J.C.S. Files

Memorandum by Prime Minister Churchill 1

top secret

Note by the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Dated 16th September 1944

His Majesty’s Government are in full accord with the directive to Admiral Mountbatten2 which makes him responsible for executing the stages of Operation Capital necessary to the security of the air route and the attainment of overland communications with China. Having regard however to the immense losses by sickness (288,000 in six months) which have attended the Burma campaign this year, they are most anxious to limit this class of operation, the burden of which falls almost wholly upon the Imperial armies, to the minimum necessary to achieve the aforesaid indispensable object. For this purpose they are resolved to strain every nerve to bring on the Operation Dracula by March 15, as by cutting the Japanese communications the enemy will be forced to divide their forces. Decisive results may be obtained in a battle north of Rangoon, and the pursuit by light forces from the north may be continued without serious cost.
It is essential to provide five or six divisions for Dracula . The 6th Airborne Division from England and a British-Indian division from Italy will start at the earliest moment irrespective of the state of the European war. It will not however be possible to withdraw any further forces from Europe before the end of organized and coherent German resistance. Admiral Mountbatten hopes by certain adjustments of his reserve divisions to withdraw two or even three divisions from the forces now facing the Japanese on the Burma front, for use in Dracula . It would be of very great assistance to His Majesty’s Government if the United States could place at their disposal for Operation Dracula two United States light or ordinary divisions. Whether these divisions should come into action on the northern Burma front or whether they should go straight to the Operation Dracula is a matter for study in time and logistics, observing that we have six months in hand before Dracula D-day.
If such a provision were made, we should feel certain of being able to achieve Dracula in time to limit the wastage to the British Imperial armies in the north and to clean up the Burma situation before the next monsoon. The destruction of the Japanese in Burma would liberate a considerable army, which could immediately attack Japanese objectives across the Bay of Bengal at whatever point or points may be considered to be most beneficial to the common cause [Page 464] and most likely to lead to the rapid wearing-down of Japanese troops and above all air forces.
If on the other hand we are not able to carry out Operation Dracula , His Majesty’s Government would feel they had been exposed to unnecessary sacrifices through persisting in operations ravaged by disease, and also their whole further deployment from India and Burma against the Japanese in the Malay Peninsula, et cetera, will be set back until 1946. Thus the averting of a double disaster depends upon the certainty that we can execute Dracula by March 15 and, having regard to the very heavy losses we have sustained and are liable to sustain, we feel fully entitled to ask for a measure of United States assistance.
  1. Annex i to the minutes of the meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff with Roosevelt and Churchill, September 16, 1944. See ante, p. 380.
  2. Post, p. 476.