Notes by Lieutenant General Arnold
The President stated that he wanted first to talk about the French, what their attitude is toward our coming in to help them in France, in West Africa, or in North Africa; that we have to keep open the communications from Natal to Africa; that what takes place in North Africa depends upon the other fellow but we must be ready; that we have to be prepared for any eventuality—things may remain quiet for the next couple of months or the theatre of operations may turn in our direction at any time.
The President stated that action should be started at once on getting the United States Forces to Ireland and Iceland for the relief of the British garrisons there. The Secretary of War then wanted to know, if they were already for us, that we were proposing to send over 14,000 men. General Dill stated that they were ready for one Division to which the Prime Minister added, “We are ready. It is of the greatest importance that these troops get to their destinations at the earliest possible moment.”
The President then asked General Arnold how many groups were to be sent, to which General Arnold replied that 2 groups were to be sent as soon as ships can be provided.
The Secretary of War implied that we are spending a considerable amount of time on North and West Africa, at which the Prime Minister stated, “we call it Gymnast and with you coming in, Super-Gymnast .”
The Secretary of War then said that one of the conditions we are assuming is that Spain will offer no opposition to Germany; that we all agree that as a strategic move it is a necessity to go into Spain, and as time passes our opportunity fades. The President agreed to this and stated that the Germans will also require time the same as we do but that we can’t wait until they get in and entrench themselves. We should get in first so that we won’t have to drive them out.
The Prime Minister asked why it should have to take us 4 months when the Japs took only one day for their blitz. Everyone looked around at Turner for the answer and his reply was that Casablanca was the only port—it is small and can accommodate only one ship at a time as a lighter landing has to be used. The Prime Minister then continued that if we require 4 months, the Germans will get there much faster than we can support our advance troops; we must get it over in a fortnight—otherwise the Germans will concentrate troops hurriedly and drive us out.[Page 169]
The President then wanted to know if Rio de Oro had been taken into consideration and Turner advised him that it was a long distance away and connected by 7 or 8 hundred miles of poor road.
The Prime Minister then inserted that our carriers would be in constant danger from subs and bombers for 4 months, at which the Secretary of War interposed that this would be the case only until we got Army planes ashore and set up.
Turner stated that the carriers would be there only for a matter of ten days to two weeks.
The Prime Minister said that he rather pictured that we would arrive on Day 1 and twenty to thirty thousand troops would be landed on the day following, then everything would be dispersed by the time the Germans could assemble for attack.
After the Germans move into the airdromes in Southern Spain it would require ten days to get set and prepare to attack.
Turner told the Secretary of War that they could unload ten ships a day but could not work at night, upon which the Prime Minister stated they could work at night until the Germans attacked. The President then wanted to know if they could unload within a week if they got orders to and Turner replied that he could rest assured that they would take no more time than was necessary.
Admiral King said that there should be sent one carrier with Navy planes, one carrier with Army planes and one carrier with bombers, bombs and ammunition and that the way to do this is as follows:
- 1st—With 75 or 80 Navy fighters
- 2nd—With 80 or 100 Army fighters
- 3rd—With Army bombers—to carry bombs, gasoline, and ammunition.
By transporting these Army bombers on a carrier, it will be necessary for us to take off from the carrier, which brings up the question of what kind of plane—B–18 bomber and DC–3—for cargo?
(Note: Study on Sea Trains)
We will have to try bomber take-off from carriers. It has never been done before but we must try out and check on how long it takes.
The President said that we must get everything in readiness and hold all equipment available. Dill interposed that they would keep ships from other more important things—the Far East for instance—to which the President replied, “Part of them.”
General Marshall said we were all in agreement that it would be very bad for us if the Germans established themselves in Spain. We are about to start a move to Ireland and Iceland on January 15th. Meantime, we are making plans and trying to cut down the time to get things moving.
The Prime Minister said we should then keep up our studies and meet again within the next few days.[Page 170]
The President stated that for two men that are in a hurry to get things done, it seems to take a long time, with which the Prime Minister agreed and stated that the next step was to try to cut down on the time.
The next question that came up was the use of the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Normandie, Aquitania and George Washington for transport purposes. All agreed that with a fast ship the time of exposure is reduced.
Next question discussed was when the two pursuit groups were to go and General Arnold stated that they planned to send 21,000 on January 15th. General Marshall said we will have the troops ready to go to Magnet as fast as ships are available.
Another question raised was when will ship be ready to transport P–40s to Cairo. This question was held in abeyance until definitely determined.