J. C. S. Files

Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes2

1. Operations in the Southeast Asia Command (C.C.S.. 411 and 411/1)3

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Approved the amendments to C. C. S. 411 set out in C. C. S. 411/1 and directed that the amended paper, subsequently published as [Page 359] C. C. S. 411/2, should be forwarded to the Generalissimo via the Supreme Commander S. E. A. C. without delay.4

2. Reports From Commanders in Chief

a. Report by Commander in Chief, AFHQ

Sir Alan Brooke asked General Eisenhower to give his views with particular reference, firstly, to the question of centralization of command in the Mediterranean, and secondly, to the best ways and means of prosecuting the war in the Mediterranean area.

General Eisenhower said that with regard to the first question, he regarded centralization of command as being absolutely essential. In practice, the air and naval commands were already centralized and he considered the whole command must similarly be coordinated and controlled from one headquarters. With regard to future operations in the Mediterranean, he considered that these had to be looked at under two different assumptions. Firstly, that there would be a full-out effort in the Mediterranean throughout the winter. On this assumption, taking into consideration the Russian advances and the effect of Pointblank, Italy was, in his view, the correct place in which to deploy our main forces and the objective should be the Valley of the Po. In no other area could we so well threaten the whole German structure including France, the Balkans and the Reich itself. Here also our air would be closer to vital objectives in Germany. The seven divisions for Overlord had all left his theater so that, to implement his suggested course of action, only additional landing craft were needed. It was necessary to keep all that he now had and certain others would be required for certain phases of his operations. His build-up must go on continuously. In addition, it was essential to have enough landing craft to insure that one amphibious division can be always ready to attack. With regard to the timing of operations, it would be quite impossible to reach the Po by 15 January, a date which he believed had been suggested. The fighting was particularly bitter and it was necessary to keep fresh infantry divisions in the front line. Amphibious operations, it must be remembered, depended on weather conditions and therefore the timing of the advances could not be exactly predicted. The next best method of harrying the enemy was to undertake operations in the Aegean. There are sufficient forces in the Mediterranean to take action in this area provided it is not done until after the Po line has been reached. It could then be undertaken while the forces in Italy were reorganizing for thrusts either to the east or west. When the Aegean operations [Page 360] were undertaken it would be necessary to bring Turkey into the war. The French High Command were most anxious to undertake operations into the south of France but these were ruled out since all available landing craft were required for the Italian campaign.

Turning to operations in the Mediterranean, based on the assumption that only limited means were available, General Eisenhower considered that only the line north of Rome could be achieved and that after that he would have to maintain a strategic defensive with strong local offensive action. Lack of landing craft would prevent him from amphibious turning movements designed to cut off enemy forces. The time to turn to the Aegean would be when the line north of Rome had been achieved. German reactions to our occupation of the islands had clearly proved how strongly they resented action on our part in this area. From here the Balkans could be kept aflame; Ploesti would be threatened and the Dardanelles might be opened. Sufficient forces should be used for operations in the Aegean and no unnecessary risks run. He considered that the earlier British occupation of the islands had been right and justified, but the position was now different and strong German reactions could be expected. In either of the two assumptions it was essential to bring Turkey into the war at the moment that the operations in the Aegean were undertaken.

Sir Alan Brooke explained that the date of 15 January had been suggested, not for the capture of the Po line but for that of the Pisa-Rimini line. He asked for General Eisenhower’s views with regard to action in Yugoslavia.

General Eisenhower said that on the assumption that he would advance to the Po line, he would propose action to establish small garrisons in the islands on the eastern coast of the Adriatic from which thrusts as far north as possible could be made into Yugoslavia and the Patriots furnished with arms and equipment. If only the Rome line was reached, it would not be possible to thrust as far up the Adriatic as he would have liked.

General Eisenhower then outlined the program for the build-up of his forces in Italy. He confirmed that the ground forces available to him should be sufficient to reach the Po line. His present strength was the maximum which the poor lines of communication could maintain. It must be remembered that there was no good port north of Naples until Leghorn was reached. With regard to his air force build-up, General Eisenhower said he would like it clearly understood that all of this was not for use in Pointblank but much of it took an active part in assisting the land battle. This air force, based in Italy, was twice as effective as if it had remained in Tunisia. Only the initial build-up of the air force was a costly business since, once established, six groups could be maintained for the same tonnage as two divisions.

[Page 361]

General Eisenhower stressed the vital importance of continuing the maximum possible operations in an established theater since much time was invariably lost when the scene of action was changed, necessitating, as it did, the arduous task of building up a fresh base.

With regard to supply of equipment to the Yugoslavian guerrillas, one officer had now been placed in charge of these operations and arms captured in North Africa and Sicily were being sent in. Italian equipment captured in Italy was at present being used to equip one Italian parachute division, which was believed to be of good fighting quality, and a further division would possibly also be equipped. He believed that all possible equipment should be sent to Tito since Mikhailovitch’s [Mihailović’s] forces were of relatively little value.

Sir John Cunningham agreed that everything in our power should be done to support Tito, who had some hundred thousand men under his control. The Germans would have great difficulties operating against the guerrillas since their lateral communications were immensely difficult and there was only one poor railway. They would have largely to supply their forces by sea. It would be impossible, therefore, for them to rapidly concentrate against Tito’s forces. He believed that by air and naval action, their seaborne lines of communication could be cut, and in fact, he hoped shortly to be operating destroyers in the Venice-Trieste-Pola area. He questioned whether it would be possible or right to continue to supply Italian equipment since this was rapidly running short.

Air Marshal Tedder said that the present system of air operations into the Balkans worked reasonably well. The tactical commander in Italy was given his targets from the Middle East. He agreed with Sir Charles Portal that when the joint staff under the officer responsible for operations in the Balkans had been set up, coordination of effort would be more satisfactory.

General Eisenhower said that he believed that given 50 percent good weather, he would, once his air forces were firmly established in Italy, be able to almost completely cut the seven German lines of communication into Italy and keep them cut.

b. Report by Commanders in Chief, Middle East

General Wilson, referring to operations in the Aegean, said that it was essential to cut the German iron ring which included Rhodes, Scarpanto, Crete, and Greece. Rhodes was the key to the situation and to capture this, additional equipment would be required from the western Mediterranean. Once Rhodes had fallen, these resources could be returned and the remainder of the operations in the Aegean carried out with the resources available in the Middle East. All of this was based on the assumption that Turkey had entered the war on our side. [Page 362] For Rhodes, one British division including two assault loaded brigades with previous amphibious experience would be required. These could be withdrawn after the capture of Rhodes. The additional forces required included one armored brigade and one parachute brigade, which were available from the Middle East. He considered that Turkey should be asked to take other islands of the Dodecanese. This he felt should be within their power with the possible exception of Lemnos, which the Germans were using as a base and had reinforced. The commitment to Turkey to protect them against air attack, i. e., Operation Hardihood, could be met, with the exception of certain administrative units, without affecting Aegean operations.

Air Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas said that he would require some 17 to 20 squadrons and these could be provided with certain assistance which Air Marshal Tedder could provide. With this, Smyrna and Constantinople could be protected, Rhodes captured, and convoys to the Dardanelles given adequate cover. He considered that the capture of Rhodes was a prerequisite to running convoys since without it unacceptably heavy losses must be expected.

Most of the airports required in Turkey were already completed with the exception of two in the neighborhood of Rhodes, on which steel mats were now being laid. Negotiations were being undertaken with the Turks to enable us to put into Turkey the necessary equipment to provide R. D. F. cover and operation rooms. Only one of the airfields was situated to the west of the Bosphorus, and he believed the Turkish forces, including the two divisions in the neighborhood of airdromes opposite Rhodes were adequate to protect them even against airborne attack.

General Wilson stressed the importance of action in support of the guerrillas as far north as possible in Yugoslavia. The islands on the eastern Adriatic would be a valuable stepping stone to the mainland and would assist in the maintenance of guerrillas. Operations in northern Yugoslavia would constitute a serious threat to the Germans’ rear.

In reply to a question by Admiral Leahy, General Wilson said that the Turks had not got the necessary resources for a full-scale amphibious attack but that he believed that with the assistance of air attack and seaborne bombardment and by using local craft and small landing craft, some of which might have to be provided from the western Mediterranean, the Turks could stage the short shore-to-shore assault required for the capture of certain of the islands.

With regard to Rumania, General Wilson said that he was in touch with resistance groups and that a wireless station had been established in Bucharest. The resistance groups, however, were fearful of the Germans and were taking little action. His knowledge of resistance [Page 363] in Bulgaria was small but he believed this resistance to be growing. He had discussed with General Donovan the possibility of further efforts being made to establish contact with this country.

In reply to a question by General Arnold, Air Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas said that the airfields in Turkey would be ample for the forces he was able to deploy, and consisted of about eight fighter airdromes and six bomber airdromes. Sites had been selected at a reasonable distance back from the coast and all were equipped with hard surfaces except those in the neighborhood of Rhodes, on which work was now in hand.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Took note with interest of the statements of the Commanders in Chief, North African and Middle East Theaters, and of the resulting discussion.

(At this point General D. D. Eisenhower, Admiral Sir John Cunningham, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, General Sir H. Maitland Wilson, Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas, Vice Admiral Sir A. U. Willis, Major General J. F. M. Whiteley, Major General R. H. [G.?] Lewis, Brigadier R. [A. T.] de Rhe Phillipe [de Rhé-Philipe], Captain M. L. Power, R. N., Colonel J. H. Lascelles and Colonel R. E. Jenkins, U. S. A. withdrew from the meeting.)

3. Approval of Decisions of C. C. S. 130th Meeting

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Accepted the conclusions of the 130th Meeting. The detailed record of the meeting was also accepted subject to minor amendments.

4. Overlord” and the Mediterranean

A. Estimate of the Enemy Situation, 1944—Europe (C. C. S. 300/3)5

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Accepted the “Estimate of the Enemy Situation, 1944—Europe,” presented by the United States Chiefs of Staff in C. C. S. 300/3 (Sextant).

B. “Overlord” and the Mediterranean (C. C. S. 409, 4106 and 3877)

Admiral Leahy said that the United States Chiefs of Staff tentatively accepted the proposals for action in the Mediterranean contained in paragraph 6 of C. C. S. 409 as a basis for discussion with the Soviet Staff.

It was the understanding of the United States Chiefs of Staff that the British proposals would include the opening of the Dardanelles [Page 364] and the capture of Rhodes for which the retention of landing craft in the Mediterranean was essential but that the retention of these landing craft would in no way interfere with the carrying out of Operation Buccaneer.

Sir Alan Brooke explained that Buccaneer would not be interfered with provided the date for Overlord was put back. The British Chiefs of Staff had prepared a detailed examination of the relationship of Overlord, Mediterranean and Aegean operations, and Buccaneer.

General Marshall explained that the United States Chiefs of Staff tentatively accepted the British proposals for negotiations with the Soviets. He understood that these proposals implied the capture of the Rimini-Pisa line, the capture of Rhodes and the retention of the 68 landing craft until its capture. He understood that Operation Buccaneer would not be interfered with and that further discussion would take place on these proposals when the Combined Chiefs of Staff returned to Sextant.

Sir Alan Brooke said that if the capture of Rhodes and Rome and Operation Buccaneer were carried out, the date of Overlord must go back.

General Marshall said that he quite understood this point. He was of the opinion that it was essential to do Operation Buccaneer, for the reasons that firstly, not only were the forces ready but the operation was acceptable to the Chinese; secondly, it was of vital importance to operations in the Pacific; and, thirdly, for political reasons it could not be interfered with.

In the course of a full discussion the following points were made:

Sir Alan Brooke said that it might be necessary to consider earnestly the possibility of putting off Operation Buccaneer since by so doing the full weight of our resources could be brought to bear on Germany, thus bringing the war as a whole to an end at the earliest possible date. The matter should be looked at from a purely strategical aspect.
Sir Charles Portal felt that the Russians might well say that not only did they agree with the proposed course of action outlined by the British Chiefs of Staff and tentatively accepted by the United States Chiefs of Staff but also that they required Operation Overlord at the earliest possible date. In this case we must surely consider the possibility of putting off Operation Buccaneer. He did not believe this operation essential to the land campaign in Burma.
Admiral King considered it unsound to bring back landing craft from Buccaneer. In his view the land campaign in Burma was not complete without Operation Buccaneer. Our object was to make use of China and her manpower and the delay of a year in achieving this object must most certainly delay the end of the war as a whole.
General Marshall stressed the U. S. contribution to the war in Europe. He believed that the suggestion that putting off the Operation Buccaneer would shorten the war was an overstatement. The [Page 365] United States Chiefs of Staff were most anxious that Buccaneer should be undertaken. They had gone far to meet the British Chiefs of Staff views but the postponement of Buccaneer they could not accept.
Admiral Leahy said he wished it clearly understood that the United States Chiefs of Staff were not in a position to agree to the abandonment of Operation Buccaneer. This could only be decided by the President and the Prime Minister.

(At this point the Combined Chiefs of Staff continued the meeting in closed session.)

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed to the unification of command in the Mediterranean as outlined in C. C. S. 387, and that this unification of command should be made effective forthwith.
Tentatively accepted paragraph 6 b, c, d, e, and f (modified) of C. C. S. 409 as a basis for discussion with the Soviets, subject to the following understandings and modifications:
That these proposals necessitate a delay in the target date for Overlord.
That paragraph 6 e includes the capture of Rhodes and the retention of certain landing craft in the Mediterranean.
That in paragraph 6 f the words “do everything possible to” in the second line be deleted.
That the United States Chiefs of Staff could not accept the abandonment of the Buccaneer operation; also that if further discussion should show the postponement of Buccaneer to be desirable, this would need to be taken up with the President and the Prime Minister.
Took note of the memorandum by the British Chiefs of Staff on the effect of weather on Operation Overlord. (C.C.S. 410).

5. Collaboration With the U. S. S. R. (C.C.S. 407)8

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Accepted C. C. S. 407, with certain amendments as a basis for the agenda at the forthcoming conference with the U. S. S. R. [The amended paper, in which are incorporated the conclusions on this subject reached at C. C. S. 129th Meeting,9 has been published as C. C. S. 407 (Revised).]10

  1. The source text is evidently a revised version of the minutes, for it incorporates in item 1 a change agreed upon by the Combined Chiefs at their 133d meeting; see post, p. 669.
  2. Neither printed herein.
  3. C. C. S. 411/2 is printed post, p. 430. It was apparently discussed with Chiang at the meeting of the Heads of Government later the same afternoon; see the editorial note, post, p. 366.
  4. Ante, p. 214.
  5. Post, pp. 409 and 411, respectively.
  6. Ante, p. 150.
  7. Regarding C. C. S. 407, see post, p. 426, footnote 1.
  8. See paragraph 4 b of the minutes of the 129th meeting, ante, p. 338.
  9. Bracketed sentence appears in the source text. C. C. S. 407 (Revised) is printed post, p. 426.