J. C. S. Files

Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
secret

The President suggested discussing the report submitted to him and the Prime Minister in C.C.S. 170/1, paragraph by paragraph.1

Both the President and the Prime Minister, before starting the discussion, said that they wished to congratulate the Chiefs of Staff on the character of the work which had been done during the conferences. The Prime Minister said it was the first instance he knew of when military leaders had remained together so long, free from political considerations, and had devoted their full thought to the strategic aspects of the war.

The President agreed to this and recalled an incident in the last war when Marshal Foch, Field Marshal Haig and General Pershing had had a similar conference which lasted but 5 hours.

1. Security of Sea Communications

In discussing the security of sea communications, the Prime Minister indicated that he wished German submarines to be referred to as “U-Boats” rather than dignifying them by calling them “submarines.”

2. Assistance to Russia

A discussion regarding assistance to Russia in relation to other commitments then followed.

The President said that in March we will be faced with the necessity of arranging to extend the Russian Protocol.2 He thought the last sentence in paragraph 2 of C.C.S. 170/1 which provides that “supply to Russia will not be continued at prohibitive cost to the United Nations’ efforts” should stand and asked Mr. Hopkins for his view on the subject.

Mr. Hopkins said that the present Protocol has such a clause but that, of course, it cannot be exercised without raising violent objections from Premier Stalin.

The Prime Minister said that aid to Russia must be pushed, and no investment could pay a better military dividend. The United Nations cannot let Russia down. He said that the Chiefs of Staff had been considering whether or not 16 destroyers could be made available from [Page 709] the United States in order to reduce the length of the convoy turnaround from 40 to 27 days.3

Admiral King said that the destroyers simply were not available. The escort vessel situation is so tight as to make it necessary to eliminate the Russian convoys starting about June 14th in order to take care of the needs of Operation Husky . He pointed out that there is already a shortage of 65 escorts to protect the convoys in the Atlantic service and that the Husky operation will make this shortage more acute.

Mr. Hopkins suggested the possibility of stopping the convoys entirely if we could give Russia something that she had not previously expected and suggested that this be airplanes.

The President asked what new escort construction would be available by June of 1943.

Admiral King replied that there would be 100 escort vessels completed but that, if the present loss rates continued, this number would represent only a small net gain.

Sir Dudley Pound said there is no substitute for destroyers in protecting convoys. At the present time we are utilizing 16 destroyers and 8 ships of other types with the convoys running on a 40-day cycle. If this were to be reduced to 27 days, it would be necessary to double this force in order to have two convoys in operation.

Mr. Hopkins asked whether the destroyers and escort vessels that are now with these convoys could not be released for use elsewhere if the convoys were eliminated entirely.

Sir Dudley Pound said the escort vessels would be released, except for the Home Fleet destroyers which must be kept available to watch for a break-out into the Atlantic of the German fleet.

Mr. Hopkins repeated that some consideration should be given by the Chiefs of Staff regarding the entire elimination of the Russian convoys via the northern route. He said that it might be possible to increase the delivery of munitions to Russia over the Persian route and via Alaska although the Russians object to handling some types of munitions over these routes. At the same time, we could increase the Protocol in certain types of munitions such as aircraft. If this were done, there would be a saving in the use of the 500,000 tons of shipping from the Russian convoys. The considerable losses of shipping connected with the northern convoys would be eliminated, as well as the cargoes which are lost when ships are sunk. He felt that the Chiefs of Staff have been inclined to consider aid to Russia as a political expedient and that actually the question should be viewed from the standpoint of military necessity.

[Page 710]

The Prime Minister said it would be a great thing if we could continue the Russian convoys throughout the Husky Operation. He thought it better to continue them on a 40-day cycle rather than attempt the 27-day cycle prior to Husky and then stop the convoys while Husky was being undertaken. He said we have never made any promises that we would take supplies to Russia. We have merely committed ourselves to making munitions available to them at our ports.

General Somervell said that by July 1st we will be able to send 30 ships a month to the Persian Gulf ports, and this would offer good prospects for increasing the supply to Russia.

The President said that supplying Russia is a paying investment. Stopping the convoys in July and August would occur just at the time when the Russians would be engaged in their most severe fighting. He pointed out that it is difficult to say now just what the situation regarding shipping losses will be in July or August, or what the conditions will be along the route of the northern convoys. He said, for example, at the time of the last conference in June 1942,4 the United States was suffering great shipping losses along her eastern coast. This area has now been almost cleared of submarines, and the greatest losses are now occurring off the coast of South America.

Admiral King said that we are definitely committed to mounting Operation Husky and that everything must be done to insure its success, including the elimination of the Russian convoys if that be necessary.

General Marshall, in referring to Mr. Hopkins’ opinion of the Chiefs of Staff’s attitude towards aid to Russia, said that in the current conferences, it had been decided that the first charge against the United Nations was the defeat of the submarine menace and aid to Russia had to come next. He said that if we had to take the losses which had been suffered in the Murmansk convoys, they would hurt Russia as much as the U. S. and U. K. Such losses make it impossible for us to attack on other fronts and thus eliminate the possibility of forcing the Germans to withdraw ground and air troops from the Russian front. He said these losses last year came just at the time that we were laboring to build up Bolero . It must be made certain that we do not hazard the success of Operation Husky .

The Prime Minister agreed that if passage of convoys on the northern route were prohibitive in cost, they must be stopped. He thought it would be right to have in our minds the possibility of continuing convoys through the Husky period, but to make no promises to Stalin.

Sir Dudley Pound said this must be the case because if we were [Page 711] committed to continuing these convoys, the Eoyal Navy could not play its part in Operation Husky .

The Prime Minister said that the discussion should rest on the point that the discontinuance of these convoys will depend upon the losses that are suffered. He said we must tell Mr. Stalin the facts, that he must rely on a 40-day schedule. Also that we cannot promise the continuance of the convoys while Operation Husky is being undertaken. He said it should also be made clear to Mr. Stalin that the U. S. and U. K. are under no obligation to continue the convoys.

The President said that the draft message to Mr. Stalin would require some revision.5 It must be remembered that the Russian General Staff are making plans on the assumption that the munitions called for in the Protocol will be available. In justice to them, they should know just what is intended. He asked how a 2.4% per month loss rate would relate to the 700,000 tons loss of shipping per year.

Admiral King said he thought the loss rate of 2.4% would reduce the losses in shipping to less than 700,000 tons. He recalled the Prime Minister’s having said before the House of Commons that if our losses could be reduced below 500,000 tons per year, the shipping situation would be satisfactory.

The President said that the shipping situation is bound to improve during the coming year as a result of nearly doubling the construction program and by reason of the more effective antisubmarine measures which are to be taken.

Admiral King agreed with this and said that the great losses on the eastern coast of the United States were possible in large measure because of a lack of effective means to combat the submarines. He said that great improvement has been made in this respect.

The Prime Minister suggested that it should be decided that if the shipping situation is better than we expect, we shall continue the 40-day convoy throughout Operation Husky , but that we should not commit ourselves either way. He said that, while it might be possible to continue the convoys, they must be stopped if the losses are too great.

Admiral King suggested that before deciding on discontinuing the convoys, the situation should be reviewed as of the first of May.

3. Operations in the Mediterranean

The discussion then turned to Operation Husky .

The Prime Minister said he wished to set the target date as the period of the favorable June moon rather than that of July.

[Page 712]

General Marshall said that the matter of training must be considered as well as other features in connection with the preparations for Operation Husky . He said that all training and preparations must be scheduled, and that if an impossible or improbable target date was set and then later changed to one that was practicable, all of the schedules would be out of adjustment. This might result in compromising ourselves with regard to every aspect of the operation. The subject of the target date had been quite exhaustively studied, and it is going to be difficult to mount Operation Husky with properly trained forces even in July.

The President asked if the fixing of the target date in July was made on the assumption that the Axis forces would be driven from Tunisia by the end of April. He asked what the effect would be if they were to be eliminated from Africa by the end of March.

General Marshall replied that success in Tunisia at the end of March would improve the situation somewhat but was not the limiting factor. The limiting factor was on the naval side with respect to organizing crews and assembling landing craft. After this has been accomplished, the naval crews and landing craft must be made available for the training of the troops. He said that the situation in Tunisia might result in delaying Operation Husky but that an earlier success there would not help in moving the target date forward.

Admiral King said it was a question as to whether the assault on Sicily should be made by partially or fully trained forces.

The President suggested that the operation might be easier than Operation Torch in view of the better weather found in the Mediterranean.

Lord Mountbatten said that the difficulty of the Husky Operation was not in the weather but the excellence that might be expected in the enemy’s defenses.

General Marshall pointed out some of the errors that had been made in the Torch operation through lack of adequate training. Some of the landing boats went to the wrong place. One Ranger unit had the mission of taking a shore battery and clearing a certain area. It actually landed 18 miles away from its objective.

The President said he thought this might have been the result of poor navigation rather than a lack of adequate training.

General Marshall replied that while we do have divisions with amphibious training, we do not have the landing craft or crews. The craft must be built and the crews must be trained.

The Prime Minister agreed that General Marshall’s point that the target date for Husky did not depend on the Tunisian operations but rather on the necessity of training was a good one.

He said, however, that the British are to send their overseas assault force which has a capacity of 7 brigade groups to participate in Operation [Page 713] Husky . He had been told that this could not leave England until March 14th and then must undergo some training in the eastern Mediterranean. He said he felt sure that the force could be sent earlier. In this connection, Lord Louis Mountbatten said that he had been informed that it could be sent by the end of February.

The Prime Minister said that this would be done. He then discussed the question of navigation. When operations of the importance of Husky are to be undertaken, no effort should be spared to obtain capable navigators. He suggested the possibility of combing the navy, particularly the “R” class battleships, with the purpose of setting up a special group of navigators.

Sir Dudley Pound said that skilled navigators could not be taken from the navy without serious effects and, in any event, they would have to be supplemented by inexperienced men and the training period could not therefore be shortened.

The Prime Minister said that he feared the gap of perhaps four months during the summer when no U. S. or British troops would be in contact with the Germans.

The President agreed and said that this gap might have a serious effect all over the world.

Sir Alan Brooke said that the Combined Chiefs of Staff had examined the timing of the operation most carefully. September was the first date that had been put forward and this they had rejected. Further study had brought the date back to the end of August. The Combined Chiefs of Staff had then put on the same kind of pressure that the President and the Prime Minister were now applying, with the result that July had been tentatively fixed, though August remained a more likely date. He was in agreement with General Marshall that to try and fix too early a date would prejudice the preparations. It was impossible to shorten the loading period, and thus the only process off which time might be lopped was training. If this were curtailed, the result might be disastrous.

The Prime Minister thought that by intense efforts the loading might be accelerated. Similarly if landing craft now employed in maintaining the 8th Army could be recovered forthwith, training might start earlier. All these points must be rigorously examined before the July date could be accepted.

General Marshall pointed out that if the date were to be made earlier, it would have to be by a complete four weeks unless the added risks of moonlight were acceptable.

The President said that the present proposals were based on a large number of factors which might well prove correct, but which were estimates. Another estimate which must be taken into account was the state of morale in Italy, which recent reports showed to be deteriorating. If this process continued, the Germans might be faced [Page 714] with an Italy in revolt, and it would then be essential for us to have our preparations far enough advanced to be able to act, not necessarily in Sicily but perhaps in Sardinia, or even in Italy. For this reason he would like to set the date of the operation in June, it being understood that it might have to be carried out in July if the enemy’s strength remained as at present.

General Marshall pointed out that to bring back the date at the expense of adequate preparation would not make it any easier to stage an improvised operation during the intervening months. The troops would have been moved into place quite early in the preparatory period, so that they would be standing ready if required.

Sir Alan Brooke agreed and pointed out that we should probably get some advance indication of an Italian collapse which would enable us to speed up the launching of a smaller force. It would be quite wrong to risk a costly failure by unduly curtailing the period of preparation.

The Prime Minister said that General Marshall was pleading for the integrity of the operation, and the arguments which he had employed were most convincing. Nevertheless, he was not himself yet convinced that the integrity of the operation could not be maintained with a June date. Some quicker methods might be found of moving troops into place.

General Marshall said that this also had been examined. He pointed out that the period after the fall of Tunis would not be one of inactivity, as a growing air bombardment of Italy would be launched. We ought to place ourselves in a position to do the hard operation against Sicily while being ready to improvise if the enemy weakened. The initial landing in Sicily was on a larger scale than had been envisaged for Operation Roundup .

The President inquired whether any easement could be secured if the Spanish situation cleared still further during the Spring.

General Marshall said that in any case the troops standing ready to move into Spanish Morocco would be simultaneously training for Sicily.

Admiral King said that one of the innumerable items which had to be considered in this operation was the provision of armored landing craft, which he and Lord Louis Mountbatten agreed were essential. None of these was at present available for the U. S. forces. He agreed that the ideal method of launching the operation would be to follow in on the heels of the Germans fleeing from Tunis. He was convinced, however, that the closest we could come to this ideal was [Page 715] July. He would have liked June, but felt it impossible to promise such a date.

The President said that the important point was to retain a flexible mind in the matter so that advantage could be taken of every opportunity.

General Marshall said that he had felt embarrassed over the date of this operation remembering as he did the incentive which had existed for hastening Torch in view of the U. S. elections. In spite of that, it had not proved possible to advance the date.

The Prime Minister said there had been much admiration in England of the fact that the election had not been allowed to influence in the slightest the course of military events.

After some further discussion, it was agreed that:

(a) Operations for the Capture of Sicily:

The July date should stand subject to an instruction that in the next three weeks, without prejudice to the July date, there should be an intense effort made to try and achieve the favorable June moon as the date of the operation. If at the end of this three weeks, the June date could be fixed, General Eisenhower’s instructions could be modified to conform.6

(b) Cover Plans:

The Prime Minister suggested that Norway should again play a part in the cover plans.

Sir Alan Brooke pointed out that it might be awkward for the Russian convoys if we gave the Germans cause for reinforcing Norway. He thought that much the best cover would be given by the active preparations going on all over the North African shore. These would not only disguise the objective, but would cause dispersion of enemy forces.

The President thought that the creation of General Giraud’s French army might also play a part in making the enemy think that the southern coast of France was our objective.

(c) Command of the Mediterranean Theater:

The Prime Minister said that he thought the United States had been very generous and broad-minded in the command arrangements. He thought that the most natural method of procedure would be at the appropriate moment to announce that the 8th Army, on entering Tunisia, had passed under the command of General Eisenhower, and that General Alexander had been appointed as his deputy.

[Page 716]

(d) The Bomber Offensive from North Africa:

The Prime Minister thought that it would be advisable to maintain the threat of bombardment against Rome, but that it should not actually be carried out without further consultation.

The President agreed.

4. Operations in and From the United Kingdom

(b) Bolero :

The Prime Minister thought that it was very disappointing that there would only be 4 U. S. divisions equipped in the U. K. by August 15th. He inquired whether by using the Queens,7 the number for September could not be achieved in August.

General Somervell said that the limiting factor in the first half of the year was cargo ships, and in the second half of the year it was personnel ships. To move more men over in the first half would only result in their arriving in England with no equipment, and thus their training would be interrupted. The Queens were all fully employed in various parts of the world.

General Marshall pointed out that the figures in the table were a minimum, and the 4 divisions shown for August 15th would probably be 19 rather than 15. Allowance had to be made in the early build-up for the Air Corps personnel.

The Prime Minister inquired whether the initial equipment of 8 tons per man, and the maintenance of 1.3 tons per man per month, could not be reduced; similarly, could not savings be made on reserves and on vehicles. For the type of operations which would be undertaken in France in 1943, a big advance was not likely. Fighting men for the beaches were the prime essential.

General Somervell said that the calculation of the rate of build up had been made on the basis of one ton per man per month. The other factors mentioned by the Prime Minister had also been taken into account, and everything would be done to reduce any unnecessary volume to be transported. He pointed out that there was a 45-day interval between the arrival of a division and its availability for operations; thus, the divisions which were shown as being available on August 15th would have sailed by July 1st. If the British could lend additional cargo shipping in the early part of the year, the flow of troops could be increased.

The Prime Minister said that it was in the early part of the year that the British shipping shortage would be most acute. He suggested [Page 717] that it should be recorded that the figures shown in the report were a minimum and that every effort would be made to increase them.

(c) Amphibious Operations in 1943 from the U. K.

The Prime Minister suggested that the word “vigorously” should be inserted before the word “exploiting” in subparagraph (2) of this section of the report. This was agreed to.

The President inquired whether an operation against the Brest Peninsula could not be staged instead of against Cherbourg. The advantages of the former were very much greater. He also inquired about the date proposed for the operations.

Lord Louis Mountbatten said that the date for the Channel Island operations had been chosen so as to fit in with Operation Husky . A difficulty had arisen in that the armored craft required by the Americans for Husky would have to come from the British Channel Assault Force. A telegram had been sent to the Admiralty asking that the output of these craft should be doubled so as to produce 160 more in the next four months. This might be done provided 400 additional Scripps Ford conversion engines were allocated to the U. K. from the U.S.A. He understood this point was under investigation.

The President inquired whether some Ford tank engines could not be produced and taken by air transport from the U.S.A. to the U.K. He understood that the engine was much the same.

General Somervell said that there was a difference in the engines, though the same facilities were required to produce both. He could not at present state the production possibilities.

The Prime Minister suggested that some reduction of tank engine output could be accepted if necessary.

Sir Alan Brooke agreed.

Lord Louis Mountbatten said that the landing craft resources would only permit of an initial assault by 2 brigade groups with an immediate follow-up of one brigade group and some armor. This could only be increased with U. S. help.

Admiral King said that all available U. S. resources would be devoted to Operation Husky .

On the question of command the President inquired whether sufficient drive would be applied if only a Chief of Staff were appointed. He hoped there would not be a long delay before a Supreme Commander was selected.

General Marshall said he understood it was a question of the availability of the right man.

[Page 718]

Sir Alan Brooke thought that the Chief of Staff, if a man with the right qualities were chosen, could do what was necessary in the early stages.

The Prime Minister suggested that in any case an American Deputy to the Supreme Commander should be appointed.

Sir Alan Brooke and General Marshall agreed.

The President suggested that the last sentence of this section should be omitted. This was agreed to.8

5. Pacific and Far East Theater

The President said that he was disturbed to find that this section contained no reference to operations in or from China. Operations in Burma, though desirable, would not have the direct effect upon the Chinese which was necessary to sustain and increase their war effort. Similarly, an island-to-island advance across the Pacific would take too long to reduce the Japanese power. Some other method of striking at Japan must be found. The opportunity was presented by Japan’s shipping situation. She began the war with 6,000,000 tons. In the first year of the war 1,000,000 tons net had been sunk, leaving her with 5,000,000. When this was reduced to 4,000,000, Japan would be hard pressed to maintain her garrison in the chain of islands stretching all the way from Burma to New Guinea and would have to start pulling in her lines. The most effective weapon against shipping was the submarine, and the U.S. submarines were achieving notable results. There was another method of striking at the Japanese shipping, and that was by attacking the routes running close to the Asiatic shore from Korea down to Siam. This could be done by aircraft operating from China. He thought that 200 aircraft should be operating in China by April. They could spend most of their time in attacks on shipping, but occasionally they could make a special raid on Japan. There seemed to be two methods of achieving this object: either the planes could be based and maintained in China or else they could be based in India, moving to China each time for a mission, returning to their bases in India on completion. An indication of the shortage of Japanese shipping was the fact that they were buying up junks to replace coastal steamers, so that they could employ these on their maintenance routes.

[Page 719]

General Arnold said that he was fully aware of the need for reinforcing the U.S. Air Force in China. One group of aircraft was just preparing to leave the U.S.A.; and he would examine, when he got to India, the best method of operating the aircraft. He hoped that effective operations would start before April. It should be remembered, however, that there were large demands for transport aircraft in other theaters, and these could not be neglected. Nevertheless, he hoped to have 135–150 transport planes operating on the India-China route by the end of the Fall.

General Marshall said that the provision of transport planes for India competed with urgent requirements for Husky , and for cross-channel operations. Nevertheless, he felt it was vital to step up the effort in China, and this would be done.

The Prime Minister expressed his agreement with the President’s proposals. He suggested that the document should now be reconsidered by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and amendments arising out of the present discussion should be incorporated in a final edition. The document would then fittingly embody the results of a remarkable period of sustained work.

The President agreed with this proposal, and expressed his congratulations to the Combined Chiefs of Staff on the results which they had achieved.

  1. C.C.S. 170/1, January 23, 1943, not printed, as revised in conformity with the wishes of Roosevelt and Churchill, was redesignated C.C.S. 170/2, January 23, post, p. 791. Variations between C.C.S. 170/1 and C.C.S. 170/2 are indicated in footnotes to the latter document.
  2. Regarding the Third (London) Soviet Supply Protocol of October 19, 1943, see footnote 6, ante, p. 658; regarding the Second (Washington) Soviet Supply Protocol of October 6, 1942, see footnote 3, ante, p. 596.
  3. The Hopkins Papers include a copy of a British memorandum dated January 19 from “D.P.” (Dudley Pound?) to the Prime Minister, showing how effective the loan of 16 American destroyers would be. The memorandum bears the endorsement, in Churchill’s handwriting, “I will show President.”
  4. The Second Washington Conference, June 19–25, 1942. For documentation on this Conference, see ante, pp. 419 ff.
  5. For text of the draft telegram from Roosevelt and Churchill to Stalin as prepared by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, see C.C.S. 165/2, January 22, 1943, post, p. 782. For text of the draft message as revised by Roosevelt and Churchill and their advisers, presumably on January 23, see post, p. 803. For final text of the message to Stalin, dated January 25, see post, p. 805.
  6. For text of the instructions to Eisenhower, as amended in conformity with the decisions taken at this meeting, see C.C.S. 171/2/D, January 23, 1943, post, p. 799.
  7. Queen Mary and Queen Elisabeth.
  8. The sentence that was omitted reads as follows: “The directive will also make provision for the planning of an invasion of the Continent in force in 1944.” See footnote 22 to C.C.S. 170/2, January 23, 1943, post, p. 796.