The Coalition Command

Above the new Supreme Commander and his fellow commanders in the various theaters of operations of the world, there was a hierarchy of command, developed since 1942, which included the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the heads of the executive departments which dealt with military matters, and an organization of British and U.S. armed services leaders known as the Combined Chiefs of Staff.1 This hierarchy was responsible for the adoption of grand strategy and for the granting of directives to the Allied commanders in chief. Together with the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, and his chief subordinates they constituted the coalition command for the battle against Germany in northwest Europe.

Heads of Governments

The decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff reflected the views of the heads of the British and United States Governments who. with their cabinet advisers, determined major national policies and strategy. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill differed somewhat in the degree of direct control which they exercised over their chiefs of staff. The President, as Chief Executive of the United States and as Commander in Chief of its armed forces, attended the great conferences of the Allies and helped to determine broad policy. On other occasions, as in the decision for the North African expedition in 1942, he intervened in the specific decisions of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff. He kept in touch with the members of this group through his own chief of staff, Admiral William D. Leahy, who presided over their meetings and acquainted them with the President's views. Having outlined the policy he thought the United States should follow, Mr. Roosevelt was usually content to recommend to Congress and to the Prime Minister the detailed military measures which had been worked out by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff. On political issues affecting military operations, such as the recognition of the French Committee of National Liberation2 or the development of the formula of unconditional surrender, he often did not consult his military advisers or paid little attention to their advice. In such cases, the President had a habit of consulting individuals outside the cabinet, such as Mr. Hopkins, or heads of departments not directly concerned with military matters, such as Secretary of the Treasury Henry J. Morgenthau, Jr. This practice often left the Secretaries of War and Navy and the U.S. Chiefs of Staff without the


information on his policy they found necessary for their own decisions.3

Mr. Churchill, as leader of his party in the House of Commons, as Minister of Defence, and as head of the War Cabinet, had constitutional responsibilities to the British Parliament which required a closer connection than Mr. Roosevelt's with the conduct of operations. As Minister of Defence, Churchill was linked to the British Chiefs of Staff Committee through Gen. Sir Hastings L. Ismay, his chief of staff, who regularly attended meetings of the British Chiefs. In addition, the Prime Minister himself frequently attended these sessions. It was the practice of Mr. Churchill, both because of his long-time interest in operational details and because of the British view that control must be maintained over commanders down to very low echelons, to keep much closer contact with field commanders than did President Roosevelt. In response to the Prime Minister's frequent demands for battle information, the various British commanders followed the practice of making reports direct to London. While still in the Mediterranean theater, General Eisenhower criticized this practice as "the traditional and persistent intrusion of the British Chiefs of Staff into details of our operation--frequently delving into matters which the Americans leave to their Field Commanders." He described this type of activity on another occasion as "the inevitable trend of the British mind towards 'committee' rather than 'single command.'" Efforts by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff to restrict this kind of close control brought a protest from Churchill. The Prime Minister held that, whereas such aloofness looked simple from a distance and appealed to the American sense of logic, it was not sufficient for a government to give a General a directive to beat the enemy and wait to see what happens. The matter is much more complicated. The General may well be below the level of his task, and has often been found so. A definite measure of guidance and control is required from staffs and from the high Government authorities. It would not be in accordance with the British point of view that any such element should be ruled out.

So strong was Mr. Churchill's view on the subject of direct reports that Eisenhower on coming to the United Kingdom in,January 1944 signified his willingness to permit British commanders to continue the practice if the Prime Minister so desired.4

Combined Chiefs of Staff

The permanent machinery through which Great Britain and the United States conducted the high-level control of the war--the Combined Chiefs of Staff---had been established in Washington in January 1942. Its task was to formulate and execute, under the direction of the heads of the countries concerned, policies and plans relating to the strategic conduct of the war, allocation of munitions, broad war requirements, and transportation requirements. (Chart 1) As it had developed by January 1944, the organization consisted of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff or their designated representatives in Washington (British




Joint Staff Mission.5 After mid 1942, the United States was represented by Admiral Leahy, General Marshall, Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations,6 and Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces. Their British opposite numbers, the Chiefs of Staff Committee, consisted of Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound (later replaced by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew B. Cunningham), First Sea Lord, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff. General Ismay attended the meetings, but did not sit as a member.

In the course of the war, conferences of the Combined Chiefs of Staff were held with the President and the Prime Minister at Casablanca (SYMBOL),January 1943; Washington (TRIDENT), May 1943; Quebec (QUADRANT), August 1943; Cairo (SEXTANT)-Tehran (EUREKA), November-December 1943; Quebec (OCTAGON), September 1944; Yalta (ARGONAUT), February 1945; and Potsdam (TERMINAL), July 1945.7

Normally the decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff were made in Washington in periodic meetings of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff and the British Joint Staff Mission. Field Marshal Sir John Dill sat on the Combined Chiefs of Staff as a representative of the Minister of Defence (Mr. Churchill), and officers of the three services represented the British Chiefs o Staff.8 The British Chiefs of Staff in London generally made their views known in cables to Field Marshal Dill, who then outlined their proposals in meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Frequently he discussed the British plans directly with General Marshall before the British views were taken up formally in the meetings. Because of the close relationship which existed between the two men, it was often possible for Field Marshal Dill to iron out differences of opinion before the Combined Chiefs of Staff considered them formally. The ease of settling problems with Dill was probably responsible in part for Marshall's desire to centralize Combined Chiefs of Staff activities in Washington. The British, finding it much easier to settle matters with the COSSAC chief (and later with the Supreme Commander) and with other U.S. representatives in London, preferred, as the time for invasion approached, to transfer an increasing number of Combined Chiefs of Staff functions


CONFERENCE AT QUEBEC. Present at this meeting in August 1943 were (seated, left to right) Prime Minister Mackenzie King, President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill and (standing) General Arnold, Air Chief Marshal Portal, Field Marshal Brooke, Admiral King, Field Marshal Dill, General Marshall, Admiral Pound, and Admiral Leahy

to the British capital. This preference and interest may have influenced their willingness to have General Marshall as Supreme Commander and may have led them to withdraw any initial opposition they had to strong powers for the Supreme Commander of Operation OVERLORD.

In issuing directives to the supreme commanders, the Combined Chiefs usually acted through the Chiefs of Staff of the country that provided the commander. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff', in turn, gave this task to the chief of the service that had supplied the commander. In the case of General Eisenhower, therefore, the wishes of the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. Chiefs of Staff were formally communicated by General Marshall. The Supreme Commander sent his messages to the Combined Chiefs of Staff through the same channel. There were some exceptions, however, to the use of normal channels. In initiating proposals on which it was believed that the Supreme Commander's recommendations would be required, the British Chiefs of Staff frequently sent copies of their proposals directly to Eisenhower and asked him to inform the U.S. Chiefs of Staff of his views. As a result he was sometimes able to have his recommendations in Washington by the time the British cable arrived. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff sometimes shortened the time necessary for decisions by permitting General Eisenhower to represent them in discussions with the British in London.


They did not like to resort to this device too often, however, lest the Supreme Commander be influenced unduly by the views of the British Chiefs of Staff. On several occasions Marshall warned Eisenhower against acquiring a one-sided view of Anglo-American questions, and once, at least, asked the British Chiefs of Staff not to put their views before the Supreme Commander before the matter was discussed by the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington.

Inasmuch as orders to General Eisenhower from the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. Chiefs of Staff were channeled through the War Department, it was possible for General Marshall to maintain a close relationship with the Supreme Commander and to keep the United States point of view constantly before him. This influence was balanced to a considerable degree by the frequent personal meetings between the Supreme Commander and the key British leaders, including General Eisenhower's attendance at some meetings of the British Chiefs of Staff. Eisenhower made it a practice to lunch weekly with the Prime Minister and often brought General Smith, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, or some other American leader with him. Even after Supreme Headquarters was moved to France, the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff kept in telephonic contact with the Supreme Commander and visited him several times at his headquarters.

The Supreme Commander and His Subordinates

Principle of Unity of Command

Two years before General Eisenhower took his new post, the British and U.S. Chiefs of Staff had agreed that one Allied commander should have supreme command in each theater of operations. This decision had followed General Marshall's strong plea for unified command. Pointing out that problems then being settled by the U.S. and British Chiefs of Staff would recur unless settled in a broader way, Marshall asked that one officer command the air, ground, and naval forces in each theater. He added that the Allies had come to this conclusion late in World War I but only after the needless sacrifice of "much valuable time, blood and treasure. ..." Mr. Churchill had opposed this principle for the Pacific, where the various forces would be separated by great distances, and had suggested instead individual commanders who would be responsible to the Supreme Command in Washington. After some discussion, however, Marshall's views were accepted. A few days later, the Combined Chiefs of Staff named their first supreme commander--Gen. Sir Archibald P. Wavell--to command the air, ground, and sea forces of Australia, Great Britain, the United States, and the Netherlands in the Southwest Pacific. Although the need for this particular command disappeared almost as soon as it was formed, the principle was maintained, and other supreme commanders were chosen for areas of the Pacific, Middle East, Mediterranean, and European theaters.9

General Eisenhower gained his first experience with the supreme commander principle as Allied commander in chief in the Mediterranean area. Here he discovered that British and United States concepts of the role of the supreme commander differed on the degree of control


the Allied commander in chief was to be given over troops of nationality other than his own. Later, in the European theater, he discovered that considerable differences also existed as to the operational control which a supreme commander was expected to exercise over the air, land, and sea forces under his command.

Eisenhower approached his problem in the Mediterranean theater with the intention of escaping the practice of the past in which "unity of command" had been a "pious aspiration thinly disguising the national jealousies, ambitions and recriminations of high-ranking officers, unwilling to subordinate themselves or their forces to a commander of different nationality or different service."10 He wished to escape these problems by developing an integrated command in which British and American officers were intermingled in each section of his headquarters. Under any organization of command, however, he discovered that he had to struggle against the influence of differing national points of view and a tradition of far looser alliances.

The British, with many years of experience in coalition warfare, followed an older concept of allied command when, in 1943, they drew up their instructions placing Lt. Gen. K.A.N. Anderson, commander of the First British Army in North Africa, under General Eisenhower's command. Copying the directives given to Field Marshal Douglas Haig in World War I and to British commanders in World War II, when they were placed under commanders of a different nationality, the British Chiefs of Staff declared: "If any order given by him [the Allied Commander in Chief] appears to you to imperil any British troops in the Allied Force even though they may not be under your direct command, it is agreed between the British and United States governments that you will be at liberty to appeal to the War Office before the order is executed."11 Following a principle which he was to emphasize throughout his service as an Allied commander, General Eisenhower asked Prime Minister Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff for a directive stressing the unity of the Allied forces. He contended that they were "undertaking a single, unified effort in pursuit of a common object stated by the two governments; and that for attainment of this object our sole endeavor must be to use every resource and effort for the common good." The British acceded to this request. They revised General Anderson's instructions to say that, in the unlikely event he should be given an order which would give rise to a grave and exceptional situation, he had a right to appeal to the War Office, "provided that by so doing an opportunity is not lost nor any part of the Allied Force endangered. You will, however, first inform the Allied Commander in Chief that you intend so to appeal and you will give him your reasons." This was satisfactory to Eisenhower, who sent a copy to the War Department as a useful model "in future cases of this kind."12


Control by the Supreme Commander

In the course of planning for the cross-Channel operation, the British and U.S. Chiefs of Staff differed over the degree of control the Supreme Commander should exercise over operations. The British, accustomed to a committee type of joint command in which no service had over-all control, favored a plan which gave broad powers to the land, sea, and air commanders under the Supreme Commander. Under this system, the Allied commander in chief became a chairman of a board rather than a true commander. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff opposed the British suggestions as "destructive in efficiency in that none of them provide for an absolute unity of command by the Supreme Commander over all elements land, air and naval .... "13

Illustrative of the British views was a Royal Air Force suggestion that the staff of the Supreme Commander concern itself primarily with inter-Allied issues which would be largely political. Under the Supreme Commander three Allied commanders in chief would implement all broad decisions through their staffs, each of which would be organized on a combined basis.14

The matter of command was brought to a head in the summer and fall of 1943 when General Morgan pressed for an agreement on the ground command in the assault and for a directive to the Allied tactical air force commander. In the initial outline of the OVERLORD plan, the COSSAC chief recommended that the Allied forces in the initial assault be under a British army commander and that the Allied ground forces be under a British army group commander until the Brest peninsula had been taken or a U.S. army group had been established on the Continent, whichever development came first.15

Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, the U.S. theater commander, in early September took exception to the Morgan proposal. He felt that it would put units smaller than a corps under direct British command and would deprive the Supreme Commander of operational control in the early stages of the assault.16 He suggested instead that separate U.S. and British zones of action be established with all U.S. forces, land, sea, and air, under a single U.S. commander, and that both Allied forces be directed and controlled as self-sufficient units by the Supreme Commander. His proposal for close co-ordination of the initial assault by the advanced headquarters of SHAEF was considered unsound by the COSSAC staff members who held that Supreme Headquarters was a strategic and


not a tactical command. They felt it unorthodox to cut out army group and army headquarters, and saw no place where the Supreme Commander could go forward to direct the battle in the early phases and still be in touch with the Allied governments.17

The British Chiefs of Staff on 11 September 1943 gave their backing to the COSSAC command proposals and asked the U.S. Chiefs of Staff for their comments. The American answer had not been delivered when, on 12 October, the British pointed to the need of integrating U.S. and British tactical air forces under an Allied tactical air commander and submitted a draft directive for U.S. approval. A week later, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff declared that "the issuance by the Combined Chiefs of Staff of directives to subordinates of the Supreme Allied Commander is unsound." They made clear that the earlier proposal to specify the nature of the ground organization was an encroachment on the powers of the Supreme Commander.18

Attempting to get an early solution to the ground and air command questions,19 General Morgan discussed the problems with General Marshall in Washington in late October and early November 1943.20 The COSSAC chief found that the U.S. Army Chief of Staff thought that "he should in some way control the assaulting army although I am quite certain that his conception falls far short of what we understand by the term 'command."' The deputy chief of COSSAC, Brig. Gen. Ray W. Barker, pointed out that while the initial assault had to be commanded by an army commander, who would be succeeded by an army group commander about D plus 6, the Supreme Command "could and would intervene at any time" the situation seemed to warrant such action. This procedure, he noted, had been followed at Salerno when Generals Eisenhower and Alexander had taken a hand in the battle, the former ordering the whole weight of naval and air forces into the action. In the assault stages of the cross-Channel operation, it would again be the air and sea forces that the Supreme Command would employ to influence the course of the battle. General Barker proposed that complete telephonic, telegraphic, and radio contact be provided with forward units, so that the Supreme Commander could be in the closest touch with the battle and could intervene quickly if the necessity arose. General Morgan approved this suggestion and indicated that he would tell General Marshall that arrangements would be made for him to participate directly in the battle when it took place.21

Discussions of the British draft directive for the tactical air forces were expanded in November to include the strategic air forces as well. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff proposed at that time to set up an Allied Strategic Air Force that would include British and U.S. strategic forces in both


the European and Mediterranean theaters. General Marshall, holding that a committee could not fight the war, wanted part or all of the strategic air forces, as well as the tactical air forces, put under the Supreme Commander. The British Chiefs of Staff, while willing to let the Supreme Commander control those strategic air forces in support of his operations once the cross-Channel attack began, wanted to retain full control of their RAF Bomber Command. In their opinion, this organization was so highly specialized and so firmly rooted in the United Kingdom that "effective operational control could only be exercised through Bomber Command headquarters."22

The Combined Chiefs of Staff ultimately decided that they would have to postpone a decision on the strategic air forces and approve a directive concerning tactical forces only. Perhaps to preserve the shadow of the Supreme Commander's right to issue directives to his subordinates, the Combined Chiefs of Staff permitted General Morgan to issue in the name of the Supreme Commander the directive to the Commander-in-Chief, Allied Expeditionary Air Force.23

The matter of the ground command was also settled temporarily during November. When General Morgan returned to London from Washington in that month, he carried with him Marshall's views on the organization of the ground forces for the assault. Near the end of November the COSSAC chief discussed the matter with the Allied naval and air commanders and shortly thereafter, acting in the name of the Supreme Allied Command, issued a directive to the 21 Army Group commander. This officer, then General Paget, was made jointly responsible with the Commander, Allied Naval Expeditionary Force, and the Commander, Allied Expeditionary Air Force, for planning the assault. When so ordered, he was also to be responsible for its execution "until such time as the Supreme Allied Commander allocates an area of responsibility to the Commanding General, First Army Group." The 21 Army Group commander was informed that the assault would be made by two corps under the Commanding General, First U.S. Army, who would remain in charge of land operations until such time as the British commander felt that a second army headquarters should be brought in.24

Later when the enlargement of the assault force and the area to be attacked required the landing of two armies instead of two corps, the 21 Army Group commander was charged with the task of commanding land operations.25 He was thus made de facto commander of the ground forces in the assault but was never given the title of ground commander. Further, while his tenure in this temporary position was not made clear, it was certain that the arrangement could be changed when the Supreme Commander so decided.

The Organization of the Subordinate Commands

While the question of the Supreme Commander's control over operations was



being considered, the subordinate commands were being organized and their commanders were being selected. The easiest problem to solve was that of the naval command. On the assumption that the Royal Navy would furnish most of the naval forces for the OVERLORD operation, the Admiralty in May 1943, shortly after the organization of COSSAC, had directed Admiral Sir Charles Little, Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, to proceed with naval planning for the cross-Channel operation and instructed him to increase his staff sufficiently to aid COSSAC in its work. By the summer of 1943, it was clear that some U.S. naval forces would have to be added to the attack, but that the British effort was still paramount: Admiral King at that time instructed Admiral Stark, chief of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, to supplement the efforts of the U.S. member of the Naval Planning Branch of COSSAC. The Combined Chiefs of Staff at the Quebec Conference in August 1943 regularized the naval arrangement by naming Admiral Little as Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief (Designate) for the OVERLORD operation. The selection was temporary since Mr. Churchill, who had Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay in mind for the post, accepted it only on condition that it be reviewed later. On 25 October 1943, Admiral Ramsay, who had organized the British naval forces for the withdrawal at Dunkerque and had later commanded task forces in the Mediterranean,


(Photograph taken in 1946.)

was selected as Allied Naval Commander.26

Rear Adm. Alan G. Kirk, former Chief of Naval Intelligence in Washington and later Commander, Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet, in the fall of 1943 was made commander of U.S. naval forces for the cross-Channel attack. In this capacity he had operational control of all U.S. naval forces in Europe except those in the south of France. Administratively the elements under Kirk were controlled by Admiral Stark's headquarters in London. Operational control of the U.S. forces to be used in the cross-Channel attack was given Admiral Ramsay on 1 April 1944.27 French naval forces taking part in the attack were attached to Admiral Kirk's force by Admiral Thierry d'Argenlieu, commander of the French Navy, and were organized into a cruiser division under Rear Adm. Robert Jaujard. In January 1944, Admiral Ramsay named Admiral Kirk as commander of the Western Task Force and Rear Adm. Sir Philip L. Vian as commander of the Eastern Task Force for the D-Day assault.28


Efforts to organize the Allied tactical air command for OVERLORD had begun in the spring of 1943 when Air Chief Marshal Portal proposed that Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, head of the RAF Fighter Command, be considered for the post of Commander, Allied Expeditionary Air Force.29 Portal suggested that, in case the Allies were unwilling to make a final decision at the time, they direct Leigh-Mallory to give advice on tactical air planning without prejudice to the eventual appointment of someone else. On receiving a favorable reaction to this proposal from General Devers, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff agreed to Portal's plan and the British Chiefs of Staff issued appropriate orders to Leigh-Mallory in late June 1943. At Quebec the following August, the Combined Chiefs of Staff named Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory as commander of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force for the cross-Channel operation.30

Under the terms of the directive that Leigh-Mallory received in mid-November 1943, the RAF Tactical Air Force and air units which might be allotted the Air Defence of Great Britain31 were to pass to the Allied Expeditionary Air Force immediately, and the Ninth U.S. Air Force on 15 December 1943. The U.S. force, commanded by Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, had been brought to the United Kingdom in September 1943. It included all U.S. tactical air forces in the United Kingdom. Administrative control over Ninth Air Force training, supply, and personnel remained in the hands of the main U.S. air headquarters in the United Kingdom, United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF).32

U.S. proposals for the consolidation of U.S. and British strategic air forces in the European and Mediterranean theaters under the Supreme Commander--presented without success in Washington in the fall of 1943--were again brought forward at the Cairo Conference. The British objected to the over-all command, but reluctantly agreed to support any administrative arrangement the United States wished to make for its strategic air forces in the Mediterranean and the European theaters. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff at the close of the Cairo Conference ordered the establishment of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe. Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, commander of the U.S. air forces in the Mediterranean and of the Northwest African Air Forces, was named chief of the new headquarters. He was given operational control of the Eighth Air Force in the United Kingdom and the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean, and administrative control of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. Spaatz's control was subject to two restrictions: the Chief of the Air Staff, RAF, representing the Com-


bined Chiefs of Staff, was to co-ordinate bomber forces in Operation POINTBLANK, the Combined Bomber Offensive; the U.S. theater commanders in case of necessity could declare a state of emergency and make such use of strategic air forces as they found necessary at the time.33

As no agreement was reached in the summer or fall of 1943 on the selection of a ground force commander comparable in authority to the Allied naval and air force commanders, it became clear that the assignment would be likely to devolve on an Allied army group or army commander as a temporary appointment during the assault phase. The British had a claim on this post, not only because the initial assaults were to be made from Britain, but because they had both an army group and an army headquarters organized and available to start assault planning by the time the COSSAC plan was drawn up.34 General Morgan and General Devers urged in the summer of 1943 that the United States establish similar headquarters in the United Kingdom, but not until October were the 1st U.S. Army Group and First U.S. Army activated.

General Paget was selected as the first commander of 21 Army Group. When it became apparent that this headquarters would command the Allied forces in the assault, it became necessary to place an officer recently seasoned in combat at its head. For this post the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff chose General Montgomery, who had led the Eighth British Army to victory in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy. His appointment was announced on Christmas Day, 1943. General Eisenhower was not consulted officially on this selection, inasmuch as it was one solely for the British to make. He had earlier expressed a preference for Gen. Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander, who had served as Allied army group commander in Italy, but was told that the officer could not be spared from the Mediterranean theater.35

In selecting the commander of Second British Army, General Montgomery turned to the Mediterranean theater and gave his backing to Lt. Gen. Miles C. Dempsey, who had commanded a corps in Italy in Montgomery's army. Early in 1944, Gen. Henry D.G. Crerar, who was commanding a Canadian corps in Italy, was appointed commander of the First Canadian Army.

The command of both the 1st U.S. Army Group and the First U.S. Army was given temporarily in the fall of-1943 to General Bradley. Separate headquarters were organized, the army at Clifton College, Bristol, and the army group at Bryanston Square, London.36

The Supreme Commander's Directive

General Eisenhower assumed command of the Allied forces in mid-January 1944, but did not receive a directive until nearly a month later. A draft had been submitted to the Combined Chiefs of Staff as early as 30 October 1943, but the failure of the U.S. and British Chiefs to agree on the exact powers of the Supreme Commander


(Photograph taken in 1950.)

or the precise objectives to be assigned resulted, as in the case of Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory's directive, in a long delay.

The obstacles, to agreement, on these and other points lay in differences of policy which had existed between the British and U.S. leaders since 1942. On the chief point--that the main effort of the Western Allies should be exerted against Germany--there was no dispute. On the manner in which that aim was to be achieved there was less agreement. The differences had their origins in the national interests of the United States and Great Britain, in their past history, and in the political philosophy of their leaders. If these elements are taken into account, it becomes clear that the controversies which sometimes marked the meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff were not personal quarrels growing out of individual ambitions or bias or pique. Nor were they based on national antipathies, though the discussions were sharpened at times by clashes of temperament and personality and by differences of national interests. Rather they reflected the fact that allies, like the different armed services of a nation, can agree thoroughly on the big issue of war and yet have entirely opposite concepts of the way in which the main object is to be reached. A failure to understand this fact could reduce the story of this great allied coalition, perhaps the most successful in history, to a study in personal and national recriminations.

In the making of Allied grand strategy, the selection of a Supreme Commander, and the writing of his directive, the Allies often disagreed as to the best way to overcome



Germany. The United States, believing that only a power drive to the heart of the Continent would defeat the enemy quickly, chose the cross-Channel operation as the speediest and least costly of lives in the long run. The British, in the light of heavy commitments around the world and their doubts of the wisdom of a direct attack on enemy fortifications in northwest Europe, preferred to approach the enemy by flanking movements in the Mediterranean theater.

There was, of course, more to the matter than this. The United States in its desire to end the war in Europe quickly was motivated in large part by the fact that there were strong demands in the United States for greater pressure against Japan. The Navy in particular was reluctant to take additional forces from the Pacific for operations which seemed not to affect directly the war against Germany. There was also the suspicion that the British had long-range interests in the Mediterranean area which were no affair of the United States, and that U.S. resources should not be diverted from the principal, operation to any enterprise which was not specifically a part of the main offensive against the enemy.

To the British, the attack in the Mediterranean was the best way of fighting the Germans, with the additional virtue of aiding British interests. It appeared, at times, that the Americans were not being completely realistic in their planning, and a note of asperity sometimes crept into the arguments of the British planners when they concluded that the Americans on the


ground of eschewing politics were urging a strategy that would prove costly in men and materiel. Some British representatives also had the feeling that the United States was not thoroughly aware of all the political and strategic implications involved in a European war. As a result, particularly in the first months after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, there was a tendency for the British to attempt to instruct the U.S. representatives in the proper forms of strategy. This created the impression in some quarters that the British were trying to control Allied operations. As a counteraction to this, the American representatives sought to control or have an equal share in the management of operations which involved large numbers of U.S. troops.

In describing the mission and outlining the powers of the Supreme Allied Commander, the British Chiefs of Staff were aware that the Allied commander in chief would come from the U.S. Army. Since this fact could give additional weight to U.S. views on operations, the British desired to delimit in precise terms the nature of the Supreme Commander's task, and to broaden the powers of the chief air, ground, and sea commanders, most or all of whom would be British. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff preferred to write the directive in broad terms and limit the powers of the subordinate commanders. In their proposals, they suggested grants of authority to the Allied commander in chief over British and U.S. forces which the British Chiefs of Staff would have been unwilling to give one of their own commanders.

When on 5 January 1944 the British Chiefs of Staff submitted a draft directive enumerating the duties of the subordinate commanders in chief, General Morgan, who had earlier warned General Marshall of the plan,37 objected in particular to a listing of the powers of the ground force commander, which he believed would later cause embarrassment to the Supreme Commander. The COSSAC chief urged that this section of the draft directive be limited to a listing of land forces to be placed at the disposal of General Eisenhower, leaving him free to issue such directives to his army group commanders as he saw fit. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff suggested that the appendixes in the British plan dealing with Allied commanders be considered only as informational guidance for the Supreme Commander. After some discussion, the British Chiefs agreed to strike out these sections.38 The way was thus left open for the Supreme Commander to develop his control over the forces put under his command without being hampered by restrictions. The Combined Chiefs of Staff did leave one important command question unanswered, however, when they postponed for later settlement the problem of what proportion of the Allied strategic air forces in Europe should be placed under the Supreme Commander.

The demarcation of the Supreme Commander's "task" in the directive constituted still another problem for the Com-


bined Chiefs of Staff. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff held that the British had not gone far enough in their initial statement, "You will enter the Continent of Europe and undertake operations to secure lodgments from which further offensive action can be aimed at the heart of Germany." Fearful that the British might be trying to limit operations to establishment of a beachhead and a holding action, while the main operations went on elsewhere, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff insisted on a more positive order: "You shall enter the Continent . . . and undertake operations striking at the heart of Germany and destroy her forces." This bold declaration seemed unrealistic to the British in view of the fact that the available Allied force of forty divisions was obviously insufficient to overwhelm the German Army. Amendments were ultimately added to the American version, which retained the aim of the U.S. statement, while associating the forces of the United Nations in the operation. This revised draft was accepted by the Combined Chiefs of Staff on 11 February, and the final directive was issued on 12 February 1944.39

The Combined Chiefs of Staff directive to General Eisenhower declared:

1. You are hereby designated as Supreme Allied Commander of the forces placed under your orders for operations for the liberation of Europe from the Germans. Your title will be Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force.

2. Task. You will enter the continent of Europe, and, in conjunction with the other United Nations, undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces. The date for entering the Continent is the month of May 1944. After adequate channel ports have been secured, exploitation will be directed to securing an area that will facilitate both ground and air operations against the enemy.

3. Notwithstanding the target date above, you will be prepared at any time to take immediate advantage of favorable circumstances, such as the withdrawal by the enemy on your front, to effect a re-entry into the Continent with such forces as you have available at the time; a general plan for this operation when approved will be furnished for your assistance.

4. Command. You are responsible to the Combined Chiefs of Staff and will exercise command generally in accordance with the diagram at Appendix A. Direct communication with the United States and British Chiefs of Staff is authorized in the interest of facilitating your operations and for arranging necessary logistic support.

5. Logistics. In the United Kingdom the responsibility for logistics organization, concentration, movement and supply of forces to meet the requirements of your plan will rest with British Service Ministries so far as British Forces are concerned. So far as United States Forces are concerned, this responsibility will rest with the United States War and Navy Departments. You will be responsible for the co-ordination of logistical arrangements on the continent. You will also be responsible for co-ordinating the requirements of British and United States Forces under your command.

6. Co-ordination of operations of other Forces and Agencies. In preparation for your assault on enemy occupied Europe, Sea and Air Forces, agencies of sabotage, subversion and propaganda, acting under a variety of authorities, are now in action. You may recommend any variation in these activities which may seem to you desirable.

7. Relationship to United Nations Forces in other areas. Responsibility will rest with the Combined Chiefs of Staff for supplying information relating to operations of the forces of the U.S.S.R. for your guidance in timing your operations. It is understood that the Soviet forces will launch an offensive at about the same time as OVERLORD with the object of preventing the German forces from transferring from the Eastern to the Western front. The Allied Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean




Theater, will conduct operations designed to assist your operation, including the launching of an attack against the south of France at about the same time as OVERLORD. The scope and timing of his operations will be decided by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. You will establish contact with him and submit to the Combined Chiefs of Staff your views and recommendations regarding operations from the Mediterranean in support of your attack from the United Kingdom. The Combined Chiefs of Staff will place under your command the forces operating in Southern France as soon as you are in a position to assume such command. You will submit timely recommendations compatible with this regard.

8. Relationship with Allied Governments--the re-establishment of Civil Governments and Liberated Allied Territories and the administration of Enemy Territories. Further instructions will be issued to you on these subjects at a later date.

Under the provisions of this document, General Eisenhower, who had been functioning as Supreme Commander for nearly a month, assumed formal command of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, on 13 February, and on the following day announced the names of his principal staff officers.40 (Chart 2)

The Supreme Commander had good reasons for being pleased with his directive. Stated in the most general terms, it left him great freedom in exercising command and in outlining the details of his operations against Germany. The restrictive features which might have reduced him to the position of a political chairman of allied forces or which would have narrowed the scope of his mission had been omitted. The greatest allied army in history had been placed under his control.


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1. Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-42, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1953), discusses the Allied command structure at some length.

2. See below. pp. 140-52.

3. Ray S. Cline, Washington Command Post: The Operations Division, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1951).

4. Eisenhower's views on British practice are contained in a statement in Diary Office CinC, 16 Sep 43, and in Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 8 Feb 43, Eisenhower personal file. Churchill to Br COS, 24 Oct 43, SHAEF SGS 322.011/1 Comd and Control for Opn OVERLORD. Speech, Eisenhower to his stf, 21 Jan 44, Min of SAC's Confs.

5. Gordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1951), Ch. I, has an account of the development of this organization.

6. Initially Admiral Harold R. Stark, as Chief of Naval Operations, and Admiral King, as Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, were both members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The offices held by Stark and King were combined in March 1942 and given to Admiral King. Stark went to London as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.

7. The official records of the conferences used the code words instead of place names for the conferences, while the press referred to place names. To avoid confusion place names are used throughout this volume except in the citation of documents or in direct quotations. ARCADIA--the conference that established the Combined Chiefs of Staff--was actually the first formal meeting of the President, Prime Minister, and the British and U.S. Chiefs of Staff. It was held December 1941-January 1942.

8. Field Marshal Dill died in November 1944 and was replaced by Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. The original members of the Joint Staff Mission in Washington were Lt. Gen. Sir Colville Weymss, head of the British Army Staff; Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur T. Harris, head of the Air Staff; and Admiral Sir Charles Little, head of the British Admiralty Delegation. Later changes were as follows: Maj. Gen. R. H. Dewing (March 1942), replaced in June 1942 by Lt. Gen. G. N. Macready: Admiral Cunningham (June 1942), replaced in December 1942 by Admiral Sir Percy Noble; Air Vice Marshal D. C. S. Evill (February 1942), replaced in June 1943 by Air Marshal Sir William Welsh.

9. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 455-57; Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, p. 106.

10. CinC Dispatch, North African Campaign, MS, p. 1, OCMH files.

11. Annex, Ltr, Stirling to Eisenhower, 8 Oct 42, SGS AFHQ 381-2, quoted in History of AFHQ August-December 1942, 1945, MS, OCMH files.

12. For exchange of correspondence, see entry for 9 October 1942 in Diary Office CinC. General Ismay informed the author on 20 December 1947 that he recalled no similar instructions being issued Montgomery in 1944. Something like the "model" instructions were later issued by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Lt. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney when he assumed command of U.S. Forces in the Mediterranean theater.

13. Br COS Memo, CCS 75, 5 Jun 42; JCS Memo, CCS 75/1, 26 Aug 42.

14. RAF Note on Comd Organization, 16 Apr 43, SHAEF SGS 322 Comd and Control of Allied Air Forces. It should be noted that at a time when it appeared that a British commander would lead the cross-Channel forces, U.S. military leaders had suggested proposals somewhat like those recommended by the British. For example, Eisenhower, in the Operations Division of the War Department in May 1942, had suggested something like the system discussed above. See Eisenhower proposals, 11 May 42, CofS file, BOLERO 381.

15. Appreciation of Opn OVERLORD Plan, Sec. 40, Pt. I, SHAEF SGS 381 Opn OVERLORD, I(a). Morgan's proposals included three other principles which were to be accepted: (1) British-Canadian forces should be based on ports nearest the United Kingdom to simplify lines of communications, since it was assumed that U.S. forces would ultimately be supplied direct from the U.S. and would need to be on the western side of the attack; (2) normally no formation smaller than a corps should be placed under command of another nationality; and (3) troops of both nationalities should take part in the assault.

16. The initial COSSAC plan for OVERLORD called for one U.S. and three British divisions in the assault under a British army commander.

17. Draft Ltr (unsigned), Devers to Morgan, 4 Sep 44; Comments of COSSAC staff on Devers' letter, undated; Memo on Devers' letter, 10 Sep 43. All in SHAEF SGS 322.011/1 Comd and Control for OVERLORD. Morgan to Devers, 16 Sep 43, ABC (22 Jan 43), Sec I.

18. CCS 304/2, 304/3, and 304/4, 12 and 19 Oct 43.

19. The naval command question, which was left largely to the British, was not as difficult as the other two. This was true chiefly because of the assumption until shortly before D Day that the British would furnish nearly all the naval support for the assault.

20. It should be remembered that at this time it was generally believed that Marshall would command the OVERLORD operation.

21. Morgan to Barker, 28 Oct 43; Barker to Morgan, 3 Nov 43; Morgan to Barker, 6 Nov 43. All in Barker personal file.

22. CCS 124th and 126th Mtgs, 22 Oct and 5 Nov 43; JSM to Br COS, 6 Nov 43. Both in SHAEF SGS 322.011/2 Dirs to Subordinate Comdrs.

23. Marshall to Devers, R-5874, 18 Nov 43, Hq SOS file, gives text of agreement of CCS on directives to Leigh-Mallory. Morgan Dir to Leigh-Mallory, 16 Nov 43, SHAEF SGS 322.011/3 Summary of Dirs.

24. Mtg of comdrs, 25 Nov 43, SHAEF SGS 322.011/2 Dirs to Subordinate Comdrs; COSSAC Dirs to CinC 21 A Gp, 29 Nov 43, SHAEF SGS 322.011/1 Comd and Control for Opn OVERLORD.

25. See below, pp. 180-81.

26. Mr. Churchill's surprise at the British proposal of Admiral Little and his reservations are noted in Quebec Conf Min, 23 Aug 43. Ltr, H. N. Morrison to Admiral Ramsay, 4 Nov 43, SHAEF SGS 322 Organization and Personnel ANCXF.

27. CinC U.S. Fleet and CNO to Comdr U.S. Forces, Europe, 29 Oct 43, SHAEF SGS 322.011/2 Dirs to Subordinate Comdrs.

28. Dir, Admiral Ramsay to Naval Comdr, Western Task Force, 31 Jan 44; Dir, Admiral Ramsay to Naval Comdr, Eastern Task Force, 18 Jan 44. Both in SHAEF SGS 322.011/2 Dirs to Subordinate Comdrs.

29. Before this time the U.S. strategic air forces sent to the United Kingdom for participation in the POINTBLANK operation against Germany in 1943 were placed, along with RAF Bomber Command, under the strategic direction of Air Chief Marshal Portal, who acted as agent of the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

30. Portal to Devers, 16 Jun 43; Maj Gen Ira C. Eaker to Devers, 17 Jun 43; Devers to Portal, 19 Jun 43. All in AG Active Records Branch 312.1 Devers Correspondence (1943). Portal's proposal to Br COS, COS (43) 125th Mtg, 16 Jun 43, SHAEF SGS 322.011/2 Dirs to Subordinate Comdrs; CCS 113th Mtg, 20 Aug 43, Quebec Conf Min.

31. Air Defence of Great Britain replaced Fighter Command in spring of 1944. (Leigh-Mallory was directly responsible to the British Chiefs of Staff for the Air Defence of Great Britain until such time as his headquarters moved overseas when separate arrangements were to be made.) In October 1944 Fighter Command was revived. Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, XC, February 1945.

32. Marshall to Devers, R-5874, 18 Nov 43, Hq SOS file, gives text of agreement of CCS on directives to Leigh-Mallory. Dir, Morgan to Leigh-Mallory, 16 Nov 43, SHAEF SGS 322.011/3 Summary of Dirs.

33. Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in World War II: II, Europe-TORCH to POINTBLANK, August 1942 to December 1943 (Chicago 1949), pp. 751-56.

34. 21 Army Group, Second British Army, and Headquarters, First Canadian Army, were all activated in the summer of 1943.

35. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 211; Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 24 Aug 43, Eisenhower personal file.

36. Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier's Story (New York, 1951), Ch. I. It is clear that General Bradley was the first choice of both General Marshall and General Eisenhower for this post.

37. General Morgan had written in November that the British Chiefs of Staff would soon submit a directive for the ground force commander which "prescribes a command relationship within a component element of the forces under the command of SAC [the Supreme Allied Commander] and assigns a mission to the commander of that element. This is considered to be an exclusive function of SAC." Morgan to Marshall, 18 Nov 43, SHAEF SGS 322.011/2 Dirs to Subordinate Comdrs.

38. Br COS to JSM, 5 Jan 44; Morgan to Marshall for Eisenhower, 7 Jan 45. Both in SHAEF SGS 322.011 CCS Dir to SCAEF. A number of charts of proposals and counterproposals submitted by the U.S. and British Chiefs of Staff in January and February 1944 and correspondence containing the arguments and final decision may also be found in the above file.

39. See entire file SHAEF SGS 322.011 CCS Dir to SCAEF.

40. The Supreme Commander's General Order 1, announcing assumption of Supreme Command effective at 1201, was dated 13 February 1944. General Order 2, listing appointments, is dated 14 February 1944.

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