The Assistant Secretary of State ( Acheson ) to Mr. Harry L. Hopkins, Special Assistant to President Roosevelt

Dear Harry: Here is the statement which you asked me to prepare, setting forth the political importance of adequate supply for the liberated countries. I presented this at the Secretary’s Staff Committee this afternoon, and it was approved.

Is this the kind of thing you had in mind?


Dean Acheson

Memorandum by the Department of State 2

The Maintenance of the Civilian Economy of Liberated Areas Is an Essential Instrument of Total War

Total war is the use of all national resources and power to achieve national policy. It is not restricted to the employment of force against the enemy; nor to support of allied force. It involves also the full use, if possible, of the help of new populations transferred from the side of the enemy. At the least, it requires every effort to prevent these populations from becoming a positive obstruction.

Supplies to the liberated countries sufficient to keep the people effectively at work in the great scheme of the war is as essential as any part of the war plan. The war can be lost in the liberated countries. It cannot be won without success in the liberated countries.

[Page 1060]

Everyone is agreed that in the immediate wake of battle military necessity requires that disease and starvation be prevented. Otherwise the liberated civilians will present a hazard to the conduct of operations and the maintenance of lines of supply. Our conception of total war has not gone much farther.

This is not true of our enemies. From the start they have seen the basic political and military necessity of incorporating the new populations into their systems of production, and, by employing them fully, of minimizing the forces of unrest.

The people of the liberated countries and those of Eastern Europe are the most combustible material in the world. They are fighting people. They are violent and restless. They have suffered unbearably. They understand the necessities and will bear the privations of the battle period.

But they will not and cannot understand or tolerate a situation in which, after the battle has passed them, they cannot go to work to supply themselves and the armies. To put them to work requires supplies and ships. It is argued that these are more needed to prosecute the war in other theaters.

The argument makes no sense to Frenchmen, Belgians, Dutchmen, Norwegians, and Greeks who have been put to work for years by the Germans. It means idleness, the most meagre existence, frustration. With these have come and will come agitation and unrest. With them also come arbitrary and absolutist controls. Then follows the overthrow of governments with rival aspirants for the succession from the right and the left. And with this comes also dissension among the great powers, with one backing one faction, and another, another faction. North Africa, Yugoslavia, Greece, should furnish illustration enough.

On the negative side, the neglect of civilian supply in the liberated countries will directly impede and hamper the war by creating civil disorder, diverting military force (as in Greece) and by causing dissension and distrust among the allies.

It does something much worse than all of these. These disorders weaken the will of our own people to fight the war. A victory which, as it progresses, means first civil war, then conflict among the major allies, and, finally, a dictatorship of the right or left, does not appear to the British and American democracies as worth the sacrifice which this war will mean in the most painful forms during 1945.

It is foolish to close our eyes to the reality of this danger. The will of the democracies to make war can be so weakened by disillusionment with the results as to have the most far-reaching military consequences.

On the positive side, to win the war requires that we win the battle of the liberated countries. Here millions of people have been transferred [Page 1061] from the enemy’s camp to ours—people who can work, perhaps fight in the prosecution of the war, but all of whom must rebuild their country in some pattern—the one for which we are expending untold efforts, or some other.

In the view of this Department, it is of the most supreme political and military importance to this country to bend every effort to the full utilization of the liberated countries in the war. They should be fully and immediately incorporated in the economic and psychological alignment against both the physical enemy and the political and ideological system of the enemy.

For these reasons the supply of liberated countries to restore work and production is a part of our total war.

[Mr. Richard Law, Minister of State of the British Foreign Office, had come to Washington December 16, 1944, to discuss economic matters, shipping, and food for liberated areas in Europe. A memorandum of agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom concerning the shipment of supplies to liberated European countries during the first six months of 1945 was initialed at Washington January 14, 1945, by Dean Acheson for Harry Hopkins, Special Assistant to President Roosevelt, and Mr. Law; for text, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, page 420. This memorandum was approved by General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, United States Army, and Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations. For joint statement by the Department of State and the British Embassy on maintenance of the economies of the liberated countries, released to the press January 15, 1945, see Department of State Bulletin, January 21, 1945, page 95.]

  1. Copies were transmitted on January 2 and 3, 1945, to the Assistant Secretary of War (McCloy) and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Gates), respectively.