J. C. S. Files
Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
1. Axis Oil Position
The Combined Chiefs of Staff had before them a note by the Assistant Chief of British Air Staff (Intelligence) summarizing the latest British views on the Axis oil position (C.C.S. 158)4.
Sir Charles Portal said that the British had fully realized the great strategical importance of oil targets in Germany, but for tactical reasons these were extremely difficult to attack. The most important targets were the synthetic oil plants and the Rumanian oil refineries. Unfortunately the latter, from bases at present available, were at extreme range of our bombers; and he felt that it would be a mistake to make light and sporadic attacks on Ploesti, which would do little harm and only result in an increase of the German air defenses. It would be better to wait until we had the Turkish air bases before starting our attacks. The synthetic oil plants were in the Ruhr and elsewhere, but they were very small targets which needed precision bombing to put out of action. Recent developments in radio navigation increased the chances of success on these targets, and great hopes were placed on the possibility of daylight precision bombing by the U. S. Air Forces. When a sufficient force had been built up in a few months’ time, it might be possible to resume attacks on these targets more effectively, provided of course that this could be achieved without prejudice to the U–boat warfare.
General Arnold pointed out that the Ploesti fields—which were roughly equidistant from Sicily, Benghazi, Cairo, and Aleppo—were within range of the B–24 with a load of 4,000 pounds of bombs or under.
Sir Charles Portal pointed out that one of the chief difficulties was getting the necessary meteorological information, without which long-distance attacks of this nature were unlikely to be successful. It was becoming increasingly difficult to obtain information from secret radio stations in the Balkans owing to the activities of the Gestapo.
Air Vice Marshal Inglis confirmed that in the British view the Rumanian oil supplies were vital to Germany. Her stocks were so low that she depended on Rumanian oil for about thirty-three percent of her total need.
General Somervell said that the latest American estimate was less optimistic about the shortage of oil in Germany than the British. [Page 649] It was believed that Germany would have a surplus of about 40,000,000 barrels at the end of 1943 instead of the 10,000,000 barrels which she had at the end of 1942, owing to the opening up of new sources in Hungary and elsewhere. It was, therefore, calculated that even if the whole of the Rumanian production were knocked out early in the year, she would still have enough for operations in 1944. There were two tetraethyl lead factories however, the destruction of which would hamstring the production of German aviation fuel.
Sir Charles Portal suggested that this latest American information should be immediately given to the British Intelligence Staffs with a view to the production of an agreed estimate.
General Marshall emphasized the importance of making great efforts against German oil if we could be sure that it formed a really critical target. U. S. aircraft in the Southwest Pacific were bombing targets at a greater distance from their base than Rumania from the present bases available. We might have to wait a long time before the Turkish bases could be used.
Sir Charles Portal said that we must be sure our bombing would be really effective. The value of attacks on German oil had to be balanced against the needs of Husky , for which we should try to cause the maximum loss to the German air forces in the Mediterranean during the coming months. Only by this means could we hope to obtain the necessary air superiority on which depended the success of the operation.
After some discussion,
- Took note that the Axis oil situation is so restricted that it is decidedly advantageous that bombing attacks on the sources of Axis oil—namely, the Rumanian oilfields and oil traffic via the Danube, and the synthetic and producer gas plants in Germany—be undertaken as soon as other commitments allow.
- Directed the Combined Intelligence Committee to submit as early as possible an agreed assessment of the Axis oil situation based on the latest information available from both British and U.S. sources.
2. Allied Plans Relating to
In discussing C.C.S. 157, Sir Alan Brooke said that the plans for inducing Turkey to enter the war on the side of the United Nations were largely political and that the military efforts were designed to further the political negotiations.
He said that Turkey is in need of specialized equipment and that it would be preferable to furnish operating units rather than the equipment alone. The Turkish people are not particularly adept in handling [Page 650] mechanized equipment, but they seem to have a strong desire to attempt it. As a result, we shall probably have to furnish the equipment with certain personnel to train Turkish troops in its use.
Sir Alan Brooke then presented the following draft resolution which he recommended be approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff:
“The Combined Chiefs of Staff recognize that Turkey lies within a theater of British responsibility, and that all matters connected with Turkey should be handled by the British in the same way that all matters connected with China are handled by the United States of America.
“In particular, the British should be responsible for framing and presenting to both Assignment Boards6 all bids for equipment for Turkey. The onward despatch to Turkey from the Middle East of such equipment will be a function of command of the British Commanders-in-Chief in the Middle East. They will not divert much equipment to other uses except for urgent operational reasons, and will report such diversions to the appropriate Munitions Assignment Board.”
General Somervell stated that just prior to his departure from Washington, an agreement had been reached between the State Department and the British Joint Staff Mission as to methods by which munitions should be supplied to Turkey.7
Sir Alan Brooke said that this agreement was not acceptable in London. He pointed out that any agreements previously made were superseded by the agreement arrived at on January 18th between the Prime Minister and the President which provided that all matters connected with Turkey should be handled by the British in the same way that all matters connected with China are handled by the United States.8
General Marshall stated that he desired more time to study the resolution referred to above and requested that action with regard to it be postponed until the meeting of January 20th. He said that there was some confusion in his mind as to just what was intended with regard to Turkey. The President had said that he had hoped to arrange for Turkey’s permission for the passage of munitions en route [Page 651] to Russia through Turkish territory. C.C.S. 157 indicates that certain arrangements have already been made regarding the supply of munitions to Russia. In addition, the decision has been reached to make certain troop concentrations available to assist Turkey in the event that she enters into the war on the side of the United Nations. He asked Sir Alan Brooke what he considered the probabilities with regard to Turkey would be.
Sir Alan Brooke said that the British had an agreement to assist Turkey if she were attacked. The agreement includes furnishing Turkey 26 squadrons of pursuit aviation. In order that these squadrons might be able to operate quickly, certain necessary equipment had already been sent there. This had been a defensive agreement, but the intention is now to operate an offensive from Turkey. The present plan is that Turkey should merely hold the Axis forces beyond her frontier and thus secure air bases from which the United Nations could operate against Rumania.
He said it was hoped that we could induce Turkey to come into the war. This might be accomplished by political moves. Certain territorial promises might be made to Turkey at this time. For example, they might be promised the “Duck’s Bill”9 in Syria, control of the Dodecanese, certain parts of Bulgaria, and assurance that her communications in the Bosphorus will be unhampered. The more apparent a victory by the United Nations becomes, the more will Turkey desire to have a place at the peace table. This might be sufficient inducement for her to join the United Nations. In any event, our efforts with regard to Turkey will not be very costly, but they may provide an opportunity for appreciable gains.
General Marshall said that he had no doubt about the value of bringing Turkey into the war. He thought that if she could be induced to join us at the right moment, the results might play a determining part in the conclusion of the war. He asked Sir Alan Brooke what he thought Turkey’s reaction might be if we effected a large concentration in the rear of her borders.
Sir Alan Brooke said it would strengthen the United Nations in the eyes of Turkey and give tangible evidence that we are ready to assist her. He said that the capture of the Dodecanese by the United Nations would give Turkey a feeling of confidence in their power but that these islands could be much more easily captured by an operation from Turkey, once she had joined in with us. He added that there is no possibility of doing operation Husky and capturing the Dodecanese simultaneously.
Sir Charles Portal said that holding the Dodecanese would facilitate operations in Turkey by insuring the use of the port of Smyrna.[Page 652]
- Agreed to consider the proposed resolution on Turkey, quoted above, at the meeting on January 20th.
- Took note of the paper under consideration.
3. Meeting With General Giraud 10
General Marshall said that the Combined Chiefs of Staff were much honored by the presence of General Giraud and were very pleased that it had been possible to arrange the meeting. He hoped that General Giraud would express his views, and in particular that he would indicate the present status of the French forces and the rapidity with which they could be built up.
General Giraud said that he was proud at being able to participate in the work of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The French army had now reentered the war and had not only the will to fight but also the experience and knowledge. As an example, he might mention a message which he had that morning received on the telephone from his Chief of Staff; this was to the effect that the Germans had yesterday attacked the junction of the British and French armies between Medjes el Bab and Pont du Fahs with 80 tanks supported by infantry. On the British front the attack had completely broken down and 10 tanks had been knocked out. On the French front an attack by 50 tanks had been made against a battalion locality. The battalion had held its ground all day, and it was not until the evening that certain advanced posts were evacuated by order of the battalion commander. He had not had any further news but he understood that the situation was in hand. The action showed the quality of the French troops. They had not been able to knock out any tanks as they had no antitank guns. They had, however, prevented the German infantry from supporting their tanks and had held their ground. Similar examples had occurred on the whole front during the last two months. Such troops were worthy of modern arms.
On the existing cadres, the French army could form three armored divisions and ten mobile infantry divisions. It would also be possible to raise the following air forces:
- 50 fighter squadrons with 500 aircraft.
- 30 light bomber squadrons with 300 aircraft.
- 200 transport aircraft.
Such a force was an indispensable accompaniment for a modern army. The French pilots had already given proof of what they could do. One squadron of the Groupe Lafayette, armed with 12 P–40 aircraft, had been fighting for the last six days; they had shot down five enemy aircraft for the loss of one. He was particularly anxious to receive: first, [Page 653] fighter aircraft in the supply of which he hoped the British would participate; and, subsequently, light bombers so that he could equip the pilots of whose quality he had intimate knowledge and who would quickly master the new equipment. He realized that there were considerable difficulties due to the shortage of shipping and the needs of the Allied forces. Some of the aircraft, however, could fly from America, and possibly the fighters might be flown in from aircraft carriers. He felt confident that the French army could make a great contribution to the European campaign if it were properly equipped. He estimated that the campaign in North Africa would be over in two months’ time; and in this campaign he included the capture of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, which he regarded as forming a direct prolongation of Africa and as bases for further action.
General Marshall said that he was very glad to have heard General Giraud’s views. Speaking on behalf of the U.S. Army, air and ground, he explained that he was going into the details of how quickly modern equipment could be provided for the French Army. He knew that the shipping question was under detailed consideration by Admiral King and French Naval officers.11 General Somervell, the Head of the Services of Supply, had already called on General Giraud to discuss these matters and had reported thereon to him.12 The question of priority of delivery of items and the method to be adopted in equipping French Units would be taken up with General Giraud. General Arnold had been conferring with French officers to see what could be done to provide air equipment.11 It was in the interests of the U.S.A. to bring the French forces to a high state of efficiency, and everything possible would be done to obviate the difficulties of distance. It was not a question of whether to equip the French Army, but rather of how to carry it out. Availability of equipment was not the limiting factor, but transport.
Sir Alan Brooke expressed, on behalf of the British Chiefs of Staff, great pleasure at the report which General Giraud had given of the state of the French Army. With the more limited resources at the disposal of the British, they would do what they could to help in providing modern equipment. He fully realized the important part which the French forces would play in bringing the war to a successful conclusion.
Admiral King said that arrangements were well in hand for the rehabilitation in rotation of the French warships. Resources would [Page 654] not permit of them being dealt with all at once. He welcomed the officers and men of the French Navy who were now joining in the struggle for victory.
Sir Dudley Pound said that the navies of the Allies were now fighting in every ocean of the world and the U–boats were extending their activities further and further afield. The combined British and American naval forces were less than we should like to have to meet this menace, and the help of the French naval forces would be most welcome. From his experience at the beginning of the war, he knew the value of French naval assistance, and he knew also that this help would be of the same quality now as then.
Sir Charles Portal said that he had the clearest recollection from two wars of the skill and high performance of the French air forces. He, therefore, hoped that they could be equipped as soon as possible to fight once more alongside the Allies. Within the limit of British resources, which were considerably strained, everything would be done to hasten the day of this collaboration.
General Arnold said that he had been trying for some time to find the most effective use for the French pilots, who had proved their ability to take over and operate skillfully American equipment. He hoped that this study would soon be completed.
Sir John Dill said that he felt inspired by the presence of General Giraud, knowing as he did how much General Giraud had suffered for France. It was a matter of great pleasure, therefore, to have the General back to lead France to victory.
General Giraud said that in the early days of the war he had worked in the closest touch with the British Army. The cooperation between all arms at that time, and particularly between the 1st French Army and the Second Corps, of which Sir John Dill was the distinguished Commander, had showed how close such contact could be. Now once more cooperation had been resumed. In September 1940, when he was in a German prison camp, he had told the German generals that they had lost the war. Their attempt to invade Great Britain had failed, and though he could not prophesy how long the war would last, Germany could never win. Sooner or later the U.S. would come to the help of Great Britain. The Germans had asked him to sign a paper to say that he would not escape during the period of two hours each day when the French generals were allowed outside. He had said that he refused to sign any paper in German. They had asked him whether he was planning to escape as he had done in 1915. He had said, “Never mind what I am thinking. You are my jailers, I am your prisoner. It is your duty to guard me; it is my duty to escape. Let us see who can carry out his duty best. It took a year to get away, but now I am here amongst you once more.”[Page 655]
The Combined Chiefs of Staff expressed with applause their warm approval of the statement made by General Giraud who then withdrew from the meeting.
- Not printed.↩
- Post, p. 764.↩
- The Combined Munitions Assignments Boards in Washington and London, operating under the direction of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, controlled the assignment of military equipment for Anglo-American forces. For a discussion of the operations of the two assignment boards, see Leighton and Coakley, chapter X.↩
- The American-British negotiations regarding military supply to Turkey are described in Leighton and Coakley, pp. 520–521. For documentation regarding the arrangements effected in March–June, 1942, aiming at the establishment of direct military lend-lease channels between the United States and Turkey, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iv, pp. 677 ff.; see also the memorandum entitled “Turkey” by George V. Allen of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, March 16, 1943, ibid., 1943, vol. iv, p. 1099.↩
- Regarding the agreement on Turkey, see minutes of the meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff with Roosevelt and Churchill on January 18, ante, p. 634.↩
- Bee de Canard, the northeast corner of Syria immediately adjacent to Turkey and Iraq.↩
- Giraud, pp. 94–97, gives his own account of his participation in this meeting, which he recalls, however, as beginning about 11 o’clock.↩
- No record of such discussions has been found.↩
- No record either of Somervell’s discussions with Giraud or of Somervell’s report to Marshall has been found.↩
- No record of such discussions has been found.↩