Department of the Army Files

The Chief of Staff, United States Army ( Marshall ) to the President 1


Memorandum for the President:

The following are my comments on the Prime Minister’s memorandum to the President, of which a copy was sent to me on June 20 by Captain McCrea;2 the paragraphing corresponds to that of the Prime Minister’s memorandum:

paragraph 1—shipping

The Prime Minister’s questions in this paragraph touch on matters which are primarily Naval. The Army Air Corps is developing antisubmarine measures with a special group of planes and scientists at Langley Field which give great promise.

The importance of a ship-building program properly proportioned as to escort and merchant tonnage is under active study by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

paragraph 2—bolero

Any military operation against odds may lead to disaster. In case of a threatened Russian collapse immediate and drastic measures will be indicated for the United Nations. An operation supported by the entire British Air Force based in the UK and by a large increment from the U.S. Army Air Force has better chance of success than any other. A landing on the coast of France this year should aim at permanent occupation.

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paragraph 3—scheme for bolero, 1942

a. Plan

The United States, through General Marshall, presented in London outlines of plans for a cross-channel operation in the fall of 1942 to be undertaken (a) should Russian collapse appear imminent, or (b) should a perceptible German weakening be detected.3 The former would admittedly be the most difficult, but its execution is predicated on a desperate situation. Detailed operational plans for these operations have not been developed here as it was agreed, and is logical, that this should be done in England.

While the difficulties involved in an operation against the mainland of Europe in 1942 are formidable, it is not believed that they are insurmountable. The Germans, by clever utilization of every conceivable method, overcame what were commonly accepted as insurmountable obstacles in virtually all of their great thrusts, March 21, 1918, Norway, Flanders in 1940, Crete, etc. All possible methods to overcome the recognised obstacles involved have not yet been fully exploited. The potential power of the immense Air Force concentrated in the UK, alone introduces many possibilities for new departures. The use of bombers for transport, smoke, protective barriers, feints, etc. is yet to be exploited.

b. Forces to be employed

The United States now has 50,000 soldiers in UK including one Infantry and one Armored Division and a Parachute battalion. The First Infantry Division is now assembling in the Northeast preparatory to embarking for England. The schedule calls for transporting to UK before the end of August the First Division above referred to, two more parachute battalions, 20,000 Air Force personnel, and over 40,000 other troops. By the end of August there will be five heavy bombardment air groups, five fighter groups, and two transport groups in England. Should conditions require, at least one more division could be sent in August.

c. Landing Sites

The operation involves a Channel crossing, probably in the Pas de Calais area, but the Cherbourg peninsula, the Channel Islands, and the Brest peninsula are to be considered, if only for diversion effect.

d. Landing Graft and Shipping

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It is estimated that for the fall operation there will be available in the UK the following landing craft from US and UK production:

  • 199 tank lighters and tank landing craft of varied sizes
  • 583 personnel carriers
  • 311 vehicle and AA-carrying craft
  • 30 support craft of different sizes.

The total carrying capacity of the above amounts to over 20,000 men, 1,000 tanks and 300 light vehicles, and is sufficient to transport at least a reinforced division. These are all special types of craft, yet the possibilities of improvising landing craft have not been exhausted. The transport of troops and supplies by air are also to be considered.

The number of vehicles assigned to divisions for the assault is being reduced and only the lightest types are to be employed. It may thus become possible to transport the combat elements of two divisions by water, with more by air.

e. Commander

I think the comment on this should be, the U.S. is prepared to furnish a commander, or will accept a qualified British commander. But unity of command is regarded as imperative.

f. British Assistance Required

Minimum requirements are indicated in subpar. b above. Additional ground forces may be necessary. All available British airborne troops will be needed as well as the assistance of the entire RAF in England.

paragraph 4—interim plans

There is no reason why we should “stand idle in the Atlantic Theater during the whole of 1942.” Even before the Bolero operation is begun, an aggressive, continuous air offensive should be maintained. Such an offensive, followed by the cross-channel operation, would be the best means of taking some of the weight off Russia. As a minimum it would, in our opinion, bring on a major air battle over Western Europe. This air battle in itself would probably be the greatest single aid we could give to Russia.

The operation Gymnast has been studied and re-studied. It is a poor substitute for Bolero . It would require the diversion of means essential to Bolero , thereby emasculating our main blow to which we should contribute our utmost resources. An outstanding disadvantage is the fact that the operation, even though successful, may not result in withdrawing planes, tanks, or men from the Russian Front.

G. C. Marshall

Chief of Staff
  1. According to Matloff and Snell, p. 240, footnote 22, this memorandum was based upon two undated draft memoranda prepared by the War Department staff. The two drafts, which are described in some detail and quoted in part in Matloff and Snell, pp. 240–243, were proposed replies to Churchill’s note of June 20, 1942, to Roosevelt (ante, p. 461) and to the Hopkins–Roosevelt memorandum of June 20, 1942, transmitted in McCrea’s memorandum of the same date to Marshall and King (ante, p. 462).
  2. Churchill’s memorandum of June 20 to Roosevelt is printed ante, p. 461.
  3. Hopkins and Marshall had headed an American mission to London in April 1942 to present to British military leaders an American proposal for opening a new front on the European continent in 1943, or possibly in 1942 should certain “emergency” conditions obtain. For an account of the Hopkins–Marshall mission and its antecedents, see Matloff and Snell, chapter VIII.