J. C. S. Files

Report by the Combined Chiefs of Staff 1

C.C.S. 83

Offensive Operations in 1942 and 1943

We have reexamined our general strategic policy which is based on the adoption of the Bolero Plan as the principal offensive effort of the United Nations. We have also considered the possibilities of conducting an offensive operation into Europe or Northwest Africa in 1942 as a means of assisting Russia.
To defeat Germany we must operate against her with overwhelming superiority. For logistic reasons Northwest Europe is the only front on which this superiority can be achieved. Our target date for such an offensive has been set for the spring of 1943 since logistic factors preclude the mounting of any powerful attack in this theater before that date. These considerations prompted the development of the Bolero Plan. The fundamental reasons that led to the adoption of this plan as the principal offensive effort of the United Nations are still sound.
We are confirmed in this view by developments which have taken place since this decision was made. In the first place, the situation in the Pacific has materially improved, therefore feel more justified in accepting the risk in the Pacific theater which is involved on the naval side from the Bolero commitments. Secondly, we are encouraged by the progress in the training and technique of combined operations which has taken place on both sides of the Atlantic.
As we see it, the Bolero Plan effectively covers two situations:
If Russia withstands the German attack this summer.
If Russia cracks under the German attack.
The first eventuality would demand large-scale operations on the continent as the quickest means of achieving final decision.
In the second eventuality, the Germans would probably be able to bring back large forces to France and the renewed threat to the safety of the United Kingdom would immediately become a vital consideration. Under the Bolero Plan, however, American troops would have been put into England in sufficient strength to insure the safety of the United Kingdom and to replace the British forces which are [Page 466] now being despatched to the Middle East. But conditions would probably not be favorable to a major offensive on the continent in the spring of 1943, and an alternative front would have to be found. The issue in Russia will be decided one way or the other by September, 1942, and by that time, although American reinforcements will have been sufficient to give reasonable security to the United Kingdom, the number of American troops thus committed will not be so great as to make it impossible to modify existing plans in favor of an expedition elsewhere.
Thus the Bolero Plan is sufficiently flexible to meet the two most probable conditions which are likely to confront the United Nations in Europe this year. We therefore adhere, without reservation, to our previous decision that continental operations on a large scale at the earliest possible moment should be the principal offensive effort of the United Nations.
Consideration should be given to the undertaking of any other offensive operation in 1942 only in the event that:
  • Either
    Such operation does not materially delay the date at which Bolero can be mounted,
    It contributes directly to the success of Bolero ,
    It is forced upon us by reason of emergency conditions (either favorable or unfavorable), not now existing.
Any attempt to execute Gymnast this year would have the following effects:
It would seriously curtail reinforcements to the Middle East with possibly disastrous consequences in that theater, since even a successful Gymnast operation could not give the support necessary to the British Middle East forces in sufficient time to be effective.
It would thin out naval concentrations in all other theaters. The most serious effect of this would be felt in aircraft carriers and escort vessels.
The success of the operation depends upon the existence of certain psychological conditions in North Africa which cannot be predicted accurately. If these conditions should be definitely unfavorable at the time of attack, the military and political effect would be most serious.
It would have marked effect in slowing up Bolero , particularly in the accumulation in Britain of the necessary aircraft, anti-aircraft and service units. If the ships from British Middle East convoys could not be used, the effect on Bolero would be profound, since the troop-lift and cargo shipping would have to come from that presently planned for Bolero .
The U.S.–U.K. production capacity is now maintaining many battle fronts. Opening up of another, in which the extent of eventual material requirements cannot possibly be foreseen, will tend to disperse further our available resources and weaken our effort.
The possibility of conducting a 1942 attack against some point in Western Europe, such as Brest, Channel Islands, Cherbourg and Northern Norway, has been considered. In our view each would be accompanied by certain hazards that would be justified only by reasons that were compelling in nature. Any of these plans, however, would be preferable to undertaking Gymnast , especially from the standpoint of dispersing base organization, lines of sea communication, and air strength.


To sum up, it is the considered opinion of the Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

That United States and Great Britain should adhere firmly to the basic decision to push Bolero with all possible speed and energy.
That since any 1942 operation would inevitably have some deterring effect upon Continental operations in 1943, it should be undertaken only in case of necessity or if an exceptionally favorable opportunity presented itself.
That Gymnast should not be undertaken under the existing situation.
That the locality, strength and availability of means for any 1942 attack on Western Europe should be studied further. That when the most favorable of these has been decided upon, plans should be developed in anticipation of conditions compelling its initiation.

  1. This report was prepared by the Secretariat of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in pursuance of the directive by the Combined Chiefs made at the conclusion of their meeting on June 20, 1942; see ante, p. 429. This report was not formally presented to Roosevelt and Churchill, but was replaced by a revised version designated C.C.S. 83/1, June 24, 1942, post, p. 477.