J.C.S. Files

Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes

1. Conclusions of the Previous Meeting

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Accepted the conclusions of the 112th Meeting. The detailed record of the meeting was also accepted, subject to minor amendments.2

2. Naval and Air Commanders for Operation “Overlord

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed to the following British suggestion for Air and Naval Commanders for Overlord :

Naval Commander—Commander in Chief Portsmouth (Admiral Sir Charles Little)

Air Commander—Air Officer Commanding in Chief, Fighter Command (Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory)

3. Equipping Allies, Liberated Forces and Friendly Neutrals
(C.C.S. 3173)

Sir Alan Brooke said that he would like to have time to refer this matter to London where the officers most qualified to advise were situated. It might be necessary to handle it at a later date through the Joint Staff Mission.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed to defer action on this paper.

4. Sardinia—Fifth Column Activities
(C.C.S. 318/14)

Previous Reference: C.C.S. 112th Mtg. Min, Item 7.5

The Combined Chiefs of Staff had before them a draft telegram to General Eisenhower on the subject of the use of O.S.S. and S.O.E. organizations in Sardinia.

Sir Alan Brooke suggested certain amendments to this telegram, including a reference to operations in Corsica.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed, with certain amendments, to the dispatch to General Eisenhower of the signal contained in C.C.S. 318/1 (Subsequently dispatched as Fan 1986).

[Page 906]

5. Appreciation and Plan for the Defeat of Japan
(C.C.S. 3137)

Sir Alan Brooke said that the British Chiefs of Staff had not had sufficient time to arrive at a definite conclusion with regard to the plan and would like to hear the views of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff. The early action required by U.S. forces in the Pacific appeared to be generally agreed by the Combined Staff Planners, except for differing views as to the emphasis to be laid on operations in New Guinea. It was with regard to operations of British forces that the various alternatives existed.

Admiral Leahy said that the U.S. Chiefs of Staff were in agreement with the recommendations put forward by the U.S. Planners with certain amendments which he outlined.8

General Marshall said that, in his opinion, it would be necessary to undertake the recapture of the whole of Burma; only thus could the main road to China be reopened. Akyab and Ramree must be taken before the next monsoon. Operations further south, i.e., against Sumatra, would, he considered, be a diversion from the main effort which must be concentrated with a view to clearing Burma.

Sir Alan Brooke then outlined the various operations which could be undertaken from India.

Sir Alan Brooke said that there seemed to be two alternatives. In both cases the first step would be the recapture of North Burma. After that, it would be possible either to press on with the reconquest of the whole of Burma and later attack Singapore or, alternatively, to recapture Singapore and afterwards clear Southern Burma. The extent of the operations this season was dependent on the reply from the Commander in Chief, India, with regard to the lines of communications through Assam. The capture of Akyab was a necessary preliminary to an attack on Rangoon, since it provided the necessary air base. The Prime Minister had suggested an alternative operation, the capture of the northern tip of Sumatra.9 It was not possible to undertake in 1944 both the capture of Akyab and that of Northern Sumatra. The Akyab operation could take place in March and the Sumatra operation, which was not dependent on the monsoon, could take place in May. The North Sumatra operation was being examined and necessitated a force of some four divisions. This was only a slightly larger force than that required for Akyab.

From an examination of the courses of action put forward by the Planners, it appeared that the opening of a port in China could be [Page 907] accomplished at approximately the same time, whether this was done by an overland advance through China after opening the main Burma road, or, whether it was done by sea-borne attacks from Singapore after opening the Malacca Straits.

It was, in any event, essential to develop to the maximum the air route into China. It was the only method of supplying that country. On the defeat of Germany a great number of aircraft should be available. In addition to this it was necessary to decide on the main line of advance, either overland or by sea from Singapore. In each case the Ledo road would first be opened and then either Akyab captured as a preliminary to an attack on Rangoon, or Northern Sumatra captured as a preliminary for an attack on Singapore, Whatever course of action was adopted, great developments would have to be undertaken with regard to base facilities in India.

Admiral Leahy asked if an attack on the Kra Isthmus, as an alternative to the attack on Northern Sumatra, had been examined.

Sir Alan Brooke explained that though this line of advance had certain advantages, the difficulty was the lack of any ports on that coast.

Admiral King said that he had always considered Bangkok as the most valuable prize. If this town could be captured, it would be unnecessary to assault Rangoon, since all Japanese lines of communication to it could be effectively cut, and it would fall into our lap.

Sir Charles Portal said that on the assumption that the war against Germany was completed by the autumn of 1944, he believed that the air route to China could be vastly increased. According to the plan, no substantial amount of supplies could get into China by any road before 1946. The United Nations would have a tremendous production of heavy bombers, transports and air crews which, when the drain of active operations against Germany ceased, would rapidly build up into vast numbers. Similarly, the other requirements for the air route, such as radio aids, would be plentiful.

To achieve results, however, from these vast forces it would be necessary at once to start building up the necessary facilities and to make preparations for deploying and employing the aircraft. Numbers would be so large that, if necessary, unserviceable aircraft could be scrapped rather than large repair depots should be set up. Maximum efforts must be made, if necessary at the expense of operations to open the southern road. By 1945 it could be possible for the air supply route to reach such magnitude that delivery by the Ledo and even the main Burma roads would be insignificant in proportion. He realized that there were great difficulties in the construction of airfields particularly in China. Myitkyina, Bhamo and Lashio could be used which would [Page 908] increase the load. Air forces could develop a direct air offensive on Japan and ground forces could be thrown in to stiffen the Chinese troops required to safeguard the base area. Japanese opposition everywhere would be weakened and their morale lowered. Operations on these lines would be, he felt, more profitable than tedious land operations to open the main land route. As he visualized it, it would, by the methods he had outlined, be possible to continue attacks on the periphery of the wheel to achieve attrition, to attack the heart of Japan (the center of the wheel) by air, with devastating results on her industry and morale, while at the same time the westerly drive in the Pacific would cut the spokes of the wheel. Thus he believed the earliest collapse of Japan could be achieved, but a greater effort must be made to build up the air route. A study of the logistic possibilities should be made at once, after which the route must be built up, if necessary at the expense of ground operations.

General Marshall said that he felt it important that in view of the immense difficulties of ground operations in the area concerned, that the most effective application of our air superiority should be considered and that we should capitalize on the effects of this superiority.

Sir Charles Portal said that he was very strongly in agreement with General Marshall and had himself been thinking on the same lines. He had been impressed by the small number of aircraft (22) required to maintain three of Brigadier Wingate’s groups. The air could be directed by these groups onto vital enemy points. Penetration by these methods with lightly armed forces assisted and supplied by the air, could, he felt, produce quicker results than the laborious advances of land forces, accompanied by the necessary building of road communications. With regard to the seizure by air action of potential air bases, he believed that while this, in certain cases, could be achieved, it must be remembered that troops and anti-aircraft weapons were essential in the initial stages and that the bases could not be held by air action alone until the enemy had been driven back to a certain distance from them.

General Arnold said that he considered that further use could be made of the vast number of fighters and light bombers which would later be available for direct action against the Japanese all over Burma. They could attack railroads, bridges and troops and vehicles on the march.

Sir Charles Portal agreed that this had great possibilities but pointed out the risk of delaying the air operations out of China by building up too heavy a force of lighter aircraft for operations in Burma.

[Page 909]

Both General Marshall and Sir Alan Brooke agreed that the tactical conception of operations in Burma employing air reinforcement and air support and supply to long-range penetration groups should be studied as a matter of urgency.

Sir Alan Brooke pointed out that to attack Japan it would be necessary to base forces far into China. The Chinese forces required to hold the essential bases would require considerable supplies which would effect a reduction in the air effort itself. In addition to the development to the maximum of the air route, the Ledo road, with pipelines for gasoline, and then a sea route into China, must be developed. Operations to clear Lower Burma by means of long-range penetration groups in conjunction with air support or operations against either the Kra Isthmus or Singapore could be undertaken. He would be interested to know which it was believed would most assist the United States thrust in the Pacific, particularly with regard to the synchronization of these operations with corresponding operations in the Islands.

Admiral King said that in view of the nature of the country he did not believe that an attack on Rangoon would divert many Japanese forces. Operations, however, against the vital center of Bangkok or into China to develop the air offensive would, he thought, both produce strong Japanese reactions. The Japanese, however, had no shortage of troops. Their major deficiencies were in aircraft and shipping. Shipping was their main bottleneck since this was required to support all their operations throughout a wide area, including their air operations. This being the case, he believed that the initial main effort of the air forces based in China should be against shipping and port facilities.

Sir Charles Portal said that he agreed with Admiral King’s conception of the vital importance of striking at Japanese shipping from the air.

Sir Alan Brooke said that he felt that the Combined Chiefs of Staff had had a most valuable discussion. He would like to have the subject further considered on the following day. It was important to get the background as to possibilities by the various methods which had been discussed and to decide on a long-range plan and to relate immediate operations to this general policy.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed to defer action on this paper.

6. Immediate Operations in the Mediterranean

Reference: C.C.S. Memo for Information No. 132.10

The Combined Chiefs of Staff had before them a memorandum setting out the main points in the various signals which had recently [Page 910] been exchanged between the Combined Chiefs of Staff and General Eisenhower.

Sir Alan Brooke said that the latest information seemed to show that the Germans had some 16 divisions in Italy. The majority of these appeared to be in the north and there was a tendency to move the headquarters of units in the south into the Naples area.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Took note of C.C.S. Memo for Information No. 132.

7. Military Considerations in Relation to Spain
(C.C.S. 32111)

Sir Alan Brooke said that there had been no time to refer the British paper with regard to policy in relation to Spain to the Foreign Office but it set out the military considerations involved.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Approved this paper.

8. Military Considerations in Relation to Turkey
(C.C.S. 32212)

General Marshall said it seemed that the present scale of equipment to Turkey was too high and might be reduced.

Sir Alan Brooke agreed with this view. The Turks were not absorbing all the equipment now being provided. Their training and repair facilities were inadequate. He believed that supplies should be slowed down to a “trickle” and they should not be given more than they could usefully absorb and employ.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Approved this paper.

9. Military Considerations in Relation to Russia

Sir Alan Brooke outlined the present position in Russia. In general, the Russians were in a stronger position than ever before. He believed that they had reserves available for further offenses in the autumn. Hungary was understood to be seeking to negotiate a separate peace and neither Rumania nor Finland were desirous of remaining in the war. The Germans would, he thought, be forced to hold all their existing divisions on the Russian front or even to reinforce them. This would facilitate our operations in Italy and Overlord . He did not believe that there was any chance of the Germans achieving a [Page 911] negotiated peace with the Russians who had too much to wipe off the slate.

General Marshall referred to the forming of a “Free Germany” movement within Russia.13 From reports he had received, it appeared that Russia was turning an increasingly hostile eye on the capitalistic world, of whom they were becoming increasingly contemptuous. Their recent “Second Front” announcement, no longer born of despair, was indicative of this attitude. He would be interested to know the British Chiefs of Staff’s views on the possible results of the situation in Russia with regard to the deployment of Allied forces—for example, in the event of an overwhelming Russian success, would the Germans be likely to facilitate our entry into the country to repel the Russians?

Sir Alan Brooke said that he had in the past often considered the danger of the Russians seizing the opportunity of the war to further their ideals of international communism. They might try to profit by the chaos and misery existing at the end of hostilities. He had, however, recently raised this point with Dr. Beneš, who had forecast the Russian order to international communist organizations to damp down their activities. Dr. Beneš’ view had been that since Russia would be terribly weakened after the war, she would require a period of recovery, and to speed up this recovery would require a peaceful Europe in which she could take advantage of the markets for her exports.

There would, however, Sir Alan Brooke considered, be Russian demands for a part of Poland, at least part of the Baltic States, and possibly concessions in the Balkans. If she obtained these territories, she would be anxious to assist us in maintaining the peace of Europe.

With regard to Russia’s air power, Sir Charles Portal said that in view of her superiority on the Eastern Front, the results achieved were disappointing. This, he believed, was largely due to lack of adequate training and handling.

In discussing the possibility of the Germans releasing forces from the Eastern Front for operations elsewhere by the shortening of their line, Admiral King said that he was doubtful whether the shortening of a line would in fact allow Germany to divert divisions elsewhere. The shortening of the line would enable the Russians to intensify their dispositions on this shorter front.

10. Synthetic Harbors

Lord Louis Mountbatten reported that certain experts with regard to synthetic harbors were now on their way to Quebec to discuss the matter with the appropriate United States officers.

  1. The amendments referred to have been incorporated in the minutes of the 112th Meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff as printed ante, p. 890.
  2. Post, p. 1029.
  3. “Sardinia, Fifth Column Activities”, August 20, 1943; not printed. See fn. 1 to C.C.S. 318, post, p. 1069.
  4. Ante, p. 893.
  5. Post, p. 1069.
  6. Post, p. 975.
  7. The amendments referred to have not been identified, although they may have been those circulated in C.C.S. 313/1, August 20, 1943. See post, p. 994.
  8. See ante, p. 900.
  9. Post, p. 1063.
  10. Post, p. 1099.
  11. “Policy Towards Turkey”, August 20, 1943; not printed as such. This paper was identical with paragraph 62 of C.C.S. 319/5 (post, p. 1131) except that (a) it began, “The British Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion” and (b) it ended “as we can spare and as the Turks, in the opinion of C in C Middle East, can absorb.”
  12. Concerning the Free Germany Committee, founded at Moscow on July 12, 1943, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iii, pp. 552, 571574.