Roosevelt Papers

Prime Minister Churchill to President Roosevelt 1


Mr. President:

The continued heavy sinkings at sea constitute our greatest and most immediate danger. What further measures can be taken now to reduce sinkings other than those in actual operations which must be faced? When will this convoy start in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico? Is there needless traffic which could be reduced? Should we build more escort vessels at the expense of merchant tonnage, and if so to what extent?
We are bound to persevere in the preparation for Bolero if possible in 1942 but certainly in 1943. The whole of this business is now going on. Arrangements are being made for a landing of six or eight Divisions on the coast of Northern France early in September. However the British Government would not favour an operation that was certain to lead to disaster for this would not help the Russians whatever their plight, would compromise and expose to Nazi vengeance the French population involved and would gravely delay the main operation in 1943. We hold strongly to the view that there should be no substantial landing in France this year unless we are going to stay.
No responsible British military authority has so far been able to make a plan for September 1942 which had any chance of success unless the Germans become utterly demoralized, of which there is no likelihood. Have the American Staffs a plan? If so, what is it? What forces would be employed? At what points would they strike? What landing-craft and shipping are available? Who is the officer prepared to command the enterprise? What British forces and assistance are required? If a plan can be found which offers a reasonable prospect of success His Majesty’s Government will cordially welcome it and will share to the full with their American comrades the risks and sacrifices. This remains our settled and agreed policy.
But in case no plan can be made in which any responsible authority has good confidence, and consequently no engagement on a substantial scale in France is possible in September 1942, what else are we going to do? Can we afford to stand idle in the Atlantic theatre [Page 462] during the whole of 1942? Ought we not to be preparing within the general structure of Bolero some other operation by which we may gain positions of advantage and also directly or indirectly to take some of the weight off Russia? It is in this setting and on this background that the operation Gymnast should be studied.

  1. In Hinge of Fate, p. 381, Churchill recalls giving this note to Roosevelt on June 20, at Hyde Park. Regarding the Roosevelt-Churchill conversation at Hyde Park on June 20, at which time this note or the subject matter contained therein may have been taken up, see the editorial note, ante, p. 432, Hopkins sent a copy of this note to McCrea at the White House in code with instructions that it be forwarded to Marshall and King. For Marshall’s comments on this paper, see his memorandum of June 23, 1942, to Roosevelt, post, p. 473.