J. C. S. Files
Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
1. Progress of Conference
The President inquired what progress had been achieved in the Conferences between the Chiefs of Staff.
Admiral Leahy said that he hoped that it would be possible to furnish the President and the Prime Minister with some tentative conclusions in time for the week end. Anakim had only been dealt with in a very general way up to the present, but would be considered in more detail the following day.
The Prime Minister said that he was entirely in favor of carrying out whatever operations might be possible in Burma without trenching [Page 120] too deeply on shipping and naval resources. Of course any troops who could be placed in contact with the enemy should not be allowed to stand idle.
General Brooke agreed.
The Prime Minister said that he very much hoped it would be possible in time to arrange for some British squadrons to take part in the operations in China. Sir Charles Portal agreed that it would be very desirable.
General McNarney said that logistical difficulties would prevent any employment of British squadrons in the near future.
The President drew attention to the importance of political and personal considerations in planning action in China.
2. The U–Boat War and the Use of Portuguese Atlantic Islands
The President inquired whether in the opinion of the First Sea Lord the U–boat war was proceeding reasonably well.
Sir Dudley Pound said that results recently had been fairly satisfactory.
Sir Charles Portal said that the air operations against submarines were being extended and it was hoped to increase not only the total sinkings by this means but also the rate of sinkings per aircraft employed.
General Marshall inquired whether the President had yet considered the possibility of securing the use of the Azores.
The President said that he had been considering the matter and he thought that one method of procedure might be to ask President Vargas of Brazil to make a secret approach to the Portuguese Government. The President then read to the meeting a telegram drafted by the Secretary of State putting the matter to President Vargas.1 He said that he had mentioned the idea to President Vargas when he had last seen him, and had suggested that if a token Brazilian force were sent to the Islands, the Portuguese might be enabled to transfer back to the mainland some of the good troops which they had serving in the Islands.2 This might be an added inducement to the Portuguese to allow the United Nations to make use of bases in their Island territory.
In the discussion that followed the following were the main points made:
- The Combined Chiefs of Staff were all agreed as to the great military advantages which would follow the occupation of the Azores and considered that no time should be lost in carrying it out.
- Mr. Hopkins thought the chances of the Portuguese willingly conceding the use of bases in the Azores were extremely remote. He thought therefore that before any approach was made we should be quite sure in our minds that we were prepared to occupy the Islands by force if our request was refused.
- Although on the face of it it might appear to be an action savoring somewhat of German or Japanese technique, the occupation by force of the Azores could hardly be condemned when it is remembered that Portugal, together with the other small nations depended for their very existence upon the victory of the United Nations, and that as long as the latter were debarred from making use of the Azores, their shipping was subjected to damaging attacks, against which a proper defense could not be provided. In the last war it had been found necessary to make a technical breach of neutrality by occupying the Piraeus, but the incident had eventually been settled to everyone’s satisfaction. It should not be forgotten that it was on the margin of shipping that the Allies depended for their warmaking capacity.
- Probably the best way of handling the matter would be to have ample force available off the Islands, and to inform the Portuguese Government that the Islands would be occupied the following morning and that resistance would be hopeless. Solid inducements would be offered, and if the Portuguese desired it, the Brazilians could ostensibly provide the occupying troops.
In conclusion, it was agreed that the Prime Minister should telegraph proposals on these lines to the British Government for their comments,3 and that in the meanwhile the Combined Chiefs of Staff should have a plan prepared for carrying out the operation as soon as possible. The plan should be ready for examination by the President and Prime Minister on Monday, 24 May.
The Prime Minister asked how the discussions regarding the Mediterranean and Bolero had been progressing.
Sir Alan Brooke said that the Combined Chiefs of Staff had today reached an agreement which provided for a build-up in England of a sufficient force to secure a bridgehead on the Continent from which further offensive operations could be carried out. This was to involve approximately nine divisions in the assault and a build-up of twenty additional divisions. At the same time, the Chiefs of Staff had agreed that the Commander in Chief, North Africa, should be instructed to mount such operations in exploitation of Husky as would be best calculated to eliminate Italy from the war and contain the maximum number of German forces. These operations would, of course, be subject to the approval of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. General Eisenhower was to be told that he might use for this purpose those forces available in the Mediterranean Theater except that four American [Page 122] divisions and three British divisions would be held in readiness from the first of November onward for withdrawal to take part in the operations from the United Kingdom. Sir Alan Brooke said it was also agreed that these decisions would be reviewed by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at a meeting in July or early in August in order that the situation might be reexamined in the light of the results of Husky and the situation then existing in Russia.
The President asked what the situation concerning the troops in Syria was at the present time.
Sir Alan Brooke informed the President that there were not many divisions available in Syria at this time. Most of them were being trained for Husky either in Syria or in Egypt. There were two Polish divisions now in Iraq.
The Prime Minister observed the Polish troops would be much improved if they could be actively engaged.
The President asked what use could be made of Yugoslav troops.
Sir Alan Brooke said that there was only a handful of these troops, about a battalion. He said the Greeks had also organized one brigade.
The Prime Minister said that he thought September of this year would be a good time to urge Turkey to permit the United Nations to use air bases in that country. He felt that the relations with Turkey would have been considerably strengthened by that time because of having supplied them with considerable munitions of war and that they might be receptive to such an approach.
In reply to a question from the President, Sir Charles Portal said that weather for flying conditions out of Turkey was not too reliable after the late summer.
The Prime Minister indicated that it would be desirable, of course, to obtain Turkey’s permission to use her air bases prior to September and thought it might be possible if Italy were to be eliminated from the war. In the latter case, we should get free access to Rhodes and the Dodecanese.
The President then indicated to General Marshall that he had sent him a message concerning General Eisenhower’s proposals that pre- Husky propaganda should contain a promise of peace with honor to Italy.4 The President and the Prime Minister both agreed that such a promise should not be made.
The Prime Minister indicated his pleasure that the Conference was progressing as well as it was and also that a cross-Channel operation had finally been agreed upon. He had always been in favor of such [Page 123] an operation and had to submit to its delay in the past for reasons beyond control of the United Nations. He said that he thought Premier Stalin would be disappointed at not having an invasion of northern France in 1943 but was certain that Mr. Stalin would be gratified by the results from Husky and the further events that were to take place this year.
The President and The Prime Minister agreed that the next meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff should be held at 5:00 P.M. on Friday, 21 May.
- See post, p. 308.↩
- For documentation regarding the conference between Roosevelt and Vargas ut Natal, Brazil, on January 28, 1943, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. v, pp. 653 ff.↩
- For Churchill’s telegram of May 21, 1943, to Attlee and Eden, see post, p. 309.↩
- For Eisenhower’s message of May 17, 1943, to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, see post, p. 326.↩