J. C. S. Files
Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
1. Conclusions of the Previous Meeting
Admiral Leahy suggested that it might be preferable to eliminate the words “and in the light of the probable operation and employment of the French forces” in the conclusion to item 6 of the 87th Meeting.2
The British Chiefs of Staff agreed with this view.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff:
Approved the conclusions as shown in the Minutes of the 87th Meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff held on Tuesday, 18 May 1943, subject to the deletion of the words “and in the light of the probable operation and employment of the French forces” at the end of the conclusion to item 6.
2. Agreed Essentials in the
Conduct of the War
(C.C.S. 87th Mtg., Item 3)
Admiral Leahy stated that the United States Chiefs of Staff wished to defer consideration of C.C.S. 232/1.3[Page 112]
3. Defeat of the Axis Powers
(C.C.S. 234 and 235)4
Admiral Leahy asked for the comments of the British Chiefs of Staff on the United States Planners’ paper, C.C.S. 235.
Sir Alan Brooke said that it appeared from the two papers before the Committee that there were certain basic factors on which the U. S. and British Staffs were in agreement. On others there were differences of opinion which must be eliminated.
With regard to the target date for cross-Channel operations, April 1 had been selected for two reasons. This date coincided with the conclusion of the fourth phase of the bomber offensive, and it was the earliest practicable from the point of view of weather. He would like to suggest, however, that April 1 might be too early a date to select. At that time the Russian Front was likely to be static since it was the period of the thaw. The weather conditions in western Europe would not be as favorable on that date as later, say the end of May or early June, which would also coincide with the end of the thaw in Russia. If the first of May or the first of June was accepted as the target date, the build-up in the United Kingdom would also be further advanced.
Though in the United States paper the elimination of Italy was considered and accepted as a possibility, yet no appreciation was given as to the steps necessary to deal with this or to take advantage of it. We might be called upon by some political party other than the Fascists to enter Italy, or we might be confronted with complete collapse and a state of chaos. In either case we should be faced with a decision as to what action was necessary to take advantage of this situation, and the result such action would have on other operations. There were obvious advantages in going into Italy which could be used as a naval and an air base, but how far we should be drawn in was a matter for discussion. There were great advantages in obtaining the northern plains for use as an air base. German air defense was not organized on this sector, and its occupation would force the Germans to detach forces to protect the northern and western frontiers of Italy. We should also examine the possibility of limiting the extent of our occupation of Italy and examine the magnitude of the commitments and the action required to implement our plans.
The next point in the United States proposals was the period of inactivity on land for a period of some six to seven months after Husky . In paragraph 5 c it was pointed out that Germany intended to concentrate on the defeat of the Russian armed forces in 1943 [Page 113] and that Germany would either fail or succeed in Russia this summer. This year was the most critical time for Russia, and we must take all possible steps to assist her. It would, he felt, be most difficult to justify failure to use available forces for this purpose.
Without crippling Roundup in 1944, we could, he believed, with the forces now available in the Mediterranean achieve important results and provide the greatest measure of assistance to Russia in this critical period and at the same time create a situation favorable for cross-Channel operations in 1944.
It was difficult from paragraph 17 of the paper to visualize the shape of operations to defeat Germany, but it appeared that it was proposed to capture ports to enable a direct build-up from the United States. This concept, he believed, would present considerable difficulties since a study of this problem had shown that the sustenance of the forces used to cover these ports would absorb the larger part of their capacity. After the capture of a bridgehead, Cherbourg might be seized, but the provision of the necessary forces to cover this would be difficult unless the Germans were greatly weakened or unable to find reserves. For this reason active Russian operations were essential. If the Russians suffered defeats in 1943, the possibility of any landing was bad.
In conclusion, he felt that the first of May or the first of June was a better target date for Roundup since this would be the period when the summer fighting in Russia would be starting. By maintaining pressure with limited forces in the Mediterranean, German troops estimated at some 20 to 30 divisions would, by the elimination of Italy, be dispersed and tied down.
He would like to add one minor point. The United States’ build-up envisaged would, he believed, require at an early date additional S.O.S. troops, possibly even at the expense of Sickle , to prepare the depots to receive them. This was necessary since the manpower situation in England was very serious.
Admiral Leahy said that he understood the British proposal to be for Mediterranean operations and a magnified Sledgehammer . He was interested to know what effect the British proposals had on the Anakim operation since he believed some form of operation to help China to be essential.
Sir Alan Brooke explained that the British proposals for Mediterranean operations contemplated only a deduction of some 3½ to 4 divisions from the forces available for Roundup . Landing craft was a critical item, and the shortage would anyhow necessitate the assault going in on a relatively narrow front. In any event it was not proposed to move any forces from the Mediterranean for use in [Page 114] Anakim since all the troops required were already in India, but any operations in Burma would be hampered by a shortage of shipping, naval covering forces, and landing craft. If it was decided only to open the Ledo Road to China, then, of course, naval operations could be dispensed with, but this operation would probably be at the expense of the capacity of the air route. Before discussing Burmese operations in detail, he felt it wise to await the report of the Combined Staff Planners.
General Marshall said that he personally believed that the postponement of the target date for Roundup to the first of May would be acceptable in view of its relation to Russian operations, and the extra time given for the build-up. He agreed also that the action required in the event of the collapse of Italy must be studied and preparations made to meet it.
He agreed with Sir Alan Brooke’s view on the importance of helping Russia in 1943, but he believed that it would take some time to mount any operation subsequent to Husky which itself might not be completed until September. We should, therefore, be helping Russia up until the end of the period of the German campaign.
Sir Alan Brooke explained that he considered that operations in the Mediterranean, with a consequent diversion of German forces, were important throughout the entire year.
General Marshall, commenting further on the British plan, believed that the calculated build-up through the ports was pessimistic. Experience had shown that estimated port capacities were likely, in practice, to be doubled.
In general he believed that the British plan magnified the results to be obtained by Mediterranean operations and minimized the forces which would have to be used and the logistic requirements. It was too sanguine with regard to the results of enemy reaction, and in this connection it must be remembered that in North Africa a relatively small German force had produced a serious factor of delay to our operations. A German decision to support Italy might make intended operations extremely difficult and time consuming.
General Marshall then turned to detailed comments of the British plan.5 Paragraph 2 a visualized it as essential for invasion that the initial assault must be on a sufficiently large scale to enable the rate of our build-up to compete with that of the enemy. In this connection a deteriorating German situation was visualized earlier in the paper. As he saw it, the first step was aimed, not at the immediate defeat of the German Army, but at the establishment of a bridgehead which would have results not only psychologically, but on the U–boat [Page 115] campaign, and would provide air fields, giving better bases for operations against the enemy which in turn would result in the destruction of a growing percentage of the enemy’s air fighting capacity. These were immediate and important results, and these, rather than an immediate advance to the Rhine, should be our first objective. He did not believe that the British paper gave sufficient weight to the devastating effect of our air bombardments with the resulting diminution not only of Germany’s power but of her ability rapidly to build up forces in western Europe. The effects of the bombing offensive were becoming more and more apparent daily.
Paragraph 7 of the British paper, while showing the limitations imposed on cross-Channel operations by lack of landing craft, did not sufficently stress the expenditure of these craft in Mediterranean operations. The limitations of landing craft production in the United States must be remembered. In addition, the need for these craft for operation Anakim was not brought out.
In paragraph 27 it was suggested that Ploeşti could not be attacked except from bases in Italy. This matter had, of course, been discussed at the previous meeting when it had been agreed that an attack could be carried out from bases already in our hands.
In paragraph 35 he believed that the Italian people’s will to deal with the Allies Was overestimated. If Germany decided to support her to the full, serious delay might be imposed on our plans, our resources would be sucked into the Mediterranean, and we should find ourselves completely involved in operations in that theater to the exclusion of all else.
With regard to the proposal in paragraph 38, that, during the period of confusion after the collapse of Italy, we should secure a bridgehead at Durazzo, he believed that such an operation would so commit us that through shipping and landing craft limitations no other important operations would be possible.
The summary of commitments contained in paragraph 42 might be an accurate estimate but it was axiomatic that every commander invariably asked for more troops than were originally estimated as being necessary. We should, he believed, if Mediterranean operations were undertaken, find ourselves overwhelmed with demands for resources over and above our original estimates.
He had read the British estimate on the shipping requirements to sustain Italian economy in the event of her collapse.6 He believed that [Page 116] these were too optimistic and that some 32 to 40 sailings a month would be required. It must be remembered that there was a large Italian element in the United States who were politically powerful and who would not permit the undue curtailment of supplies to Italy.
He believed that the shipping requirement for the Bolero build-up was larger than had been estimated. Even if the personnel and cargo shipping required was available, the limitations of escorts would curtail the full Bolero build-up if operations in the Mediterranean continued. If operations in any magnitude were undertaken in the Mediterranean after Husky there would, in all probability, be no landing craft available to be returned to the United Kingdom for cross-Channel operations.
In general, he considered that the British paper throughout was over-pessimistic with regard to the possibilities of cross-Channel operations, particularly in so far as the results of our vast air power and its relation to ground operations. On the other hand, in considering Mediterranean operations, the British paper was very optimistic with regard to the forces required, the Axis reaction and the logistic problem.
Admiral King, with reference to the suggestion that the target date for Roundup should be postponed to the 1st May or 1st June, agreed that the weather would be better at a later date but considered that to achieve the maximum results in relation to the operations on the Eastern Front, it should take place before the thaw finished. The target date was seldom met, but he believed that it would be wise to plan the target date for 1 May which would be reasonable in all the circumstances.
(At this point all officers with the exception of the Combined Chiefs of Staff themselves, left the meeting.)7
After a full discussion the Secretaries were recalled.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—
- Ante, p. 104.↩
- Post, p. 231.↩
- Post, pp. 261 and 273, respectively.↩
- C.C.S. 234, May 17, 1943, post, p. 261.↩
- C.C.S. 227, May 16, 1943, memorandum by the British Chiefs of Staff entitled “Relief and Supplies for Occupied and Liberated Territories”, not printed, estimated the total shipping commitment for Italy at 10–12 store ships and about 8 tankers.↩
- According to Brooke’s Diary (Alanbrooke, p. 509), the “off the record” discussion between the American and British Chiefs of Staff alone was suggested by Marshall. Brooke viewed the agreement reached during the discussion as “not altogether a satisfactory one, but far better than a break-up of the Conference.”↩
- The draft resolutions determined by the Combined Chiefs of Staff were subsequently circulated as C.C.S. 237, not printed. They were considered by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at their meeting on the afternoon of May 19; see post, p. 118. The resolutions as amended and agreed upon by the Combined Chiefs of Staff were incorporated in C.C.S. 237/1, May 20, 1943, post, p. 281.↩
- See post, p. 118.↩