J. C. S. Files

Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes
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1. 200th Meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff

The Combined Chiefs of Staff took note that this was their 200th Meeting.

2. Operations in Southeast Asia Command

General Marshall said that the United States Chiefs of Staff would like to extend a welcome to Admiral Mountbatten and take this opportunity of congratulating him personally on the conclusion of his great campaign in Burma.

Admiral Mountbatten thanked the United States Chiefs of Staff and then proceeded to give an account of past, present, and future operations in his command.

In recounting the broad tale of events in Southeast Asia from the Sextant Conference in 1943 to the capture of Rangoon in May, 1945, he emphasized two points of importance:—

Air transport was the lifeblood of all operations in his command. They had saved the day when things looked black in the spring of 1944 and had enabled him to complete successfully the great overland campaign to recapture Burma which had previously been thought impracticable. The Dakota was far and away the best transport aircraft for his purposes.
The tremendous steps in the reduction of casualties made possible by preventive medicine.

[Page 376]

In describing the current situation in Burma, Admiral Mountbatten explained that:—

He had some 56,000 Japs still to destroy. At the moment seven divisions were employed on the job, three of which would soon be withdrawn to take part in forthcoming operations. Considerable fighting was still going on.
He had a big problem in getting supplies through to the native population in the face of one of the worst monsoons in history. He was being forced to use some air transport for this as well as for the maintenance of the troops.
His air transport squadrons were some 20 percent under strength.

As regards future operations, the Supreme Commander paid tribute to the immense effort being put forward by the India Command to organize India as a base for these operations which were the largest that had ever been undertaken from the country. He drew a picture of the problem of mounting operation Zipper; the vast distances over which the forces would have to converge on the objective; the fact that they would have to rely on carrier-borne air support for the landing; and the degree of opposition they were likely to meet. Risks were involved but these were calculated risks which he was prepared to accept.

Finally, he paid tribute to the morale of the troops and the high degree of inter-Allied cooperation that had been built up in the past two years. This spirit, he felt, would carry the command through forthcoming operations in spite of the disappointments inevitably involved in the acceptance of a second priority in the war as a whole.

Sir Alan Brooke then invited the United States Chiefs of Staff to put any questions they would like to Admiral Mountbatten, observing that the British Chiefs of Staff would have the opportunity at subsequent discussions in London.

General Marshall suggested that it might be possible to use more submarines to prevent the infiltration into Malaya of further Japanese reinforcements.

Sir Andrew Cunningham said that no specific demand for further submarines for this purpose had been made from the theater and that within reason there was no limitation on the number that might be employed. There were, however, very few worthwhile targets left in the area.

Admiral Mountbatten said that he felt that the present distribution of submarines, balanced as it was to meet the various tasks to be carried out, was satisfactory.

General Marshall asked the Supreme Commander how soon he thought he would be able to take over the new command,2 explaining [Page 377] that the United States Chiefs of Staff were very anxious to relieve United States commanders in the Pacific of their responsibilities for the area at the earliest possible moment.

Admiral Mountbatten said that he had not expected to be called upon to assume these new responsibilities until Mailfist had been completed. He would like a little further time to consider the idea of taking them on earlier, but assured the United States Chiefs of Staff that he would do his best to meet them. When assured by General Marshall that the forces now in the area would be left there, he said that this certainly made things easier. It appeared that the problem would be merely a matter of assuming the higher direction of operations in the area.

General Marshall asked what Admiral Mountbatten thought of the idea of splitting French Indo-China into two and placing the southern half, south of 16° N, in the Southeast Asia Command.3

Admiral Mountbatten said that he had just heard of the proposition and that his first reactions were favorable. He would have liked some latitude in the actual northern limit of the area in case his operations were to develop either to the north or to the south of the degree of latitude suggested, but did not feel very strongly on the point. He thought the French might find the proposition a little less agreeable.

General Marshall explained the background to the French offer of two French divisions for operations in the war against Japan,4 and said that the Combined Chiefs of Staff were agreed that the best place to employ these divisions would probably be in French Indo-China. One of these two divisions had had battle experience and had done well. Both were composed of white men and the French proposal specifically provided that they would arrive with corps-supporting and service units. He asked Admiral Mountbatten’s opinion as to the acceptance of these two divisions in Southeast Asia Command. They could not be moved out for several months and it would probably be the late spring of 1946 before he could expect to get them.

Admiral Mountbatten said that, subject to the views of the British Chiefs of Staff, he would certainly welcome these two French divisions provided they came with a proper proportion of service and supporting units. The obvious place to employ them would be in French Indo-China where he would be relieved of the necessity of dealing with a problem which could be satisfactorily handled only by Frenchmen.

General Hull said that General MacArthur had drawn up a list of the supporting and service units which these two divisions would [Page 378] require if they came out to the Pacific, and this list has been communicated to the French. He undertook to provide Admiral Mountbatten with this list.5

  1. See document No. 1381, post, paragraphs 12 and 13, and appendices B and C.
  2. See document No. 1381, post, paragraph 14.
  3. See documents Nos. 12881291 and 1381, post.
  4. Not printed.