Defense Files

Notes by Brigadier General Gerow

The Prime Minister read a message from General Wavell regarding the assumption of supreme command of the ABDA theater.1 General Wavell desired to delay assumption of command until he could organize a headquarters and exercise his authority. He recommended that Burma remain under control of the Commanding General in India.

The President stated that Wavell and Brett had made a bad impression on Chiang Kai-shek, particularly with reference to the disposition of matériel at Rangoon.2 He asked that General Wavell and the British Commander at Burma be directed to cooperate with the Generalissimo. With regard to Burma, General Marshall pointed out that that area would normally come under command of the Generalissimo. General Marshall appreciated that this would not be acceptable to the British. Mr. Churchill stated that the British would have to retain command in Burma. After considerable discussion it was agreed that Burma should remain in the ABDA area, and be under [Page 155] the operational control of General Wavell. The local commander at Burma could deal directly with Chiang Kai-shek as Wavell’s representative.

Churchill stated that London had suggested that Australia and New Zealand be included in the ABDA area, but that he thought that those two areas should be given separate treatment.

The President took up the recommendations of the Chiefs of Staffs Committees (British and American) for the appointment of a Supreme Commander in the ABDA area.3 The basic directive and the machinery for handling this theater were discussed. The President suggested that paragraph 5 of the directive be rewritten to eliminate the defensive concept. He also suggested changes in paragraph 13, paragraph 15 and paragraph 17. With regard to paragraph 15 the President objected to the inclusion of such a paragraph feeling, as he expressed it, that it was an invitation to commanders to protest against the orders of the Supreme Commander. The Chiefs of Staffs insisted on the retention of this appeal paragraph. The President consented provided the words “in the unlikely event” at the beginning of the paragraph be added.

The Prime Minister directed that a message be sent to General Wavell directing him to take over as soon as possible and notify London and Washington when he was prepared to do so.

The President suggested that two scrambled wires between the United States and London be provided so that the President and the Prime Minister could talk directly and secretly and also the Chiefs of the United States and British Staffs. The President and the Prime Minister wanted this possibility investigated.

The question was raised as to how to inform the Dutch of the British and American agreement with regard to the ABDA area. It was suggested that the Chiefs of Staffs inform the Military Attaché in Washington. No decision was made. It was also suggested that the ABDA Agreement be sent by machine4 to Magruder for delivery to Chiang Kai-shek.

The New Zealand-Australia-New Guinea sea areas were discussed. The British wanted the U. S. Navy to take over the responsibility for that area. Admiral King stated he was not prepared to do so at the present time, and felt that the Australians and New Zealanders should continue to carry on.

A dispatch from Bullitt and Lyttelton suggested that the United States take over French war vessels in Cairo.5 Mr. Churchill thought this question should be left in cold storage until the North African project was settled. Another dispatch from Bullitt and Lyttelton was [Page 156] read by the President.6 This dispatch discussed at considerable length the cooperation of the British and United States in simultaneous occupation of Tunisia and Casablanca.

The proposal presented by General Marshall7 to dispatch by January 15, 14,000 troops to Ireland and 6,000 to Iceland was approved by the President and the Prime Minister.

L. T. Gerow
  1. This is the telegram dated December 30, 1941, post, p. 292.
  2. See the explanation of the Tulsa affair, post, p. 272, footnote 3.
  3. See Arnold’s notes of this same meeting, supra.
  4. Probably means “machine code”.
  5. The reference is to Bullitt’s telegram of December 27, post, p. 244.
  6. The reference is to the telegram from Bullitt and Lyttelton, dated December 31, post, p. 249.
  7. Post, p. 251.