J. C. S. Files

Joint Chiefs of Staff Minutes of a Meeting at the White House1



  • The President
  • Admiral W. D. Leahy, U.S.N.
  • General G. C. Marshall, U.S.A.
  • Admiral E. J. King, U.S.N.
  • Lt. General H. H. Arnold, U.S.A.
  • Brig. General J. R. Deane, U.S.A.

The President first discussed the contemplated trip to North Africa indicating that he had had word that the British might be somewhat delayed. He said that he proposed to spend four or five days with Mr. Churchill and thereafter for at least two days he wished to visit troops, going as far east as Algiers. He is particularly anxious to keep on the move and not spend more than a few hours with the troops at any one place. He would like to have his sleeping accommodations and meals with our armed forces and indicated he would be perfectly satisfied with a tent. He said he did not want to go as far east as Bône.

General Marshall said that most of our troops were concentrated in the largest numbers in General Patton’s forces in the vicinity of Casablanca.

The President then said that on the way back he wanted to stop in Liberia, perhaps for a day, also in Natal, and either Dutch or British Guiana. He indicated that either on the way down or the way home he would like to stop at Trinidad, but that if he visited either of the Guianas on the return trip he would probably spend the night in Puerto Rico.

In response to a query from Admiral Leahy the President said he had no objection to visiting Dakar. He particularly stated that he did not wish to return to Casablanca once his part of the conference had [Page 506] ended. He felt that he could go from Algiers or Oran directly to Liberia.

The President then asked General Marshall if he thought that he, General Marshall, should go to Moscow.

General Marshall said, “What would I be expected to accomplish there?”

The President replied that the visit would be particularly for the purpose of giving impetus to the Russian morale. He said that Mr. Stalin had been invited to confer with the President and the Prime Minister on two occasions but had been unable to do so. He said he (thought that Mr. Stalin probably felt out of the picture as far as Great Britain and the United States were concerned and also that he has a feeling of loneliness. The President said he was going to speak to Mr. Churchill about the advisability of informing Mr. Stalin that the United Nations were to continue on until they reach Berlin, and that their only terms would be unconditional surrender.2 He also proposed to discuss with Mr. Churchill some political questions particularly with regard to disarmament after the war. He thought he would suggest that there be a meeting between Mr. Churchill, the Generalissimo, Mr. Stalin, and himself some time next summer, possibly in Nome. He informed General Marshall that if his discussions with Mr. Churchill along these lines were favorable, he, General Marshall, could be the emissary to inform Mr. Stalin of these results.

[Page 507]

General Marshall said that after the conference was over he and General Arnold and General Somervell propose to go to Basra where they would separate, General Marshall going to Moscow, General Arnold going to Chungking, and General Somervell looking into the shipping and other logistical matters in the Iran–Iraq Area. After that he would return and pick up General Somervell and eventually they would leave from Ceylon and go to Australia, returning to the United States via the Pacific. General Arnold would return to the United States alone.

The Presdent then asked who was to take the places of the Chiefs of Staff when they left.

General Marshall replied that in the War Department General McNarney would take over his duties and that General Styer would act for General Somervell. He felt that the immediate operational affairs could be taken care of very well inasmuch as General Hull, who will be at the conference, will be returning to the United States directly. He said, of course, all the plans were contingent on the results of the conference and the immediateness of operations decided upon.

Admiral King then said that Admiral Home would act as Chief of Naval Operations and Admiral Edwards as Chief of Staff would act for him in his office of Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet. He also informed the President he was taking Admiral Cooke with him.

The President then referred to a message which he had just received from Mr. Stalin in which he said that he wanted 100 airplanes but not crews.3

General Marshall and General Arnold pointed out that to send heavy bombers might immobilize these planes for six months while the Russians were learning to operate them and creating the necessary ground installations.

Admiral Leahy said that he understood the idea of sending planes at all was to placate Mr. Stalin and that he didn’t see why it made any particular difference whether they sent the planes with or without crews.

General Marshall replied that there was much more to the question than placating Mr. Stalin. Had we been able to send the planes as units of the Caucasus they would have been in a position to cover our operations in Iran and Iraq, to have given added protection to the Caucasus, and would have been available to have left Russia in support of some of our operations in case of emergency on short notice.

It then developed that Mr. Stalin’s reply was with regard to a proposal which had been sent to him that in the event of war between Russia [Page 508] and Japan we would be prepared to send 100 heavy bombers to Russia within a period of about 72 days.4 The message also contained a proposal that the Bradley Mission5 be sent in order to make the necessary survey as to what facilities would be necessary in case these planes were sent. (A copy of Mr. Stalin’s reply will be sent to each of the Chiefs of Staff.)

General Arnold then suggested that we send 300 transport planes to Russia at the rate of twenty per month: ten from the United States and ten from the United Kingdom.

The President replied that he thought we should just send an answer to Mr. Stalin informing him that General Marshall will be coming to Moscow in the near future and will discuss the matter with him at that time. (Such a reply will be submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for approval.)6

Admiral Leahy then submitted a radiogram to the President which he proposed be sent to the Prime Minister giving a brief of the message that had been sent to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek concerning proposed operations in Burma.7

The President, in reading the message, said he didn’t think we should use the words “Burma Operations” but should make the title descriptive of what the operation proposed to do, that is, simply open the Burma Road. He said he did not see any necessity to take Rangoon.

General Marshall explained that the operation now being considered was a limited operation for the purpose of opening the Burma Road and was confined to the northern part of Burma.

Admiral Leahy suggested calling it “The Burma Road Operation,” to which all agreed.

The President again asked what would be the necessity of taking Rangoon.

General Marshall replied that Rangoon was included in the Anakim Operation and that it would be desirable to obtain the southern [Page 509] part of Burma because we could thereby increase the flow of freight over the Burma Road not only by having the port facilities at Rangoon but also through the use of the railroad which connects them. He pointed out that the limited operation now contemplated is over very difficult terrain and perpendicular to all of the parallel ridge lines. He said that as far as Akyab was concerned, the only purpose in attempting to capture that part was for the establishment of an airfield.

The President then opened the discussion relative to the coming conference in North Africa asking if all were agreed that we should meet the British united in advocating a cross-channel operation.

General Marshall replied that there was not a united front on that subject, particularly among our Planners. The Chiefs of Staff themselves regarded an operation in the north more favorably than one in the Mediterranean but the question was still an open one. He said that to him the issue was purely one of logistics; that he was perfectly willing to take some tactical hazards or risks but that he felt we have no right to take logistical hazards. He pointed out that the British were determined to start operations in the Mediterranean but that they are ready to consider Bolero operations for a later date. He said the British pressed the point that we must keep the Germans moving. They lay great stress on accomplishing the collapse of Italy which would result in Germany having to commit divisions not only to hold Italy but also to replace Italian divisions now in other occupied countries. The British also feel that Turkey would be much impressed by a success in the Mediterranean and that the communications in the Mediterranean would be improved.

General Marshall went on to say that Sicily was probably a more desirable objective but much more difficult because the Germans have been in Sicily longer, and that there were a great many more and much better airfields for them than in Sardinia. An operation against Sicily would be similar to an operation across the Channel, but that any operation in the Mediterranean would limit what could be sent to the United Kingdom.

General Marshall emphasized that his greatest worry about operations in the Mediterranean was the loss of tonnage which would be involved. Any such operation would have to be made under air attack from Italy, southern France, Corsica, possibly Greece, as well as under a concentrated submarine attack. Our Planners, have estimated that there would be about 20% loss in shipping:—10% in and 10% out. He also pointed out the danger of Spain becoming hostile, in which case we would have an enemy in possession of a defile on our line of communications. To point out the scarcity in shipping he stated that we were now about to undertake an operation in the Aleutians in which we could only make one combat loader available whereas [Page 510] the success of the operation would be much more assured if we could have had two combat loaders. He said we may learn something from the British in the conference, of which we are not now aware, but he felt that the tonnage involved in the Mediterranean operation was the most important consideration. He said that he personally favors an operation against the Brest Peninsula. The losses there will be in troops, but he said that, to state it cruelly, we could replace troops whereas a heavy loss in shipping, which would result from the Brimstone Operation, might completely destroy any opportunity for successful operations against the enemy in the near future.

Admiral King said that the occupation of Sardinia would not be of great assistance in opening communications through the Mediterranean whereas the occupation of Sicily would have a very decisive and favorable effect on such communications. He felt that the question of communications through the Mediterranean was a more important consideration than the effect of our operations on Italy.

The President said that as far as Sardinia is concerned he felt that if we took it we could shout “Hooray” and then say “Where do we go from here?”

General Arnold said that he thought that Sardinia was a more difficult operation than Sicily from the air point of view because Sicily was not subject to attack from as many directions and also that it could be given fighter protection from the Tunisia Area more rapidly.

The President then asked General Marshall what he thought the losses would be in an operation against the Brest Peninsula.

General Marshall replied that there would of course be losses but that there were no narrow straits on our lines of communications, and we could operate with fighter protection from the United Kingdom.

The President had questioned the practicability of a landing on the Brest Peninsula to which General Marshall replied that he thought the landing could be effected but the difficulties would come later in flighting off attacks from German armored units. He also said that the question of supplying fighter aircraft for an operation in the north was much simpler than for operations in the Mediterranean because such aircraft could be flown from the United States via Great Britain.

The President then asked why the British opposed the Brest Peninsula Operation.

General Marshall said he thought they feared that the German strength would make such an operation impracticable.

Admiral Leahy then asked when such an operation could be undertaken, to which General Marshall replied the earliest date would be some time in August.

[Page 511]

The President pointed out that at the conference the British will have a plan and stick to it.

General Marshall said that at one stage of the deliberations General Brooke favored an operation against Sardinia while the Prime Minister favored a Sledgehammer coupled with an effort to get Turkey into the war, but he thought they were now agreed on Sardinia and it would be difficult to arrive at an agreement.

He indicated that there was a very decided difference of opinion between the American and British point of view and there the question had resolved itself into one thing or the other with no alternatives in sight.

The President said that an operation in Turkey would involve more shipping than is available. The State Department’s point of view is that Turkey will not enter the war until we can put sufficient forces in Syria, such as airplanes and tanks, to convince them that we can assure their success by simply moving across the border and joining them.

Admiral Leahy pointed out that it was essential to do something about Syria or the Germans would attack there.

General Marshall replied that the British 8th Army was planning on reinforcing British troops in Syria.

General Arnold said that one of General Eisenhower’s greatest troubles at the present time was a lack of airfields, and that this would also hamper Operation Brimstone .

General Marshall said that our Planners differed with the British on the effects that Operation Brimstone would have with regard to Spain. The British feel that the successful capture of Sardinia would have a stabilizing effect on Spain and insure that they would not enter the war, whereas our Planners had exactly the opposite point of view, feeling that if we succeed in taking Sardinia Germany’s logical move would be to occupy the Iberian Peninsula and cut our lines of communications.

Admiral Leahy said that if we captured the Brest Peninsula it would prevent an invasion of Spain.

General Marshall agreed but stated that the occupation of Spain might come before we were prepared to mount the operation against the Brest Peninsula.

Admiral King said he felt we should reach a decision in January to which the President agreed.

General Marshall said that when we were planning last July the possibilities of a Russian collapse were dominant in our thoughts and that we accepted the operation in North Africa realizing that it was extremely hazardous. He felt that the surprise attained in this operation had surprised us. He said that in no sense was it a normal operation, [Page 512] that everything about it was abnormal and perhaps that had been the reason for our gaining surprise.

The President indicated that if we undertake an operation against Sardinia the Germans would quickly become aware of it.

General Marshall then said that there was one point that General Eisenhower had presented which offered the only advantage for an operation against Sardinia that had impressed him. He said that he thought the operation should be mounted from outside the Mediterranean, at least one division coming from the United States and several from England. If this were done, the North African situation could remain unchanged, and there would be a good possibility of surprise since the Germans would not know whether plans contemplated an attack in the north or the south.

The President then asked if it wouldn’t be possible for us to build up a large force in England and leave the actual decision in abeyance for a month or two.

General Marshall said that he thought perhaps the necessity for shipping landing craft would prevent this procedure.

Admiral King said that if the operation were mounted from England the landing craft would be sent there in any event.

Admiral King then suggested that perhaps the whole operation could be carried out from North Africa using the small type landing craft in which we could afford to take the attrition losses.

Admiral Leahy said he thought that the President’s suggestion had considerable merit, that is, building up a large force in Europe and making plans for both an attack against the Brest Peninsula and an attack against Sardinia, but delaying the decision for a month or two; the decision to be based on the situation existing at that time.

The President pointed out that we now have 800,000 or 900,000 men in North Africa. He thought that 100,000 would be adequate for the protection of Syria, 200,000 would be necessary for the occupation of Algiers, Morocco, and Tunisia, once the Axis forces had been expelled.

The question then arose what to do with the additional 500,000 in North Africa and also the 500,000 that might be built up in the United Kingdom for an attack against either Brest or Cherbourg.

General Marshall pointed out that we were already training divisions for the Brimstone Operation in case a decision was made to mount it.

General Marshall said he would have a study prepared as to the limiting dates before which a decision must be made.

The President suggested that perhaps General Deane could meet him in Bathurst on the night of his arrival and explain what had taken place in the conference up to that time in order that he would not arrive at the conference ignorant of what had previously transpired. [Page 513] He then indicated that perhaps it would be best to let him come right on to Casablanca, get a good night’s rest, and then go into the subject thoroughly. He said that he would leave the decision as to which course should be followed to the Chiefs of Staff to do as they thought best.

The President then took up the question of the areas of administrative responsibility in North Africa, in response to a recommendation which he had before him which had been submitted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He decided that the boundary between the areas of responsibility between the United States and the United Kingdom should be the eastern border of Tunisia.8

[Here follows a discussion of certain domestic matters.]

The President then discussed the question of sovereignty in North Africa. He said that no sovereignty exists in North Africa. He said that French sovereignty is derived from the people of France, and since at the present time there is no government in France, it is impossible for the people to exercise this sovereignty and indicate the type of government that they desire. All that can be accomplished is a de facto civil control carried on by civilians who are capable of exercising such control.

He said that the sovereignty of France ceased in June of 1940 when President LeBrun disappeared. He felt that Marshal Pétain was really just a de facto dictator without legal functions and simply exercised control because he was a man whom the people would follow.

The President said that what must be made clear is that in North Africa we have military occupation. General Eisenhower has the right to say to anyone, “Can you run this Government? Okeh; I’ll give you a try at it, but I can recall you at any time.” The President said that when Admiral Darlan died,9 General Eisenhower should have said the same thing to General Giraud. He pointed out that instead of doing this General Giraud came to General Eisenhower and said that he had been chosen by a French Imperial Council.10 The President stated that there is no such thing as a French Imperial Council, and that General Eisenhower as Commander in Chief should have informed General Giraud that the United States does not recognize such a body. He felt that this matter should be discussed by the Chiefs of [Page 514] Staff with General Eisenhower and that the latter should be given a clear understanding with regard to it.

The President stated that the British are trying to organize a Government of France under de Gaulle. He said that he has perfect confidence in Mr. Churchill, but not in the British Foreign Office. He indicated that the United States has the whip hand and that he would tell Mr. Churchill that de Gaulle is a military officer, but that he can be given no authority regarding the sovereignty of France because the people of France have not had an opportunity to give such authority.

Admiral King then asked about the status of President LeBrun.

The President replied that Mr. LeBrun does represent the sovereignty of France since he is the duly elected President. He indicated that if Mr. LeBrun could resume his position as head of the French State and that it would then be possible for de Gaulle and Giraud to go to him for their orders, this type of government or sovereignty was one which we could recognize.

The President then discussed Comte de Paris. He told the Chiefs of Staff that they should inform General Eisenhower that the United States cannot recognize Comte de Paris in any way.

The President said that Mr. Murphy had given certain written pledges to Giraud to restore France and the colonial possessions of France after the war.11 He said that in doing this Mr. Murphy had exceeded his authority and that he as President was not prepared to make any promises. There are some of the colonial possessions which he was certain would not be returned to France, and he had grave doubts as to whether Indo-China should be. He thought that the Chiefs of Staff in their discussions in North Africa should make this plain to both Mr. Murphy and to General Eisenhower.

The meeting then adjourned.

  1. Meeting held on Thursday, January 7, 1943, at 3 p.m.
  2. The concept of “unconditional surrender” had come under consideration within the United States Government as early as May 1942, and the President had been at least informally apprised of the support the policy had, apparently sometime prior to the Casablanca Conference. The Subcommittee on Security Problems of the Advisory Committee on Post-War Foreign Policy, at its third meeting on May 6, 1942, began a consideration of armistice and unconditional surrender. According to the minutes of the Subcommittee, presided over by Mr. Norman H. Davis, quick agreement on the matter was reached: “The subcommittee agreed to begin its discussion of the armistice period with the assumption that unconditional surrender will be exacted of the principal defeated states. The view was expressed that it might prove desirable to negotiate an armistice with Italy in order to pull her out of the war, but that nothing short of unconditional surrender could be accepted in the case of Germany and Japan. The United States must insist, it was agreed, that there be no relaxation whatsoever in this stipulation. On the other hand, it was felt that a different set of terms of surrender would be required in the case of each major enemy in order to fit the peculiar conditions of each. The Army and Navy members of the subcommittee agreed to draw up for each of the Axis states a series of proposed terms of surrender.” (IO Files). The Subcommittee reaffirmed its support of the unconditional surrender concept at its fourth meeting on May 20, 1942. The minutes of that meeting read in part as follows: “There was considerable discussion of whether an unconditional surrender, rather than an armistice, must be demanded of the principal enemy states. It was held that, while unconditional surrender would undoubtedly be preferable if the military situation permitted, study should also be given to possible conditions of an armistice and possible conditions of a negotiated peace.” (IO Files) It appears that the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Security Problems, Norman H. Davis, informally apprised the President of the Subcommittee’s views on this matter: see Department of State publication No. 3580, Postwar Foreign Policy Preparation, 1939–1945 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949), p. 127.
  3. For Stalin’s message to the President, dated January 5, 1943, see Stalin’s Correspondence, vol. ii, p. 48.
  4. The offer of one hundred bombers to the Soviet Union in event of an attack by Japan in the Far East was contained in a message from the President to Stalin, dated December 30, 1942, delivered to the Soviet Foreign Commissariat in note L–26, January 1, 1943, Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iii, p. 683.
  5. Major General Follett Bradley was sent to the Soviet Union by President Roosevelt in July 1942 to head a special air mission which was to arrange for the delivery via Alaska and Siberia of American war-aid aircraft for the Russian forces and was to arrange for American survey flights over the air-ferry route in Siberia. On October 6, 1942, Stalin gave American authorities permission to make surveys of Soviet air bases in the Caucasus and Eastern Siberia. General Bradley was ordered home for consultation late in October, and he left the Soviet Union in November 1942. For documentation regarding the Bradley Mission, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iii, pp. 607622 and 720726, passim; for an account of the Mission, see Matloff and Snell, pp. 339–346.
  6. In a message to Stalin, dated January 8, 1943 ( Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iii, p. 616), the President restated his proposal and offered to send General Marshall to Moscow to help formulate plans.
  7. For text of Roosevelt’s message to Churchill as sent on January 7, see infra.
  8. The recommendation submitted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff was in accordance with the proposal set forth in Hull’s letter of December 23, 1942, to Leahy, Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. ii, p. 486. On January 23, 1943, Hull informed Ambassador Halifax of the President’s approval of the establishment of areas of responsibility in North Africa (865C.01/15).
  9. Adm. Jean François Darlan, High Commissioner in French North Africa, was assassinated on December 24, 1942.
  10. For the statement by the Secretary of State regarding the selection of General Giraud as High Commissioner to succeed Admiral Darlan, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. ii, p. 493.
  11. For texts of correspondence exchanged between Murphy and General Giraud in October and November 1942, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. ii, pp. 412422.