67. Memorandum From the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (Dennison) to Secretary of Defense McElroy0


  • US/UK coordinated planning for operations in the Middle East; views of Mr. Duncan Sandys
[Page 225]
As the Specified Commander for the Middle East, I am engaged in coordinated planning with British military authorities for operations in that area, under directives to me by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Before leaving London to attend the Quantico Conference, I had a lengthy private talk with the British Defense Minister, Mr. Duncan Sandys. During the course of our conversation, Mr. Sandys asked me to convey to you the following views:
He is completely satisfied with the manner and with the progress of our planning for the Middle East and feels that “now we are talking the same language.”
He understands our reluctance to placing command of US forces in the hands of other than a US commander and wishes to assure you that there will be no difficulties on that score. In the event combined command is required the British would be pleased to place their forces under a US commander regardless of the relative size of the forces which may be committed.
He believes that in most situations in the Middle East, which require military operations, time of reaction is of the essence. Therefore, he hopes that we will consider taking all practicable measures such as designating, alerting or prepositioning forces in order that we may be capable of speedy action.
My comments on Mr. Sandys’ points of view follow:

His expressed satisfaction with US/UK planning represents a favorable shift from his previous view, as I understood it. This may be because of his increasing familiarity with the matter. In London we have completed the following studies:1

Persian Gulf (a coordinated communication plan)
The Sudan

These studies have either been approved by the US and UK Chiefs of Staff or are in various stages of review.

As regards combined command, my current instructions prohibit me from developing such an arrangement. The British military authorities accept this restriction and understand it. Mr. Sandys feels that such an arrangement maybe necessary. I have explained to him that if this is so, the command could speedily be set up. There is in effect a combined plan for operations in Lebanon (Operation Blue Bat). This could serve as a model. In addition, we have just completed a combined training exercise “White Bait” which featured landings in Libya by US/UK forces under the command of the Commander Sixth Fleet. My view is that combined command arrangements should not be fixed and that planning for coordinated operations provides us with highly desirable flexibility. We should remember that our recent successful operation in Lebanon was unilaterally accomplished under the US portion only of the Blue Bat plan.
My instructions prohibit me from committing US forces in our coordinated planning. The British understand this, knowing full well that we cannot predict where such forces might be most needed at the time. They themselves are not in a position to designate specific forces for a given operation. We all would agree completely with Mr. Sandys’ view that reaction time is of the essence. Under the current world-wide strategic circumstances, however, we must be highly dependent on strategic warning signals to give us the needed time for readying and movement of forces to the Middle East. For many reasons, with which you are familiar, prepositioning of such forces is not only undesirable but probably infeasible.
If you will permit me, I should like to express some personal views on the entire matter of US/UK planning. First, I feel that my instructions are adequate and appropriate and will permit me to proceed in the best interests of the United States. The British political side of their government may be using pressure for closer military association to strengthen political ties. Current arrangements seem entirely satisfactory, both to my British military colleagues and apparently now to their Defense Minister. Second, I believe that within current guidelines we should be willing to discuss and plan for any situation they may wish to select. I can see nothing but mutual benefit to be derived from such comprehensive treatment. While the British military resources may, in some cases, represent an inadequate contribution we may badly need their help. Base privileges are a case in point. Furthermore, as you of course know, in the Middle East the national interests of our two governments are compatible or synonomous in many instances. For this reason, I feel that close association with consequent mutual understanding on the military level is most important. I assure you that I will continue to work to this end.

Very respectfully,

Robert L. Dennison
Admiral U.S. Navy
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, White House Office, Staff Secretary: Records, Defense Dept III. Top Secret. Presumably written in London. A copy of this memorandum was sent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  2. After close relations during the operations in Jordan and Lebanon, U.S. and U.K. military planning liaison was increased. At the suggestion of the British combined U.S.-U.K. strategic study was initiated and contingency plans formulated to accompany it. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, wished to prevent any revival of U.S.-U.K. Combined Chiefs of Staff Planning that characterized World War II. Therefore they permitted U.S. Commanders and their staffs to discuss, exchange information, and perform liaison functions with their British counterparts, but prohibited actual combined planning or U.S. military support of U.S.-U.K. plans without specific JCS approval. The informally designated “US/UK Planning Group” was responsible for the studies listed in the memorandum, which were intended to coordinate the existing unilateral plans of both countries. (Historical Studies Division, Joint Secretariat, Joint Chiefs of Staff, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Volume VII, 1957–1960 (February 1, 1968), pp. 480–482