Memorandum of Conversation Held in the Kremlin, February 2, 1944, at 6 p.m. 2
|The American Ambassador
Subject: Bases in Soviet Far East for American Bombers.
After discussing bases in the West for shuttle bombers from Great Britain and Italy, the Ambassador stated that he desired to take up matters concerning the Pacific War which had been discussed with the President at Teheran.6 He said he understood the delicacy of this question, but pointed out that the planning of our whole Pacific strategy depends in large measure on the type of cooperation the Soviet Government would give, and particularly on the size of the United States bombing force which can be based on the Maritime Provinces or other Soviet territory in the Far East. He said it was easy enough to fly planes, but that the bases from which they operate and the supply question must be planned long before operations begin. Decisions on these matters must be reached at as early a date as possible and certainly prior to the defeat of Germany. Marshal Stalin indicated agreement with this viewpoint.
The Ambassador continued that the need for secrecy was obvious and that any arrangements Marshal Stalin may deem proper in this connection will be understood. However, planning for the size of a force to operate in the Far East and arrangements for its operations are matters of importance and we should therefore like to begin preliminary discussions as soon as possible.
Marshal Stalin inquired who would represent the American Government in the discussions on this question. The Ambassador replied that he and General Deane would participate, and that Admiral Olsen7 would be brought in when naval questions were under consideration. He continued that he did not wish them to go into too much detail, but said that operations were planned against the Kuriles Islands and [Page 943] Paramushiro. The date of these operations might be advanced if Soviet forces were prepared to cooperate.
Marshal Stalin asked whether such cooperation was desired now or at a later date. The Ambassador replied that he was referring to the type of cooperation and strategic planning which was desired at a future date. He then showed Marshal Stalin on a globe the present stage of operations in the Pacific. The Ambassador described briefly the strategic problems of the Pacific war, explaining the importance of operations in the North.
The question of how large an air force we can base on Soviet territory is one to which we would like to have an answer as early as possible. When it is received we can proceed to the preparation of plans.
Marshal Stalin replied that at present the Soviet Government is unable to take part in operations against Japan since its forces in the Far East are too small. It will be necessary to reequip the Red Air Force in the Far East before it can participate in operations. This is being done, but it will require another two or three months. By that time the Soviets hope they will have a new air force there. Four infantry corps of 20 to 22 divisions will then be transferred to the Far East. It can not be done now, as the Red Army is very busy in the West. When German resistance in the West begins to weaken, divisions will be sent to the Far East. By the end of the summer the question of whether the divisions can be transferred will have been clarified. As soon as these forces are transferred, the Soviet Government will cease to fear Japanese provocation and may even provoke the Japanese itself. It is too weak to do so now, however, as such action might result in the loss of the coastal positions. Consequently there is no immediate possibility of cooperation in that theater; it can only materialize later. With regard to the question of beginning conversations about basing air forces in the Far East, the matter was discussed at Teheran and discussions can be continued. Stalin stated that six fields could be made available for 300 American planes to be based there—and here he interposed that there would also be a Soviet bomber force. The question of the location of these fields—whether on Kamchatka or near Vladivostok—must be considered. Marshal Stalin said he would invite the Chief of the Red Air Forces in the Far East to come to Moscow and bring a map showing the available air fields. The fields for bases for American planes can then be selected, and if the number is insufficient new fields will be provided.
The Ambassador said that he knew the President understood Marshal Stalin’s feelings about not provoking the Japanese until he is ready to do so. The President will be very pleased to receive this information. It will be communicated only to the President, General [Page 944] Marshall,8 General Arnold9 and Admiral King.10 It will be of great assistance in planning operations.
Marshal Stalin reiterated that if Japan is provoked now there is a danger of losing the Soviet territory available for air bases in the Far East. The Ambassador replied that the President understood this and fully agreed. Marshal Stalin then emphasized that the information must be limited to a very small group, and said that on the Soviet side the matter would be handled by General Antonov.11
The Ambassador pointed out that General Arnold had had 1,000 bombers in mind as the optimum number to permit the full weight of an air attack to be made against Japan. Marshal Stalin replied that if that number were to be based in the Far East new fields will have to be built. He said that they would see what was possible. Decisions can be reached after the map is received and after discussions with the Chief of the Red Air Forces in the Far East.
- Copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.↩
- Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (Premier).↩
- Francis B. Stevens, Second Secretary and Vice Consul in the American Embassy at Moscow.↩
- Valentin Mikhailovich Berezhkov, Interpreter for Molotov.↩
- For correspondence regarding the conference between President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Churchill and Premier Stalin, with their advisers, at Tehran, November 28–December 1, 1943, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943.↩
- Rear Adm. Clarence E. Olsen, naval member of the United States Military Mission in the Soviet Union.↩
- Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, United States Army.↩
- Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, United States Army Air Forces.↩
- Adm. Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations.↩
- Gen. Alexey Innokentyevich Antonov, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Army.↩