Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

President Roosevelt to Prime Minister Churchill 1


From The President for The Former Naval Person personal and secret No. 222.

In reply to your 211.2 We of course have no intention of abandoning Roundup . No one can possibly know now whether or not we may have the opportunity to strike across the Channel in 1943 and if the opportunity comes we must obviously grasp it. However the determination as to the size of the force which we should have in Bolero in 1943 is a matter which should require our joint strategic considerations. It is my present thought that we should build up as rapidly as present active operations permit a growing striking force in the U.K. to be used quickly in event of German collapse or a very large force later if Germany remains intact and assumes a defensive position.

The conclusions of The Combined Chiefs of Staff at the meeting last summer in London3 indicated that the mounting of Torch necessarily postponed the assembling of the required forces in the United Kingdom. In view of our requirements for the initiation and maintenance of Torch our studies indicated that we could not send forces and materiel to the United Kingdom at this time in excess of that stated by General Hartle.4 Until we have provided adequately [Page 489] against the possible reactions from Spanish Morocco, and are clear as to the situation in Tunisia, North Africa must naturally take precedence. We are far more heavily engaged in the Southwest Pacific than I anticipated a few months ago. Nevertheless, we shall continue with Bolero as rapidly as our shipping and other resources permit. I believe that as soon as we have knocked the Germans out of Tunisia, and have secured the danger against any real threat from Spain, that we should proceed with a military strategical conference between Great Britain, Russia and The United States. I am hoping that our military position in Africa will be such that a conference might be held in a month or six weeks. Our own Combined Chiefs of Staff will, I believe, have a recommendation for us within a few days as to what the next steps should be, but I feel very strongly that we have got to sit down at the table with the Russians. My notion would be a conference in Cairo or Moscow: that each of us would be represented by a small group meeting very secretly: that the conclusions of the conference would of course be approved by the three of us. I would probably send Marshall to head up our group but I presume that all services should be represented. I think it would be wise to keep the numbers down to three from each of us.5

I have given Oliver some private messages6 to you which I do not wish to put on the cables and he will be returning I believe next Monday.7 I hope that all of his problems will have been substantially resolved.

[Page 490]

Will you let me know as soon as you can what you think of my proposal?

  1. Sent to the United States Naval Attaché, London, via Navy channels. This message was discussed during a meeting between the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held in the White House on November 25, 1942. Regarding this matter, the Notes of the Meeting read as follows:

    “The President then read a radiogram received from the Prime Minister which indicated the latter’s fear that the United States had abandoned plans for carrying out certain European operations. He also read a proposed reply to this message which had been prepared by General Marshall. The message from the Prime Minister indicated a desire to have a military conference held between representatives of the United States, Great Britain, and Russia somewhere in the Middle East. In this connection, the President stated that such a conference should not be held until the North African situation had been stabilized with the complete occupation of Tunisia and a more secure situation with reference to Spain and Spanish Morocco.” (Roosevelt Papers)

    For other subjects discussed at this meeting, see the account in Sherwood, pp. 658–659.

  2. For text of Churchill’s telegram 211, November 24, 1942, to Roosevelt, see Churchill, Hinge of Fate, pp. 652–653.
  3. For accounts of the mission of General Marshall, Admiral King, and Mr. Hopkins to London, July 18–24, 1942, see Matloff and Snell, chapter XII, and Harrison, pp. 28–32.
  4. According to Churchill’s telegram 211, November 24 (see footnote 2 above), General Hartle had stated that a War Department directive had limited the build-up of United States forces in the United Kingdom to 427,000 men. For discussions of the factors bringing about a delay at this time in the build-up of United States forces and supplies in the United Kingdom for a cross-Channel attack ( Bolero), see Leighton and Coakley, pp. 480–487, and Matloff and Snell, pp. 322–327.
  5. Roosevelt had already proposed to both Churchill and Stalin that tripartite staff talks be held in Moscow to consider future operations. Roosevelt’s telegram No. 211, November 14, 1942, to Churchill read as follows: “I think you and I have overlooked one very important step in relation to any operations springing from the eastern Mediterranean. I suggest that after we have considered our preliminary studies we should send a small British-American staff group, possibly limited to two officers from each of us, to Moscow to discuss the procedure with Mr. Stalin and his staff. I realize that this may cause some delay but one week in Moscow should suffice and from every point of view it looks wise to have closer staff cooperation the nearer we get to the Black Sea and Russia.” (Roosevelt Papers) In his message to Stalin of November 19, 1942 ( Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iii, p. 662), Roosevelt reported that the British and American military staffs were studying future military operations and added, “Before any further step is taken, both Churchill and I want to consult with you and your staff, because whatever we do next in the Mediterranean will have a definite bearing on your magnificent campaign and your proposed moves this coming winter.”
  6. Sir Oliver Lyttelton headed a British mission which came to the United States in November 1942 to negotiate shipping and munitions allocation for the United Kingdom in 1943. Lyttelton took back to Churchill a long letter from Roosevelt, dated November 30, 1942 (Roosevelt Papers), regarding British requests for the allocation of shipping in 1943 and summarizing some of the agreements which had been reached in Washington relative to munitions and aircraft. Brief summaries of that portion of Roosevelt’s November 30 letter dealing with shipping allocation are found in Leighton and Coakley, pp. 679–680, and W. K. Hancock and M. M. Gowing, British War Economy (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1949), pp. 428–429. For accounts of the Lyttelton mission, see Rosen, The Combined Boards of the Second World War, pp. 125 and 151–152, Leighton and Coakley, pp. 283–284, and Slessor, The Central Blue, p. 442.
  7. November 30, 1942.