J. C. S. Files

Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes

1. Conclusions of the Previous Meetings

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Approved the conclusions as shown in the Minutes of the 88th and [Page 125] 89th Meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff held on Wednesday, 19 May.2

2. Policy for Coming Operations Regarding Propaganda and Subversive Activities
(C.C.S. 185/3)3

Admiral Leahy said that at the meeting at the White House on the previous day, the President and Prime Minister had signified their disagreement with certain points in General Eisenhower’s proposals put forward in Naf 221.4

The U. S. Chiefs of Staff recommended therefore that General Eisenhower should be informed that his proposals were not approved and that he should continue to base his propaganda policy on the previous directive.

Sir Alan Brooke said that this matter had been referred to the Foreign Office and he would like to await their reply before giving any instructions to General Eisenhower. Until such instructions were issued General Eisenhower would, of course, continue to act on his previous directive.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed to defer action on C.C.S. 185/3 pending the receipt of the views of the Foreign Office.

3. Strategic Plan for the Defeat of Japan
(C.C.S. 220)5

Sir Alan Brooke said that the British Chiefs of Staff had examined this plan with great interest. The plan was, however, not in any great detail. The ways and means of achieving the various courses outlined had not been examined nor their possibilities assessed. He suggested that machinery should be set up at once to examine the proposals and to draw up a more detailed plan.

Admiral Leahy explained that C.C.S. 220 was not intended to be a detailed plan. He suggested that it might be accepted as a basis for study and elaboration.

Sir Charles Portal said that it was very important to examine carefully this great field of operations. He believed that a full appreciation should be prepared. The facts should be assembled, the objects set out, together with alternative courses of action to achieve these objects with full facts and arguments for and against each course. Only by starting from first principles could we decide on the most advantageous plan.

[Page 126]

Admiral Leahy said that he was in entire agreement with Sir Charles Portal’s views.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Accepted C.C.S. 220 as a basis for a combined study and elaboration for future plans.
Directed the Combined Staff Planners to initiate a study and prepare for consideration by the Combined Chiefs of Staff an appreciation leading up to an outline plan for the defeat of Japan including an estimate of the forces required for its implementation.6

4. Operations in Burma To Open and Secure an Overland Route to China
(C.C.S. 231)7

Sir Alan Brooke said the British Chiefs of Staff believed there was great danger in extensive operations from Ledo and Imphal, which would be dependent on two very precarious roads, whereas the Japanese forces would be supplied by road, rail and river, and would be operating out of a relatively dry area. The maintenance of our forces at the ends of their lines of communication would be particularly difficult during the monsoon season. Even if a road to China were opened, he believed that the Japanese could bring stronger forces to bear than we could maintain to defend it. With regard to operations on the coast, he believed that the capture of Akyab and Ramree was feasible but we had not the resources or the necessary landing craft to undertake the two more southerly amphibious assaults. The danger, as he saw it, was that by aiming both to build up the air route to the maximum capacity and to undertake a land offensive, we should do neither very efficiently. The undertaking of land operations would limit the amount of supplies which could be taken up to the air bases. He believed that the right course was to expand the air route to the maximum in order to increase the strength of the air forces operating in China and to provide limited maintenance of the Chinese ground forces. Dr. T. V. Soong, in his memorandum, had emphasized the necessity for maintaining General Chennault’s force at the highest possible level.8 Sir Alan Brooke believed that operations aimed at [Page 127] the capture of Mandalay were not possible of achievement and that instead we should concentrate on building up the air route and at the same time undertake limited operations from Ledo and Imphal in order to protect it, and capture Akyab and Ramree.

Field Marshal Wavell said he had only had a short time to examine the paper under discussion9 and was therefore not in a position to comment in detail. In general, however, he believed the possibilities outlined in the paper to be far too optimistic. He reminded the Committee of the administrative difficulties in connection with operations in Burma. The lines of communication were bad, heavy casualties had to be expected from malaria, trained lorry drivers were scarce, and, in general, the administrative difficulties invariably exceeded paper calculations of their magnitude. A margin of some 50 to 100 per cent had to be allowed on this account.

There were obviously great advantages to be derived from the capture of Mandalay and the control of Upper Burma to the northward of it. A land route would be open to China with consequent effect on Chinese morale, though it would be but an indifferent route and would carry but little for a long time. He was quite certain that even if Mandalay could be captured, it would be impossible, certainly during the monsoon season, to maintain there forces large enough to withstand the scale of attack which the Japanese, with their better lines of communication, could bring against them.

In planning, his personal tendency had always been to be optimistic, but after 18 months’ experience in the area, he felt it only right to warn the Committee that he believed it unlikely to be feasible to maintain forces as far south as Mandalay. In his opinion, the correct and possible courses of action were: Firstly, to make every effort to increase the air ferry route to its maximum capacity and to build up our own air superiority over Burma. These two objects should be our first charge. Then if the required resources, engineering facilities, boats and vehicles were made available, it should be possible to make attacks by land into Upper Burma from Yunnan on Lashio, from Ledo on Myitkyina and Bhamo, and from Imphal into the Chindwin Valley whence touch would be gained to the eastward with the Chinese moving in from Yunnan. These three advances must keep step, and our first objective should be a line from a point where the Burma Road crossed the Burma-Chinese border, through Bhamo, Katha, Pinlebo, Kalewa, and thence to the west. To gain a line of that kind might well be possible, and it would give sufficient cover to the Myitkyina air fields and the route to Burma. If on achieving this line the Japanese [Page 128] were weakened, we should then consider the possibility of going further south, but any idea, at this stage, that the capture of and subsequent maintenance of our forces in Mandalay was possible was likely to be falsified. We must decide our future operations in the light of events.

With regard to coastal operations, he believed we should most certainly try to capture Ramree and Akyab, though this was a difficult proposition since it was now heavily defended. It was not, in his view, worthwhile to endeavor to capture Sandoway and Taungup since they would be difficult to maintain during the monsoon owing to sea conditions and would be cut off from the rest of Burma by the Arakan range. The paper suggested the use of the long-range penetration brigade on An and Mimbua. He would examine this, but he believed that a better use for this unit would be in Upper Burma to maintain contact between the Chinese and the British. The possibility of an attack on Rangoon through Bassein had been examined by his Planning Staff, but they had reported adversely on its practicability, since it entailed a long and difficult advance through thick jungle country interspersed with creeks. Another possibility was to proceed up the railroad from Bassein to Henzada, using trucks on the railway, but from that point there were 40 miles of difficult jungle before the good road north of Rangoon was met. It had been judged that a direct assault on Rangoon up the river was less hazardous and more likely to succeed than either of these two plans.

Air Chief Marshal Peirse said that he wished to emphasize that wherever operations in Burma were undertaken air superiority was essential, both to defend the air route and to assist in land operations. Additional air fields for the fighting air force would therefore be required. If land operations were undertaken stronger air forces would be required including transport aircraft to maintain ground forces, particularly during the monsoon season. This necessity would probably cause a diversion of transports from the air ferry route.

Admiral Leahy said that as he understood it, the British proposals consisted of a maximum concentration on the air route and limited ground operations, including the capture of Ramree and Akyab.

General Marshall said that he was impressed both with General Wavell’s comments on the magnitude of the logistic problem and Air Marshal Peirse’s on the air diversion resulting from land operations. In his view, however, a great increase in the air route alone without offensive ground operations would produce a strong Japanese reaction. He believed ground operations to be essential for their effect both on Chinese morale and on operations in the South and Southwest Pacific. If no aggressive action were undertaken in Burma the results on [Page 129] Pacific operations would be most unfortunate. Similarly, if no aggressive action were taken in the Pacific it would have a serious effect on the Burmese operations.

Operations in New Guinea and Guadalcanal under somewhat similar conditions, with disease, monsoon and logistic difficulties had been successfully accomplished. Bombers had been used for supplies when transports had not been available.

He believed that lack of real aggressive action in Burma would be unfortunate for the South and Southwest Pacific and fatal to China. He did not believe that we should bank all on the attractive proposition of do everything by air. He realized that full-scale ground operations might limit supplies to China by air, but the Japanese must be threatened on the ground and this could only be achieved by hard fighting. Results on other theaters must be considered. Adequate shipping must be provided to build up the necessary resources. He was in no doubt as to the difficulties of the operations but equally he was in no doubt as to their vital importance.

Admiral Leahy said that he believed that without aggressive action by ground forces we should lose the air route. How far it was possible to go was a matter of some doubt but he believed that we should direct our attack on Mandalay in order to occupy the Japanese to the full, to save the air route and to insure Japanese withdrawals from other theaters. It must always be remembered that Japanese communications were open to sea and air attack. The two Governments were, he believed, decided that operations in North Burma must be undertaken.

Sir Charles Portal said that the main difference of opinion appeared to be as to whether or not limited land operations could succeed in insuring the safety of the air route. He believed that the maximum effect against the Japanese could be achieved by air superiority and the build-up of the air route into China, thus freeing our lines of communications and our air forces from the need to support and feed troops engaged in extensive ground operations. He firmly believed that we should put all our resources into the air and that the problem as a whole must be regarded as a military one, the object of which was to achieve the maximum effect on the Japanese.

General McNarney said that he had always been surprised that the Japanese had not made more effort to cut the air supply route, particularly Myitkyina where it was very exposed to fighter attack. He believed that they would do this as soon as the air effort being built up in China was sufficient to cause them serious worry. To prevent the air line being cut, it was necessary to advance our fighter [Page 130] bases as far as Myitkyina and the air warning line still further. Unless Mandalay and Lashio were captured, we should not have sufficiently far advanced bases for the air warning system to cover the fighters at Myitkyina. He did not believe that the necessity for supplying ground forces by air would necessarily limit the supplies taken into China. There were some 90 C–47’s in India used for this purpose, and this number could possibly be increased. Further, heavy bombers could be used for this purpose.

Field Marshal Wavell pointed out that he was concerned not only with the problem of maintaining the supplies to our forces as far south as Mandalay, but also with the fact that the Japanese could bring and maintain stronger forces to bear at that point.

Sir Charles Portal, with regard to the vulnerability of the air route to China, said that he believed if adequate airdromes were available in Assam, the Japanese fighters could be bombed out of their bases.

General Chennault said that he believed it to be practicable to defend the two terminals of the air route with the air forces now available, since these could prevent the Japanese from concentrating and maintaining heavy air forces within range of these terminals. The major attack which had occurred at the Chinese end was against Kunming on the 8th of May, when 40 fighters and 36 bombers had attacked. Out of these, 13 fighters and 2 bombers had been shot down, with 10 further probables. No confirmed attacks on transports had been made. Occasional fighter patrols were flown from both ends, with an overlap at the center. The Japanese could, in any event, only maintain sporadic attacks on the route, and the forces available to the 10th and 14th Air Forces could reach all the Japanese airdromes within range of the route. If attacks developed, the route could be moved some 60 miles further north in the area of Myitkyina, which, though over higher mountains, would only increase the distance by 15 miles.

Sir Charles Portal said that General Chennault had expressed his own views exactly.

Sir Alan Brooke said he was in entire agreement that some sort of aggressive action was required and the forces available used, but, if operations were carried beyond a certain point, we should face a possible defeat with its consequent bad effects both on China and in the Pacific. An advance far to the south would put us at a severe logistic disadvantage with regard to the Japanese. In Assam we were relatively safe since the Japanese would have to operate over bad lines of communication to reach our own forces.

[Page 131]

General Marshall pointed out that the Japanese now possessed an air barrier from Bougainville to Burma, along which they could rapidly effect concentrations in any area. The Japanese had not yet concentrated at the Burma end, but he believed that when powerful bombing from China was undertaken, the Japanese reaction against the air route would be strong, unless the Japanese air forces were tied down by active operations elsewhere.

Admiral Leahy said the Japanese must be prevented from attacking the air line to China. The maintenance of China was essential to successful operations against Japan, and therefore we must conduct operations toward Mandalay.

General Somervell said that General Wavell’s calculated requirements were some 180,000 tons per month. A large part of this, however, had no relation to the operations envisaged. There were 33 divisions in India, with a further 10½ overseas, but only 12 engaged in the operation. He believed there was no real justification for a tonnage greater than 90,000 per month for Anakim . 27,000 tons a month of the requirement was for civilian supplies.

Field Marshal Wavell and Sir Alan Brooke pointed out that India must be maintained and this could not be divorced from the operational requirement. India’s requirements had already been cut in order to make good the British import program. If the so-called civilian requirements were not met, India’s output of munitions could not be maintained.

With the aid of a map, General Somervell then outlined the amounts which he believed could be supplied over the various routes.

General Somervell said that he believed that the industrial capacity of India could be maintained without the figure of 180,000 tons per month being met. Many of the requirements would not bear examination in detail and some could be cut in half. For instance, the Indian requirement of 4,000 amphibious or special vehicles appeared excessive. It was greater than the number available to the entire United States Army.

He believed that the river route to Ledo had not been expanded to its maximum capacity. He outlined his views on the logistic possibilities of the routes to Mandalay and Lashio. The Japanese had only some four or five divisions in Burma and he saw no reason why stronger forces could not be maintained on the Mandalay line against them.

Sir Alan Brooke said that he could not agree with this estimate. The Japanese had excellent lines of communication available to them. It was not wise to decide on operations which were not feasible. These operations had to be carried out by the British. He believed that [Page 132] the maximum possible land operations should be undertaken but it must be appreciated that these would encroach upon the air route tonnage. An advance to a line through Bhamo and Kalewa was as far as the Commander in Chief considered possible.

In reply to a question, General Stilwell said that if they moved at all, he believed that the Chinese forces could get as far as Mandalay. He could see no object in stopping operations on the edge of the good road network. If the British forces could be supplied at Katha and Kalewa, the two rivers would permit their supply at Mandalay. The Chinese had been promised a major effort in Burma. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek would probably make any action by his forces conditional on the recapture of the whole of Burma.

Admiral Leahy suggested that the Chiefs of Staff should project the campaign towards the seizure of Mandalay, and proceed as far as possible with this object in view. The Japanese might stop us, but he believed it to be a wasted effort to limit the objective to Kalewa.

Field Marshal Wavell said that he was prepared to go as far as he could while maintaining a force equal to the Japanese. If the Japanese proved weaker than was expected, or, if he found he could maintain a stronger force than he believed, he was naturally prepared to advance further, but he believed it useless to accept a liability until he was certain he could carry it out. Any operations he undertook were dependent on the action taken by the Chinese forces since, if they did not advance, his eastern flank would be exposed. The Chinese and British must keep in step.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:

Agreed to postpone further discussion on this matter until a later meeting to be held in closed session at 3:30 p.m. the same day.

5. Potentialities of the Air Route From Assam to Burma [ China] (C.C.S. 229)10

Admiral Leahy said that all reference to the expansion of the air route to more than 10,000 tons should be deleted from the paper. The possibilities of any increase above 10,000 tons was problematical.

In reply to a question by Sir Charles Portal as regards the limiting factor to the expansion of the air route, General McNarney said that the Planners’ estimate had been based solely on the availability of aircraft from factories and not in relation to other demands for them. It would be dangerous to put forward a figure of 20,000 tons based on the premise that no other commitments existed for these aircraft. Further, [Page 133] an examination had shown that to increase the air route to 20,000 tons would mean getting some 50,000 tons per month into Assam which would require a large number of additional transports. The total requirements were higher than could be met by the end of December.

Sir Charles Portal said that although there might be a limit to the aircraft, he considered it wise for the terminals to be developed on the basis of a load of 20,000 tons/month. The development of the air route terminals would take far longer than the provision of additional transport aircraft. It might be possible for the British to provide certain of these.

Admiral King said that it appeared to be the suggestion that the Generalissimo should be offered 20,000 tons a month by air as an alternative to the opening of the Burma Road. His fear was that the increased bomber effort from China, resulting from the increased capacity of the air route, would force the Japanese to take strong action and the terminal points would be attacked. Even if the bases in Assam were secure those in Kunming were open to attack. The retention of China as a base for the defeat of Japan was as essential as the continuance of Russia in the war as a factor in the defeat of Germany.

General McNarney said that he saw no objection to expanding the facilities for the air route to 20,000 tons. The present limiting factor was hard standings11 rather than air fields.

Sir Charles Portal agreed that the date for the achievement of 20,000 tons might be optimistic, but believed that it should be laid down as the ultimate objective.

Admiral King pointed out that the President had laid down, and the Prime Minister concurred in, a figure of 10,000 tons a month for the air route being achieved by November.12 Anything we could do above this figure would provide a cushion which could be used for the support of ground operations against Mandalay. Though the opening of the Burma Road was a symbol to China, it might be possible to convince them that an air route would achieve the same results.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed to consider C.C.S. 229 further at 3:30 p.m. that afternoon in closed session.

  1. See ante, pp. 111 and 118, respectively.
  2. See post, p. 326, footnote 1.
  3. Post, p. 326.
  4. Post, p. 289.
  5. American and British planners began work on the plan requested by the Combined Chiefs of Staff only after the conclusion of the Third Washington Conference. The preparation of the paper subsequently submitted by the Combined Staff Planners, C.P.S. 83, August 8, 1943, “Appreciation and Plan for the Defeat of Japan”, is described in Matloff, pp. 207–208. This paper is not printed as a whole, but a summary is appended to C.C.S. 313, post, p. 981.
  6. “Operations in Burma To Open and Secure an Overland Route to China”, May 19, 1943, not printed.
  7. The Soong “memorandum” under reference is presumably Soong’s letter of April 29, 1943, to Hopkins, transmitting Chiang’s request to Roosevelt to devote the air transport tonnage to building up Chennault’s force; see Romanus and Sunderland, pp. 319–320.
  8. C.C.S. 231, not printed.
  9. “Potentialities of Air Route from Assam to China”, May 19, 1943, not printed.
  10. Concrete parking areas for aircraft located along the edges of taxi-strips of airfields.
  11. According to Soong’s report on the President’s decisions on supplies to China, Roosevelt ordered that the 10,000 tons per month goal be reached by September; see post, p. 297. There is no record indicating when Churchill concurred in the decision.