J. C. S. Files

Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes

1. Husky
(C.C.S. 161)2

The Committee had before them a memorandum by the British Joint Planning Staff.

Sir Alan Brooke outlined the British proposals for undertaking this operation. He said that there were two broad alternatives for carrying out the British portion of the assault—either to mount the assaulting force in the U.K. and bring the follow-up from the Middle East, or to mount the major part of the operation from the Middle East. The former would enable us to start at an earlier date but, it involved a grave risk in passing the spearhead of the assault forces through the Sicilian narrows in mineable waters and under air attack. For this reason the British Chiefs of Staff considered that the second alternative should be adopted.

If the major portion of the assault was to be mounted from North Africa, it seemed that training would be the bottleneck.

Lord Louis Mountbatten said that a Brigade required three weeks training before it was fit to take part in the assault. A Brigade which had had previous training could be “brushed up” in about ten days. In either case, a further two weeks’ training was necessary for final rehearsals. Time could only be saved by arranging for two or more [Page 664] Brigades to be trained simultaneously. It was not possible to reduce the training periods below the figures he had given.

Sir Alan Brooke agreed that these training times could not be further reduced. He thought, however, that we could not accept the end of September as the earliest date for the operation. Various devices were being examined, such as the setting up of additional training establishments and making use of a wider range of ports in the Middle East; and it was hoped to bring forward this date to about the end of August. It was assumed that Tunisia would have been cleared by the end of April.

Admiral, King asked what divisions were now with the 8th Army and whether any divisions were available in the Middle East which could start training at once.

Sir Alan Brooke said that, although there were some divisions not actively engaged in the present battle, they would all be required for operations after the capture of Tripoli.

Brigadier General Wedemeyer said that no difficulty was foreseen in finding the land forces required for the U.S. portion of the operation. It was assumed that the divisions required would be taken from Morocco and not from Tunisia. The Airborne Division would have to come from the U.S.A. Certain types of aircraft would also have to be brought over, but the majority were already available in North Africa. All could certainly be provided. He felt that some date at the end of July or the beginning of August should be possible.

Rear Admiral Cooke said that a great deal of research into the capacity of Northwest African ports and the provision of landing craft would be necessary. This was already in hand. On the question of timing, his view was about two months before a planning staff could be assembled and detailed plans could be produced. He agreed that it might be possible to start the operation in July.

Sir Charles Portal pointed out that the operation must depend on when the British could be ready and when the Americans could be ready and the later date set as D-day. He suggested that these should be worked out separately. It might be found that the later date was too late to be acceptable. He thought that if Tunisia were cleared by the end of April, a further two months should be sufficient for the preparation of airfields in the Tunisian tip.

General Marshall referred to the transport by air of 20,000 Chinese to Ramgarh and asked whether time might not be saved by making use of air transport to carry personnel from Northwest Africa to the Middle East. He suggested that, rather than transport troops to the Middle East via the Cape, they might be shipped to North Africa, carry out their training there, and then be taken by air to the Middle East. [Page 665] By that time the passage of the necessary landing craft should have been completed. He said that Sicily was our goal and that we ought not to be diverted from it by the apparent difficulties of the undertaking.

Admiral King agreed that, although for the assault the capacity of the Northwest-African ports might be barely sufficient, it should be possible to find room for training British as well as American formations in this area. He asked whether the Tunisian ports were being used for the assault.

Brigadier General Wedemeyer said that it was intended to make use of Bizerte, Tunis, and Sousse for the U.S. portion of the assault. For training he agreed that it might be possible to squeeze up further west and so leave some of these ports for training British formations if required.

Sir Alan Brooke said that every possible permutation must be examined and that we should aim at arriving at a starting date in July. Two points called for early decision—first, the set-up of an organization to plan the whole operation; and, second, the preparation of a cover plan which would need to be integrated between the U.S.A., U.K., Northwest Africa, and the Middle East and put into effect at an early date. He pointed out that the Germans would be forced to divert troops from the Russian front as soon as our preparations made it clear that an offensive was impending somewhere. The effect of the operation would, therefore, be felt long before the actual assault was launched.

The Committee:

(A) Directed the U.S. and British Planning Staffs to:

Examine all possible expedients for speeding up the preparations for Husky and to report on the earliest possible date by which the operation could be mounted.
Recommend how the organization for planning Husky should be set up.

2. Future Business

Sir Alan Brooke suggested that it might be possible to bring forward certain items on the Agenda so as to complete the conference as early as possible. After a short discussion,

The Committee:

Agreed on the following program:

  • Thursday
    • U–boat War.
    • Bomber Offensive from Great Britain.
    • Anakim.
    • Bolero (if time permits).
  • Friday
    • Husky.
    • Landing Craft.
    • Limited Operations.
    • S. W. Pacific.

  1. C.C.S. 161, January 20, 1943, memorandum by the British Joint Planning Staff entitled “Operation Husky”, not printed.