Memorandum by the British Chiefs of Staff1
[Washington,] 14 May 1943.
Operations From India, 1943–44
- At the Casablanca Conference the following were agreed by the
Combined Chiefs of Staff and approved by the President and the
Prime Minister, to cover operations from India into Burma and
China during 1943–44 (C.C.S.
170/2, Section V (b).2
- Operations aimed at the capture of Akyab before May, 1943 ( Cannibal ).
- A limited forward advance from Assam before May, 1943, to gain bridgeheads for further operations; to improve the air route to China; and possibly to gain additional air fields.
- The improvement of the air transportation services into China with the object of enabling a larger air striking force to be maintained.
- A provisional date of 15 November 1943, and a schedule of forces required for launching an assault on Burma ( Anakim ). This date to be subject to the availability of the necessary forces and to be reviewed in July, 1943.
- Since the Casablanca Conference, the following developments
have taken place:
- The advance on Akyab has not succeeded, and the capture of this place before the monsoon must now be ruled out.
- The forward advance from Assam has not been undertaken because of administrative difficulties and the inability of the Chinese to advance from Yunnan during the spring.
- Some increase has been made in the air transport available for the China route, but it has been established that the full development of the air route and the full requirements of land operations towards Central Burma cannot both be provided by the engineering and transportation resources available.
- The Anakim plan has been prepared in outline and has been examined by the British Chiefs of Staff with the Commanders in Chief.
- In the light of all the above developments, and of the competing claims of all theaters of war for the available resources and shipping, we consider it essential that the review of Anakim , previously arranged for July, should take place now.
- The British Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that the full
operation should not be attempted in the winter of
1943–44. Their main reasons are:
- The re-conquest of Burma involves a large-scale combined operation, followed by extended operations in very difficult country. These operations must be brought to a conclusion in a limited period of time, otherwise the onset of the monsoon will find us in a position of great difficulty. Even when Burma is once more in our hands, the operation is by no means finished. The Japanese have a good reinforcement route from Siam and we should become involved in ever extending operations in that country and in the Malay Peninsula. Operation Anakim is thus a very heavy commitment which we do not feel we can undertake at a time when the war with Germany is approaching its climax and when we cannot afford to relax the pressure for an instant.
- We are very doubtful of the feasibility of the operation if undertaken this year. Burma is a country whose topography is far more suited to Japanese tactics and equipment than to our own. The assault on Rangoon involves a difficult combined operation which depends for its success or [on?] failure by the Japanese to fortify the river approach. For there to be any reasonable prospect of success, Ave must have a sufficiency of forces especially trained and equipped, and backed up by ample reserves of men and material. These conditions cannot be fulfilled in the coming winter.
- Until long-term plans for the ultimate defeat of Japan have been decided upon, it cannot be assumed that the re-conquest of Burma, however desirable the political effect, especially on China and India, is indispensable from the military point of view.
- Operation Anakim , even if successful in 1943–44, would not be likely to reopen the Burma Road until the middle of 1945.
- We do nevertheless fully recognize that the objects which the
Combined Chiefs of Staff had in mind at Casablanca still hold
- Increase in the air effort against Japanese sea communications.
- Pressure on the Japanese forces in the Burma–China Theater.
- Help to China.
- We should do everything we can to achieve these objects and we must also bear in mind the effect on India of inaction and failure to remove the air threat to Bengal.
- The following are some suggestions which we would like to
discuss with the United States Chiefs of Staff, together with
any which they themselves may desire to propose:
- The concentration of available resources on building
up and [Page 295]
increasing the capacity of the air route to China, and
the development of air facilities in Assam with a view
- Intensifying air operations against the Japanese in Burma;
- Maintaining increased American Air Forces in China with the object of striking at Japanese ports and shipping;
- Maintaining the flow of air-borne supplies to China.
- Limited land operations in Assam with the object of containing as many Japanese forces as possible, and covering the air route to China. These operations would, however, be limited to a scale which would not prejudice the development of the air facilities by excessive demands on engineer and transportation resources.
- The capture of Akyab. This would contribute to the main object of developing an air offensive, as it is possible from this air base to attack Japanese air fields and communications in Central Burma; while an attack on this island would bring on an air battle which would help to stretch the Japanese. Its capture would also provide a base from which we could increase our control of the Bay of Bengal, and from which coastal operations southwards could be covered.
- The capture of Ramree Island. The possession of this island is of assistance to the position, gives a good advance base for light naval forces, and, by threatening a landing at Taungup, from which there is a possible route inland to Prome, is likely to contain Japanese Air Forces.
- The ways and means of providing the resources for these operations require examination, but we think they are likely to be within our power.
- Whether or not Anakim should be undertaken at a later date must, we suggest, depend upon whether the reconquest of Burma is found to be essential to the ultimate defeat of Japan. We have already suggested to the United States Chiefs of Staff that steps should be taken forthwith to set up the machinery for evolving the plan for bringing about the defeat of Japan after Germany has sued for peace. Early and effective British participation must depend largely upon long-term preparations in India and Ceylon, which will be the bases for British operations. These preparations can only be made effectively in the light of an agreed plan.
- This memorandum was handed to the United States Chiefs of Staff by the British Chiefs of Staff at the conclusion of the meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff on May 14, 1943; see item 2 of the record of that meeting, ante, p. 54.↩
- The paper under reference is the “Final Report to the President and the Prime Minister”; see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Washington, 1941–1942, and Casablanca, 1943, p. 797.↩