Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

President Roosevelt to Prime Minister Churchill 1

urgent priority

From the President for the Former Naval Person. Personal and Secret. No. 224.

I have been giving a good deal of thought to our proposed joint conference with the Russians and I agree with you that the only satisfactory way of coming to the vital strategic conclusions the military situation requires, is for you and me to meet personally with Stalin. My thought would be that each of us would be accompanied by a very small staff made up of our top Army, Air and Naval Chiefs of Staff. I should bring Harry2 and Averell3 but no State Department representative although I believe we should arrive at tentative procedures to be adopted in event of a German collapse. I should [Page 495] like to see the conference held about January 15th or soon thereafter. Tunis and Bizerte should have been cleared up and Rommel’s army liquidated before the conference. As to the place, Iceland or Alaska are impossible for me at this time of year and I believe equally so for Stalin. I should prefer a secure place south of Algiers or in or near Khartoum. I don’t like mosquitoes. I think the conference should be very secret and that the press should be excluded. I would question the advisability of Marshall and the others going to England prior to the conference because I do not want to give Stalin the impression that we are settling everything between ourselves before we meet him.

I think that you and I understand each other so well that prior conferences between us are unnecessary and when the time comes we can work things out from day to day. Our military people will also be in close cooperation at all times from now on.

I think that this conference may well result in knocking out Germany sooner than we anticipated. As you know Stalin has already agreed to a purely military conference to be held in Moscow and I have today sent him a message urging him to meet you and me.4 I believe he will accept.

I prefer a comfortable oasis to the raft at Tilsit.5

  1. Sent to the United States Naval Attaché, London, via Navy channels.
  2. Harry L. Hopkins.
  3. W. Averell Harriman.
  4. The proposal to hold military staff conversations on the future strategy in the Mediterranean had been raised by Roosevelt in a message of November 19, 1942, to Stalin, Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iii, p. 662. In his reply to Roosevelt on November 27, 1942, Statin said in part: “I now share your opinion that appropriate consultations between the Staffs of the United States of America, Great Britain, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are desirable”, ibid., p. 663. In a message to Statin on December 2, 1942, Roosevelt expressed the view that a meeting of military leaders alone would not be sufficient and that the reaching of early strategic decisions necessitated a meeting between Churchill, Stalin and himself together with top military commanders, preferably somewhere in Africa, ibid., pp. 665666. Stalin, however, was unable to accept the proposal and in a message to Roosevelt on December 5, 1942, the Soviet leader explained that the intensity of the battles in progress with the Germans made it impossible to absent himself from his country for even a single day, ibid., p. 666.
  5. The allusion is to the meeting of Napoleon I of France and Alexander I of Russia in July 1807 on a raft in the Niemen River at Tilsit (in East Prussia) where they concluded a peace settlement highly unfavorable to Prussia.