J.C.S. Files

Secretariat Minutes


(C.C.S. Memo for Information No. 1371)

The Prime Minister said that this meeting had been called as a result of the discussion on Habbakuks which took place in the meeting between the President, himself and the Combined Chiefs of Staff, 3 September 1943.2 He observed that upon reading C.C.S. Memo for Information No. 137, it appeared that the Ad Hoc Committee is of the opinion that in view of the improved prospects for the aircraft carrier program other floating artificial landing fields were unnecessary.

Admiral King said that the U.S. was committed to make experimental investigations concerning the use of L.S.T.’s as suggested by the President, and also the use of naval pontoons; although these may or may not be ready in time, the movement of the date for their use from 1 February to 1 May 1944 was a favorable factor.

The Prime Minister commented that with operations in the Mediterranean approaching a successful conclusion as a naval affair, the outlook for aircraft carriers was somewhat brighter.

Admiral King said that there were in sight 30 British and 50 U.S. C.V.E.’s for the operations in question and that priority was to be given the completion of 8 of the former; in the meantime experiments were to be conducted on the floating artificial landing fields.

In response to questions from the Prime Minister, Admiral Moreell gave detailed descriptions of the proposed naval pontoon Habbakuk and the proposed concrete Habbakuks. To provide a landing strip 1,800 feet by 222 feet using naval pontoons will require 15,000 tons of steel and, with overriding priority, it is estimated that one can be built in 45 days.

The Prime Minister said that with the additional time now available, it should be possible to complete the work without interfering greatly with other commitments. He was surprised to hear that only a relatively small number of aircraft can be operated from so great an expanse, having in view the numbers operated from carriers.

Admiral King pointed out the advantage the carriers have by virtue of the wind speed which they themselves create.

The Prime Minister said that he was not now particularly impressed with the possibilities of concrete, having in mind that at the [Page 1228] beginning of the war the British constructed concrete ships and that although barges were satisfactory, ships were disappointing. He further commented that if the construction of concrete floating artificial landing fields was to be carried forward in India, it must be borne in mind that labor there is frail and slow as a productive force.

In response to inquiries from the Prime Minister, Admiral Moreell stated that the problem of transporting the naval pontoon units was being explored. He foresaw that 8 Liberty ships would be required to take the units directly to the scene of operations where it was calculated that they could be unloaded in 12 hours and the landing strips assembled in another 15 hours.

Admiral King stated that such figures should be taken with reservation, inasmuch as enemy opposition was to be expected and that this would cause delay and necessitate provision for additional protection and spare materials.

The Prime Minister pointed out the value of the surprise element.

Admiral McCain commented that the Japanese could detect the movement three days out and the slow moving Habbakuk convoy would be at a disadvantage.

The Prime Minister said that in any event, the Japanese would not know which part of the coast would be attacked and would be compelled to make a redisposition of their forces.

Admiral Badger invited the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that a survey of steel had just been completed and a shortage of steel plate was in existence which seriously retards the completion of 9 aircraft carriers and 13 sea plane tenders. He stated that this problem can be solved. However, the fact remains that the U.S. Navy is now 260,000 tons short of steel plate requirements exclusive of the requirements for landing craft.

The Prime Minister commented that owing to the improving shipping situation, more shipping space would be available than had been anticipated.

After a general discussion, Professor Bernal commented that it appeared that the U.S. Navy representatives had overcome their own objections to floating artificial airfields.

Admiral King responded that such was not the case. The U.S. representatives take the position that the Habbakuks are still experimental; however, the U.S. representatives manifest the will to go ahead and try them.

In response to a question from the Prime Minister, Admiral King said that the U.S. was to make a full scale section of a Pykrete Habbakuk and plan ways and means for constructing a full size ship.

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In summary, The Prime Minister said that it was then settled that high priority will be given to the completion of the 8 carriers, that the United States is to carry out experiments with naval pontoons and L.S.T.’s, and that the British are to undertake the expediting of experiments on concrete units.

  1. See post, p. 1242, fn. 1.
  2. See ante, p. 1207.