J. C. S. Files

Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes

1. Draft of Telegram to Mr. Stalin
(C.C.S. 165/1)4

After several minor amendments had been agreed upon,

The Committee:

Directed that the draft telegram as amended be submitted to the President and the Prime Minister for their approval.

[Page 681]

2. Husky
(C.C.S. 161/1)5

Sir Alan Brooke said that the British Planners had examined various permutations and combinations with reference to assembling and training the requisite forces for Operation Husky and concluded that it could be mounted by August 30th, with the possibility of putting the date forward to August 15th. The British Chiefs of Staff were in favor of Plan A described in C.C.S. 151/1, Enclosure “A”, paragraph 5.6 He said that August 22nd would be the best date because of the favorable state of the moon. The date could be set still earlier if the Tunisian ports were made available to the British for loading.

The British will require 5 divisions in all for the operation. These would probably be the 5th, 56th, 78th for the first assault; one division in from U.K. for the Catania assault on D + 3; and the New Zealand division for the follow-up. It will be necessary to move the Overseas Assault Force from England to the eastern Mediterranean about March 15th. Once this had been accomplished, the British would be committed to Operation Husky to the exclusion of Brimstone.

General Marshall said that while the U. S. Planning Staff did not have complete data available at this time, the U. S. Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that as far as the United States forces are concerned, Operation Husky could be mounted by August 1st or earlier. He referred to a statement made in paragraph 4 of the outline plan (Enclosure “A” to C.C.S. 165/1 [161/1]) that if the British forces used the Algerian and Tunisian ports in order to be ready by August 1st, the American share of the assault might be delayed beyond August 31st. The United States Chiefs of Staff were of the opinion that the British could utilize all the ports from Bizerte eastward and the United States forces could still be made ready by August 1st. The only use required by the American forces of Bizerte and ports to the eastward would be for refueling purposes. He stated that as far as landing craft is concerned, little difficulty would be encountered. The limiting factor would be the “degree of finished training” that would be necessary. One division to come from the United States is undergoing thorough amphibious training at this time. The remaining divisions to participate are now in North Africa. They have already participated in landing operations, and their further training presents no [Page 682] problem. The question of relieving these divisions which are now being held ready for any eventuality in Spanish Morocco will require careful planning.

Sir Alan Brooke said that the British Planners thought that it might be necessary for the British to have ports somewhat further west than Bizerte in order to meet a target date of August 1st.

Admiral Cooke said that the British could train at Bougie and do their loading in the Tunis area. He could see no reason why all the forces could not meet a target date of August 1st. He realized that the Germans might do considerable damage to the ports of Bizerte and Tunis, but he estimated that by blasting processes the ports could be cleared for use by the time the air forces were ready to operate.

Sir Alan Brooke pointed out that the British prognostications for the target date were based on an estimate that the Axis forces would be driven from Tunisia by April 30th. If this is accomplished sooner, the target date could be moved forward accordingly.

Admiral Cooke pointed out that there is still uncertainty regarding the character of the beaches in Sicily. They might not be suitable for the new types of landing craft, and this would involve a change of plans. He also indicated that Admiral Cunningham will be presented with some difficulties when landing craft and combat loaders are moved into the Mediterranean. It will be necessary to do this in time for them to be available for training. The American forces will require some of the new type LCA landing craft. These weigh 8 tons empty, 13 tons loaded, and carry 36 men. The davits on the U. S. combat loaders may have to be replaced or adjusted in order to be capable of handling such weight.

Lord Louis Mountbatten said the British are building 30 LCA type landing craft per month in England. The number needed by the American forces could either be sent to America from England or the blueprints could be sent to America and the craft could be constructed there. The design is comparatively simple, and he thought that they could easily be manufactured in the United States. If the craft were to be manufactured in England, it would be necessary for the United States to furnish the engines required. The shipping of some 60 LCA to the Mediterranean, however, would not be an easy problem.

Sir Alan Brooke said it was apparent that the Whole plan might require some changes; there might be some unforeseen and insurmountable difficulties which would necessitate the postponing of the target date too long. He thought that, in this case, we should be prepared with an alternative.

General Marshall stated that he understood the only possible alternative was Operation Brimstone and indicated that he would like to discuss frankly the desirability of undertaking that operation.

[Page 683]

Sir Alan Brooke said that Operation Brimstone would afford a base for the bombing of the whole of Italy; it would be an easier operation to undertake; and it could be accomplished earlier. It does not assist in clearing the Mediterranean for shipping, and it would not be as great a blow to Italy. However, he felt it essential that consideration of Operation Brimstone, as a possibility, be not delayed so long as to leave us with no alternative for 1943 if it were found that Husky could not be accomplished.

General Marshall said it was the opinion of the U. S. Chiefs of Staff that while Operation Brimstone would produce an advantage as far as air attack against Italy is concerned, it would postpone Husky. Any operation in the Mediterranean would postpone the Bolero build-up. He considered Brimstone a minor operation which would result in many military restrictions. Either Husky or cross-channel operations will produce great results, whereas Brimstone merely gives an air advantage. At the same time, it jeopardizes the prospects of either Husky or cross-channel operations.

General Marshall pointed out that German resistance to Operation Brimstone could not be discounted. In estimating the capabilities of the United Nations, it must be assumed that the Germans are aware that Sardinia can be undertaken at an earlier date than Husky. They will undoubtedly make their dispositions accordingly. He added that the undertaking of Brimstone would destroy the cover for future operations unless the Germans conclude that we propose to by-pass Sicily entirely and attack southern France. He thought it hardly likely that the Germans would come to such a conclusion.

He said the United States Chiefs of Staff are more concerned with adding to the security of shipping through the Mediterranean and with the immediate effects of our operations on Germany’s strength against the Russians than they are with eliminating Italy from the war. He thought that to undertake Operation Brimstone would be to seek the softest spot before turning to the harder spot and in so doing we might make the harder spot harder.

Admiral King pointed out that the airfields in Sardinia have a relatively small capacity and that they would have to be developed. While the position of Sardinia does bring northern Italy and southern France within range of our fighter aircraft, it is, by the same token, within range of Axis aircraft based in those areas.

General Arnold said that in order to get fighter protection from Sardinia we must capture Corsica.

General Marshall said that the United States Chiefs of Staff are very much opposed to the Operation Brimstone.

Sir Alan Brooke said that he agreed with all of these arguments, and he felt that we must go all out for Sicily. At the same time, he [Page 684] felt that there should be an alternative upon which we could fall back in case of absolute necessity.

Admiral King said that the ideal would be to attack Sicily at the same time the Germans were evacuating Tunis. The longer the attack against Sicily is delayed beyond that date, the stronger will be the defenses of Sicily. He thought it important, therefore, that every effort be made to reduce this lapse of time to the minimum.

Lord Louis Mountbatten said that in his opinion the ideal would be to take Sardinia during the time that Tunis was being evacuated by the Axis forces. He felt that the Axis powers would then be giving little attention to the defenses of Sardinia. He thought that the earlier date upon which the Operation Brimstone could be accomplished, the securing of air bases from which to attack northern Italy, and the possibility of conducting Commando raids all along the coast of Italy, combined to make Operation Brimstone very attractive.

General Marshall asked Lord Louis Mountbatten if the training difficulties would be reduced if we were able to attack Sicily at the same time that Tunis was being evacuated by the Axis forces.

Lord Louis Mountbatten said he did not think so inasmuch as the evacuation would have small effect on the fixed defenses of Sicily.

Sir Dudley Pound pointed out that if the operation were to be mounted before August 22nd, it should be moved forward to July 25th in order to take full advantage of the favorable stage of the moon.

Admiral King suggested that for purposes of surprise it might be well to mount the operation at a time other than when the moon was in its best stage.

Sir Charles Portal pointed out that to avoid undue risk of aerial torpedo attack the periods of the full moon should be avoided and that the assault should be made only when there was moonlight during the early morning hours. There was a period of from 5 to 6 days in each month which would be suitable.

Admiral King said he thought that July 25th should be set as the target date for planning purposes and that the attack should only be postponed to August if July proved to be impossible.

Lord Louis Mountbatten said that a clear statement should be made by the naval forces as to when their training can be completed. He prophesied that naval training will be the bottleneck.

Sir Charles Portal agreed with Admiral King that July should be set as the target date in order that we might strive for the best. He added that we should also be prepared for the worst. He pointed out that the critical time on the Russian front is in August and September. If the target date for Husky had to be postponed beyond September, it would be of little value. He considered that the collapse [Page 685] of Italy would have the most favorable effect on the Russian front. Since this might be accomplished by Operation Brimstone, he thought that we should be prepared to undertake this operation if Husky had to be delayed too long. Brimstone in June would be better than Husky in September; but a decision to undertake Brimstone must be made by March 1st; otherwise the landing craft would be at the wrong end of the Mediterranean.

General Marshall said he thought there should be no looseness in our determination to undertake Operation Husky. He recounted the difficulties regarding the changes and delays in Bolero in 1942.

Sir Alan Brooke and Sir Charles Portal agreed with this view.

General Marshall said that we must be determined to do the hard thing and proceed to do it. He did not agree with Sir Charles Portal that the elimination of Italy from the war was the most important thing that could be done. To accept this premise might make it absolutely necessary to turn to Operation Brimstone in order that Italy could be eliminated in time. He felt that this should be avoided because Operation Brimstone would neutralize the efforts of the United Nations for 1943. He said that in Brimstone we should be advancing into a salient with limited air support where we might be shot at from three directions. The supply of Sardinia entails an increase in our line of communications and adds a threat to our limited shipping.

Sir Dudley Pound said that if Operation Brimstone is undertaken, Husky would have to be delayed until the period of bad weather in October or later.

Sir Alan Brooke said that Operation Brimstone would not be an easy operation. Fighter support would be inadequate, and it would be necessary to fight our way northward through the entire island. He believed that we should go bald-headed for Sicily. He felt that the capture of Sicily would have more effect on the war. He added, however, that if by March 1st it develops that Operation Husky cannot be mounted until too late, it was important for us to have an alternative to turn to in order that we do not remain idle for the entire year.

The discussion then turned on the Command and Staff organization which would be required for the operation.

Admiral Cooke said that the Combined Staff Planners felt strongly that one man should be made responsible for the whole of the arrangements; otherwise, it was very unlikely that the necessary preparations could be completed within the short time available. A special staff would be required for the purpose.

In the discussion this need was fully accepted, and it was recognized that the Chief of Staff must be carefully selected.

[Page 686]

The Committee:

Resolved to attack Sicily in 1943 with the favorable July moor as the target date.
Agreed to instruct General Eisenhower to report not later than March 1st: (1) whether any insurmountable difficulty as to resources and training will cause the date of the assault to be delayed beyond the favorable July moon; and, (2) in that event, to confirm that the date will not be later than the favorable August moon.
Agreed that the following should be the Command set-up for the operation:
General Eisenhower to be in Supreme Command with Genera] Alexander as Deputy Commander-in-Chief, responsible for the detailed planning and preparation and for the execution of the actual operation when launched.
Admiral Cunningham to be the Naval Commander, and Ail Chief Marshal Tedder the Air Commander.
Recommendations for the officers to be appointed Western and Eastern Task Force Commanders to be submitted in due course by General Eisenhower.
Agreed that General Eisenhower should be instructed to set up forthwith, after consultation with General Alexander, a special operational and administrative staff, with its own Chief of Staff, for planning and preparing the operation.
Instructed the Secretaries to draft for their approval the necessary directive to General Eisenhower conveying the above decisions.7

  1. Not printed, but see document C.C.S. 165/2, January 22, 1943, post, p. 782.
  2. C.C.S. 161/1, January 21, 1943, was a Report by the British Joint Planning Staff entitled “Operation ‘ Husky’”, not printed. The Report set forth those proposals and recommendations requested by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at the conclusion of item 1 of their 64th meeting (see minutes ante, p. 665).
  3. Enclosure “A” of C.C.S. 161/1 set forth a plan for the mounting of Operation Husky. Paragraph 5 presented four alternatives for the provision of army forces for the initial assault. Plan A called for the use of the 5th and 56th divisions from the Persia–Iraq theater and the New Zealand division or the 78th division from Tunisia. (J.C.S. Files)
  4. For the final version of the Directive to Commander in Chief, Allied Expeditionary Force in North Africa, as approved by Combined Chiefs of Staff on January 23, 1943, see C.C.S. 171/2/D, January 23, 1943, post, p. 799.