The secret American-British Conversations (ABC) between military Staff representatives of the two nations, which took place in Washington from 29 January to 27 March 1941,1 were a rational development in the drift of the United States toward active participation in World War II. The drift was marked by well-defined stages. Great Britain's purchase of airplanes and other munitions2 had started as a series of normal business transactions with private manufacturers in the American open market. By developing in 1938 to a grand-scale enterprise it had affected the American military program itself by reason of open-market competition with Army and Navy procurement activities. In the following year this competition became so real a concern of the American military establishment that on 6 July 1939 President Roosevelt assigned to the Army and Navy Munitions Board the task of coordinating such purchases. On 6 December 1939 he designated an informal interdepartmental committee (made up of the Treasury Department's Director of Procurement, the Army's Quartermaster General, and the Navy's Paymaster General) to take over this function and to "serve as the exclusive liaison with reference to procurement matters between this Government and the interested foreign Government." By mid-1940, when the importance of exact coordination of purchases had grown still greater, the liaison mechanism was given formal status as the Interdepartmental Committee For Coordination of Foreign and Domestic Military Purchases, with Col. James H. Burns as Army representative; the liaison with the White House was, as before, via the Secretary of the Treasury.3 In 1940, it will be recalled, there was a formal division of American plane production schedules so that Great Britain would get a stated part of the whole output even when the residue was insufficient to meet the existing schedule of American
Coordination With Britain
rearming.4 The direct shipment from U.S. Army stores of weapons and ammunition to Britain in the great emergency of June 1940 involved the military establishment still more deeply, and was in no sense an open-market transaction. The subsequent exchange of the fifty U. S. Navy destroyers in September 1940 for leases of Britain's west Atlantic bases, however profitable for both nations, cannot be presented as an act of unquestionable neutrality as between Britain and Germany.5 Cordell Hull in later years remarked that in November 1940 "three days after the Presidential election Mr. Roosevelt announced that henceforth half of all the planes and other implements of war produced in the United States would go to Britain."6 At a press conference on 17 December 1940 the President announced his plan for Lend-Lease (enacted into law in March 1941), under which the now immense flow of munitions to Great Britain and other nations at war with the Axis would be determined by the Allies' need for such supplies (and America's ability to supply them) rather than by the current or prospective ability of the beneficiaries to pay for them as normal purchases. The announcement came at a time when British ship losses had mounted to the unprecedented rate of 4.6 million ship tons a year (it would reach 5.4 millions in April 1940 against a British shipbuilding rate of 1.5 million tons, and bringing from Admiral Stark a forecast that Britain could not at this rate outlast another six months. The Lend-Lease announcement was clearly intended to commit the United States to further, and purposely unlimited, aid to Britain, and thus to help overcome the discouragement of the shipping losses. It was a public and official declaration of the principle which the Army's War Plans Division in that same month was enunciating when it recommended a major national policy of maximum "aid to Britain, short of war."7
These increasingly wide departures from a strict neutrality as between two warring nations were, with one exception (the contemplated manning of the west Atlantic bases), concerned wholly with matériel. The planning activities of Army and Navy had necessarily been concerned also with personnel, to be sure, but up to then had involved only such informal contact with the British as the Ghormley-Strong-Emmons visit to London in August 1940 and similar exchanges of information between military representatives. Yet it had now become apparent that no reliable planning for possible military action in either hemisphere, anticipating an ultimate conflict with Germany and Italy, or with Japan, or with all three, could be carried on without a fairly definite understanding of what could be expected from Britain in such an event. The U. S. Navy at this time still was manifestly a one-ocean navy incapable of engaging enemies simultaneously in both seas, and its chiefs were increasingly aware that against an energetic Japan it could not at the moment be responsible for policing the whole of even the Pacific Ocean. It was accordingly Admiral Stark who took the lead in pointing to the necessity of knowing what could be expected from the British in an emergency, and hence in suggesting a conference with responsible British Staff officers. The suggestion, welcomed by General Marshall, was accordingly pursued and on 2 December 1940 it became known in the War Department that a British delegation would come to Washington for the awaited "exchange of ideas."8
Rationally such a high-level discussion would not, like earlier conferences, be for consideration merely of further purchases or lend-lease of matériel; the aim clearly was for consideration of a contingent employment of American personnel and American combat units in a theater or theaters of war. The discussion could not avoid some degree of joint planning of U.S.-British strategy, contingent though it would be by advance stipulation, and negative though it would be, for the same reason, in political commitment of the United States to any war agreement whatever. Cautious as these stipulations would be, and scrupulous as "political" (as distinguished from "military") members of the United States Government would be in abstaining from official attendance, the very subject matter of the discussions and the two-nation participation in them alike marked an epochal change in the war policy of the United States. The conferring Staff members were to be of high level, but not the highest in the case of either nation, and this supported the polite assurance that the conference decisions would not
be actually binding upon anyone. Constitutionally of course they could not be. Yet examination of the list of conference delegates shows how instantly responsive each American participant would be to the chief of the service he represented and hence to the government itself. The Navy members were Rear Adm. (later Vice Adm.) Robert L. Ghormley, Special Naval Observer in London, Capt. (later Admiral) R.K. Turner, director of the Navy's WPD, his assistant, Capt. (later Commodore) Oscar Smith, and Capt. (later Admiral) Alan G. Kirk, former naval attaché in London lately become Director of Naval Intelligence in Washington. Captain Smith was replaced by Capt. (later Admiral) DeWitt C. Ramsey, and Lt. Col. O.T. Pfeiffer, USMC, was added. Mentioning these appointments in a 26 December memorandum to the Chief of Staff,9 General Gerow recommended the Army's naming General Embick (then engaged in organizing hemisphere defense), General Gerow and Col. (later Gen.) J.T. McNarney, both of WPD, and Brig. Gen. (later Maj. Gen.) Sherman Miles, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, who were so named shortly.10 Lt. Col. W.S. Scobey and Commander L.C. McDowell were the American secretaries of the meeting.
The mounting anxieties of late 1940 had so convinced both Chief of Staff and Chief of Naval Operations of the need for a unified American military policy, accepted by the President in advance of any meeting with the British, that in their capacities as joint Board members they had already, in mid-December, directed the Joint Planning Committee to prepare recommendations for the agenda of the coming meeting.11 Inevitably preparation called for consultations with the Chiefs themselves, and the committee's resultant memorandum to the Joint Board, signed by Colonel McNarney and Captain Turner, presumably struck an attitude which it was known would be acceptable to higher authority. Significant passages in this critically worded document follow:
Establishing the American Position Prior to the British Parley
Recent British political and military leadership has not been outstanding with the exception of Prime Minister Churchill's leadership, Admiral Cunningham's command
of the Mediterranean fleet, and General Wavell's command of the British forces in Egypt. It is believed that we cannot afford, nor do we need, to entrust our national future to British direction, because the United States can safeguard the North American continent and probably the western hemisphere, whether allied with Britain or not.
United States Army and Naval officials are in rather general agreement that Great Britain cannot encompass the defeat of Germany unless the United States provides that nation with direct military assistance, plus a far greater degree of material aid than is being given now; and that, even then, success against the Axis is not assured.
It is to be expected that proposals of the British representatives will have been drawn up with chief regard for the support of the British Commonwealth. Never absent from British minds are their post-war interests, commercial and military. We should likewise safeguard our own eventual interests. . . .
In order to avoid commitment by the President, neither he nor any of his Cabinet should officially receive the British officers; therefore the Joint Planning Committee recommends that the British representatives be informally received by the Under Secretary of State, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Chief of Staff. . . .12
Something of this same suspicion of British intentions was being exhibited by the military attaché, Brig. Gen. Raymond E. Lee. On 7 January he informed his superior in Washington that the British Chiefs of Staff had prepared for the use of their delegates in the coming Staff Conversations data so secret that they did not see fit to discuss them with him at the time. He proceeded: "It seems to me that proposals which have taken them a month or more to draw up justify most careful scrutiny and analysis by our own authorities. . . . The United States might find itself being urged to conclude far-reaching and binding agreements without sufficient examination."13
It must be remembered that at this season the British situation was none too secure. The shipping losses were still mounting and destined to continue mounting. The end of 1940 had seen a lull in the bombing of London, but there was no certainty that the lull would last long. On the contrary, in late January one of the Army's most trusted military observers was predicting freely that the Germans would make a new air-and-land onslaught in the spring or early summer. "I am certain they are going to England . . ." he said. "Last fall there was a doubt as to what they might do. However, now there is none in my mind. . . ."14 The observer spoke lightly of a Nazi invasion of South America, which he was confident Germany, a land power, would not attempt in the certainty of being opposed by the United States Navy. He remarked that the
Germans were less interested in South America than in the Soviet Union, in which midyear developments would prove his judgment correct. To this sound estimate he added, in discussing invasion of the USSR, that "if they [the Germans] massed their forces, it would be as easy as ABC," an estimate not borne out by events.15
Accompanying the Joint Planning Committee's memorandum were proposals of procedure and agenda and a statement of the United States' national position that was approved verbatim by the two senior members of the joint Board.16 By 26 January this statement apparently had been seen by the Secretaries of War and Navy and certainly examined in detail by the President, as on that day Mr. Roosevelt returned it to the Secretary of the Navy with revisions.17 The statement was intended, in line with the Planning Committee's admonitions, to discourage the British visitors at the outset from enterprises unacceptable to the United States, and to channel the conversations into areas of usefulness for the planners of both nations. As finally delivered by the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff, the statement contained these significant passages:
- As understood by these two officers the purpose of these staff conversations is to determine the best methods by which the armed forces of the United States and the British Commonwealth can defeat Germany and the powers allied with her, should the United States be compelled to resort to war.
- The American people as a whole desire now to remain out of war, and to provide only material and economic aid to Great Britain. So long as this attitude is maintained it must be supported by their responsible military and naval authorities. Therefore no specific commitments can now be made except as to technical methods of cooperation. Military plans which may be envisaged must for the present remain contingent upon the future political action of both nations. All such plans are subject to eventual official approval by both governments. . . .
- If the U.S. Government decides to make war in common with the British Commonwealth, it is the present view of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff: that
- The broad military objective of the United States operations will be the defeat of Germany and her allies, but the United States necessarily must also maintain dispositions which under all eventualities will prevent the extensions in the western hemisphere of European or Asiatic political and military power.
- The objective of the war will be most effectively attained by the United States exerting its principal military effort in the Atlantic or navally in the Mediterranean regions.
- The United States and British Commonwealth should endeavor to keep Japan from entering the war or attacking the Dutch.
- Should Japan enter the war, United States operations in the mid-Pacific and the Far East would be conducted in such a manner as to facilitate the exertion of its principal military effort in the Atlantic or navally in the Mediterranean.
- As a general rule United States forces should operate in their own areas of responsibility, under their own commanders, and in accordance with plans derived from the United States-British joint plans.
- The United States will continue to furnish material aid to Great Britain but will retain for building up its own forces material in such proportions as to provide for future security and best to effectuate United States-British joint plans for defeating Germany.
- The scope of the staff conversations should preferably cover the examination of those military efforts which will contribute most directly to the defeat of Germany. As a preliminary to military cooperation tentative agreements should be reached concerning the allocation of the principal areas of responsibility, the major lines of the military strategy to be pursued by both nations, the strength of the forces which each may be able to commit, and the determination of satisfactory command arrangements, both as to supreme control and as to unity of field command in cases of tactical joint operations. Staff conversations should also include an examination into the present military situations of the United States and the British Commonwealth, and also into the probable situations that might result from the loss of the British Isles.
- The Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff would appreciate it if the British Staff representatives could furnish the United States Staff representatives with an estimate of the military situation of the British Commonwealth as a preliminary to the staff discussions.18
It was in paragraph 2 of the original draft that the President, politically vigilant, had spotted a verbal serpent. The military advisers had written ". . . should the United States desire to resort to war." The President made it read "should the United States be compelled to resort to war," and his wording was of course adopted.19 Other revisions of slight concern were made (the President substituted "Associates" for "Allies" and suggested that aid in the Mediterranean would be given "navally"), and the initial statement of United States views, almost exactly as the two military chiefs had drawn it up, was presented accordingly on 29 January when the two delegations met in a Navy Building room vacated for the purpose of the conference.
Although the plan had been for the British visitors to be welcomed officially by the Under Secretary of State as well as by the military chiefs of Army and Navy, Mr. Welles was absent20 No official on the Cabinet level was present to confess political knowledge of this meeting of military technicians and, having made welcoming speeches, neither Admiral Stark nor General Marshall took part in ensuing discussions. That both were kept currently informed was well understood,21 but the warnings contained in their opening statement were, with one notable exception, enough to prevent the raising of issues beyond the intended scope of the American delegates' authority. That exception was the British effort on 12 February to exact an agreement upon American aid to Singapore, an issue so important that it called for consideration--but not at these Washington conversations. The resultant proposals for Singapore and the Far East in general will be discussed later.
The American-British Conversations of January 1941
By 5 March the United States Chiefs of Staff Committee, directing its energies to the more promising cooperative prospect of the Atlantic, had reached tentative agreement upon the proposed mission of ground and air forces in the British Isles. The following proposal, with General Gerow's recommendation, was submitted to the Chief of Staff:
- The primary role of the land forces of the Associated Powers will be to hold the British Isles against invasion; to defend the western hemisphere, and to protect naval bases and islands of strategic importance against land, air, or seaborne attack. Forces will be built up for an eventual offensive in a manner to be agreed upon at a later date.
- The primary objective of the air forces, subject to the requirements of the security of the United States and an unimpaired pursuit cover in the British Isles, will be to reduce as quickly as possible the disparity between the Associated and enemy air strength particularly with respect to long-range striking forces operating from and against the British Isles22
The memorandum covering the recommendation bears General Marshall's OK of 6 March 1941.23 In the next two weeks agreements were reached on several items and on 19 March General Gerow was able to give to the Chief of Staff for his scrutiny, and presentation to the Secretary of War, drafts of all the conference "serials" to date. They included the report of the Staff Conversations themselves
thus far, the report on Strategic Direction of Military Forces, that on Communications, that on Control of Shipping, and that on Estimates of Time for U.S. Naval Forces to Be on Station.24
Ten days later the conversations ended with a detailed report of agreement on basic policies, primary objectives, and the plans for attaining them--all on a contingent basis as scheduled.25 The agreements were "subject to confirmation by the Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff, and the Chiefs of Staff Committee of the War Cabinet in the United Kingdom," and by "the Governments of the United States and . . . United Kingdom." The governmental confirmation, which could come only from President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, was not given, either for the ABC report or for the later Joint RAINBOW Plan 5 that was based upon the unconfirmed ABC compact. Even so, the Staff views were so clearly expressed and accepted by both sides that, while the approval of higher authority was being awaited, planning could proceed. The Staff Conversations served to put into written form the views which already were held and on which there was general agreement, to make a few significant additions to those views, and to permit declarations of a highly particularized nature on the division of responsibility, the actual areas in which troops would be used, the probable number of Army units, planes, and ships, and the character of command.
The stated and obvious purpose of the Staff Conversations Report, made in two installments, ABC-1 and ABC-2, was "to determine the best method by which the armed forces of the United States and British Commonwealth, with its present Allies, could defeat Germany and the Powers allied with her, should the United States be compelled to resort to war." This made it desirable "to coordinate, on broad lines, plans for the employment of the forces of the Associated Powers" and encouraged the conference
The Agreements Reached at ABC
. . . to reach agreements concerning the methods and nature of Military Cooperation between the two nations, including the allocation of the principal areas of responsibility, the
major lines of the Military strategy to be pursued by both nations, the strength of the forces which each may be able to commit, and the determination of satisfactory command arrangements, both as to supreme Military control and as to unity of field command in cases of strategic and tactical joint operations.26
One of the contingent commitments provided that "the High Command of the United States and United Kingdom will collaborate continuously in the formulation and execution of strategic policies and plans which will govern the conduct of the war."27 It is a memorable statement, for events immediately following the conference dictated that it become partially operative, and in this pledge is discernible the genesis of the fully cooperative Combined Chiefs of Staff organization which in less than a year came into being as agreed upon. The report proceeds: "The Staff Conference assumes that when the United States becomes involved in war with Germany it will at the same time engage in war with Italy. In these circumstances, the possibility of a state of war arising . . . [with Japan] must be taken into account."28 This was a considerable element in the decision that
. . . the United States will continue to furnish material aid to the United Kingdom but . . . will retain matériel in such quantities as to provide for security and best to effectuate United States-British joint plans for defeating Germany and her allies. It is recognized that the amount and nature of the material aid which the United States affords the British Commonwealth will influence the size and character of the Military forces which will be available to the United States for use in the war. The broad strategic objective of the Associated Powers will be the defeat of Germany and her allies.29
The strategic defense policies of the two nations were three:
(1) that America's paramount territorial interest was in the Western Hemisphere, (2) that the security of the United Kingdom must be maintained in all circumstances and that dispositions must provide "for the ultimate security of the British Commonwealth of Nations," a cardinal policy being retention of a Far East position "such as will assure the cohesion and security of the British Commonwealth," (3) that security of sea communications of the Associated Powers was essential.30
The accepted offensive policies were seven:
- To maintain an economic blockade of the Axis by sea, land, air, and by commodity control through diplomatic and financial means.
- To conduct a sustained air offensive to destroy Axis military power.
- To effect "early elimination" of Italy as an Axis partner (of which much more, of a less harmonious nature, would be heard in 1943).
- To conduct raids and minor offensives.
- To support neutrals and underground groups in resisting the Axis.
- To build up the necessary forces for the eventual offensive against Germany.
- To capture positions from which to launch that offensive. (On this, too, there would be controversy in 1942 and 1943.)31
In pursuit of these basic policies it was agreed that "the Atlantic and European area is considered to be the decisive theater" and that in it accordingly would be exerted the chief American effort, although the "great importance" of the Mediterranean and North African areas was noted. The principal activity contemplated for United States Navy forces in the Atlantic would be in the protection of the shipping of the Associated Powers.32 The emphasis on this, in early 1941, when the new ground and air forces of the Army were still largely in incubation and deficient in training and equipment, marks a recognition of the Navy's existing resources as America's most useful contribution in immediate prospect, and already needed for coping with Britain's dismal situation at sea where sinkings by U-boats continued to mount. During the Staff Conferences, in fact, a U.S. Navy group headed by Capt. (later Admiral) Louis A. Denfeld was sent to Northern Ireland and western Scotland to inspect base sites for U.S. Navy surface and air forces "which at some date in the future might be employed on escort of convoys."33 The message which was originally sent mentioned that the War Department contemplated assigning two Army officers to the party sailing on 21 February, but on reconsideration the mission was decided to be solely one for naval personnel.
It was agreed further that if Japan should enter the war, military strategy in the Far East would be defensive, the United States making no promise of adding to its military strength in the Orient but agreeing to "employ the United States Pacific Fleet offensively in the manner best calculated to weaken Japanese economic power . . . by diverting Japanese strength away from Malaysia."34 It was pointedly observed in the report (and was to be sharply emphasized later in the year) that America's augmentations of forces in the Atlantic and Mediterranean
would enable the British Commonwealth "to release the necessary forces for the Far East."35
As to the land forces of the Associated Powers, the principal defensive roles would be to hold the British Isles against invasion, to defend the Western Hemisphere, and to protect outlying military bases and islands of strategic importance. The land forces of the United States, in particular, would "support the United States' naval and air forces maintaining the security of the Western Hemisphere or operating in the areas bordering on the Atlantic. . . . [They] will, as a general rule, provide ground and anti-aircraft defenses of naval and air bases used primarily by United States forces."36
Subject to requirements of security for the bases and for land and sea communications, the agreed air policy was to be "directed toward achieving as quickly as possible superiority of air strength." The American air resources in particular would be used to support the United States' land and naval forces, and to defend their bases. Offensively, they would be used in collaboration with the Royal Air Force against German military power.37 This was the general statement; the particulars of air force employment were enumerated in the ABC-2 annex, dated 29 March, which was prepared by the three aviation authorities of the conference, Vice-Marshal J. C. Slessor, Captain Ramsey and Colonel McNarney, and approved by their colleagues.38
There obviously was a great deal of detail which the annexes to the main document could not encompass, and this, plus a continuing liaison, was left to military missions which the British and American parties to the conversations agreed to exchange. (The United States agreed also to exchange with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand such liaison officers as would be necessary).39 These essential missions were in fact designated with little delay, regardless of the fact that the conversations that created them never were given the formal approval which had been termed necessary. The principles of future cooperation, the areas of sea responsibility, and the specific number of combat units that would be available were laid down in the document itself--of necessity, if the United States planning establishment was to proceed with the newest and much the most important of the RAINBOW Plans, No. 5. It was this objective which, months before, had made
the conversations necessary.40 Further, it now was anticipated that, even in advance of a declared war, there might be need for deploying American naval vessels in the Atlantic in a more intensive manner, and this anticipation was borne out in the closing days of the Staff Conversations. (On 25 March 1941 Germany announced that U-boat warfare, hitherto conducted for the most part in waters immediately surrounding the British Isles, now would be extended to the eastern coast of Greenland.) In Annex II therefore, the ABC planners assigned to the U.S. Navy in the event of war the waters of the Atlantic west of long. 30° W and north of lat. 25° N, excepting the Canadian defense area and a zone southwest of the Azores. In the Pacific the U.S. Navy responsibility was much more extended, the British Navy agreeing to patrol only the south and southwest areas. The responsibility for strategic direction of the Associated Powers' naval forces in the Far East (except those which were retained by the Commander in Chief of the US Asiatic Fleet for Philippines defense) was without argument assigned to the British.41
Annex III of the conversations made a formal designation of naval, land, and air tasks, and in doing so listed the forces of both nations which should be available. In the naval tasks (for performing which each nation's naval contributions were listed by ship classes) were included the work of ocean escort, of striking force, patrol force, fleet marine force, and of the coastal frontier defense. For the land tasks to be assigned to the U.S. Army it was noted that 2 cavalry, 6 armored, and 27 infantry divisions were in training, but that of these only 2 armored and 4 infantry divisions could be ready by September 1941. The U.S. Army air forces then being organized were numbered at 41 groups. This was recognized as a start in the 54-group program, from which an expansion to 100 groups was already envisaged. The number immediately available was not stated.42 A warning of American intentions with regard to the output of the new airplane factories was presented in ABC-2:
Allocation of output from new capacity for production of military aircraft beyond that envisaged [in the stated commitment] should, in principle, and subject to periodical review, be based on the following:
- Until such time as the United States may enter the war, the entire output from such new capacity should be made available to the British.
- If the United States enters the war . . . for planning purposes the United Kingdom should assume that such capacity will be divided on approximately a 50/50 basis between the United States and the British Commonwealth.43
This applied chiefly to Army air equipment, the need for which would be swift. U.S. Navy aviation progress, it was stated, would "reach maturity concurrently with completion of the authorized shipbuilding program in the fiscal year 1946," the need for carrier-based planes obviously having a relationship to the completion of carriers.44
The importance of an agreement being not only in what it says but in what it is meant to emphasize, there is interest in two contemporary comments upon it. One is a quick digest of the recommendations that was prepared, it would seem, in WPD and filed with other basic documents of the period. It summarizes the findings thus:
American Interpretations of the Agreement
That the paramount interest of the United States lies in the Western Hemisphere.
That the security of the British Isles must be maintained.
That full economic pressure will be maintained against the totalitarian powers.
That military (including air and naval) measures will be maintained against the totalitarian powers.
In order to accomplish . . . [this, assign] strategic areas of responsibility . . . Pacific area . . . [and] Western Atlantic area to the United States. The Far East area, including China and Malaysia . . . the Eastern Atlantic and Middle East to Great Britain. . . .
Initial United States naval operations will be to maintain a strategic naval reserve in the Pacific, in order to influence Japan against further aggression; and to relieve Great Britain of responsibility for security of shipping in the Western Atlantic, including the North Atlantic route to the British Isles.
United States Army operations initially are limited to providing combat aviation in support of the British Isles, including offensive operations against Germany, relieving certain British garrisons in the Western Hemisphere (Curacao and Aruba), protecting such bases as may be established by the Navy, and building up a strategic reserve to be used in future decisive operations.45
The other document is Colonel McNarney's summary of what he regarded as the important points of ABC-2 on which he and his aviation colleagues had done most of the work. This summary he prepared for General Arnold's use on
a forthcoming trip to England for examination of base facilities in the British Isles. Colonel McNarney suggested that the Air Deputy should note the following points:
- ABC-2, in listing the allocations of equipment, had planned factory delivery to the United States of a certain number of planes and "so long as we are not at war" release of all others six months earlier than scheduled. But, again, this was to "hold good only while not at war."
- The United States therefore was deferring the 54-group plan at the expense of American security, in order to get planes into the combat zone. In view of this, requests which were not closely coordinated with actual military needs, or which ignored the possible effect on the American program, might delay rather than advance superiority in the combat zone. The British request for four B-18 cargo planes was cited as an example of minor aid to the British and injury to the American training program. All British requests, it was advised, should come through military channels, preferably with concurrence of the Mission.46
Colonel McNarney reminded General Arnold that the United States planning for air activities contemplated the use, when ready, of three groups of pursuit planes in Northern Ireland, to protect two near-by naval bases. Pursuit groups were to be "broken in" there and then were to pass on to more active sectors in England. Three heavy and two medium bomber groups were contemplated for duty in England, operating under American commanders in the British Bomber Command, and there was a suggestion that it "might be well to insist that they be not scattered" in small units--survival of the abiding American insistence upon American command of American forces. "We propose to establish a bomber command to control operations; strategic tasks to be assigned by the British."47 The tentative troop tables of the RAINBOW 5 Plan then being worked out in line with ABC, as affecting the ground force assignment to the British Isles--inclusion in this memorandum demonstrating how closely tuned the ABC Staff Conversations were to current war-planning of the United States forces--were summarized thus by Colonel McNarney:
- Reinforced division for Ireland.
- Ten antiaircraft regiments for protection of U.S. naval bases and airdromes in the British Isles, to be sent as bases are completed.
- Ten battalions of National Guard troops for protection of the bases.
- One reinforced regiment, a token force.48
Although commitments for the Middle East were avoided altogether in the discussion, the fact that in 1942-43 it would be "probably impossible to crowd any more operating units into the British Isles" induced the Staff to consider a plan for supporting large air forces "in Egypt, Asiatic Turkey, and Syria, via the Red Sea, with an airway via Takoradi, British Gold Coast to Cairo." At the same time it was stated "we are dead set against any commitments" in the Far East.49
In a significant declaration suggestive of the coming transfer (in May) of three U.S. battleships from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff united, on 4 April 1941, in informing the British Chiefs of Staff that, having approved the ABC report conditionally, they would "at an appropriate time" lay it before the President. Their message continued:
It is their opinion that the present grave threat to the sea communications of the United Kingdom may require a much stronger reinforcement of the United States Atlantic Fleet, by forces drawn from the Pacific, than is contemplated by the Report. In such circumstances, offensive action by the United States Pacific Fleet other than in connection with enemy trade, would necessarily become less influential.50
The last sentence quoted is particularly worthy of note, as an official recognition, eight months before Pearl Harbor, that the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific would be "less influential" than in the past. This consciousness of its limited powers was a factor in Navy planning (under RAINBOW 5) in the ensuing months. The fleet's unreadiness for long-range offensive operations was due in part to its need for a much larger supply "train" than was then on hand.
Events in the Atlantic were pressing rapidly at just this time. On the night of 3-4 April--a month after Hitler had declared Iceland to be in the war zone--a wolfpack attack of German submarines was directed against a convoy of ships in mid-ocean, south of Iceland, and ten of the merchantmen were sunk. As an immediate result the British Admiralty recognized the need of establishing a
Rapid Developments in the Atlantic War
convoy escort base on Iceland, where British Army elements had been on guard since May 1940. At President Roosevelt's direction Admiral Stark dispatched the destroyer Niblack to make reconnaissance of Iceland for American information, and on 7 April Admiral Stark issued the order by which during the next month the Navy shifted from Pacific to Atlantic waters the three battleships Idaho, Mississippi, and New Mexico, the carrier Yorktown, four light cruisers, and two squadrons of destroyers. Within that same week, however, Niblack engaged in what appears to have been the first World War II action, a very minor one, between armed forces of Germany and the United States. The destroyer was quitting Iceland when it paused to pick up survivors from a newly torpedoed Dutch merchantman. Detection devices revealed that the German submarine was not only still in the vicinity but was apparently maneuvering for another attack. Niblack took the initiative by moving in and dropping depth charges in the apparent vicinity of the raider, without recorded results save to drive the submarine away. On 18 April Admiral Ernest J. King, then commander of the Atlantic Fleet, issued Operations Plan No. 3, fixing at long. 26° W the eastern border of the Western Hemisphere.51
In the following month the concept of defending actively the Western Hemisphere rather than the American mainland alone, laid down in RAINBOW 1 (August 1939) and RAINBOW 4 (June 1940), was developed to the point of including not only Navy, but Army activities at three of the newly acquired bases. On 12 May 1941, under direction of the Secretary of War who in so grave a matter must have been acting with the knowledge and approval of the President, General Marshall sent to Admiral Stark this letter:
Orders were issued today to the Commanding General First Army, and the Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, to instruct Army Base Commanders in British possessions as follows:
"In case any force of belligerent powers, other than those powers which have sovereignty over Western Hemisphere territory, attacks or threatens to attack any British possessions on which any U.S. air or naval base is located, the commanding officer of the Army Base Force shall resist such attack, using all the means at his disposal."
This modifies the information contained in my memorandum of May 1, 1941 on the same subject.52
Filed with the copy of this letter is General Marshall's memorandum of the same day to WPD, quite clearly prepared for the record in order to show that this important step was not taken on his own responsibility:
Reference instructions to Army Base Commanders in British possessions, please note on the amended copy that the alterations are in the handwriting of the Secretary of War, that he directed the issuance of the instructions to Base Commanders, and that he further directed that a copy be sent to the State Department with a note informing them he had made the changes.
The 12 May 1941 directive to each commander on the newly leased bases to use all means at his disposal in resisting a force which threatened to attack one of the British islands on which there was an American base--is the first recorded explicit authorization to U.S. Army forces to engage in action not immediately related to the defense of an American installation.
As to the ABC-1 agreement, its final approval at the Cabinet level came some weeks after the end of the conversations. The report itself was signed only by the delegates, but upon the cover of a copy that was introduced in evidence at the Congressional Pearl Harbor Inquiry in 1946 is a penciled notation, itself unsigned and undated, reading: "Approved by Sec. Navy 28 May 1941. Approved by Sec. War 3 June 1941. Not approved by President." To that extent it was made clear by the Chief of State in the United States (and this was true of Great Britain as well) that the conversations were not those of the highest civil authority. The test specifically mentioned that agreements were subject to confirmation by the military chiefs (which was given) and also by the governments. These last confirmatory signatures were never affixed.
Significant as had been the August 1940 meetings in London "for standardization of arms," the Staff Conversations of January to March 1941 must be recognized as the true opening of formal permanent relations between American and British Staffs. The progress of this relationship was rapid. The importance of the contingent decisions that had been made, and the necessity of continuing exchange of information on which to make plans conforming to those decisions, was apparent. This made it desirable to establish a formal mechanism for making the exchange. Within a week of the close of conversations there was active discussion of the composition of a mission to be sent to London, the successful recommendation being that of WPD to the Chief of
The Start of Formal Military Cooperation of Britain and America
Staff, with which the Navy was in apparent agreement. It provided not for a united mission but for two "observer" groups, whose Army members would be wholly separated from the establishment of the military attaché at the Embassy, the purpose being to keep the attaché as a separate source of information: the Navy members assigned to London would also report to their own chief in Washington; there would be a "British Military Mission" in Washington representing Army, Navy, and Air, later formally designated the "British Joint Staff Mission in Washington."53 There was contemplated, eventually, a Commanding General U.S. Troops in Great Britain, his relations to the observers not stated in the recommendation. The primary function of the Army observers was to represent the War Department in the formulation of broad policies for the conduct of the war and for the planning and execution of joint tasks that might or might not be a direct concern of the United States forces in the British Isles. If the United States should enter the war, decision as to who would command the troops would then be made.54
The recommendation was approved by the Chief of Staff and the Secretary, with notification that the chief of the Army's delegation would be known as a "Special Army Observer, London," and his colleagues as "Special Assistant Army Observers, London." Even the word "mission" was avoided. The chief, it now was determined, was to be a "major general qualified and intended for the command of a United States force that may be sent to England, or as Chief of Staff for any other commander that may be designated." He would communicate directly with the Chief of Staff, and pointedly not via the military attaché. The nucleus Army group would have 16 members in its staff, plus 10 clerks; the full group would have 40 members and 20 clerks. As the largest initial combat force then contemplated for Britain was from the air establishment, the appointment as chief of mission was given to an air officer, Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney. His 24 April letter of instructions from the Chief of Staff, besides enjoining him to secrecy on his functions other than as observer, continued:
Nevertheless it is essential that all channels for effectuating cooperation between the United States and British Commonwealth be established as soon as practicable. You will not
enter into political commitments. However, in conjunction with the special Naval Observer in London you will negotiate with the British Chiefs of Staff on military affairs of common interest relating to joint United States-British cooperation in British areas of responsibility. Such negotiations will be subject to the approval of the Chief of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations. It is intended that military matters pertaining to the British Chief of Staff Committee which require joint decision will be taken up through you or through the British Military Mission in Washington, as may be appropriate, and not through diplomatic or other channels. You will endeavor to have American representatives in London to handle all matters of a military nature through your group, and to avoid presenting such matters direct to British military officials.55
On 23 May General Chaney reported by cable that the Special Observers Group had been established in London on 19 May, and that he personally had reported his presence to the American ambassador and to the British Chiefs of Staff Committee.56 In Washington the U.S. Navy had already provided office space for the British Mission, made up of 3 members and 28 staff assistants, and WPD was arranging for a committee room in which group meetings could be held, and for appropriate staff liaison with the British.57
Meantime the Staff planners were grappling with the special problems inherent in the existing status of a nation at peace but increasingly involved in the processes of war. The recently concluded American-British Staff Conversations were only a part of the involvement. Shipping was being sunk with increasing frequency and, with Vichy France being slowly bent to total compliance with Hitler's demands, there was a prospect that French bases on both sides of the Atlantic would soon be made available to German sea raiders to the still greater imperilment of American munitions-carrying merchantmen. The British in the Middle East were doing so badly that Hitler had boldly declared a blockade of the Red Sea. In this complex situation wide differences in American opinion were manifest, isolationists calling for a cessation of munitions shipments and interventionists urging, rather, use of the Navy for moving more supplies to England.58 The immediate issues affected the Navy almost entirely, but the ultimate involvement of the Army, in the event that expeditionary forces were
American Involvement Causes Anxiety
employed for the occupation of overseas bases, was so likely as to arouse the concern of the Chief of Staff. His advice appears to have been sought by a troubled Harry Hopkins, the President's principal adviser at the time, dubious about the commitments which Mr. Roosevelt was contemplating. The principal issues--the extent to which U.S. Navy vessels should be employed in the war in the Atlantic and the manner in which the order for this employment should be issued--came to discussion at the White House on 15 April when the President brought to hearing a Navy proposal, made by Admiral Stark to the Secretary of the Navy, for establishing a neutrality patrol in the west Atlantic.59 It advocated the delineation of a restricted zone west of long. 26° W. (including Greenland and part of the Azores), entry into which by belligerent vessels would be interpreted as marking their intention to attack. This was a way of saying that the United States should establish convoy protection in that zone. The discussion as guided by Mr. Roosevelt was less upon the basic decision than upon the question of whether convoying should be ordered secretly or by proclamation. Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau opposed secrecy, it would appear, because he felt that it could not be maintained and that eventual disclosure would embarrass the President. Secretary of War Stimson opposed secrecy but on another basis: he felt strongly that a public declaration of active American naval effort was called for because it would strengthen the standing of the British Government at that moment and shatter whatever appeasement sentiment was still existent in England. The President wished more advice and more time for consideration, and Mr. Hopkins, still troubled over possibilities whose gravity he felt the President did not recognize, apparently asked assistance from the War Department in clarifying the issues. The assistance especially sought was that of General Embick as an experienced authority, at the moment on leave after his participation in the prolonged American-British Staff Conversations. That officer's judgments, considered, direct, and sometimes extremely blunt, had impressed the President in the past and now he was looked upon as qualified for the difficult task of persuading Mr. Roosevelt to examine certain distasteful facts about the Army's unreadiness for a large combat mission.
Soon after he reached his office on the morning after the White House meeting General Marshall discussed the situation with his two deputies, Generals
Bryden and Moore, and three WPD officers, General Gerow and Colonels McNarney and Anderson. His summary of prospects, as recorded in unrevised notes of the conference, reported:
It is being arranged for General Embick to fly to Washington for the purpose of conferring with the President in a series of discussions which will inform him as Commander in Chief of national strategy for the future without regard to politics. . . . Mr. Hopkins hopes that by a series of talks the President will become aware of the fundamental problems which face this nation. Mr. Hopkins feels . . . that we are frittering away matériel without tangible results, that the influence and accomplishments of the State Department have been unfortunate . . . and that the President must be protected against the importunities of those who are not fully aware of the seriousness of the present situation. . . . If we have gotten to the point where we can no longer operate on a peacetime status should we recommend a war status? Or is it of importance to do something immediately? . . . What I must be prepared to suggest is what should the President do? What do we think should be done? Of course the President is also governed by public opinion. There are two things we must do: begin the education of the President as to the true strategic situation--this coming after a period of being influenced by the State Department. The other thing is, does he have to make a decision now. We must tell him what he has to work with.60
The WPD representatives were asked to make their recommendations promptly, and later in the forenoon the group reassembled, this time with the addition of Lt. Col. Charles W. Bundy and Lt. Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Paul McD. Robinett; they apparently had assisted in preparation of two brief unsigned statements that Colonel Anderson now presented to General Marshall, (1) a memorandum entitled "Strategic Considerations, Peace or War Status" and (2) "Digest of United States-British Staff Conversations." The former follows:
- A war status for the United States at the present time offers the following advantages:
- The United States would be awakened to the gravity of the current situation and brought together in a cohesive effort that does not today prevail. Production of equipment and preparation in general should be materially speeded up.
- The Churchill Government would be strengthened.
- Axis Powers would be weakened.
- Opposed to these advantages:
- The United States Army is not now prepared to undertake active military operations on other than an extremely minor scale, due primarily to shortages in equipment and ammunition.
- Active participation in the war would have to be limited for the time being to the Navy and to commitments of Army forces essentially as indicated in the recent Chiefs of Staffs agreement [ABC].
- In the Atlantic there appears to be no serious counteraction that Axis Powers could take immediately upon our entry into the war.
In the Pacific if Japan joins the Axis Powers in a declaration of war against us we will probably lose the Philippines and the effect on Singapore and the Dutch East Indies is open to question.
- We are prepared to defend our possessions in the Western Hemisphere and the North American Continent against any possible threat that can be foreseen. Subject to the availability of shipping we can promptly relieve British forces in Iceland and relieve Naval forces that may undertake the occupation of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands. We can undertake, likewise subject to the limitations of shipping, any operations that may reasonably be required in the Caribbean or in Northeast Brazil.
Upon the assumption, which appears reasonable, that the United States will enter the present war sooner or later, it appears to the War Plans Division highly desirable that our entry be made sufficiently soon to avoid either the loss of the British Isles or a material change in the attitude of the British Government directed toward appeasement.
In contrast to this view, it must be recognized that the Army can, at the present time, accomplish extremely limited military support to a war effort, and from this point of view it is highly desirable that we withhold active participation as long as possible.61
General Marshall thereupon questioned Colonel Anderson on whether his judgment had been influenced by what was said earlier in the forenoon. The WPD officer said it had been influenced only with respect to possible consequences of a change of government in England. The discussion then proceeded, largely upon the involvements that a war status would bring, the commitments of the ABC plan should it be accepted, and the means by which those commitments could be undertaken. The 1st Division was reported available; the 2d and 5th would be by 1 May; ammunition, however, would be short until 1942.
In the course of discussion General Embick was admitted to the room. The Chief of Staff reviewed what had been said and done, read aloud the WPD memorandum, and asked the newcomer's views. General Embick remarked that WPD proposed stronger action than the Navy itself had asked. He questioned the appraisal upon which the conclusion was based, observed that British Near East reverses might at least simplify defense of the British Isles, and clearly startled
his hearers with the opinion that the British position would not be weakened by Churchill's withdrawal from the premiership. General Marshall did not discuss the concluding opinion but began a catechising on the several items of the WPD memorandum, paragraph by paragraph. General Embick agreed with the substance of the first, that a war status should increase production and reduce ship-sinkings, which was vital, and with the second, which emphasized the Army's unreadiness for major action. Entering the war voluntarily under such conditions he said would be wrong from military and naval viewpoints, and would be a wrong to the American people, who by a war status would be committed to unpredictable happenings. As to paragraph 3, he recognized that war would lead to a loss of Pacific positions. His earlier remark on Army unreadiness for any save minor action may have covered his views upon the WPD optimism of paragraph 4; in any case he gave no recorded indication of agreement or disagreement. Colonel McNarney's oral remarks, as presented in the conference notes, resolutely supported the WPD document, arguing:
. . . that anything that would tend to cause the fall of the British Isles would tend to put the whole load on the United States; that it is important that we start reducing the war making ability of Germany. We do have a Navy in being and can do something. If we wait, we will end up standing alone, and internal disturbances may bring on communism. I may be called a fire-eater, but something must be done.62
General Gerow and Colonel Bundy agreed with their WPD colleague and Colonel Anderson made only small reservation. Their advice given, the conference closed without General Marshall indicating his own view. Somewhat strangely, at his ensuing conference with the President there was no reference to convoys.63 The decision of the President, however it may have been influenced by General Embick, was for a west Atlantic patrol, but for a statement of purpose so cautious as to postpone a war declaration. Stimulated by the U.S.S. Niblack episode, the decision was implemented on 18 April with the issuance by Admiral King of Operation Plan No. 3, which stated:
The Western Hemisphere extends from approximately 26° W, westward to the International Date Line and, in the Atlantic, includes all of Greenland, all of the islands of the Azores, the whole of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Bahama Islands, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
Entrance into the Western Hemisphere by naval ships or aircraft of belligerents other than those powers having sovereignty over territory in the Western Hemisphere is to be viewed as possibly actuated by an unfriendly interest toward shipping or territory in the Western Hemisphere.64
Three days later he issued Operation Plan No. 4, which repeated these stipulations and organized the fleet for patrol purposes. That the decision of April 1940 called for a "neutrality patrol" rather than for outright convoys evidenced the caution which the United States had to exercise at this time. Because of Axis submarine successes American naval authority regarded the Atlantic situation as "obviously critical." Also Japan and Russia had agreed on their treaty, seemingly strengthening Japan's position in the Pacific, and Japan promptly gave warning of intervention if America should actively engage in the war on the Axis.65
In such particularized matters as fleet movements the advice of the new British Mission in Washington was sought. An instance is afforded by an aide-mémoire from the British Admiral V. H. Danckwerts in reply to "an American inquiry." His opinion, in which Australia and New Zealand were represented as concurring (and to which the American 14 April radiogram to London, supporting the ABC report, had given encouragement) was to the following effect:
. . . a marked advance by the US Navy in or into the Atlantic could be on the whole more likely to deter Japan from going to war than the maintenance of the present very large fleet at Hawaii, and further it might exercise a profound influence on the present critical situation in Spain, Turkey and Vichy France. . . . The problem for the United States authorities is so nicely to judge the degree of the transfer that, while still retaining the deterrent effect of a strong US fleet in the Pacific there will also be the deterrent effect of an increased US fleet in the Atlantic. . . . In our view the necessary effect will not remain unless the fleet in the Pacific consisted of not less than 6 capital ships and 2 aircraft carriers. Inclusion of the latter is considered of the greatest importance.66
For months there had been differences between the nations upon Pacific strategy, chiefly springing from a British view that the naval base at Singapore
Proposals for Cooperation in the Pacific
must by all means be maintained as an Allied stronghold dominating southeast Asia. In numerous British quarters it was felt that the means of maintenance should be to a considerable extent American, particularly American naval units, and on occasion this view found support in the United States as well until the firm recognition of America's priority of concern over the war in the Atlantic. The purely naval aspects of planning for the defense of the Netherlands East Indies, necessarily with British sea and air power providing support, were under scrutiny by the U.S. Navy. Japan's interest in the oil and other rich resources of the islands was unconcealed, and the Netherlands' own powers of defense were manifestly weak, with the homeland occupied by Germany and with the royal government in temporary exile. In January 1941 on instruction from Washington67 Admiral Thomas Hart, commanding the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, sent his chief of staff, Capt. W.R. Purnell, to Java to discuss defense plans with Vice Adm. C.E.L. Helfrich, commanding the Dutch sea forces in the Pacific. (The assistant chief of staff, Commander F.P. Thomas, had gone to Singapore in October 19 for preliminary talks and Captain Purnell visited Singapore in December 1940.) The resultant report, forwarded to Washington, was of course shared with the Army, which Captain Purnell understood would itself provide information about such Army Air Force elements as might be available for operations, corresponding to his own oral estimates of available Navy elements.68 Captain Purnell's report of the "exploratory conversations looking toward possible future combined operations," as Admiral Helfrich put it, showed the fullness both of Dutch expectations of attack and of Dutch desire for support. A Dutch committeeman referred "caustically" to previous conversations with British authorities at Singapore in which, he remarked, British interest in defense of the islands dwindled as the scene moved eastward from Singapore. The Netherlands authorities laid before the American consultant copious data on such matters as their own sea and air strength, facilities, ports, bases, and storage. They received from Captain Purnell an assurance that the Philippines' neutrality was guaranteed "to the extent of attacking with all forces available" but a prediction that America would maintain only a benevolent neutrality with regard to British and Dutch possessions. The naval officer reminded his hearers that these views were personal only. Admiral Helfrich approved a number
of tentative suggestions such as those for continuing exchange of information and for joint use of facilities in the event of war.69
On 12 February, as mentioned earlier, the British desire for America's active participation in the defense of Singapore was brought up in the American-British Conversations in Washington. The British delegation, admitting that in case of Japanese attacks upon that area Singapore would need larger forces than the Admiralty was then planning to provide, proposed that the United States Navy detach four cruisers from its Pacific Fleet and station them at Singapore. This suggestion the American delegation opposed, partly because the Stark-Marshall statement at the opening of the conversations had discouraged any such project, partly because they felt unanimously--and so wrote the Chief of Staff--that a four-cruiser addition to the local defenses would not suffice to save Singapore. Hence the United States would later be compelled either (1) to abandon these vessels to their fate and thereafter face Japan in the Pacific with a weakened fleet, or (2) to reinforce the four vessels to the extent of applying the Navy's principal strength in the Far East rather than elsewhere, with resultant risk, among other things, to the security of the British Isles.70
American Objections to Helping Reinforce Singapore
Instead of acceding to the British view the American delegation recommended holding to the American strategic plan and limiting aid, both for Singapore and for the Netherlands East Indies, to what the U.S. Fleet might accomplish while operating from its base at Pearl Harbor and while still free to detach vessels as needed to the Atlantic. "The ultimate fate of Singapore will depend upon the outcome of the struggle in the European theater" they concluded.71 The Chief of Staff presumably supported the Army representatives in these expressions which echoed his own of previous months, for nothing of the dispute appears in the record of ensuing days. The British pressure for American aid in protecting Singapore was simply transferred to the subsequent ADB (American-Dutch-British) meeting in Singapore.72
The need for joint consideration of Singapore's situation, as for the whole Far East problem, was unquestioned. Admiral Stark's Plan Dog Memorandum
of 12 November 1940 had specifically recommended not only Staff Conversations with British and Canadians on the Atlantic but talks with the Dutch in Batavia (which Admiral Hart's chief of staff conducted two months thereafter) and with the British in Singapore. On 2 April 1941 therefore, shortly after ABC closed and before General Marshall and Admiral Stark had signified their acceptance of even the limited responsibility specified in those conversations, General Marshall sent to the commanding general of the Philippines Department, then Maj. Gen. George Grunert, a full copy of ABC-1 plus five of its annexes. He informed General Grunert that he had not yet formally approved the report and that its provisions would not become directives until such approval was given. His purpose in sending a copy this early was to permit advance planning by American Army authority in the Philippines in concert with the Commander in Chief Asiatic Fleet and the Commander Sixteenth Naval District (at Manila). This planning General Grunert was directed to "initiate without delay" but "not discuss with the British or Dutch" until he should receive specific authority from the War Department.73 The bases of General Grunert's planning were listed thus: The Philippine Coastal Frontier would be composed of "such areas as are necessary for defense of the entrance to Manila Bay," and for the means of establishing this defense the recipient was referred to the accepted Joint Plan of 1935.74 Jointly, the American forces were to hold the entrance to Manila Bay; the Army was to "delay the enemy at Subic Bay and elsewhere as may be practicable, without jeopardizing the timely withdrawal of mobile ground forces to Bataan Peninsula."
Two days later a cablegram informed General Grunert that a 2 April communication was on its way by courier, to arrive 14 April, but that the situation prevailing when the message was dispatched was now altered. In the interim it had been determined that the British Commander-in-Chief Far East (in Singapore) would conduct a conference to which were invited representatives of Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands East Indies, the British Commander-in-Chief China, the British Commander-in-Chief East Indies, and the United States. The 4 April dispatch accordingly revoked the 2 April instructions against conferring with British and Dutch and, while the new Staff Conversations were not yet officially approved, the Philippines commander was "authorized to
designate a well-informed officer of sound judgment" to represent him at the Singapore meeting.75
Somewhat in advance of the Singapore meeting the British Mission in Washington provided the Army with its proposal for the agenda. Once more WPD, to which General Marshall referred the proposal, exhibited uneasiness about a British tendency to press the United States toward undesired commitments. A 15 April memorandum from Colonel Anderson to the Chief of Staff recommended limiting the agenda to the subjects listed in the ABC-1 agreement and to plans specifically for the Far East area, Australia, and New Zealand.76 The recommendations were approved by the Chief of Staff and by Secretary of War Stimson as well, and on the following day were transmitted to General Grunert for his guidance.77 Col. Allan C. McBride, slated at the time to become General Grunert's departmental chief of staff, proceeded to Singapore as his representative at the Singapore conference of 21-27 April.
At the close of the conference Colonel McBride returned to Manila with a report of the American-Dutch-British conference recommendations that troubled General Grunert and brought from him, in a letter to WPD, an extended recital of the points of disagreement. In general he concurred, but he took exception to numerous particulars and to basic British conclusions with which "our present mission and restrictions as to means are not in accord."78 He stated that Colonel McBride had discouraged British expectations (1) that the American forces in the Philippines would be strengthened; (2) that there was likelihood of American planning of a determined defense of the archipelago, beyond Manila; (3) that Luzon would serve as a base for offensive operations by increased U.S. forces. General Grunert felt that the British were already regarding the U.S. Asiatic Fleet units as being at Singapore's disposal and that, on the whole, British thinking was directed almost wholly to the defense of British Singapore rather than to the American interest in the Philippines. His long, considered criticism of the Singapore conversations was dispatched to Washington by naval courier on the clipper-plane that departed from Manila on 8 May, two days after a more expeditious British service, via cable to London
and the British Military Mission in Washington, had provided the Navy and Army with three copies of the British summary of the conversations.79 By a grotesque delay General Grunert's message had not reached Washington on 3 June and on that day General Gerow recommended a cable of inquiry to Manila. General Grunert's prompt reply was followed on 7 June by the War Department's admission of an obviously painful discovery: upon arrival at San Francisco air base General Grunert's message, hurried thus far by the Navy's flying courier, then had been put aboard a Navy vessel bound for Norfolk, Va., for leisurely transmission to Washington. A message to Panama intercepted the vessel and the long-awaited report, placed upon another plane, eventually reached Washington on 9 June.80
Staff consideration in Washington, therefore, was of the British summary without immediate benefit of General Grunert's unfortunately delayed massage. The long British text was summarized in an unsigned and undated condensation prepared within WPD for the Chief of Staff, as follows:
Our object is to defeat Germany and her allies and hence in the Far East to maintain the position of the Associated powers against Japanese attack, in order to sustain a long term economic pressure against Japan until we are in a position to take the offensive.
Our most important interests in the Far East are security of sea communications and security of Singapore, the latter largely dependent on denial to the enemy of bases in the Netherlands East Indies. An important subsidiary interest is the security of Luzon in the Philippines, since so long as submarines and air forces can be operated from Luzon, Japanese expeditions to threaten Malaya or the Netherlands East Indies from the East, other than those proceeding via the protected line of the Pelews [Palaus], can be outflanked.
Japan can attack the Philippines or Hong Kong; Malaya, direct or via Thailand and bases in Indo-China; Burma via Thailand and those bases; Borneo or the northern line of the Netherlands East Indies; sea communications in all areas.
Until the Philippines are reduced, Japan would be taking a great chance elsewhere.
The main strategy in the Far East must be defensive, but certain measures are possible: organize air operations against Japanese territory; in addition to Luzon's defensive value, it is useful for an eventual offensive; support the Chinese by financial and material aid; support guerrillas in China; organize subversive activities in Japan; conduct an economic blockade.81
While the two summaries were under study by Staff officers, who saw in this final paragraph the extent to which ABD had soared beyond American desires, further pressure for American aid to Singapore was being applied. A paper prepared by Stanley K. Hornbeck of the State Department and forwarded to the War Department suggested that the United States further Singapore's security by keeping three-quarters of the fleet based in Hawaii, sending more planes and submarines to the Philippines, and equipment to China, the Netherlands East Indies, and Singapore. To these suggestions General Marshall announced his opposition. He found nothing new in the facts cited, and no satisfaction in the conclusions. His own view was that "Collapse in the Atlantic would be fatal; collapse in the Far East would be serious but not fatal."82
On 7 June Army and Navy chiefs--undoubtedly with Presidential approval--sent to the British Military Mission a strongly worded rejection of the views expressed at Singapore. The message mentioned that no final approval would be given until after examination of the official text of the report, but proceeded in unmistakable terms:
Stark and Marshall Reject the Singapore Proposals
The United States intends to adhere to the decision not to reinforce the Philippines except in minor particulars. . . .
The principal value of the position and present strength of the forces in the Philippines lies in the fact that to defeat them will require a considerable effort by Japan and may well entail a delay in the development of an attack against Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies. A Japanese attack in the Philippines might thus offer opportunities to the Associated Powers to inflict important losses on Japanese naval forces and to improve their own dispositions for the defense of the Malay Barrier.83
How violently the intention stated in the first paragraph quoted was to be upset in a matter of weeks is related at length in Chapter XIII of this volume, but there was no hint of it in early June. The 7 June 1941 note offered no comment on British proposals for United States air aid in the Far East and preparations
for support to China. It rejected altogether British suggestions for dealing with naval command arrangements, on the ground that they were beyond the proper scope of the discussion.84 More than a month later the British views were rejected in the still more conclusive terms of a letter drafted on 3 July in which the American Chiefs of Staff regretted that "they are unable to approve the ADB report because in several major, and numerous minor particulars, it is at variance" with the restrictions stated in ABC-1. Specifically, in the language of a brief of that document:
- It contains political matters beyond scope of a military agreement . . . [such as] necessity for concerted action by Associated Powers and undertaking of subversive activities and sabotage in Japan.
- It commits U.S. Asiatic Fleet to operate under British strategic direction in "Eastern Theater" which is more extensive than the Far Eastern Area prescribed in ABC-1. U.S. cannot agree.
- Inadequate provisions are made for the security of the Netherlands East Indies and the Malay Barrier. Naval defense of this position entrusted solely to U.S. and Dutch forces while British naval forces operate on escort and patrol duty at great distances from this vital area. Until a plan providing that British naval forces take predominant part in defending British position in Far East Chief of Naval Operations and Chief of Staff must withdraw agreement to permit U.S. Asiatic Fleet to operate under British strategic direction in that area.
- It commits U.S. Naval aviation to operate under command other than Naval, in violation of ABC-1.
- It does not provide a practical operating plan for the cooperative effort of the Associated Powers in the Far East Area.
- It sets up an Eastern Theater and provides for a new commander termed "Commander in Chief, Far Eastern Fleet," neither of which appears to be advantageous.85
The letter gave polite assurance that the Chief of Staff and Chief of Naval Operations would "be glad to consider suggestions as to an agenda for any further conferences in Singapore" but added a suggestion that such a conference
"should be guided by agenda agreed upon in advance among the United States, United Kingdom, and the Dutch."86
The controversy that had reached this stage was halted for a time by considerations more pressing for both groups of disputants, since both were shortly to be summoned to the historic Atlantic Conference at sea between Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. There the discussions were resumed more genially, and on 1 September the Special Army Observer in London sent word that the British Chiefs of Staff Committee were engaged upon redraft of the ADB requirements, in line with agreements made at the Atlantic Conference.87 Even the redraft was found in Washington to be unsatisfactory,88 however, and two months later, by which time Japanese behavior was much more indicative of war and the United States was hastily strengthening its Philippines defenses, the British made radical revisions in their arrangements for the Pacific. Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord, informed Admiral Stark that after reviewing the naval situation the Admiralty was able to start forming a new capital ship force for the Orient. Admiral Sir Tom Phillips was already en route aboard H. M. S. Prince of Wales, and two other battleships would proceed in November and another in December. Sir Dudley continued:
I do not consider that either ADB-1 or ADB-2 meets the new conditions [caused by the recent change of government in Japan] and I would suggest that the need for a conference to draw up strategic operating plans for the Far East area based afresh on ABC-1 has now become urgent. . . .If you agree in principle to abandoning further discussions on ADB-1 and ADB-2 and to holding of a fresh conference on the basis of ABC-1 we can then proceed to discuss the agenda. Perhaps you would care to make proposals for this.89
The British desire to come to agreement was not to be gratified immediately, although Admiral Stark promptly agreed that there was need for early action by both the United Kingdom and the United States, in pursuance of which the Army was already "reinforcing both its land and air forces as rapidly as practicable, and training the Philippine Army intensively."90 It was nearly a week later that a more studied and more insistent communication was sent
in Admiral Stark's behalf by the American Secretary for Collaboration to the British Joint Staff Mission, for transmission to London. It acknowledged the 5 November and other messages, expressed concurrence in the British decision to send more vessels to Singapore, and suggested that still others be sent. It mentioned air reinforcements that the United States had lately sent to the Pacific and suggested that the British air strength in Malaya also be increased. It expressed a belief that the tasks which the British proposed to assign to land and air forces in the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand should be enlarged to include protection of Rabaul and other bases that would be needed by the United States Fleet for operations against the Japanese mandates, for protection of Torres Strait, and other purposes. It postponed decision on the proposals to assign greater strength to the Asiatic Fleet and to base the British Fleet in the Philippines, on the ground that repair facilities were insufficient and badly exposed to attack. It suggested new conferences at which Admiral Phillips might discuss the situation with Admiral Hart and Lt. Gen. (later General of the Army) Douglas MacArthur, who now was commanding the U.S. Army in the Philippines, but it urged that the conferences be held in Manila rather than in Singapore.91 Admiral Phillips visited Manila on 4-6 December 1941 but no definite operating plans were agreed upon. The next high-level discussions of arrangements for defense of the Malay barrier, too late and of necessity with too little, would be occasioned by the arrival of the war itself. It so happened that the operating plan on which the Allies then had to rely for better or for worse was the so-called PLENAPS which in default of an accepted plan the British command had drawn up for emergency use. This was based upon the rejected ADB-1.92
The event which in midsummer had interrupted for a time the flow of American criticisms of the ABD Conversations at Singapore was the summoning
The Atlantic Conference, August 1941
of another Anglo-American conference, this time principally political although the military chiefs were present. This was the Atlantic Conference of Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt, held, with high appreciation for dramatic effect, aboard a man-of-war lying offshore in Argentia harbor. The circumstance of the meeting, with whatever it might connote on freedom of the seas and the antitotalitarian purposes that were boldly announced by the two Chiefs of Government, carried their own implications at home and abroad.93 For the political aspects of that historic meeting, which were the main aspects, the reader must seek detailed information in other narratives. The military discussions carried no commitments and, despite the presence of Chiefs of Staff of both nations, led to little in the way of immediate results, because of the wide gap between British views as expressed in a prepared document and the American responses to these views.
The initial meeting of all members of the conference, civilian and military, took place on 9 August aboard the cruiser Augusta of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, where President Roosevelt was quartered. For the daily conferences the Prime Minister moved over from the nearby British battleship Prince of Wales, which had brought the British party to the high seas rendezvous. The notes of the first meeting, set down from memory one week later, attempt only to summarize Mr. Churchill's speech to the conference, which was largely a review of the world situation. The recorder, Colonel Bundy, felt that the Premier's chief aims were (1) to win support for his program for developing a strong Allied force in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, for which he clearly looked to America for assistance; (2) to bring about a joint warning to Japan; (3) to move some 52 vessels out of the western Atlantic in order to use them for antisubmarine operations nearer Britain; (4) to revive the idea of a league to enforce peace (which may in fact be thought of as the inception of the United Nations). Mr. Churchill offered some thoughts about methods of warfare, expressing the view that smaller numbers of men than in 1918 would be used in the eventual western theater (Russian successes with massed troops notwithstanding) and that more would be done with machines. "By inference [he] advocated early American action to join Britain and Russia."94
In preparation for the military conference the British Chiefs of Staff--at that time Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, General Sir John G. Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff--had prepared under date of 31 July 1941 their review of the war situation. It opened with a declaration that "The vital consideration is to ensure the security of the United Kingdom and of our sea communications, while we build up and deploy the forces necessary for the offensive described in Part 2."95 It contained these conclusions on strategy:
A German shift to Spain would make Gibraltar unusable as a base, and force occupation of the Canaries.
Need for establishing forces in French Morocco and French West Africa might have to be faced but, while there remained a threat of invading Britain, the United Kingdom would have no forces available for the African tasks.
Loss of the Middle East would be disastrous, through loss of communications and also of Iranian oil. For retention of the Middle East much would depend upon American assistance.
Security of the Singapore base was essential for Far East operations.96
"The intervention of the United States would revolutionize the whole situation," the strategy review continued.
At sea the situation would immediately be relieved, and this should be reflected in reduced shipping losses. Even if Japan intervened, the balance of advantage would still be with us. American forces might be able to prevent enemy penetration in Morocco and West Africa, and could take over potential commitments in the Atlantic Islands.
It is clear, however, that if intervention is to come, the longer it is delayed the greater will be the leeway to be made up in every direction.
In contrast with the pessimism with which the existing situation was portrayed, the review was extremely hopeful for the future, noting that "We must first destroy the foundation upon which the [German] war machine rests--the economy which feeds it, the morale which sustains it, the supplies which nourish it . . . and the hopes of victory which inspire it." The methods to be employed were blockade, bombing, subversive activity, and propaganda. "The bombing offensive must be on the heaviest possible scale" and, after security needs were met, "we give to the heavy bomber first priority in production." Bombing of Germany's transportation system would have its own effect upon
civilian morale, and to this last mentioned objective were other references that the critical American readers thought to be unsatisfactorily vague. The emphasis of the review was upon the scheduled combination of blockade, bombing, and subversive activities, the British Chiefs' conviction being that:
. . . if these methods are applied on a vast scale, the whole structure upon which the German forces are based . . . will be destroyed, and that, whatever their present strength, the armed forces of Germany would suffer such a radical decline in fighting value and mobility that a direct attack would once more become possible.
When that time will come . . . will depend largely on how well we are able, with American assistance, to keep to our program of Air Force expansion and to obtain and protect the necessary shipping.
It may be that the methods described above will by themselves be enough to make Germany sue for peace. . . . We must, however, be prepared to accelerate victory by landing forces on the Continent to . . . strike into Germany itself.
They proceeded, on the theme that Mr. Churchill had touched: "We do not foresee vast armies of infantry as in 1914-18. The forces we employ will be armored divisions with the most modern equipment. . . . When our armored forces had dominated an area, it would be handed over to the patriot force to garrison. . . ." They concluded with the view that "United States intervention would not only make victory certain, but might also make it swift."97
On 10 August this document was sent in triplicate to General Marshall, Admiral Stark, and General Arnold, who were then aboard U.S.S. Augusta with Mr. Roosevelt and his group of civilian and other military advisers.98 It was dispatched by Col. C. C. Hollis of the British secretariat who was then aboard H.M.S. Prince of Wales with Mr. Churchill and his military and civil advisers. Colonel Hollis's accompanying letter, proposing in the British Chiefs' behalf that the review be discussed aboard the Prince of Wales next day, suggested also that major points of criticism by the American Chiefs be communicated to him that same day so that the British Chiefs would be in a position to discuss them on 11 August.99 It would appear that the only immediate response was to agree upon the time for the next day's meeting, for the notes available on the Staff conferences indicate that the strategy review was first discussed on 11 August.100
The meeting aboard the British battleship was attended only by military personnel. The British were Admiral Pound, General Dill, Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid R. Freeman, Vice-Chief of the Air Staff (his superior, Chief Marshal Portal, having remained in England), Col. C.C. Hollis, and Lt. Col. E.J.C. Jacobs from the office of the Minister of Defense, five officers representing the Admiralty, two the War Office, and one the Air Ministry. The Americans were Admiral Stark, General Marshall, Admiral King, General Arnold, Admiral Turner and Commander (later Admiral) Forrest Sherman of the Navy's War Plans Division and Lt. Col. C.W. Bundy of the War Department WPD. Admiral Stark, the principal American spokesman, said that he and his colleagues would ask time for analyzing the British Chiefs' review (which the First Lord read aloud) and for reconciling the eventual reply of the United States Chiefs with Army and Navy requirements. He expressed his colleagues' willingness to go the limit (in the words of Colonel Bundy's notes) in cooperation under existing United States policies, but made clear at the outset that these policies would constitute definite limits. He asked that the present conference be restricted to discussions only.101 Colonel Bundy's notes present little evidence of a hearty cooperation, but rather, a critical attitude on the part of the Americans with regard to the British Chiefs' review (the criticism was even sharper in the eventual formal response) in painful contrast with the harmonious chorus from the Chiefs of State on the Augusta. Admiral Stark discussed several points of difference with the review, objecting to its paragraphs on bomber priority, shipping needs, distribution of sea-patrol planes, and proposed occupation of the Azores. General Marshall interrupted with a reminder that the peaceful occupation of necessary facilities in the Azores was already in sight, indicated by a Portuguese letter to which Mr. Roosevelt had referred the previous day. General Marshall revealed his concern over the prospective need to replace the Marine garrison on Iceland with 10,000 Army troops. There was a request that the British supply more information on Dakar, which the British Chiefs apparently were expecting the United States to occupy eventually. General Marshall introduced a further discussion of the situation in the Middle East, to which area the United States was sending equipment, whose unsatisfactory maintenance by the British was already a cause for anxiety.102 General
Marshall also reminded the British Chiefs of the mounting pressure upon the United States for munitions now that Lend-Lease supplies for Russia constituted a large additional drain, and intimated that arms shipments would be determined by priorities in Washington rather than solely by Middle East developments. He explained the difficulties encountered thus far in strengthening the Philippines as a protection for Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies.103
The 11 August session covered only 15 of the strategy review's 39 paragraphs, the rest being left for attention in a formal study. The 12 August session was given over entirely to a review of the matériel situation in the United States, in the course of which there was plain speaking about the lack of coordination among the British purchasing authorities in Washington, and about failures to appreciate the exactions of the priority system. It brought from the British Chiefs an admission of ignorance of the confusion and an indication that they would reorganize their Washington services so as to make them conform to strategic needs. Admiral Stark read a draft of his plan for making the U.S. Joint Board, under the President, the agency to determine the distribution of defense equipment in accordance with the principles of ABC-1.104 (The plan was to prove unsuccessful, the determination being given instead to the civilian War Production Board).
In brief, the Atlantic Conference, eventful enough as a political meeting, owed little of its result to the military Staff's participation, other than an agreement between the Navy Chiefs upon the basis of cooperation in convoy escort, effective in September 1941. The large influence was that of the civilian Chiefs of State in arriving at the terms of the proposed "bases for world peace" jointly signed by Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill, which were made public in London and Washington at the close of the conference, while the Augusta
and the Prince of Wales with their distinguished passengers were still at sea.105 The political effect of this enunciation, with its reference to aims "following destruction of the Nazi tyranny" leaving small doubt of the rapid American drift toward war, was so great as to conceal from the public the disagreements of the military that the Prince of Wales discussions, like the recent ABD discussions in Singapore, had disclosed.
Upon the return of the Chiefs of Staff to Washington General Marshall laid the British review before his own WPD for examination and report. There resulted a series of memoranda from several members of the division addressed to General Gerow or to Col. Thomas T. Handy of WPD (later General and Deputy Chief of Staff). They were unanimous in their opposition to the British expressions, for varying reasons.106 They all opposed the concluding British suggestions that "United States intervention would not only make the victory certain but might also make it swift." One (Kibler) found "no cause for optimism as to a British victory" and criticized a British tendency to assign to the United States the protection of the British Empire: "We ought to retain our freedom of action until we have forces to undertake worth-while operations in the war." Another (Allen) denied that the United States' strength was sufficiently developed to make an impression on military operations and asserted that, rather, Germany should be engaged with economic force and that "the position as a nonbelligerent seems most suited to our existing situation." A third (Wedemeyer), noting a defeatist attitude in the British paper and holding that more of the British Commonwealth's resources should be employed, suggested also that there should be assurance of an American determination to assist in every possible way short of war: he pressed for recognition that "we must not become an active belligerent until we have created the means by which we can accomplish our national objectives." The realistic attitude of this officer with regard to the Army's potentialities was founded on intensive studies of
U.S. Staff Criticisms of the British Suggestions
previous weeks which led to the monumental Victory Plan of which he was the principal author.
The WPD staff, using these memoranda, developed a draft study to be presented over General Gerow's signature to the Chief of Staff. According to this study, General Gerow felt that, contrary to the British idea that American entry into the war would help, the United States would be of more assistance as a neutral able to supply munitions in large quantities, the nation's potential combat strength not being sufficiently developed to permit more than a moral effect in land or air operations, and the Navy being still incapable of offensive operations against Germany. He summarized the strategic conceptions which had been approved in ABC-1, and held them to be still valid.107
These recommendations were not formally presented to the Chief of Staff but were combined with recommendations of the Navy's WPD to form a joint Planning Committee report which the Joint Board accepted as its own. The strategic concept of ABC-1 was accepted as still sound. Military operations were held to be in need of specific direction, not aimed at "destruction of morale," and a bombing offensive against civilian morale was opposed. (It is necessary to recognize the American distinction--that the industrial and economic structure of Germany, as well as the purely military, should be bombed intensively, but that the effect on morale was secondary.)108 The vagueness of the British Chiefs' proposal for a land offensive, save after naval and air offensives should have beaten down German resistance, was unacceptable. The Joint Board felt the need of strong bases in Port Sudan, Massawa, Baghdad, and Basra, in case the Middle East's other positions should be lost. Singapore was important, but it could not be held unless the Netherlands East Indies were held, and the joint Board felt that aid to Singapore should be accompanied by aid to the Dutch, and also to the Chinese, in order to help Singapore. It was premature to count the Soviet Union out of the war, for chances favored a Russian resistance that would continue for several months at least, and effective arming of Russia would help to provide it. The Joint Board discerned in the British Chief's review only minor attention to preparations for land operations, and remonstrated: "Naval and air power may prevent wars from being lost and, by weakening enemy strength, may contribute greatly to victory. . . . It should be recognized as
an almost invariable rule that wars cannot be finally won without the use of land armies." In accordance with this view the Joint Board proposed to equip and train land task forces for offensive use "wherever land offensives may ultimately appear to be profitable." (This expression suggests how far from Staff thinking at this time was the President's sudden desire of that week to reduce the Army's forces in training. See Chapter XI.) Patrol bombers should be stationed at Freetown in West Africa. Taking up that ill-timed last paragraph of the British Chief's review, and supporting General Gerow's opposition to present intervention, the Joint Board continued: "Involvement of United States Army forces in the near future would at best involve a piecemeal and indecisive commitment of forces against a superior enemy under unfavorable logistic conditions." In sum: "The major strategic concept, and the principal military operations set forth . . . [in ABC-1] are still sound, and should form the general guide for the conduct of a war against the Axis Powers, in which the United States is associated with the British Commonwealth."109 This "Final Action" of Army and Navy, signed by the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff, was dispatched to London on 25 September for transmission to the British Chiefs.
Meantime pressure for the air offensive was being applied elsewhere. British advocates of the idea were convinced that it should be pushed, whatever might be the plans for other operations. At the time of the Atlantic Conference Maj. H. S. Hansell, an Air Corps officer then on duty in England, was informing General Arnold of the hopes that were being expressed to him in London. The British consensus, he reported on 11 August, was that "it is probably possible" to cause a German breakdown by means of prolonged bombing, and "it is highly improbable that a land invasion can be carried out against Germany proper, at least within the next three years. If the air offensive is successful, a land offensive probably will not be necessary." The air bases and sea communications must be made secure, the letter continued, and disrupting of Germany's electric power, transportation, and petroleum systems should be pursued; also the "undermining of German morale by air attack on civilian concentrations." It would first be necessary to neutralize the German Air Force and continue attacks on submarines
Efforts to Harmonize Views on a Bombing Policy
and surface craft as well as the Channel "invasion" bases.110 A week later General Chaney supported the view of a sustained air offensive against Germany as "fully warranted" and held that it "should be planned and executed at the earliest possible time."111
The exchanges of secret code information, agreed upon at the Atlantic Conference, were made without reference to the sharp disagreements in other respects,112 nevertheless the disagreements remained so acute that in London the War Cabinet's planning staff eventually met with the resident observer groups from the US Army and Navy in an effort for reconciliation of views. It is difficult to see why this step was postponed until November and equally difficult to determine why a report of the meeting and the much more tactful expression of British views there offered failed to reach Washington promptly. The British Chiefs' reconsidered statements, which the American Special Observers eventually reported by radio, were:
(a) In attacking "morale" British mean disruption of transportation, living, and industrial facilities of German population rather than more restricted meaning. . . .
(c) British give assurance of ultimate intention to land forces on continent.113
This statement came much closer to the views of the American Chiefs of Staff. Oddly, although the British planners' meeting referred to took place on 21 November, the radiogram reporting it was received in Washington on 10 December 1941. By that time the United States was at war.
The disagreements between the British and the American Chiefs of Staff during and after both ABD and the Atlantic Conference had served one constructive purpose almost as useful as the points of agreement. They had warned the British of certain strong views held in Washington, and had provided unmistakable evidence that the United States was likely to be the controlling partner in any coming alliance. Yet neither at the Atlantic Conference nor at other meetings, where the likely course of many coming developments was accurately discerned, was there even suspicion of an event already being planned in Tokyo, which would come to pass at Pearl Harbor on 7 December, with immediate consequences
upsetting most of the planning for the Far East, and delaying some of the projects in mind for the Atlantic. The aim at the ABD discussion had been to insure the security of Allied sea communications in the Far East and the security of Singapore, both of which were due to be lost with appalling celerity. The planning of RAINBOW 5 was based on sober estimates of American capabilities and deficiencies in the Pacific. Sound as much of that planning was in theory, none of it allowed for the wholesale reduction of American offensive powers--and consequent wreck of the plans--that would be brought about in one disastrous early morning raid upon the principal American installation in mid-ocean.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (11) * Next Chapter (13)
1. See Chapter IV.
2. See Chapter V.
3. For information about the organization for co-ordination of foreign sales see: (1) Memo, ASW and ASN for President, 30 Jun 39, SW 572; (2) Ltr, President to SW, 6 Dec 39, SW 676; (3) Memo, President for SW, 13 Dec 39, SW 681 (it was in this memo that the President overruled the objections of the Secretaries of War and Navy to removing the coordination from ANMB); (4) U.S. Government Manual, March 1941 (Washington: GPO, 1941), p. 87.
4. See Chapter VI.
5. For criticism of this transaction as a breach of international law see Edwin Borchard, "The Attorney General's Opinion on the Exchange of Destroyers for Naval Bases," The American Journal of International Law (Washington, D. C., October 1940), Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 690-97. Other aspects of the Attorney General's opinion are challenged in the same publication (pp. 569ff.) by Herbert W. Briggs, "Neglected Aspects of the Destroyer Deal." Quincy Wright, commenting editorially on the above articles (pp. 680-89), arrives at opposite conclusions. For text of the President's message to Congress on the destroyer transaction and accompanying papers, including the opinion of Attorney General Robert H. Jackson, see Cong Rec, 76th Cong, 3d sess, for September 3, 1940, pp. 17276-17279 (daily edition); also H Doc No. 943, 76th Cong. Note also Robert Sherwood's belief (in his Roosevelt and Hopkins (New York: Harper, 1948), especially p. 274) that Mr. Roosevelt was conscious of the possibility of impeachment for exceeding his Constitutional authority. Events leading up to the destroyers-for-bases transaction arc discussed in draft MS, Kittredge, U.S. Defense Policies, Ch. X, Sec. B.
6. Hull, Memoirs, I, 870.
7. Unused Memo, Actg ACofS J.W.A. (Col Anderson), WPD, for CofS, 13 Nov 40, sub: National Policy of the United States, WPD 4175-15.
8. See Chapter IV, latter part, for the events leading up to ABC.
9. This memorandum also listed the six designated British visitors, Maj. Gen. E.L. Morris, Rear Admirals R.M. Bellairs, former chief of plans, and V.H. Danckwerts, Air Commodore (later Vice-Marshal) J.C. Slessor, Capt. A.W. Clark, RN, and Maj. A.T. Cornwall-Jones. Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 26 Dec 40, sub: Army Representatives for Staff Conferences with Great Britain, WPD 4402. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were represented at meetings of the British section but not in the joint meetings.
10. TAG Ltr to Maj Gen S. D. Embick, 30 Dec 40, sub: Army Representatives for Staff Conferences with Great Britain, WPD 4402.
11. Memo, Secy JB for JPC, 14 Dec 40, JB 325, ser 674.
12. Memo, JPC for JB, 13 Jan 41, sub: Joint Instructions for Holding Staff Conversations, WPD 4402-1.
13. Rad, Military Attaché (Lee), London, to Military Intelligence Division, War Dept, 7 Jan 41, WPD 4402-1.
14. Notes of remarks by Col Truman Smith in office of CofS, 27 Jan 41, CofS files, Notes on Conf, bndr 8.
16. Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 14 Jan 41, sub: Staff Conversations with the British, WPD 4402-1.
17. Memo, President for SN, 26 Jan 41, WPD 4402-2.
18. Statement by CNO and CofS, 27 Jan 41. Copies in WPD 4402-94 and WPD 4402-89 (Gen Embick's set of Conference papers). Though dated 27 January there is evidence in accompanying papers to show that this was the statement actually presented two days later.
19. (1) Memo, President for SN, 26 Jan 41, WPD 4402-2. (2) Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 27 Jan 41, WPD 4402-2.
20. Minutes of Plenary Meeting, British-United States Staff Conversations, 29 Jan 41, in Gen Gerow's papers relating to the Conference, WPD EX File, item 11 No. 4.
21. See Memos for CofS from Army representatives, 12 Feb, 20 Feb, 5 Mar 41, WPD 4402 to 4420.
22. Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 5 Mar 41, sub: U.S. British Staff Conversations, WPD 4402-3. The quotation, above, is from the untitled accompanying enclosure.
24. (1) Memo, Secy Army Section (Lt Col W.P. Scobey) for members of the Army Section, 17 Mar 41, WPD 4402-3. (2) Memo, Secy Army Section for CofS, 19 Mar 41, sub: Staff Conversations, WPD 4402-3.
25. The United States-British Staff Conversations report (Short title ABC-1) with annexes, 27 Mar 41, and the air collaboration report (ABC-2), 29 Mar 41, are published as Exhibit 49, pages 1485-1550 of Part 15, the Hearings of the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, 79th Cong, 1st sess.
26. Ibid., p. 1488.
27. Ibid., p. 1489.
30. Summarized from text of ABC-1, paragraph 11, which is given in full on pp. 1489-90 of Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, Pt. 15.
31. Summarized from ABC-1, paragraph 12, given in full on pp. 1490-91 of Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, Pt. 15.
32. See Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, Pt. 15, p. 1491.
33. Msg, CNO to U.S. Naval Attaché at London, 20 Feb 41. Copy for information at CofS, U.S. Army, filed in WPD 4402-1. Also Memo of correction, ACof5 WPD to CofS, same date.
34. Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, p. 1491-92.
35. Ibid., p. 1492.
38. See n. 25.
39. Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, pp. 1494-95 and 1497-1500.
40. See Chapter IV.
41. Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, Pt. 15, pp. 1501-02.
42. Ibid., pp. 1504-10. Note that on 1 October 1941 WPD was to report only one infantry division and no armored division ready (see Chapter XI, p. 358).
43. Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, Pt. 15, p. 1548 (ABC-2).
44. Ibid., p. 1548 (ABC-2).
45. Undated and unsigned memo prepared in WPD for use in connection with conferences of 16 April, WPD 4402-9.
46. Summarized, not quoted, from Memo, Col J.T. McNarney for Gen H.H. Arnold, 7 Apr 41, sub: Staff Conversations, WPD 4402-7.
48. Ibid., summarized, not quoted.
50. Draft of Ltr, CNO and CofS to Special Naval and Army Observers in London, 4 Apr 41, sub: Tentative Approval of the Report of the United States-British Staff Conversations (ABC-1), WPD 4402-18. The substance of this letter, evidently drawn up at the time the appointment of observers was under consideraion, was subsequently delivered to the British Chiefs of Staffs Committee in London. Ltr, Special Naval (Ghormley) and Army (Lee) Observers to the Chiefs of Staffs Committee, 21 Apr 41, WPD 4402-14. A copy of the letter was handed General Chancy when he departed for London early in May. See notation on copy in WPD 4402-89, Part V.
51. Admiral King's order, in its relationship to larger aspects of strategy, will be referred to later in the chapter. This sequence of events at sea is recited by Samuel Eliot Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic (Boston: Little, Brown, 1947), pp. 56-58.
52. Ltr, CofS to CNO, 12 May 41, sub: Directive to Army Base Commanders, Newfoundland, Bermuda, and Trinidad, WPD 4351-98, copy in OCS 21160-67. Attached is the memorandum to WPD next referred to, signed "G.C.M." The 1 May memorandum is not on hand.
53. Ltr, Joint Secretaries Br JSM in Washington to U.S. Secretary for Collaboration, 9 Jul 41, sub: British Military Mission: Proposed Change in Nomenclature, WPD 4402-28.
54. Discussion of action leading to the establishment of the observers group is in: (1) Memo, Actg ACofS for CofS, 7 Apr 41, sub: United States Military Mission in London, WPD 4402-5. (2) Memo, Actg ACofS G-2 for CofS, 7 Apr 41, sub: United States Military Mission in London, WPD 4402-5. (3) Memo, Maj Gen S. D. Embick for Actg ACofS WPD, 5 Apr 41, sub: Military Mission, WPD 4402-5.
55. Ltr, CofS to Special Army Observer in London, 24 Apr 41, sub: Letter of Instructions, WPD 4402-5.
56. Cable, Special Observer, London, to TAG, 23 May 41, WPD 4402-5.
57. Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 13 May 41, sub: Liaison with British Mission, WPD 4402-10.
58. For recital of this background see Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 56-64. See also contemporary newspapers.
59. Documents used for this summary narration are: (1) Notes of conference in office of CofS, 16 Apr 41 (early forenoon), CofS files, Notes on Conf, bndr 13; (2) Notes on later conference (11:25 A.M.) same day, place and file location. (3) Memo, CofS for SW, 16 Apr 41, same file; (4) Memo, J.W.A. (Col Anderson of WPD) for CofS, 16 Apr 41, sub: Strategic Considerations-Peace or War Status, WPD 4402-9.
60. Notes of conference in office of CofS, 16 Apr 41 (early forenoon), CofS files, Notes on Conf, bndr 13.
61. Memo initialed J. W. A. (Col. Anderson) for CofS, 16 Apr 41, sub: Strategic Considerations, WPD 4402-9. The "Digest of United States-British Staff Conversations" presented at the same time is the one recorded on p. 380 above.
62. From previously mentioned discussion of 11:25 A.M. conference in office of CofS, 16 Apr 44, CofS files, Notes on Conf, bndr 13.
63. Memo, CofS for SW, 16 Apr 41, CofS files, Notes on Conf, bndr 13.
64. See Morison, Battle of the Atlantic, p. 61. Operation Plan No. 3 was mentioned earlier in this chapter in its relationship to the action of U.S.S. Niblack.
65. See Kittredge, U.S. Defense Policies, Ch. XIII, Pt. C, pp. 29-33.
66. Aide-mémoire, Rear Adm Danckwerts, 8 May 41, unaddressed, but bearing Gen Marshall's initials, WPD 4402-15. The inquiry to which it replied came from Admiral Turner, dated 25 April 41, President Roosevelt having previously asked the Navy Department for the information.
67. See personal Ltr, Admiral Stark to Admiral Hart, 22 Oct 40 (in Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, Pt. 16, p. 2448), and same to same, 12 Nov 40 (p. 2449).
68. Summarized Rpt of Conversations Held by Chief of Staff, U.S. Asiatic Fleet, with Netherlands East Indies Naval Authorities at Batavia, 10-14 Jan 41, WPD 4402-3.
70. Memo, U.S. Army Section for the CofS, 12 Feb 41, sub: Dispatch of U.S. Forces to Singapore, WPD 4402-1.
72. Later known as ABD.
73. Ltr, CofS to CG Philippines Dept, 2 Apr 41, sub: U.S.-British Staff Conversations. This letter is Tab B to Memo, Acts; ACofS WPD for CofS, 15 Apr 41, sub: Staff Conversations in the Far East, WPD 4402-8.
74. For an extended examination of this and other plans for the Philippine Islands see Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philippines, a volume now in preparation for this series.
75. Rad, CofS to CG Philippines Dept, 4 Apr 41. This is Tab C to Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 15 Apr 41, sub: Staff Conversations in the Far East, WPD 4402-8.
76. See n. 75.
77. Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for TAG, 16 Apr 41, sub: Staff Conversations, WPD 4402-8.
78. Ltr, CG Philippines Dept to ACofS WPD, 2 May 41, sub: American-Dutch-British Conversations of April 21-27 1941, held in Singapore. This is incl B to Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 8 Jul 41, sub: Report of American-Dutch-British Conversations, Short Title--"A. D. B"; WPD 4402-18.
79. Incl with Ltr, Secy British Military Mission, without attached address, 3 May 41, WPD 4402-18.
80. (1) Memo, Gen Gerow, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 3 Jun 41, sub: U.S.-Dutch-British Staff Conversations. (2) Grunert dispatch 1058 to TAG, 5 Jun 41. (3) Msg 993 WD AGO to CG Phil Dept, 7 Jun 41. (4) Msg 995 WD AGO to CG Phil Dept, 9 Jun 41. All filed in AG 380.3 (4-4-41).
81. This summary originally accompanied a 10 May Memo from Brig Gen Harry J. Malony, Actg ACofS WPD, to CofS, WPD 4402-18. It is a condensation of various points in the British telegraphed summary previously noted.
82. Memo, CofS (prepared in WPD by Col Bundy) for SW, 20 May 41, sub: Paper Presented by S.K. Hornbeck, Department of State, WPD 4402-18.
83. Ltr, Secy for Collaboration (Comdr L.R. McDowell) to Secy British Military Mission (Capt A.W. Clarke), 7 Jun 41, sub: Report of the Singapore United States-British-Dutch Conference April 1941. WPD 4402-18.
84. These British Chiefs of Staff suggestions appear as inclosures A and B attached to a note of the Secretary to the British Military Mission in Washington, 20 May 41, sub: Report of the Singapore American-Dutch-British Conference April 1941, WPD 4402-18.
85. This brief, filed in AG 380.3 (4-4-41), is attached to copy of a Ltr, CofS and CNO to Special Army and Navy Observers, London, 3 Jul 41, sub: Comment on the Report of the American-Dutch-British Conversations, WPD 4402-28. While this letter was drawn up 3 July, it was not actually dispatched until 26 July. See notations on copies of Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 21 Jul 41, sub: Report of American-Dutch-British Conversations, original in AG 380.3 (4-4-41) and copy in WPD 4402-18. The letter was six pages long. On 8 July General Gerow, WPD, forwarded to the Chief of Staff a letter from General Grunert, with which he agreed in opposing the Singapore report. See Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS. 8 Jul 41, sub: Report of American-Dutch-British Conversations, WPD 4402-18.
86. Ltr of 3 Jul 41, cited in n. 85.
87. Ltr, Special Army Observer, London, to CofS, 1 Sep 41, sub: Draft Agreement ADB (Revised), WPD 4402-18.
88. Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 17 Nov 41, sub: Draft Agreement ADB (Revised), WPD 4402-18.
89. Cable from Admiralty, London, to B.A.D. (British Admiralty Delegation), Washington, 5 Nov 41, WPD 4402-18 and AG 380.3 (4-4-41).
90. Cable, CNO to SPENAVO. London, 6 Nov 41. WPD 4402-18.
91. Ltr, U.S. Secy for Collaboration to the Joint Secretaries to British Joint Staff Mission, Washington, 11 Nov 41, sub: United States-British Commonwealth Cooperation in the Far East Area, WPD 4402-18 and AG 380.3 (4-4-41).
92. Acually the Admiralty set in train the necessary arrangements for producing detailed joint operating plans, but the action came too late. See Ltr, Joint Secretaries to British Joint Staff Mission in Washington to U.S. Secy for Collaboration, 26 Nov 41, sub: U.S.-British Commonwealth Cooperation in the Far East Area, AG 380.3 (4-4-41). For the development of PLENAPS see Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philippines, Ch. 1.
93. Eight bases for world peace following "destruction of the Nazi tyranny" were stated by Roosevelt and Churchill. See The New York Times, 15 Aug 41, p. 1.
94. Memo, Lt Col C.W. Bundy for CofS, 16 Aug 41, sub: Notes on Speech by the Prime Minister on USS Augusta, 9 Aug 41, WPD 4402-62.
95. General Strategy Review by the British Chiefs of Staff, 31 Jul 41. This was an inclosure to a letter from Col C. C. Hollis, Secy Chiefs of Staff Committee, to CofS, 10 Aug 41, WPD 4402-62, revised copy in JB 325, ser 729, in ABC 381 (9-25-42 [42?]) Section I.
96. Summary of selected parts of Strategy Review cited in n. 95.
97. Quotation from same Strategy Review.
98. The group included Harry Hopkins, W. Averell Harriman, Admiral King, and General Burns. See The New York Times, 17 Aug, p. 3.
99. Ltr, Col C. C. Hollis, Secy Chiefs of Staff Committee, to CofS, 10 Aug 41, WPD 4402-62. Duplicates were sent to Admiral Stark and General Arnold.
100. The notes referred to arc in a Memo of Lt Col C.W. Bundy for CofS, 20 Aug 41, sub: Notes on Staff Conferences, August 11-12, 1941, on Board Prince of Wales, WPD 4402-62.
102. On 9 August General Gerow had sent a radiogram to General Chaney in London informing him that the War Department was considering establishing groups in the British Isles and the Near East to administer Lend-Lease aid and to observe the use of American equipment. Chaney agreed it would be useful and Maj. Gen. George H. Brett of the Air Corps was sent to discuss the matters with General Chaney and thereafter to proceed to Egypt. See (1) Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for TAG, 9 Aug 41, sub: Proposed Administrative Mission in Great Britain and the Middle East, WPD 4402-51; (2) Paraphrase of cable from Special Army Observer, London, 26 Aug 41, WPD 4402-51; (3) Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for TAG, 2 Sep 41, sub as in (1), WPD 4402-51; (4) Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 4 Sep 41, sub as in (1), WPD 4402-51; (5) Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for Maj Gen Chas. M. Wesson, 2 Sep 41, as in (1), WPD 4402-54. At about this same time General Burns, Lend-Lease Executive Officer, was urging that Lend Lease representatives be sent to England and the Middle East to supervise and assist in the handling of defense aid supplies. See (1) Memo. Gen Burns for SW, 8 Sep 41; (2) Memo, Gen Burns for SW, 13 Sep 41. Both in WPD 4402-72. Thereafter there came from representatives of the State Department, the Army, and the Air Forces a series of reports on wasteful British methods in Egypt. These (notably from Kirk, Fellers, and Gerow) were assembled as Tabs A to I accompanying Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, 10 Oct 41, sub: Unity of Command, British Forces in Middle East, WPD 4402-84.
103. Col Bundy's notes on Staff Conferences of Aug 11-12, as cited in n. 100.
104. Ibid. The 12 August notes, however, were based on Commander Sherman's recollection.
105. The New York Times, 15 Aug 41, p. 1.
106. The memoranda, undated, informally prepared, and in some instances unsigned, appear, along with General Gerow's recommendations, as inclosures to accompany a note for record by Col. Clayton Bissell, 31 Oct 41, sub: General Strategy Review by British Chiefs of Staff, WPD 4402-64. Included in the binder is a copy of the approved joint Planning Committee report directing final action on the Strategy Review, 25 Sep 41. The report was forwarded to the Special Naval and Army Observers with appropriate instructions for presenting its substance to the British Chiefs of Staff. See JB 325, ser 729.
107. Draft Memo, Actg ACofS WPD for CofS, Sep 41, sub: General Strategy-Review by British Chiefs of Staff, WPD 4402-64.
108. See paragraph 3d of Tab 2, Sec. II, p. III, Appendix II (Ultimate Requirements Air Forces Supporting Study) to Army and Navy Estimate of United States Overall Production Acquirements, 11 Sep 41, JB 355, ser 707. Copy in AAG 381 (Bulky).
109. Memo, JB to Special Naval and Army Observers, London, approved 25 Sep 41, sub: Comment on "General Strategy Review by the British Chiefs of Staff," JR 325, ser 729, copy in WPD 4402- 64.
110. Memo, Maj H. S. Hansell, AC, for Gen Arnold, through Gen Chaney, 11 Aug 41, sub: An Air Estimate of the Situation for the Employment of the Air Striking Force in Europe (ABC-1), WPD 4402-61.
111. 1st ind on 11 Aug 41 Memo of Maj Hansell (cited in preceding note) to CofS, 19 Aug 41, WPD 4402-61.
112. See Instructions from CofS and CNO to Observers in London, 12 Sep 41, WPD 4402-88. For history of negotiations on the use of code words see Memo, ACofS WPD for CofS, 23 Feb 42, sub: Code Name Index-Agreement with Great Britain, WPD 4402-88.
113. Rad, Special Naval and Army Observers to CofS and CNO, 10 Dec 41, WPD 4402-64.