Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 092.2 North Atlantic Treaty

The Commander in Chief of Allied Forces in Southern Europe (Carney) to the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe (Eisenhower)

top secret

My Dear General: Prior to his departure, Admiral Sherman 1 expressed the thought that it would be useful if I wrote to you outlining facts and factors having a bearing on the Mediterranean command structure as evolved in the various discussions in which he participated. [Page 480]The conference at your headquarters, the discussions with the First Lord and the British Chiefs on 5 March, the exchange of thoughts with Ambassador Gifford and Ambassador Spofford, and the various talks between Sherman and myself, covered a wide range; in endeavoring to extract the meat from those discussions I shall stick to basic matters as I see them. Sherman will receive a copy and will be able to offer his own comments.

With respect to the inevitable political considerations, internal politics, national psychology, current economics, and post-war aspects all enter into the picture and I shall endeavor to give recognition to them in appropriate measure.

The resolution of the Mediterranean command problem starts with the relatively easy military appraisal of tasks to be accomplished and forces available for their accomplishment; discussions with the British over a period of about three years evolved general agreement as to what must be done and how it would be done. The diagram is easy to draw until we try to fill in names and nationalities; at that point conflicting national interests come into the debate.

These national interests involve ephemeral goals and desires and fears; also, however, important long-range prizes and penalties are at stake. The British, particularly, are taking the long view and there is a corresponding need for far-sighted statesmanship in our camp to monitor what may on the surface appear to be only a military command matter.

A clue to the problem of determining the NATO command structure can well be sought in the purpose and scope of the war which we are trying to avert. The communist spider in the center of the Eurasian web can, and undoubtedly would, extend the radial lines of his web in every direction—to the north against the Scandinavian peninsula, to the west against the Western European peninsula and the British Isles, to the southwest through the Balkans to the Mediterranean, to the south through the Middle East and to the southeast into Southeast Asia. All of these radial Russian pressures would be part and parcel of a single Russian effort. By the same token, no effort by any of the free peoples should be considered except as a part of a single great war for freedom.

Fighting in Pakistan, the Middle East, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Scandinavia, would all contribute to the draining of Russian potential and would have a direct bearing on your success in the defense of Western Europe, which is agreed to be the task of primary importance. Under that concept every effort by European NATO countries—and Greece and Turkey should be considered as closely related to NATO—should be coordinated by SACEUR. Collaterally, the operations on SACEUR’s flanks should contribute to the over-all [Page 481] SACEUR scheme and it is vitally important that military, political, economic and psychological strengths be built up on the flanks.

With specific reference to the Mediterranean flank, the effort of NATO forces must fit into the SACEUR plan.

Again, with specific reference to the Mediterranean, it is also the shortest pathway for support to the adjacent Middle East theater. However, the initial resources in the Mediterranean will be so limited that duplicate forces cannot be afforded, nor can we afford clean and permanent division of the forces-in-being in the Mediterranean; they must be pooled and we must capitalize on the mobility of naval and air forces for quick redeployment for the best serving of SACEUR and the Middle East. The countries on the north shore of the Mediterranean must all be considered as a part of SACEUR’s right flank, the efforts in those countries should be coordinated by a single regional authority, and that single regional authority should be a subordinate of SACEUR. Because the efforts of those countries will be entirely dependent upon the control of the Mediterranean, it seems apparent that there can not be a separate autonomous Supreme Commander of naval forces in the Mediterranean.

If that is the concept of Freedom’s war in Europe then, next, we should examine Freedom’s resources—in this instance with particular reference to the Mediterranean. The U.S. is primarily responsible for the bolstering of Italian strength and morale, and the Italians place chief reliance in the United States, both presently and for the future. The same is true of Greece and of Turkey. The Allied forces in the Mediterranean region will consist of Italian and Greek ground troops, all predominantly supplied by the U.S., plus French troops in North Africa also dependent on U.S. support for equipment, plus a smidgin of British ground troops and American marines; (Turkish effort will be closely related to Mediterranean effort and is responsive to U.S. help and guidance). The naval forces will be preponderantly American in numbers and vastly predominant in the variety of tasks which they can undertake; e.g., such solely U.S. capabilities as carrier strikes and support, aerial mining, “special” aerial attacks, aerial ASW,2 amphibious operations, and tactical air support from Navy and Marine squadrons. Initially, the air activity will be almost entirely U.S. Navy-Marine. It is over these predominantly American forces that the British advocate British command. The sensitiveness of British pride is understandable but the immutable fact is that the British Navy is not only much smaller than the U.S. Navy, but it also lacks the comprehensive inventory of weapons and techniques possessed by the U.S. Navy. Even in the field of anti-submarine warfare, where the Royal Navy did such a distinguished job in World War II, [Page 482]techniques have changed vastly with tremendous emphasis on air, and the U.S. Navy is technically and numerically pre-eminent in that activity. It would appear to be our responsibility to our own country, and to the world, to retain leadership where the facts of leadership are established by existing and future relative strength and capabilities.

Throughout this discussion I am bearing in mind the fact that Yugoslavia may well become an important factor, and there, again, the usefulness and effectiveness of the U.S. vis-à-vis Britain would appear to point toward the fact that the U.S. could make the more important contribution.

We should never be unmindful of Britain’s right and responsibility to nourish the Middle East theater. We have always recognized the soundness and propriety of the British controlling an LOC through the Mediterranean to the Middle East, and the command scheme which, for some time, was mutually acceptable to the U.S. and Royal Navies, envisaged such an LOC and envisaged the fact that it would probably be under British command.

All of the foregoing arguments point toward the establishment of a Mediterranean theater commanded by a U.S. naval officer under whom would be placed South European operations, strategic direction of the naval striking force, coordination of the various national naval responsibilities, and under whom there would be a major Allied naval command, with appropriate surface and air units, for the maintenance of the East-West LOC under British command. The Task Force principle would be invoked as necessary, and the various maritime coordination jobs would be easily solved. Disregarding today’s hypertension this still is a sound concept and one which would be readily accepted by the Italians, Greeks, and Turks, and with some safeguard reservations, by the French.

So much for the statement of various American views.

The British Chiefs had luncheon with me on 5 March and Admiral Sherman so steered the discussions that they consisted chiefly of expressions of British reasons in support of the British advocacy for supremacy in the Mediterranean. It seemed to me that these conversations brought out some important underlying British thinking and they therefore deserve close attention.

In the first place, great emphasis was laid on the touchiness of the British political situation, the feverish pitch of public opinion (which, incidentally, as of this writing, has subsided to such an extent that Admirals can barely get on the sport page) and the absolute necessity for placating public opinion and protecting the existing Government by giving the British supreme command of the Mediterranean. Very little of the discussion was on the basis of military effectiveness or relative effort, and none on comparison of economic and military contributions.

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When Sherman expressed the thought that Fechteler’s title might well be downgraded, there was unanimous and strong opposition, and it would probably be wise to bear in mind the fact that Fechteler as a “C-in-C” rather than a “Supremo” offers far less reason for the compensatory assignment of a British Supremo in the Mediterranean.

When Sherman hypothecated a situation in which Eisenhower retained control of the U.S. Navy striking force, it appeared that this contingency may not have occurred to the British Chiefs who all thought that the U.S. striking force should be under the British Supremo who would lend or assign that striking force for SACEUR’s support on demand.

The suggestion that we should consider what would remain to the British Supremo if he did not have the U.S. Naval striking force, also appeared to be disconcerting; it is obvious that the forces so remaining would be pitifully small and inadequate—particularly if the British carry out their present expressed intention of redeploying garrison troops and air from Malta to the Middle East.

The British Chiefs re-affirmed their adherence to the triumvirate principle; Admiral Sherman listened but did not debate the subject.

The luncheon meeting lasted for about four hours but I believe that I am correct in my recollection when I say that the bulk of the Chiefs’ argument in favor of British supremacy in the Mediterranean was predicated on current political and public relations aspects, and dwelt only superficially on the realities of military tasks and available forces. One very interesting viewpoint was elicited and should be mentioned: there appeared to be considerable sentiment in favor of the British Supremo in the Med being responsible to the Standing Group and it is my recollection that they advocated Standing Group direction of any transfer of forces to SACEUR.

One final word concerning this luncheon meeting: the British Chiefs expressed the thought that a considerable degree of unanimity of thought had been achieved in the meeting and that they, the British Chiefs, felt that Sherman was in pretty general agreement with their views. I consider this point to be of great importance because the British record of this meeting might make this point. The fact of the matter is that the discussion was purely exploratory and I do not recollect Sherman’s expressing agreement on any of the cardinal British points advanced.

After listening to the British Chiefs, one thing emerges as paramount according to my viewpoint:

There is urgent necessity for defining SACEUR’s interest and authority in the Mediterranean.

Examination of the British proposals gives rise to several extremely interesting thoughts:

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(1) They would hamstring SACA’s authority but leave him with a grandiose title.

(2) SACA’s grandiose title calls for a corresponding British title in the Mediterranean.

(3) The piecemeal British proposals would add up to British command on SACEUR’s left flank, British command on SACEUR’s right flank, control of the Balkans operations, command of the Middle East, and probably command of South Asia.

(4) The operations on your right flank would, through an interlocking command directorate, be tied to the Middle East and both Med and Middle East would be under the Standing Group.

(5) SACEUR would have to obtain the loan of U.S. Naval fighting forces from SACMED for support of operations in South Europe.

(6) Through the device of supplying the commanding officer only, the British would gain control in Italy, Greece, and Turkey, all of whom owe their strength to the U.S., all of whom prefer American command, and all of whom regard British over-lordship as distasteful.

I have two or three more thoughts to offer for your consideration and then I will terminate this opus.

It is my personal belief that the term “Supreme” as applied to the Med would lead to common British belief in the actuality of such supremacy; American reaction to this might well be adverse if the statistics were known; on the other hand, withdrawal of forces from SACMED for use by SACEUR might well be considered by British public opinion as welshing on an agreement. I believe that the designation of a SACMED would inevitably lead to dissatisfaction, confusion, and hard feeling.

It is difficult to conceive of our relinquishing, or abdicating, the post-World War-II American leadership which we have built up by vast economic and moral support. If we are leaders, it is on the basis of actual accomplishment and current future capability for accomplishment; by the same token military prestige can not be legislated but must be based on capabilities for accomplishment—forces—as well as on tradition; It is difficult to see how British prestige can be enduringly synthesized by the device of titles unless we are ready to credit to British leadership the accomplishment and potentiality of American contributions.

If the broad objective of war is the achievement of favorable postwar conditions, we cannot discount the importance of wartime leadership as a factor in the determination of post-war position and prestige. It would seem that American national interests for the future must be considered in connection with any assumption and discharge of military responsibilities. Finally, world position in times of peace is determined largely by trade and the advancement of commercial interests, and national security is largely dependent on accessibility to [Page 485]raw materials. If our commercial, economic, and security interests were to be dominated and restricted by any other nation, our own position would suffer accordingly and our wealth, our way of living, and our standards would be adversely affected.

I hope you will forgive the length of this letter. The issues at stake are as complex as they are grave, and the need for reviewing all the points discussed by and presented to Admiral Sherman appeared to necessitate reasonably good coverage.

I am looking forward to visiting your headquarters again after my Malta meeting with the British Middle East Cs-in-C. I need not assure you of my full and complete support in the tremendous undertaking to which you have dedicated yourself.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Robt. B. Carney
Admiral U.S. Navy

Copy to: Admiral Sherman (via courier)

  1. Adm. Forrest P. Sherman, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations.
  2. Antisubmarine warfare.