Memorandum by the United States Chiefs of Staff to the Combined Chiefs of Staff 53
[Washington,] 13 March 1945.
- After considering the communications connected with proposed negotiations with Kesselring, including the Soviet participation proposed by the Russians, the United States Chiefs of Staff are convinced that the procedure and line of action proposed by the British Chiefs of Staff should not be undertaken.
- It is clear that General Alexander’s proposal is that he attempt to arrange a military surrender which would not involve political aspects. His proposed procedure is to undertake all negotiations at his headquarters and that the Berne meeting be a contact where his [Page 728] representatives will have no authority to negotiate but will merely attempt to arrange for accredited representatives of the German commander to go to Allied Force Headquarters.
- The United States Chiefs of Staff are informed that the American Ambassador to the U.S.S.R. considers that the Soviet proposal for their officers to participate in discussions at Berne has no justification since the German proposal is for the surrender of a military force on a U.S.-British front. This is not a parallel to the capitulation of a Government and the American Ambassador feels that under similar circumstances the Soviet Government would not allow our officers to participate. He further considers that our agreement to the Russians going to Berne would be considered by the Soviet as a sign of weakness and would lead to more untenable demands from the Russians. General Deane concurs in the American Ambassador’s estimate. The United States Chiefs of Staff agree with the estimate of Mr. Harriman and General Deane and further point out that the Russian proposal which the British Chiefs of Staff propose to accept would result in only one representative from each of the U.S. and British military forces meeting the German representatives in Berne, whereas there would be two Russian representatives present.
- It is now apparent that the procedure of handling this matter through the Foreign Office and the State Department is so cumbersome and involved that the very system is likely to eliminate any possibility of useful results. Furthermore, it introduces into what is almost entirely a military matter an unavoidable political element which may well tie Marshal Alexander’s hands to such an extent that he will be unable to reap benefits from the present situation which otherwise would accrue.
- It is the view of the United States Chiefs of Staff that the political interests of the governments will be adequately guarded by the military keeping their respective political offices completely informed concerning developments.
- In the light of the foregoing, the United States Chiefs of Staff
- The State Department and Foreign Office should be asked to transmit to the Soviets a communication substantially as that attached.
- Marshal Alexander should be instructed by the British Chiefs of Staff for the Combined Chiefs of Staff, to proceed at once with the contact in Berne and to handle Russian participation by communications through the British and U.S. Missions in Moscow on the military level.
- The State Department concurs in the foregoing.
- This memorandum was sent to the Secretary of State under cover of a letter from the Secretary of War (Stimson) and the Secretary of the Navy (Forrestal), March 13; not printed.↩
- Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater.↩
- Rear Adm. Ernest Russell Archer, R.N., Head of the British Military Mission to the Soviet Union.↩