Roosevelt Papers

President Roosevelt to Prime Minister Churchill 1

Dear Winston:—I have not had an answer to my second invitation to our Uncle Joe2 but, on the assumption that he will again decline, [Page 499] I think that in spite of it you and I should get together, as there are things which can be definitely determined only by you and me in conference with our Staff people. I am sure that both of us want to avoid the delays which attended the determination on Torch last July.

On the grounds of vile climate and icing on the wings, Iceland must be definitely out for both of us.
England must be out for me for political reasons.
There will be a commotion in this country if it is discovered that I have flown across any old seas. Therefore, Bermuda would be just as much out for me as Africa. However, on condition that I can get away in absolute secrecy and have my trip kept secret until I am back, I have just about made up my mind to go along with the African idea—on the theory that public opinion here will gasp but be satisfied when they hear about it after it is over.
One mitigating circumstance would be the knowledge that I had seen our military leaders in North and West Africa, and that is why I think it would be best if we could meet somewhere in that neighborhood instead of Khartoum. Incidentally, I could actually see some of our troops.
Incidentally also, it would do me personally an enormous amount of good to get out of the political atmosphere of Washington for a couple of weeks.
My thought is, therefore, that if the time suits your plans we could meet back of Algiers or back of Casablanca about January fifteenth. That would mean that I would leave about January eleventh, and pray for good weather. My route would be either from here to Trinidad and thence to Dakar and thence north—or from here to Natal, Brazil, and cross to Liberia or Freetown and north from there.
In view of Stalin’s absence, I think you and I need no foreign affairs people with us—for our work will be essentially military. Perhaps your three top men and my three top men could meet at the same place four or five days in advance of our arrival and have plans in fairly good tentative shape by the time we get there. I asked General Smith,3 who left here four or five days ago, to check up confidentially on some possible tourist oasis as far from any city or large population as possible. One of the dictionaries says “an oasis is never wholly dry”. Good old dictionary!
Here is an alternate plan in case Uncle Joe says he will meet us about March first:
I would suggest that your Staff people and mine should meet with the Russian Staff people somewhere in Africa, or even as far as Bagdad, and come to certain recommendations which would at least get the [Page 500] preliminaries of new moves started. The three of us could, when we meet, close up the loose ends and also take up some of the post-war matters.

With my warm regards,

As ever yours,

  1. The source text, which is unsigned, may actually be a draft of a letter sent somewhat later. Telegram 234, December 14, 1942, from the President to the Prime Minister reads as follows: “I am sending you a letter by courier in regard to our future plans. You should get it, weather permitting, in three or four days.” (Roosevelt Papers) The text of the letter printed here bears a covering note, unsigned, on White House stationery, dated December 18, 1942, and addressed to “Former Naval Person”, reading as follows: “My courier has already been delayed four days and will probably be delayed four more. Therefore, I am quoting to you the message which he carries. Please keep it very secret.” (Roosevelt Papers) The signed text of this letter printed in Churchill, pp. 667–669, is dated December 14, 1942. It varies from the text presented here in punctuation and complementary close.
  2. Regarding Roosevelt’s message of December 8, 1942, to Stalin and Stalin’s reply of December 14, see footnote 4 to Roosevelt’s December 8 message to Churchill, printed supra.
  3. Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith.