Department of Defense Files

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


Memorandum for the President:

Subject: American forces in the Middle East.

The matter of locating large American ground forces in the Middle East was discussed Sunday night.1 The desirability of the United States taking over control of operations in that area was mentioned. It is my opinion, and that of the Operations staff, that we should not undertake such a project.

The controlling reasons are logistical, serious confusion of command (further complicated by strong racial and religious prejudices), and the indecisive nature of the operation.

The leakage or wastage of strength logistically in operating in such distant theaters is tremendous. We are necessarily involved in the Southwest Pacific at 8,000 miles, the central Pacific at 3,000 miles, Alaska at 2,000, the Caribbean at 1,000, Greenland and Iceland at 3,000; we have the drain of the Ferry Service across Africa into the Middle East, and the lease-loan shipments to India for China. Now, if we undertake to support large forces in the Middle East, it is our opinion that we have denied the probability of assembling American forces of decisive power in any theater in this war.

The importance of the Middle East and a protected supply through the Mediterranean are evident. The influence on Italy of a North African frontier in the hands of the United Nations would be great, but it would be only an influence with the hope of gaining a foot-hold on the southern but indecisive fringe of the European continent. We would still be a long distance from Germany, with extremely difficult natural intervening obstacles.

You are familiar with my view that the decisive theater is Western Europe. That is the only place where the concerted effort of our own and the British forces can be brought to bear on the Germans. A large venture in the Middle East would make a decisive American contribution to the campaign in Western Europe out of the question. Therefore, I am opposed to such a project.


Chief of Staff
  1. Regarding the meeting of Roosevelt and Churchill with American and British staff officers on the evening of June 21, 1942, see the editorial note, ante, p. 436. The possibility of sending American ground forces to the Middle East as reinforcements appears to have been one of the topics discussed at the White House meeting on the afternoon of June 23, 1942; see the editorial note, ante, p. 443.