Editorial Note

No minutes of the discussions at this meeting have been found. The only official record of the meeting is the Ismay memorandum printed below. According to the President’s appointment calendar (Roosevelt Papers), the conferees met for lunch at 1 p.m. The accounts by the British participants in these discussions (Churchill, Hinge of Fate, pp. 382–383, Alanbrooke, pp. 328–329, and Ismay, Memoirs, pp. 254–255) make it evident, however, that the conversations both preceded and followed luncheon. Although these accounts, which do not agree with one another in all details, shed no additional light on the course of the discussions regarding future strategy, they do indicate that it was in the course of these discussions that news was received of the surrender of British forces at Tobruk to the besieging Axis armies. These accounts further agreed that the news of the British reversal was quickly met by the American decision to ship immediately to the British forces in Africa the 300 tanks and 100 cannon previously assigned to the United States First Armored Division.

Stimson did not attend this meeting, but he did receive reports on the proceedings from Marshall and Hopkins which were reflected in his Diary entry for June 21, 1942:

“… I spent all the rest of the day waiting to be called on by the President according to his statement last Wednesday. But he got [Page 434] back this morning and apparently they had been having a good deal of a pow-wow and a rumpus up at the White House. He called Marshall up there and he and Harry Hopkins and Marshall and Churchill and Brooke have been having it out. Late in the afternoon, Marshall who had been there at the White House all day came in and told me about it. It was a very emotional day, because the news of Tobruk’s fall came in while they were up there and of course that was a terrific blow to the Prime Minister and to all the British.… According to Marshall, Churchill started out with a terrific attack on Bolero as we had expected.… The President, however, stood pretty firm. I found out afterwards through Harry Hopkins that he showed my letter, with which Harry said he had been much pleased, to the Prime Minister. [The Stimson letter is printed post, p. 457.] I had not anticipated that because I said some very plain things in it about the British. Finally, with the aid of Marshall who came into the conversation as a reserve after lunch, the storm was broken and, according to Harry Hopkins, Marshall made a very powerful argument for Bolero , disposing of all the clouds that had been woven about it by the Mountbatten incident. At any rate towards the end it was agreed that we should go ahead full blast on Bolero until the first of September. At that time the Prime Minister wanted to have a résumé of the situation to see whether a real attack could be made without the danger of disaster. If not, why then we could reconsider the rest of the field. At any rate that seems to have been the substance so far. Apparently there has been no real effort made to draw us further than we had wanted to go into the Near East, but the Prime Minister had taken up Gymnast , knowing full well I am sure that it was the President’s great secret baby and also knowing full well that it was an attack which would have to be carried out by us if it was made at all and entirely by ourselves with all the risks on us. However, Marshall succeeded in blowing that up and we are pretty well fortified by the Staff’s documents and the fact that we have gotten the British to agree with us on the inadvisability of Gymnast .”