J. C. S. Files

Combined Chiefs of Staff Minutes2
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1. Procedure for the Conference

Sir Alan Brooke said that it had been suggested by the United States Chiefs of Staff that he should take the chair at the Combined Chiefs of Staff meetings in Malta and he was glad to do so. He hoped, however, that a member of the United States Chiefs of Staff would take the chair at the meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Magneto .

General Marshall agreed to this proposal.

Sir Alan Brooke suggested that the meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff should normally take place at 1430 daily.

Admiral King, in agreeing to this proposal, stated that alterations in the timing might have to be made in the light of circumstances.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed to meet daily at 1430, circumstances permitting.

[Page 468]

2. Agenda for the Conference
(C. C. S. 765/8)3

Sir Alan Brooke tabled a note setting out proposals for the business to be transacted by the Combined Chiefs of Staff on each day.4

General Marshall said that the United States Chiefs of Staff agreed to these proposals. He felt, however, that one or two items should be earmarked as susceptible of earlier consideration if time allowed.

It was agreed that the U-boat threat and the planning date for the end of the Japanese war should be so earmarked.

3. German Flying Bomb and Rocket Attacks

General Marshall referred to the data made available by the British Chiefs of Staff to enable him to show the Congress the scale of rocket and flying bomb attacks on London. He explained that in the course of his talk to the Congress5 he had stressed the importance of a common understanding in order to assist the formation of combined decisions and policies. He had stressed the necessity for teamwork and the importance of understanding the other man’s point of view and difficulties. The data with regard to flying bomb and rocket attacks on London had been of great value in this connection and had made a very strong impression on his audience.

Sir Alan Brooke said that on behalf of the British Chiefs of Staff he would like to thank General Marshall for the action he had taken in this connection. Sir Alan Brooke outlined the suggestions which had been made to mitigate the German rocket attacks and the views of the British Chiefs of Staff on this matter.

Sir Charles Portal then explained the proposals for air action against the rocket attacks and the course of action which it had been decided to follow.

Sir Charles Portal then explained the difficulties which had arisen with regard to the United States proposal to use war-weary bombers against industrial targets. The possibility of retaliation against the unique target of London had been felt to outweigh the advantages of the employment of this weapon.

General Marshall then outlined certain discussions he had had at Allied Force Headquarters with regard to the possibility of employing small formations of fighter-bombers to attack communications [Page 469] and particularly for attacks against the entrances to tunnels, possibly by skip bombing. He felt that skip bombing might also be used against the entrances to the underground production plant where the rockets were assembled.

Sir Charles Portal said that he was not accurately informed as to the topography of the terrain above the underground factory concerned and thought it likely that baffles had been erected before the entrances. It was probably also extremely well defended by guns; however, the possibility of skip bombing the entrances to this factory was very well worth investigating. With regard to attacks on communications, he had recently discussed the possibility of further attacks on communications with General Spaatz, who was arranging that the long-range fighters of the Eighth Air Force should, as a matter of course, attack communications on their return from escorting daylight bombers.

General Marshall then referred to the possibility of the Germans instigating suicide attacks on vital targets, particularly in the Antwerp area in which the lock gates were a vital and vulnerable target.

Some doubt was expressed as to the suitability of the German temperament to such a form of attack.

In reply to a question, Admiral King said that the Japanese suicide attacks were, on the whole, slightly less numerous than they had been, but they were still difficult to meet and there was apparently no panacea for it. The Commander of the Pacific Fleet had recently issued explicit instructions as to the method of employing anti-aircraft gunnery against these attacks.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Took note with interest of the above statements.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff adjourned until 1430.

4. Strategy in Northwest Europe
(C. C. S. 761/3 and 761/4)6

At General Bedell Smith’s suggestion General Bull outlined the projected operations in Northwest Europe. The first phase entailed a closing up to the Rhine and the destruction of the enemy forces to the west of that river; the second phase consisted of obtaining bridgeheads across the Rhine; the third phase, of advancing into the heart of Germany and defeating her armed forces. The first phase was now going on. General Bradley was endeavoring to advance on the Prüm-Bonn axis. Divisions were now being released from the southern front, and were already being moved up to the North to be available for the offensive operations Veritable and Grenade , the latter of which was an alternative in the event that General Bradley’s present attack did not proceed with sufficient rapidity.

[Page 470]

General Bull then outlined these two operations. Field Marshal Montgomery’s forces would strike down in a southeasterly direction parallel to the Rhine while the Ninth United States Army would strike from its present position north of Aachen in the direction of Düsseldorf. A decision would shortly have to be taken as to whether it was worthwhile to continue General Bradley’s operations in the Ardennes. Operations were also in progress to clear the Colmar pocket and were being undertaken by French forces to be assisted by three United States divisions. It was obviously desirable, if it proved possible, to clear the entire west bank of the Rhine since by so doing security would be improved and additional divisions released for the offensive.

Turning to the second phase—the seizure of bridgeheads across the Rhine—General Bull explained that in the North between Emmerich and Wesel there were three good and two possible positions for bridging points. In the South, in the Mainz area, there were four good bridging points and in addition two possible ones. In the center, in the Cologne-Bonn area, there were three possible bridging sites.

Field Marshal Montgomery’s operation Veritable would be launched between the eighth and tenth of February and operation Grenade approximately a week later if the decision was taken to mount the latter. There was therefore a reasonable chance that the area west of the Rhine from Düsseldorf northwards would be clear of the enemy by the end of February. Field Marshal Montgomery would be instructed to grasp any possibility which presented itself of seizing bridgeheads on the lower Rhine during the southerly drive.

General Bull explained that the Supreme Commander7 was strongly of the opinion that a second line of advance into Germany must be available. It was for this reason that the bridgeheads in the Mainz-Mannheim area were to be seized. The line of advance of this army would be on Frankfurt and Kassel and would assist in isolating the Ruhr. In the North, Field Marshal Montgomery’s drive would be directed on Munster and would swing down toward Hamm. It had been estimated that logistically it would not be possible to maintain more than 35 divisions in the northern thrust until rail bridgeheads had been established across the Rhine. In the South there were no serious logistic limitations and up to 50 divisions could be maintained before rail bridgeheads had been established.

The Supreme Commander had emphasized throughout the importance of flexibility in his planning. All forces which could be maintained would be employed in the northern thrust but the short length of the river available for the crossings, together with other limiting [Page 471] factors, made it essential to have an alternative thrust available should the northern thrust be held up. The forces not employed in the two thrusts would be used to secure the remainder of the line and to stage diversions and threats.

General Bedell Smith explained that the only factor which had altered since General Eisenhower’s appreciations and intentions had been communicated to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in SCAF 179 and SCAF 1808 (C. C. S. 761/3), was the factor of time which had now become of great importance in view of the Russian advance. It was felt that on the Western Front freedom of movement could be counted on until the 15th of March. The Sixth Panzer Army was thought to be in process of withdrawal. There was no longer believed to be any serious threat to Strasbourg and there was a good chance of clearing up the Colmar pocket quickly, thus releasing four divisions. In view of the present diminution of German offensive capabilities in the West, it was essential to get to the Rhine in the North as soon as possible and it was hoped that Field Marshal Montgomery’s attack would start on 8 February.

Turning to the question of the distribution of forces, General Smith explained that initially the Staff of 21st Army Group had said that only about 21 divisions could be maintained in the northern thrust; this strength was obviously too small a proportion to use in the main thrust out of a total of some 85 divisions available. The Supreme Commander, however, had directed that logistic arrangements be made to support initially 30 divisions in the main effort and later a total of 36 divisions. These arrangements were under way. Grave thought had been given to the area in which the secondary effort should be staged. The neighborhood of Cologne presented certain advantages in that there could be no question of an Allied dispersal of forces. On the other hand this area was so close to the area of the main effort that the Germans could quickly reinforce between these two threatened areas and little diversion of enemy strength would be achieved. To sum up, in General Eisenhower’s view the thrust in the North was absolutely essential, that in the South necessary and desirable and to be undertaken if at all possible.

In reply to a question, General Smith explained that it was obviously desirable to close the Rhine throughout its whole length but that the Supreme Commander did not intend to do this if resistance was such that the operation would delay the main attack until midsummer or would militate against an opportunity to seize a bridgehead and effect a crossing in strength on the northern front. A discussion then ensued as to the effect of the spring thaws on the possibilities of crossing the Rhine. General Smith and General Bull explained [Page 472] that the lower Rhine could, it was believed, be crossed at any date after the first of March, though certain risks were entailed. The spring thaws affected the upper Rhine but had no effect on the lower Rhine.

Sir Alan Brooke explained that the British Chiefs of Staff felt that there was not sufficient strength available for two major operations, and that therefore it would be necessary to decide on one of those proposed. Of the two, the northern appeared the most promising. The base port of Antwerp was nearer, the armies were already closer to the Rhine in that area, and the advance into Germany immediately threatened the vital Ruhr area whose importance had been even further increased by the fall of Silesia to the advancing Russian Army. In the South, though the actual crossings might prove easier, our armies had further to go before being in a position to cross the Rhine and, after crossing, the country was less favorable for operations and our forces would be further from the Ruhr or the lines of communications thereto. It was therefore felt that the plan should be based on the whole effort being made in the North if this was to be certain of succeeding and that every other operation must be regarded as subsidiary to this main thrust. There was, it was felt, a danger of putting too much into the southern effort and thereby weakening the main northern attack.

Another doubt which had been felt by the British Chiefs of Staff was in regard to the closing up to the Rhine on its whole length, which it was felt would slow up the advance into Germany. This point had already been cleared up by the explanations given by General Smith and General Bull. The general impression gained from SCAF 180 was that the southern thrust was regarded to be almost as important as the northern and that it diverted too much strength from the latter, both in forces and in the available facilities such as bridging material. The present situation on the Eastern Front obviously necessitated the speeding up of operations in the West in order to engage as many Germans as soon as possible, both to prevent the withdrawal of forces to the East and to take advantage of such reduction in strength as was taking place.

General Smith emphasized that the Supreme Commander intended to put into the northern effort every single division which could be maintained logistically. The plan called for an ultimate strength of 36 divisions in the northern thrust. There would also be about ten additional divisions in strategic reserve available to exploit success. A very strong airborne force would be used for the northern crossing. It was, however, impossible to overlook the fact that the northern attack would, of necessity, take place on a narrow four-divisional front and might bog down. The southern advance [Page 473] was not intended to compete with the northern attack but must be of sufficient strength to draw off German forces to protect the important Frankfurt area and to provide an alternate line of attack if the main effort failed. He wished to make clear the Supreme Commander’s view of the differentiation between the main and secondary thrusts. Everything that could be put into the main effort would be put there.

Sir Alan Brooke said that he welcomed this explanation. He had felt that the southern advance might cause the northern attack to bog down.

General Marshall, in referring to a point previously made by Field Marshal Brooke as to the necessity of resting and relieving divisions in the line, agreed that this was vitally important. In his view the considerations involved in the plan were as follows: the most favorable spot logistically, that is, in the North; the fact that it was not safe to rely on one line of advance only; the number of divisions required to maintain security in the non-active parts of the line; the assessment of the number of divisions which could be logistically supported in the northern thrust. He considered it essential that there should be more than one possible line of advance. The strategic reserve should be fed into either advance in the light of how well that advance was succeeding. If extremely heavy casualties were sustained in the northern attack there were the alternatives of either battling through or switching the weight of attack elsewhere. It was his view that it was essential to have some other line of advance to turn to if we bogged down in the North. It was likely that the Germans would put up a heavy resistance in the North and, with the aid of jet-propelled reconnaissance aircraft, would assess the likelihood of our attacking in that area.

Sir Alan Brooke pointed out that after crossing the Rhine the strength of the main thrust would be reduced by the necessity for relief and rehabilitation of tired units.

General Smith gave the proposed general deployment of divisions. He said that while 36 would be available for the northern thrust they would not all be in the line at the same time. There would also be a strategic reserve of about ten divisions which would permit rotation. About 12 divisions would be used in the secondary attack and the remainder would be holding relatively quiet sectors of the line, where tired divisions could be rotated for rest and refit.

Turning to the employment of French divisions, General Smith said that every effort was being made to arm the new divisions as quickly as possible. Equipment for the first three of the new divisions was already moving, and they would be ready for action together with their corps troops by the latter part of April. The French had certain [Page 474] odd brigades and other units available at present and these, with the new French divisions, might be used to contain or reduce St. Nazaire and Bordeaux.

Sir Alan Brooke said that the British Chiefs of Staff had not entirely agreed with the Supreme Commander’s plan as set out in SCAF 180. This however had taken on a different complexion in the light of General Smith’s explanations. The British Chiefs of Staff were loath therefore to approve SCAF 180, as at present drafted, as had been suggested by the United States Chiefs of Staff in C. C. S. 761/4.

Sir Charles Portal drew attention to paragraph 20 of SCAF 180 which appeared out of keeping with General Smith’s explanation.

General Smith said that as he understood it, it had never been General Eisenhower’s intention to sweep the whole area west of the Rhine clear of Germans before effecting crossings.

General Bull confirmed this view and said that such action had not been intended if heavy fighting and consequent delay was thereby entailed. However, closing up to the Rhine on its whole length was obviously desirable if it could be achieved without delay.

General Smith said that if the Germans resisted our attack in the North with their full strength it was likely that they would only have Volksgrenadier divisions available to hold the ground west of the Rhine to the south.

Sir Alan Brooke pointed out that the final sentence of paragraph 9 of SCAF 180 also implied equally important lines of advance.

Admiral King drew attention to paragraph 22 which he felt clarified the position.

In reply to a question by Sir Alan Brooke, General Smith said that the southern thrust was likely to start from some position between the Siegfried Line and the Rhine. He felt that about 12 divisions could successfully achieve this thrust if the Germans concentrated to oppose the main effort and the Siegfried Line would not impose an insuperable obstacle. In general he felt that the Siegfried Line could be “nibbled through” by two or three good divisions in 15 days in almost any position.

Sir Alan Brooke said that he felt that rather than approve SCAF 180 at the present time, he would prefer that the Combined Chiefs of Staff should take note of it and should examine the record of General Smith’s explanation at their meeting on the following day.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Deferred action on the above subject pending further consideration by the British Chiefs of Staff.

5. Coordination of Operations With the Russians

Sir Alan Brooke said that as he saw it, the only point was to insure that the Combined Chiefs of Staff were still in full agreement with the [Page 475] instructions which they had issued to General Deane and Admiral Archer in FAN 477.9

General Marshall confirmed that the United States Chiefs of Staff were still in complete agreement with the contents of this message, no answer to which had yet been received from the Russians. He felt it would be necessary to raise the issue with them during the forthcoming conference.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Agreed to press the Russians to agree at Argonaut to the proposals in the Appendix to C. C. S. 741/6 (FAN 477).

6. The Combined Bomber Offensive
(C. C. S. 166 Series)10

Sir Charles Portal explained that his object in raising this question was to find out if the United States Chiefs of Staff had any views on the possible move of the Fifteenth Air Force from the Mediterranean to Western Europe. Such a move, involving some 1,000 heavy bombers, would, of course, have considerable effect on the potentialities in other theaters.

General Kuter explained that C. C. S. 400/210 did in effect give the commander of the United States strategic air forces the right to move such forces within the two theaters. He understood in fact that General Spaatz had been considering the possibility of moving the Fifteenth Air Force to the United Kingdom but had decided against such a course.

General Marshall said that he had directed an examination of the possibility of using the Fifteenth Air Force, or part of it, from southern France, thus avoiding the bad weather over the Po Valley. This proposal, however, had not commended itself to his staffs.

Sir Charles Portal pointed out that any large move as between theaters should, he felt, be approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff since it had a great effect on the strategy in the theaters concerned. The number of bombers available in Italy, for instance, very materially affected the possibility of withdrawing ground forces from that theater.

General Marshall said that as he remembered it, the agreement with regard to the movement of the Fifteenth Air Force was designed to permit the commander of the strategic air forces the freedom of movement and flexibility to employ his forces temporarily in whichever theater provided the best weather at that time. There was in his mind no question of a permanent move of forces.

Sir Charles Portal said that it had been felt that temporary moves of air units to the United Kingdom was undesirable in view [Page 476] of the difficult weather and the fact that operating out of the United Kingdom was a highly specialized business.

Admiral King said that he considered the permanent allocations of forces to be the function of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. If necessary, the paper under discussion (C. C. S. 400/2) should be modified to bring it into line with this view.

Sir Charles Portal said that he was entirely reassured by General Marshall’s statement with regard to the future of the Fifteenth Air Force.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Took note that the United States Chiefs of Staff were not at present contemplating the transfer of any formations of the Fifteenth Air Force from the Mediterranean.

7. Planning Date for the End of the War With Germany
(C. C. S. 772)11

Sir Alan Brooke presented a memorandum by the British Chiefs of Staff dealing with the planning date for the end of the war with Germany (C. C. S. 772). He explained that it had been necessary to estimate such a date or dates in order to provide a basis for production and manpower planning.

General Marshall explained that United States production planning was based on a bracket of the first of July and the 31st of December, 1945.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Deferred action on C. C. S. 772 pending consideration by the United States Chiefs of Staff.

8. Planning Date for the End of the War With Japan

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Reaffirmed the planning date for the end of the war against Japan as recommended in paragraph 32 of C. C. S. 680/2.12

9. The U-Boat Threat

Sir Andrew Cunningham explained that at present we were in a somewhat similar position to that of 1918. The ASDIC was proving less effective against present U-boat operations in shallow water where the tide affected the efficiency of the ASDIC. The Germans had discovered this and were working their submarines close inshore around the United Kingdom. At present they were operating principally in the Channel, the Irish Sea, and one had even penetrated [Page 477] the entrance to the Clyde. Our aircraft were also hampered by the extremely small target presented by the schnorkel. This relatively small object was normally used only some three feet above the water and ASV aircraft could therefore only detect it in calm weather.

Further, the Germans were fitting a radar device on their schnorkel which enabled them to detect the ASV emissions before the aircraft contacted the schnorkel.

In the last month there had been six sinkings in the Irish Sea, an escort carrier had been torpedoed in the Clyde, and at least four ships sunk in the Channel. He hoped, however, that the position would improve, and, in fact, two submarines had been sunk in the Irish Sea in the last week and a further one south of Land’s End. The object was to force the submarines back into deep water where the ASDIC would be effective, and to achieve this deep mine fields were being laid in order to shut the enemy out of the Irish Sea.

The Chief of the Air Staff explained that from the air point of view new devices were being brought into action, . . . It must be remembered, however, that with a submerged submarine using her schnorkel, the aircraft, even after it had contacted the submarine, found difficulty in sinking it since it could dive in some three seconds and left no swirl at which to aim.

Sir Andrew Cunningham explained that the Germans were building new types of submarines which were a vast improvement over those which had been used previously. There were two new types: one of 1600 tons with a speed of up to 18 knots submerged, and carrying twenty torpedoes; the other, a small coastal type, was capable of 13 knots submerged and carried two torpedoes. The larger boat had an extremely long range. It was thought that these new boats would be coming into operation about the middle or end of February.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff:—

Took note with interest of the foregoing statements.

  1. C. C. S. 182d Meeting. The meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff were numbered consecutively from the first formal meeting of that body, which took place in Washington on January 23, 1942.
  2. Ante, p. 426.
  3. The proposal on order of business was annexed to the C. C. S. minutes. For the text, see infra.
  4. On January 24, 1945, at 9 a. m., at a meeting to which each Member of Congress received a formal invitation, Marshall and King gave “a confidential report on the present status of the war and related subjects” (Congressional Record, January 22, 1945, vol. 91, p. 365).
  5. Not printed.
  6. General of the Army Eisenhower.
  7. See ante, p. 464, footnote 8.
  8. Not printed. FAN 477 dated January 15, 1945, dealt with the bombline in Eastern Europe and the Balkan area between the Allied and Soviet Armies.
  9. Not printed.
  10. Not printed.
  11. Post, pp. 478480.
  12. The document under reference came from the Quebec Conference of 1944. Paragraph 32 recommended that the planning date for the end of the war against Japan should be set at 18 months after the defeat of Germany. This planning date was reaffirmed at Yalta. See post, pp. 830831.