J.C.S. Files: Telegram
The Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force (Eisenhower) to the Combined Chiefs of Staff1
Fwd 14376, Scaf 78. Progress of the battles on the Continent has: been thoroughly covered in my daily and periodic reports. Consequently I am transmitting a brief outline only of the present situation together with a more complete statement of my intentions in response to the request of the Combined Chiefs of Staff contained in reference cable (WX 26682 7 September 1944).2
part i. situation as of 19th september 1944
Today, on D plus 95, almost the whole of northern France has been liberated as have substantial parts of Belgium. Our forces have entered Holland and are close to the German Frontier at more than one point. In Brittany only the Channel Islands, Brest, Lorient and St. Nazaire hold out, and on the channel coast only Le Havre, Boulogne and Calais. The hostile occupation in force of the Dutch Islands at the mouth of the Schelde is certain to delay the utilization of Antwerp as a port and thus will vitally influence the full development of our strategy.
In the south of France the Seventh Army in its rapid advance to the north has already reached Besançon and will shortly join forces with the central group of armies.
Enemy resistance, which has shown signs of collapse during the past few weeks, is stiffening somewhat as we approach the German Frontier. Nevertheless my belief is that the only way he can effectively oppose our advance into Germany will be by reinforcing his retreating forces by divisions from Germany and other fronts and manning the more important sectors of the Siegfried Line with those forces. It is doubtful whether he can do this in time and in sufficient strength but, were he to succeed, he will be likely to concentrate on blocking the two main approaches to Germany, i.e., by way of the Ruhr and the Saar. Of these he will probably regard the approach to the Ruhr as the more important, but in any event he will employ his forces to oppose a deep penetration.[Page 235]
Naval operations have in general proceeded according to plan, and attempts by the enemy to interfere with our sea lines of communications have been countered effectively. Consequently our losses due to enemy action have been light. However, the unexpected small losses in the assault were largely counterbalanced by the effects of a north easterly gale in June and by the longer shipping turn-round time than had been anticipated. The scale of enemy minelaying and his use of new types of mines have strained our minesweeping resources to the utmost. These factors and systematic demolitions have retarded the development of ports.
Air operations have also proceeded as planned. The Pointblank program has been and is being pressed very successfully. Current priorities being as follows: Oil, production of aircraft parts, armored fighting vehicle parts industries, automobile plants.
The advance of the ground forces have [has] largely removed the flying bomb and rocket threats and necessity for substantial air effort against Crossbow.
part ii. intentions in the near future
General. My intention is to press on with all speed to destroy the German armed forces and occupy the heart of Germany. I consider our best opportunity of defeating the enemy in the west lies in striking at the Ruhr and Saar confident that he will concentrate the remainder of his available forces in the defense of these essential areas. The first operation is one to break the Siegfried Line and seize crossings over the Rhine. In doing this the main effort will be on the left. Then we will prepare logistically and otherwise for a deep thrust into Germany. The immediate missions assigned the army groups are set forth below.
Northern Group of Armies. Antwerp having been seized, the northern group of armies and that part of the central group of armies operating northwest of the Ardennes will breach the sector of the Siegfried Line covering the Ruhr and seize the Ruhr.
The First Allied Airborne Army supports the northern group of armies in the attainment of first objectives. An operation to seize the crossings over the Rhine and in the area Arnhem–Nijmegen has been twice postponed on account of weather and only awaits favorable weather conditions. Plans for other airborne operations in support of both groups of armies have been prepared.
Central Group of Armies. The central group of armies less that portion operating northwest of the Ardennes will:
- Capture Brest.
- Protect the southern flank of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
- Occupy the sector of the Siegfried Line covering the Saar and then seize Frankfurt. This operation is to start as soon as possible [Page 236] in order to forestall the enemy in this sector but troops of the central group of armies operating against the Ruhr northwest of the Ardennes must first be adequately supported.
- Take advantage of any opportunity to destroy enemy forces with drawing from southwest and southern France.
The ports of Lorient, St. Nazaire, Nantes and the area of Quiberon Bay are no longer essential for maintenance of United States forces. Central group of armies have therefore been instructed that it is unnecessary to reduce St. Nazaire and Lorient by force of arms and that the German garrisons isolated in these areas may for the present merely be contained.
Link up with Dragoon Forces. Recommendations have been transmitted to the Combined Chiefs of Staff that operational control of Dragoon Forces will pass to this headquarters on the 15th September 1944.3 At present the Dragoon Forces have been directed on the area Dijon–Besançon–Vesoul in preparation for further advance on Mulhouse and Strassburg.
Future Intentions. Once we have the Ruhr and the Saar, we have a strangle hold on two of Germany’s main industrial areas, and will have largely destroyed her capacity to wage war whatever course events may take. During the advance to the Ruhr and the Saar we will be opening the deep water ports of Le Havre and Antwerp or Rotterdam which are essential to sustain a power thrust deep into Germany. I wish to retain freedom of action to strike in any direction so far as the logistical situation permits. At the moment and until we have developed the channel ports and the rail lines therefrom, our supply situation is stretched to the breaking point, and from this standpoint the advance across the Siegfried Line involves a gamble which I am prepared to take in order to take full advantage of the present disorganized state of the German armies in the west. The possibilities for further advance, depending on the situation at the time, are:
- The Ruhr via Hanover on Hamburg or Berlin.
- Frankfurt via Leipzig or Magdeburg on Berlin.
- A combination of both.
Secondary operations such as the occupation of the Nuremberg–Munich area will depend on the logistical situation at the time.
The stage at which Talisman conditions will obtain cannot be forecast. Operation Talisman will be conducted as an extension of the military operations in progress when and if Talisman conditions arise. The necessary instructions to all concerned for the disarmament of the enemy forces, the occupation of specific targets in the Allied spheres and for the care and repatriation of prisoners of war are ready for issue and some are being issued.[Page 237]
Logistical Developments. Lines of communications are strained to keep up with present advances, and every effort is being made to develop railroads and ports to support rapid exploitation. Our main requirement is deep water ports east of the Seine. Brest and Le Havre will probably be opened initially for the central group of armies and Low Countries port[s] initially for the northern group of armies. When the full capacity of rail lines operation from the original lodgement area to Paris, the Valenciennes coal field and north Belgium has been developed, considerably augmented forces can be supported in the advance into Germany. Air supply and special supply arrangements are being utilized to the maximum to support our rapid advance.
Operation Other Than Overlord Operation Against the Channel Islands. A force formed from sources outside the Overlord troop basis and consisting of 1 infantry brigade, reinforced, is being held in readiness in the United Kingdom to occupy the Channel Islands in the event of surrender by the garrison. Steps are being taken to induce surrender by means of psychological warfare, and I do not intend to take the Islands by force of arms.
Operation Into Norway. In the event the enemy withdraws from Norway or surrenders I propose to send to Norway an Allied force of the order of 1 British division and 1 United States regimental combat team, together with certain Norwegian troops.
Operation Pointblank. Strategic air forces will continue Pointblank operations to a successful conclusion. Priorities may change from time to time in accordance with the situation.
- Sent also to the War Department, the London headquarters of the European Theater of Operations, Allied Force Headquarters at Caserta and SHAEF Main. The message was relayed by the War Department to Quebec as telegram No. 28393 and was received there September 10 as telegram No. Octagon–in–11. For the discussion of this message by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at their 172d Meeting, September 12, 1944, see post, p. 301.↩
- See ante, p. 32, fn. 5, concerning the message to which Eisenhower was replying.↩
- See Eisenhower’s telegram No. Scaf 77, September 9, 1944, supra.↩