malaya, the British Commander-in-Chief in the Far East had asked whether British Brigade Group embarked in the United States transport Mount Vernon, and now on its way to Colombo, could be diverted to accompany the convoy of Indian troops sailing from Bombay so as to arrive by the 8th of January at Singapore. This point was put to the President by the Prime Minister, and the President consulted Colonel Knox,2 who was also present. The President decided that in view of the urgency of the situation this diversion should be authorized and that the British Admiralty should be empowered to convey [Page 268] the necessary instructions to the Captain of the Mount Vernon. A telegram has accordingly been sent to London, so that the necessary action can be taken.3
The First Sea Lord4 explained that in order to ensure the safe arrival at Singapore of the convoy including the Mount Vernon it would be most desirable that Admiral Hart should be asked to cooperate with Admiral Leighton [Layton] (British Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet), and that joint Naval dispositions should be made to the best advantage. The President conveyed this request to Colonel Knox, who undertook to look into the matter with the Navy Department.
The President stated that the news from the Philippines indicated that there was little likelihood that the land and air reinforcements now on their way from the U.S.A. via Australia could arrive at their destination. His view was that these reinforcements should be utilized in whatever manner might best serve the joint cause in the Far East and in agreement with the Prime Minister he expressed the desire that the United States and British Chiefs of Staff should meet the following day to consider what measures should be taken to give effect to his wishes.5
It is suggested that the above matter should be brought to the notice of the United States Chiefs of Staff to work out together and a joint meeting with the British Chiefs of Staff at 3 p.m. tomorrow (December 25th)6 is proposed at a place convenient to the United States Chiefs of Staff, at which the disposal of United States forces in, and destined to arrive in, Australia should be discussed.
L. C. Hollis

  1. The memorandum was addressed to “The Secretary General to the United States Chiefs of Staff”. Hollis (p. 92) indicates that it was sent to Colonel Smith. The source text is a copy apparently made in the War Department.
  2. Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy.
  3. Not printed. For further details on the orders regarding the rerouting of the Mount Vernon, see JCCSs–2, ante, p. 91.
  4. Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound.
  5. For Stimson’s comments on this portion of Hollis’ paper, see the White House discussion of December 25, ante, p. 95.
  6. The Chiefs of Staff met at 4 p.m. on December 25; see ante, p. 90.