J.C.S. Files: Telegram

The Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater ( Wilson ) to the War Department 1

top secret

FX 93888, Naf 774. The general situation in this theatre has already been reported to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Medcos 181.2 The following is an amplification of this telegram, taking into account the developments which have occurred since it was written.

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I. Operation “Deagoon

This is developing most satisfactorily. All arrangements for transfer of control to SHAEF are in hand and I have nothing further to add.

II. Italy

I am confident from the progress of General Alexander’s offensive from 26th August until the present date that the enemy will be driven completely from the Gothic Line. On the other hand, he is fighting very hard behind its eastern sector and I am not yet in a position to guarantee that this offensive will achieve decisive results. Considering, however, that the enemy has been forced to engage the bulk of his reserves to meet the thrust of the Eighth Army, I feel confident that as a result of the second offensive to be launched very soon by the Fifth Army the destruction of Kesselring’s Army may yet be achieved.

Should Kesselring’s Army be so hammered that it is unable to carry out an orderly withdrawal, I consider that with our great superiority in armour there is every chance of achieving really decisive results similar to those which have been secured in France.. On the other hand, if he has time and opportunity to carry out a coordinated demolition programme, and particularly if bad weather should restrict the movement of armoured vehicles off the roads and limit operations of the air force as it may well do, then he may well be able to withdraw a considerable proportion of his forces intact and we may find them facing us behind the Po. Bearing in mind however that he is unlikely to have sufficient troops to hold the Po indefinitely, the course of operations would probably be a gradual withdrawal behind the line of the Alps and the Piave.

To sum up, it appears therefore that operations will develop in one of two ways:

Either Kesselring’s forces will be routed, in which case it should be possible to undertake a rapid regrouping and a pursuit towards the Ljubljana Gap and across the Alps through the Brenner Pass, leaving a small force to clear up northwest Italy, or,
Kesselring’s Army will succeed in effecting an orderly with drawal, in which event it does not seem possible that we can do more than clear the Lombardy Plains this year. Difficult terrain and severe weather in the Alps during winter would prevent another major offensive until spring of 1945.

III. The Balkans

Up to date information goes to show that the enemy is engaged in a large scale withdrawal from the Aegean Islands and from southern Greece with the object of finding mobile forces to hold the Bulgarian frontier and Yugoslavia.

At the same time, I anticipate that the enemy will retain static garrisons at important points and airfields with the object of preventing unopposed entry into the Balkans.

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It would appear however that owing to the rapid advance of the Russian Army to Turnu Severin, and according to latest reports, the success of air and Partisan attacks on his Balkan communications (mentioned as Ratweek in part III of Medcos 181) is seems to be probable that the enemy will be unable to achieve his purpose, nor will he be able to withdraw any substantial forces to assist him in his battles in Italy or in Central Europe.

I therefore consider that we can anticipate a situation in which the bulk of the German forces south of a line Trieste-Ljubljana-Zagreb and the Danube is immobilized and will so remain until their supplies are exhausted in which case they would be ready to surrender to us or will be liquidated by Partisan or Russian forces.

As long as the battle in Italy continues, I have no forces to employ in the Balkans except:

The small force consisting of two paratroop brigades and an improvised brigade group from Alexandria which is being held ready to occupy the Athens area and so pave the way for the commencement of relief and the establishment of law and order and the Greek Government in the first of the countries which is likely to be liberated, and,
The small land forces Adriatic which are being actively used primarily for commando type operations.

Further, to intensify the enemy’s difficulties in the Aegean, a force of four carriers with cruisers and destroyers is now on its way under the command of Admiral Troubridge to the Aegean to carry out attacks on all enemy seaborne movement.

  1. Sent also to the Headquarters, Communications Zone, European Theater of Operations, and to Eisenhower’s headquarters in London. For the discussion of this message by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at their 172d Meeting, September 12, 1944, see post, p. 302.
  2. Ante, p. 224.