Defense Files

United States Minutes

1. Program of Planning

Rear Admiral Turner said that the Planning Committee had been working on two projects which were nearly completed:—

Outline plan proposed for peaceful occupation of North Africa.1
Program of priorities in the Atlantic.2 It was anticipated that they would be ready for presentation shortly.

2. Disposition of the “Mount Vernon”

General Marshall said that he had been given to understand that it was desired to alter the destination of the Mount Vernon.

Admiral Stark stated that orders had been issued for the Mount Vernon to proceed to Singapore or any other place the British Admiralty desired, but stated that these instructions did not involve escort being furnished for the Mount Vernon by the United States. Admiral Pound indicated that the British had no intention of asking the United States to furnish escort, and stated that he regarded such escort as being a responsibility of the Royal Navy.

3. Diversion of Reinforcements

General Marshall discussed the possible diversion of reinforcements to the Philippines. He stated that up to the present moment, he had had no opportunity to consult with Admiral Stark on the matter, but he had been called on to submit a list of troop and equipment departures and anticipation of arrivals in Australia. He read this data, a copy of which was furnished to the British Chiefs of Staff, (See Annex 1).3 He also stated that General Brett had been ordered to proceed immediately to Australia and place himself under the direction of General MacArthur, and to forward his recommendations as to the situation in the Philippine Islands. He stated that the question of his (General Brett’s) continued subordination to General MacArthur would be determined later.

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Air Chief Marshal Portal mentioned that the Australian representatives in Washington had stated that unless ten million gallons of 100–octane gasoline could be forwarded to Australia immediately, the planes there would shortly be immobilized. General Arnold said that this is no problem so long as we can keep contact with Sumatra, as Sumatra furnishes this gasoline. Air Chief Marshal Portal said that it was his understanding that the Sumatra gasoline was not satisfactory and that American-produced gasoline was involved.

General Arnold said that the only difficulty involved in the Sumatra gasoline was the aromatics in it, which affected adversely the self-sealing tanks. This difficulty had been anticipated and extra tanks for replacements were being forwarded to Australia. The new tanks would not be so affected by aromatics.

With reference to the diversion of reinforcements intended for the Philippine Islands, General Marshall said, “We do not have enough information at this time from General MacArthur to make a decision on this matter. However, we must not stand idle while waiting to know what he proposes. Until we know what the local situation is, we can not cut off reinforcements from him. We will know in 24 hours whether or not it is a fast withdrawal and where it goes, and whether or not pursuit planes can get to him.”

Air Marshal Portal asked if General MacArthur has any instructions relative to the disposal of airplanes if he can not operate in the Philippine Islands. General Arnold replied that the bombers are already operating from Australia. He further stated that it must be assumed that the man on the ground will do the right thing. He said that General MacArthur has a good air officer who can be counted on to dispose properly of the remaining pursuit planes.

Air Marshal Portal asked if General MacArthur would send his pursuit [planes] to Singapore. He added further that it was difficult for any man on the spot to make a decision relative to the disposal of his own means; that the decision should be made here by the responsible group.

4. Unified Command

General Marshall then brought up the question of command. He said, “I express these as my personal views and not those as a result of consultation with the Navy or with my own War Plans Division. As a result of what I saw in France and from following our own experience, I feel very strongly that the most important consideration is the question of unity of command. The matters being settled here [Page 93] are mere details which will continuously reoccur unless settled in a broader way. With differences between groups and between services, the situation is impossible unless we operate on a frank and direct basis. I am convinced that there must be one man in command of the entire theater—air, ground, and ships. We can not manage by cooperation. Human frailties are such that there would be emphatic unwillingness to place portions of troops under another service. If we make a plan for unified command now, it will solve nine-tenths of our troubles.

“There are difficulties in arriving at a single command, but they are much less than the hazards that must be faced if we do not achieve this. We never think alike—there are the opinions of those on this side of the table and of the people on the other side; but as for myself, I am willing to go the limit to accomplish this. We must decide on a line of action here and not expect it to be done out there. I favor one man being in control, but operating under a controlled directive from here. We had to come to this in the first World War, but it was not until 1918 that it was accomplished and much valuable time, blood, and treasure had been needlessly sacrificed.4 If we could decide on a unified command now, it would be a great advance over what was accomplished during the World War.”

Air Marshal Portal said that the experience in London has been that the highest authority is the only one that can decide as to the allocation of forces; and when the allocation is decided upon, the directive has been formulated, and the forces allotted, everything else moves smoothly. If allocations are controlled from Washington, there should be no difficulty.

General Marshall said that the British and Americans are in complete agreement as to allocations; what he was speaking of was operations in the field.

5. Disposition of Forces Destined for the Far East

Air Marshal Portal said that the disposition of our forces must be planned first. This can be considered a Staff study, without commitments, based on ultimate dispositions under the following two conditions:

The Philippine Islands holding.
In case the Philippine Islands can not hold.

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Admiral King said that he felt this study should probably have first priority.

Admiral Pound inquired as to whether or not a study could be made of this entire problem, stating that it was of such an urgent nature that other things should be set aside, and inquired as to the proper directive. The consensus was that this should be done, and the senior members of the Planning Committee were called in and so informed.

Admiral Stark requested Rear Admiral Turner to give his opinion as to the question of allocations of aircraft reinforcements now going to the Far East. Rear Admiral Turner replied that responsibility should be given to General MacArthur if he is in a position to accept it where the planes are to be delivered; otherwise to General Brett.

There followed a discussion as to the proper directive, and several preliminary directives were drafted by various members of the Chiefs of Staff group.

As the American officers were due at the White House for a meeting, the conference adjourned at 5:20 p.m.

After the main conference adjourned, Admiral Pound called into consultation Colonel Jacob, Commander Coleridge, and Colonel Robinett, and discussed the various phases of proposed directives. A directive for submission to the senior members of the Planning Committee was drawn up and submitted to Rear Admiral Turner, who at the time was presiding at another meeting in the Federal Reserve Building.5 It was understood that Rear Admiral Turner and Brigadier General Gerow were not to accept the directive unless it was entirely agreeable to them, and Brigadier General Gerow was so informed by Colonel Robinett.

  1. ABC–4/2, post, p. 240.
  2. ABC–4/1, post, p. 246.
  3. The paper under reference was a copy of the memorandum of December 25 from Marshall to Roosevelt, post, p. 269. Presumably the request for such data had come from the President. For an urgent appeal on December 23 from the Australian Government to Roosevelt and Churchill, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. v, pp. 390391. The Prime Minister’s reply is printed in Churchill, The Grand Alliance, p. 668; for the President’s reply, see post, p. 302.
  4. The reference is to the unified command under Marshal Foch on the Western Front in 1918. The Department of State had also mentioned the advantages of unified command in its proposals for a Supreme War Council; see ante, pp. 12, 17, and 40.
  5. The pertinent portions of the directive are reflected in the papers produced by the Joint Planning Committee: ABC–4/1 (post, p. 238); ABC–4/2 (post, p. 240); and ABC–4/3 (post, p. 280).