J. C. S. Files

Memorandum by the British Chiefs of Staff1


Conduct of the War in 1943–44

1. We have asked for this meeting because we think the time has come to carry a stage further the combined plans agreed upon at Casablanca. We have no intention of suggesting any departure from the principles underlying the decisions taken at that Conference (see C.C.S. 155/1 and 170/22). We feel, however, that their application requires review and development in the light of the progress of the war in the last four months, the detailed studies which have been carried out, and the experience which has been gained.

operations in the european theater

2. The decisions reached at Casablanca (see C.C.S. 155/1, paragraphs 3, 4 and 5) were as follows:—

“Operations in the European Theater will be conducted with the object of defeating Germany in 1943 with the maximum forces that can be brought to bear upon her by the United Nations.

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The main lines of offensive action will be:—

In the Mediterranean

The occupation of Sicily with the object of:—
Making the Mediterranean line of communication more secure.
Diverting German pressure from the Russian Front.
Intensifying the pressure on Italy.
To create a situation in which Turkey can be enlisted as an active Ally.
In the United Kingdom
The heaviest possible bomber offensive against the German war effort.
Such limited offensive operations as may be practicable with the amphibious forces available.
The assembly of the strongest possible force (subject to (a) and (b) above and paragraph 6 below (Operations in the Pacific and Far East)) in constant readiness to re-enter the Continent as soon as German resistance is weakened to the required extent.

In order to insure that these operations and preparations are not prejudiced by the necessity to divert forces to retrieve an adverse situation elsewhere, adequate forces shall be allocated to the Pacific and Far Eastern Theaters.”

3. So far as amphibious operations from the United Kingdom are concerned, the Combined Chiefs of Staff have since approved a directive to General Morgan to prepare plans, among other things, for a “full scale assault against the Continent in 1944 as early as possible.”3 So far as operations in the Mediterranean were concerned, the Casablanca Conference did not look beyond the capture of Sicily. It is therefore now for consideration what action should be taken in the European Theater between the capture of Sicily and the mounting of the full scale offensive in 1944—a period of anything up to nine or ten months—for the furtherance of the objects agreed at Casablanca which have just been referred to.

4. It seems to us unthinkable that we should be inactive during these critical months when Russia is engaging about 185 German divisions.* This is just the time when we ought to be exerting all the pressure that we can. It would be fatal to give Germany so long a breathing space in the west, and thus possibly enable her to avert collapse.

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5. In our view, the main task which lies before us this year in the European Theater is the elimination of Italy. If we could achieve this, it is our opinion that we should have gone a very long way towards defeating Germany. The break-up of the Axis would inevitably have a most serious effect on the psychological and material strength of Germany. The effects would be:—

The withdrawal of some 35 Italian Divisions from Greece, Yugoslavia, and southern France. Germany would either have to let go of one or more of these countries, with all that this implies in loss of raw materials and prestige, and in the extension of the range of the Allied bomber offensive, or alternatively she would have to substitute German for Italian troops at substantial cost to the Russian Front.
The elimination of the Italian Navy would enable us to transfer very considerable naval forces from the Mediterranean to the Pacific or to the Indian Ocean, whichever is thought preferable. If we were able to take over the Italian Fleet, the naval position would be still more favorable.
We should be able to mount a threat through Sardinia and Corsica against the south of France in the spring of 1944, which would greatly increase the chances of success of cross-Channel operations from the United Kingdom.
The collapse of Italy would have a big effect on Turkey, and hasten her readiness to make common cause with the Allies.

6. It is of course possible that we might eliminate Italy after the fall of Sicily by air action alone. We think, however, that it would be most unwise to bank on this or to transfer any substantial part of our bomber force from the United Kingdom. We therefore consider it essential that we should follow up a successful Husky by amphibious operations against either the Italian islands or the mainland, backed up, if possible, by operations in other parts of the Mediterranean. Only in this way can we reap the full benefit of our victories in Africa and in Husky , and employ the powerful and experienced Anglo-American forces gathered in the Mediterranean Theater and their assault craft. We have considered various alternatives, and have formed provisional views as to which should be undertaken. We will explain these in detail later on.

7. The provision of the shipping required to deliver a second amphibious blow in the Mediterranean this year will of course have repercussions elsewhere and will affect Bolero . But even if Italy collapses as a result of the first blow ( Husky ), we shall still need considerable shipping in the Mediterranean to exploit this success by installing air bases on the Italian Mainland and Islands, by increasing supplies to the Balkan resistance groups, and by speeding up our aid to Turkey. In either case some delay is likely to be caused to the build-up of Bolero , but we believe that this disadvantage will be greatly outweighed by the fact that successful Mediterranean operations, and [Page 226] still more the elimination of Italy, will ease the task confronting an army landing in Europe from the United Kingdom.

8. We do not believe that there is any method of giving effectual help to the Russian Front throughout this year other than a continuance of Mediterranean operations, and the intensification of our bomber offensive. It was decided at Casablanca that the heaviest possible bomber offensive against the German war effort should be a feature of the campaign of 1943. Nothing has occurred in the interval to alter the wisdom of this decision, and we think that Sickle should continue to have a high priority.

pacific and far east theater

9. At Casablanca it was agreed that certain operations should take place in the Pacific Theater (see C.C.S. 170/2 paragraph 5(a)), and that subject to certain reservations, plans and preparations should be made for the recapture of Burma to take place in the winter of 1943–44. The 15th November was approved as the provisional date for the Anakim assault. We do not know whether the experience of the last four months, and the studies which have been made by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff have caused them to confirm or modify the program for Pacific operations which was drawn up. We should like to hear their views on this. As to Anakim , the position is that after Casablanca, the Commander in Chief, India, was at once invited to frame the best possible plan, and to state his requirements. We are prepared to explain this plan and its implications in detail if the U.S. Chiefs of Staff so desire. We think the plan represents the best that can be made having regard to the resources which will be available. But it is necessary to say straight away that we are of the opinion that the full operation should not be attempted in the winter of 1943–44. Our main reasons are:—

The magnitude of the assault and the scope of the operations to which it would be the prelude, are such that we do not feel able to undertake them at a critical period in the war with Germany, on whom we cannot afford to relax the pressure.
We are very doubtful of the feasibility of the operation at the present time. For any reasonable prospect of success it would demand a sufficiency of forces specially trained and equipped, and backed up by ample reserves of men and material. These conditions cannot be fulfilled in the coming winter.
Until long-term plans for the ultimate defeat of Japan have been decided upon, it cannot be assumed that the re-conquest of Burma, however desirable the political effect, especially on China and India, is indispensable from the military point of view.
Operation Anakim , even if successful in 1943–44, would not be likely to reopen the Burma Road until the middle of 1945.

10. Although we cannot do Anakim this year, we recommend that everything possible should be done, with the resources available to [Page 227] keep up the pressure on Japan from the west and to support China. We have various alternatives to propose, and would welcome discussion of any suggestions which the U.S. Chiefs of Staff may desire to put forward.

11. The results of our examination of Anakim make us feel that we should together examine more closely the method by which the defeat of Japan is ultimately to be brought about. This is essential so that all preliminary operations can be arranged to fit into the ultimate design, and so that Commanders in Chief in the Far East Theater and Indian Ocean may have a firm basis on which to frame their long-term plans and preparations. This will insure that the right sort of equipment of all kinds will be available in the necessary quantities when the time comes.


12. It is clear that the availability of shipping will be one of the main governing factors as to what can and what cannot be done in 1943 and also in 1944. We suggest, however, that before going into details on shipping, we should clear our minds on the strategical issues, and decide, on merits, on the course of action at which we should aim. Thereafter we should examine the extent to which the shipping available will enable us to fulfill our program. We think it essential that the shipping question should be examined in detail, and settled before the Conference breaks up.

  1. Read by Brooke in the course of the meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff on May 13; see ante, p. 36. This memorandum comprised annex B to the minutes of that meeting.
  2. For texts of C.C.S. 155/1, January 19, 1943, memorandum by the Combined Chiefs of Staff entitled “Conduct of the War in 1943,” and C.C.S. 170/2, January 23, 1943, Final Report to the President and Prime Minister Summarizing Decisions by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Washington, 1941–1942, and Casablanca, 1943, pp. 774 and 791.
  3. For an account of the discussions by the Combined Chiefs: of Staff in early 1943 leading to the directive of April 23, 1943, on the preparation of plans for the cross-Channel invasion of the continent, see Harrison, pp. 45–49.
  4. This does not include 14 G.A.F. divisions on the Eastern front. [Footnote in the source text.]