Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

Prime Minister Churchill to President Roosevelt 1


Number 258, January 10, 1943. Former Naval Person to President personal and most secret your 254.2

With regard to the Generalissimo’s allegations that we have broken faith with him on two important issues, I should like you to know, firstly about the fleet, that I gave no promise or assurance at the Pacific War Council, but merely stated what were then our intentions, since changed by events of which you are aware. Secondly, Field Marshal Wavell has given no undertaking to operate seven divisions for the recapture of Burma before the next monsoon. The position on these matters is as follows.
We had proposed to form the eastern fleet July first, 1942. Since then however all Somerville’s essential aircraft carriers have been drawn away. Victorious has been placed at your disposal. Illustrious must come home for refit. Formidable is busy with Torch but also overdue for refit. The destroyers have been cut to a minimum for the sake of Torch and the Russian convoys. Our shortage of destroyers is frightful. Therefore, although the battleships for the Eastern Fleet are, or will be all ready shortly, they are shorn of their indispensable ancillaries. The fleet in the Indian Ocean exercises a certain deterrent effect as the enemy do not know what it lacks. Also we hope to send Unicorn to join it pretty soon, but it will not be possible with this fleet to enter the Bay of Bengal until it has been reinforced with carriers, nor indeed is the fleet necessary for operations now being undertaken by Field Marshal Wavell before the monsoon.
I have been ardently pressing Field Marshal Wavell to take the offensive to the utmost but, as we have had to cut off his supplies of landing craft for the sake of Torch and future operations in the Torch area or elsewhere, he will not be able to manage anything more than operations Cannibal and Ravenous before the monsoon. I am quite sure that he has been most anxious to bring the greatest force to bear on land upon the enemy and to press forward, but it is absolutely no use Chiang or Stilwell saying that men can be maintained at particular points in these mountainous and rain sodden jungles when in effect we know that they cannot. There are plenty of troops in India but the difficulty is to supply them in the forward area under the prevailing conditions.
I hope therefore that any assurances to Chiang may wait till Symbol. In the meanwhile Field Marshal Wavell is keeping General [Page 518] Stilwell fully informed of the limitations which maintenance difficulties impose on his present operations. We had hoped that General Stilwell would have been able to make these problems clear to the Generalissimo.
  1. Transmitted via military channels.
  2. Ante, p. 514.