In the harried, gray days of December 1942, just a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, General George C. Marshall and his planning assistants in Washington were in a dilemma.1 The war was progressing well, but the Allies had not yet worked out a strategy for victory. They had checked the victorious sweeps of the Axis Powers in Europe and in the far Pacific and had themselves taken the offensive. North Africa, Guadalcanal, Stalingrad--all pointed to a turning of the tide. The war between the two coalitions had reached a state of strategic equilibrium and, in a sense, both sides would be starting afresh and on more nearly equal terms. In the area of strategic planning, the two close allies, Great Britain and the United States, would also have to begin anew. After a full year of war, the weight of U.S. forces was beginning to be felt in the theaters. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill bad turned down the one big military operational idea advanced in 1942--the War Department proposal to forego opportunities for immediate operations for the sake of building up forces for an early, direct, massive assault on Germany.
The Basis of Strategy
All signs pointed to the beginning of a new phase of global and coalition warfare for the strategic planners. Clearly it was time for taking stock.
The year following Pearl Harbor, as the United States geared itself to the war it had not wanted, had been hectic, full of surprises and changes. Gradually the planners, along with the rest of the nation, recovered from the initial shock of the Japanese attack. Pearl Harbor exposed weaknesses in America's peacetime preparations for war, but it did not impair the major part of the planners' advance work.2 The initial Japanese successes left unaffected the fundamental principle already accepted in U.S. military policy that the European theater was to be the decisive one in the global effort. They provided further support for the
The Grand Alliance
basic political decision underlying U.S. strategic planning throughout World War II--that the war was to be waged as a coalition effort. Despite the critical situation in the Pacific, it remained the American view that the basis of strategy must be collaboration among the powers at war with Germany, with the primary object of defeating Germany.
The Grand Alliance, forged in war and essentially for war purposes, emerged in 1941-42. The alliance was a war marriage, a "marriage of expediency."3 A common bond of danger drew the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union together in 1941, but each member of the Grand Alliance, as a result of differing traditions, policies, interests, geography, and resources, looked at the European war through a separate pair of spectacles.
Great BritainGreat Britain, the island empire dependent upon sea lanes for its very existence and situated precariously on the edge of Adolf Hitler's Festung Europa, was the first of the three partners to enter the war against Germany. For centuries it had put its faith in the balance of power. Great Britain could be expected to seek to revive and rally the smaller nations and to continue to throw its weight against any strong power that threatened to upset the balance on the Continent. It could also be expected to intervene actively in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, through which ran its life line to its empire in the Orient. Its economy, while highly industrialized, was, in comparison with that of the United States, small scale. In any global war Great Britain's resources would be stretched thin. Britain was anxious to avoid a repetition of its heavy manpower losses in the land battles of World War I. By necessity and choice, its leaders put their faith in the Navy, the Air Force, and mechanized and armored forces rather than in huge armies of infantry. Experienced in war, diplomacy, and empire, Great Britain had a long history of alliances with European powers, and its military leaders were accustomed to working closely with its politicians and diplomats. Even though Britain was fighting with its back to the wall when the United States entered the war, British military strategy and political strategy paralleled each other wherever possible.
Reduced to their fundamentals, British political aims toward occupied Europe were twofold and, as it turned out, somewhat contradictory. For the immediate future the British sought to encourage resistance and rebellion; but, in the long run, once the cancer of Hitlerism had been excised from the European body politic, the British hoped for a general return, with appropriate reforms, to the status quo ante bellum.
The Soviet UnionThe USSR, second of the three partners to become involved in the struggle against Germany, was a land power with completely internal lines of communication. Though it possessed an enormous population and great resources, its industrial development was still incomplete. Lacking air and naval traditions, it put its faith in geography, in the endurance and loyalty of its people, and in
the massive Red Army in the desperate battle of survival.
The Soviet Union represented a new, restless, and dynamic force, devoted to a political and economic ideology different from that of its Western partners. In Western eyes, the Soviet Government, born in revolution and come to power during a civil and foreign war, had developed into a baffling hybrid--a combination of Russian National Socialism, Marxist concepts, and policies and practices lingering from czarist days. Dedicated to the proposition that war was inevitable in capitalist society until the world revolution ushered in a new millennial order, Bolshevism lived in an undeclared state of war with the capitalist world.
Today, as we get more perspective on the role of the Soviet Union in World War II, it becomes evident that the period of Soviet defensive struggle against Germany was merely a pause in twin drives for security and expansion. Both drives appear to have been at work in its war with Finland, and even in the uneasy period of its nonaggression pact with Hitler. One of the main reasons for the break with the Fuehrer was the aggressive action of the Soviet Union in pushing farther west in Europe--in asserting its claims on the Balkans--a move that Hitler, confronted with a stubborn Britain on the west, considered too dangerous to countenance. Until the Russians were attacked by Hitler in June 1941, therefore, their military effort can be characterized as warfare in pursuit of aggrandizement. The German invasion simply reinforced Russia's historic desire to strengthen its position in eastern Europe, an objective that it never lost sight of in World War II. However, for almost two years after the German attack, the Soviet Union was engaged in a fight for its very existence and, while political and territorial ambitions were by no means absent, military considerations were more immediately paramount. Still fearful of capitalist encirclement, suspicious of friend and foe alike, it would occupy an uneasy position in the partnership that Maj. Gen. John R. Deane so fittingly entitled "The Strange Alliance."
The United StatesAnd then there was the United States--young, impatient, rich in resources, highly industrialized, the country with the technical "know-how." It was to have its greatest experience in coalition warfare. This was the country whose whole habit in war had been first to declare, then to prepare. Traditionally opposed to becoming involved in European quarrels, the United States nevertheless had strong bonds of culture, language, and tradition with western Europe, especially with England. The American approach to European war, based on its experience in World War I, seemed to be to hold off as long as possible, enter only long enough to give the bully or bullies who started it a sound thrashing, get the boys home, and then try to remain as uninvolved as before. To most Americans war was an aberration, an unwelcome disturber of normalcy.
The American disillusionment with the outcome of World War I in Europe had had its effects. Between World War I and World War II the national policy was deeply influenced by popular beliefs that the United States should neither enter military alliances nor maintain
forces capable of offensive action. The twenty lean years of economy between the wars sapped the strength of the Military Establishment. Yet the legalistic moral strain that, historically, has so influenced the American approach to foreign affairs remained strong. If only the nations of the world would subscribe to principles of justice and morality, agree to disarm, and outlaw war, all would be well with the world. This idealistic strain, reflected in Wilsonian policies toward Europe during and after World War I, became imbedded in the pragmatism of President Roosevelt and was to emerge in his foreign policies in World War II.
Between 1939 and 1941 the country, under the leadership of President Roosevelt, gradually awakened to the dangers from without. Mobilization of manpower and resources was begun. In 1940 the Selective Service Act was passed. Aid to Britain became official national policy in the same year. Lend-lease was extended to Britain and to other friendly powers in 1941. The strategic planners in Washington, laying aside their earlier academic exercises, widened their horizons and began to think in terms of global and coalition warfare--to take into account the rising danger of war with Japan and the reassertion of German imperialist aims.4
In the uneasy transition from peace to war--perhaps the most difficult of all periods for strategic planners--the planning staffs were faced with myriad unknowns. There was uncertainty about the future temper and will of the American people toward war. There was a dearth of accurate and comprehensive intelligence not only concerning potential enemies but even with reference to friendly powers--Great Britain, France, and the USSR. Little, for example, was known about the Soviet Union's capabilities and intentions in 1941--a condition that was to obtain throughout the war. In fact, on the eve of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military staff seriously doubted the ability of the Russians to continue as an active participant in the war against Germany.
The staffs--in accord with their traditions--kept aloof in the prewar period from controversies over national policies, even though they did not always agree with the President's words and actions. The President, on his part, in 1939, 1940, and 1941 broadened his knowledge of military affairs to include Army and Air plans, as well as Navy strategy with which he had been more familiar in the past. But he did not commit himself irrevocably to the planners' war plans, nor did he immediately seek to influence the strategic ideas of the staffs. The dissociation of war plans from the President's policy limited their immediate practical value, but in the long run there were important advantages in the loose relationship. It permitted the military planners a good deal of freedom to discuss with British officers the possible ways of using U.S. forces in coalition strategy without seriously committing the administration. For the first time in its history, the United States entered a war considerably advanced in its military planning.
By successive stages the nation made the transition from the status of major supplier or "arsenal of democracy" to outright military collaboration with Great Britain. As a result, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the entry of the United States into the war, in Europe as well as in the Pacific, was a natural step for which both Great Britain and the United States were more or less ready. But because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan appeared to many Americans to be the more natural enemy. The United States had extensive interests in the Far East and a tradition of helping China. Even neutralist sentiment was ready to tolerate a war against Japan. Throughout World War 11 the United States military staff and the President could never neglect the war in the East. This compulsion must be kept in mind, for it was to play an important part in the relations among the Big Three and in the strategy for the defeat of Germany. Given its domestic politics, and the added pressure of the war with Japan, it did not seem that the United States could fight a long war in Europe. As General Marshall once succinctly put it, "a democracy cannot fight a Seven Years' War."5
The Big ThreeThese, then, were the three powers that gradually, under the necessity of war, came together. The inner web of their alliance was the close relationship between the United States and Great Britain. The Soviet Union's part in developing and directing the combined strategy of the war was to be relatively small for at least two reasons. Despite its important role in defeating Germany, its strategic problem was simple when compared with the world-wide demands facing the United States and Great Britain. Unlike the Western partners, the USSR would be at war on only one front at a time and that front far distant from its allies. The Russians had but to push westward and destroy the enemy. Their relationship with the United States and Great Britain consisted of demanding and receiving material aid and of pressure against the common enemy. Collaboration, even in these limited fields, was to prove difficult. Normally, the United States and Great Britain transmitted their strategic decisions in general terms to the Soviet Union. The Russians were to take formal part in decisions only at the international conferences at Moscow, Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam. From time to time proposals were put forward for a "United Chiefs of Staff" to include the USSR--but nothing came of them. The Russians remained outside the combined staff system, developed for the co-ordination of the Western effort in the global war. From the start these conditions, added to the legacy of suspicion, made genuine understanding between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies difficult. A curious arms-length war partnership was the result.
As has already been suggested, the basis for close military association between the two Western Powers was laid well before Pearl Harbor. To concert their plans and war-making machinery became a necessity for the United States and Great Britain immediately after the Japanese attack. Just a few days before
Christmas 1941, Prime Minister Churchill and his principal military advisers arrived in Washington for the first of their great wartime conferences with the President and his staff. Out of this conference--known by its code name ARCADIA--came the establishment in Washington, in January 1942, of the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) system--the permanent machinery for day-to-day management of the war and for hammering out Allied strategy.6
It was partly to supply "opposite numbers" to British colleagues for membership in the combined organization that the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the U.S. joint planning system came into being in 1942. As finally constituted, the JCS was composed of the President's chief of staff and the senior officers of the Army, Navy, and Army Air Forces (AAF). Admiral William D. Leahy was appointed as the chief of staff for the President; the other members were General Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, and General Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces.7 These men served both as U.S. members of the Combined Chiefs and as the President's chief military advisers.
Since the three principal British military officers--members of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee--normally had to direct the operations of their services from London, they sent high-ranking representatives to Washington to function for them in the CCS. Field Marshal Sir John Dill, head of the British Joint Staff Mission, sat as the fourth and senior British member of the CCS organization in Washington.8
The CCS soon became a truly remarkable organization in which decisions were reached by common agreement; no votes were taken. Here, subject to the approval of the President and Prime Minister, policies and plans were concerted; strategies outlined; the timing of operations discussed; broad programs of war requirements, allocations of munitions, and requirements for transportation approved; and objectives measured against resources.
Over and above the CCS system were the Prime Minister and the President, responsible for all military decisions. These extremely active leaders each wore two hats--one military, the other political. As political leaders they sometimes had more in common with each other than with their respective staffs. Advising Mr. Churchill at the summit of the British system of intra-governmental planning was a War Cabinet (including the Foreign Secretary, the Minister of Production, and the civilian cabinet officers in charge of the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Air Ministry). The
Chiefs of Staff Committee sat with it. Lt. Gen. Sir Hastings L. Ismay, chief of staff to Mr. Churchill in his capacity of Minister of Defense, regularly attended the Chiefs of Staff meetings and also insured close liaison between British political and military leadership. While Mr. Roosevelt could and did draw on the assistance of the war-born joint staff system, he never established anything remotely resembling the British War Cabinet, and the U.S. politico-military governmental machinery in World War II never became as closely knit as that of the British. The differences between the two systems were sometimes strikingly illustrated at the international war conferences.
The full-dress wartime Anglo-American conferences usually came about when planning had matured to a point where top-level decisions on major issues of Allied strategy and policy were necessary. The conferences and the CCS system provided the framework for the main European and Asiatic decisions. At the conferences the JCS, who were early given the responsibility for the Pacific war, submitted their decisions on plans and operations against Japan and normally received a stamp of approval from the Combined Chiefs as a routine matter.
Other PartnersThe burden of making major policy decisions was borne by the Western partners, but there were other nations besides the Soviet Union that had to be taken into consideration. Among those also involved to varying degrees in resisting the Axis Powers were China, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Like the Soviet Union, they were on the periphery of the British-American coalition. Like the Soviet Union, they too participated in a limited partnership. Most important among them, in political if not in military terms, were China and France.
China, ancient in civilization and enigmatic to most occidentals, had been in a state of undeclared war with Japan since 1931. In contrast to the other major powers, China was not a modern nation state. Nominally a republic, China resembled a weak feudal kingdom of the Middle Ages. Its leader, Chiang Kai-shek, exercised only paper control over a great part of unoccupied China. The semiautonomous warlords co-operated or remained neutral at will. To confuse the political scene further, the Chinese Communists hovered on the outskirts awaiting an opportunity to advance their position. The complex internal situation permitted free play to domestic power politics and worked against any strong central direction of the Chinese war effort.
Even under ideal conditions, China's contribution could have only been limited. Its industry was undeveloped, its agriculture primitive, its apparent wealth in manpower illusory. Oddly reminiscent of Russia in 1914, China required more manpower than its allies to provide the basic essentials. Lacking any naval power and airpower to speak of, China had organized a huge and unwieldy army of very uneven quality. Poorly equipped, poorly fed, and poorly led, the Chinese ground forces seldom offered more than token resistance to the enemy. With the Japanese dominating its most productive and most heavily populated areas on the seaboard and in Manchuria, China
was all but cut off from its allies. From early 1942 only the difficult and tenuous air route over the mountains from India permitted a thin trickle of supplies to reach China.
Faced with an uncertain struggle for survival, China sought all possible aid from its most sympathetic ally, the United States. In addition, it looked to the United States to act as its champion vis-á-vis the Russians and British, whose past interference in Chinese internal affairs laid their motives open to suspicion. Considerable time would pass before the real impotence of the Chinese war effort would become clear to the United States. Like the Russians, the Chinese were engaged against only one of the enemies in the global conflict. At only one of the international conferences (Cairo) did Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek confer with the Western Powers. The Chinese problem presented a tangled skein in Anglo-American war councils.
France, still smarting from its humiliating defeat by the Germans in 1940, presented a delicate problem. The French, proud of their past and sensitive of their national honor, were a divided people. The Germans occupied half the country and the Vichy collaborators controlled the rest. With its industry and manpower closely watched by the enemy, France's capacity to resist was confined to underground groups at home and to the Free French under General Charles de Gaulle in North Africa. In spite of its inability to become a major partner or to contribute decisively to the defeat of the Axis Powers, France was accorded an honorary place of importance for political reasons. In the case of the Americans, sympathy for France, dating back to the American Revolution, helped to rationalize the position. Both the British and the Americans wished to see a friendly France re-established on the Continent, though their methods and means of effecting the restoration might differ. Down to the invasion of North Africa, the Americans chose to maintain relations with the Vichy Government; the British to deal with General de Gaulle. The Russians appeared to be indifferent so long as the other partners supported France from their own resources and did not attempt to foist France on the USSR as a first class power. The task of reconciling the fiction of France as a great power with the fact of its internal division and weakness required all the diplomacy and tact that the Anglo-Americans could muster.
Poland and the Netherlands, operating under governments-in-exile, were both working under British direction and followed the British lead for the most part. Forced to rely on British support and British supplies and equipment, they could only hope for the day when Axis defeat would permit them to return to the status quo ante bellum. Only in circumstances where decisions affecting this status were pending did they seek to gain acceptance of their own views.
The other main allies, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--members of the British Commonwealth of Nations--in general permitted the British to represent them in the higher councils of war. The intimate and friendly relations between the United States and Canada, on the one hand, and the close wartime cooperation of the United States with Australia and New Zealand in the fight against Japan, on the other, served to counterbalance British influence among
the three and tended to establish an atmosphere of reliance and good faith between these allies and the two chief western partners.
Even though much of the discussion at the ARCADIA Conference revolved around the problems created by the critical situation in the Pacific, the British and American representatives agreed that the first and major objective of Anglo-American grand strategy must be the defeat of Germany. The principle of "Europe First" had been accepted by both sides at the American-British Conversations (ABC) held in Washington early in 1941. Out of those exploratory staff talks had emerged an important document--ABC-1--which laid down the principles of Anglo-American co-operation should the United States have to resort to war.9 On the basis of the belief that Germany was the predominant member of the hostile coalition, the main Anglo-American effort was to be made in the Atlantic and European area. Should Japan enter the war, military strategy in the Far East would be defensive. ABC-1 was a conditional understanding; the United States was still not at war. Nevertheless, when war did come the over-all strategy adopted, despite the initial Japanese successes, was essentially that of ABC-1.
The "Europe First" Decision
For the Americans, political expediency reinforced geography and logistics. Against Germany, British and Soviet power was close at hand. Great Britain offered a base for massing Western land and airpower on Germany's threshold; in the Mediterranean operations could be undertaken against the Germans just as soon as the United States could land troops on its shores. Before the United States could come to grips with Japan decisively, its naval striking power lost at Pearl Harbor would have to be restored, ships built, and extensive preliminary operations undertaken to secure advance bases and lines of communications across the far Pacific. Furthermore, the Soviet Union and Britain, hard pressed in the European struggle, simply could not wait for a decision in the war against Japan. It followed, therefore, that the defeat of Germany should be the first major objective and that in the meantime the Japanese should be contained until the Allies could assemble enough strength to take the offensive in the Pacific. Thus emerged perhaps the single most important controlling decision in all British-American war policies in World War II.
Although the basic decision of "Europe First" held throughout the war, the question of how it was to be interpreted and applied arose early in the conflict and remained almost to the end. One of the most persistent questions throughout concerned the division of resources between the war in Europe and the war against Japan. This problem reflected a certain divergence of political as well as military factors in Anglo-American strategy. For Britain, with predominant interests in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and on the Continent, the war against Japan tended to be a side show. For the United States, Japan was in many ways the politically preferable objective and the United States was early given the major responsibility for
the Pacific war. As a result, differences from time to time arose between the two allies over the distribution of resources between the two wars. Britain tended to emphasize the effort in Europe at the expense of the Pacific. Although the United States more than met its commitments in Europe, it insisted on a margin of safety in the Pacific.
Close as the United States and the United Kingdom had been drawn by Pearl Harbor, and agreed as they were on the need to defeat Germany first, they had no specific plan for defeating Germany and liberating Europe. 1941-42 saw the emergence of divergent British and American concepts in strategic theory. The British concept for defeating Germany early became apparent. Even at the ABC meetings before the United States entered the war, the British had advanced the idea that the proper line of attack on Germany was through Italy and the Mediterranean. In the summer of 1941 during the Atlantic Conference, the British Chiefs had further spelled out their ideas. They proposed reliance on blockade, bombing, subversive activities, and propaganda to weaken Germany's will and ability to resist. Local patriots would be secretly armed and equipped to revolt. The emphasis in offensive action would be on mobile, hard-hitting armored forces operating on the periphery of German-controlled territory and eventually striking into Germany itself, rather than on large-scale ground action to meet the full power of the German military machine. No vast armies of infantry such as those used in World War I would be needed. At the ARCADIA Conference Churchill further elaborated on these ideas for the President.
The Search for a Strategic Plan
The whole approach was in accord with the Churchillian theory of waging war on the Continent--what may be called the peripheral strategy--a concept he had developed after the British experience in World War I. The emphasis would be on swift campaigns of speed and maneuver, on probing soft spots, on a war of attrition. Though the so-called soft underbelly part of the peripheral thesis has received great attention, it must not be forgotten that Norway was always one of Churchill's favorite operational objectives during World War II. Variations on the concept as applied to the Mediterranean involved entering the Mediterranean via North Africa and then proceeding by way of Italy and the Balkans--either to the north Balkans or to Greece--to Germany. From the beginning, the British envisaged a cross-Channel operation in force only as the last blow against a Germany already in process of collapse. These two ideas of the British--emphasis on the Mediterranean and the cross-Channel operation as a coup de grace--lingered until the time of the invasion of Normandy. The British concept was a compound of military and political factors, of caution resulting from experiences of the last war and Dunkerque, and of the Prime Minister's predilections. It was tailored to suit scattered interests, a small-scale economy, and limited manpower for ground armies.
American ideas were quite different. As far back as November 1940, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold R. Stark, had concluded that large-scale
land operations would be needed to beat Germany. In the summer of 1941 the Army strategic planners, studying the requirements of a global war for the initial Victory Program, concluded that sooner or later "we must prepare to fight Germany by actually coming to grips with and defeating her ground forces and definitely breaking her will to combat."10 They assumed that the way would have to be paved by achieving overwhelming air superiority in Europe.11 Vague as they were about preliminary preparations, the Army planners were already disposed to think in terms of meeting the German Army head on. To win, they envisaged the need of a U.S. Army of approximately 215 divisions. Here was the kernel of the American theory of a war of mass and concentration--of a decisive war leading to the defeat of the enemies' armies. It reflected American optimism and confidence in the industrial machine to produce the military hardware and the faith of the military in the ability to raise, equip, train, and lead a large citizen army for offensive purposes.
The Americans and the British each justified their theories and plans in terms of relieving the pressure upon the Russians. Neither side could readily win the other to its concept of strategy and the long debate that ensued led to a delicate relationship with the Soviet Union. From the beginning the Russians, locked in a death struggle on the Eastern Front, had no doubts about the proper Western strategy. They wanted a second front; they wanted it soon; and they wanted it in the West. Each Anglo-American postponement of this second front added fuel to the fire.
The first round of debate on strategy came in 1942 over the British desire for an invasion of North Africa--the TORCH operation--versus the American desire for an early cross-Channel attack--the BOLERO-ROUNDUP plan.12 A number of
steps led up to the evolution of the BOLERO-ROUNDUP plan, the brainchild of the U.S. Army. At the ARCADIA Conference the Americans and British had agreed that a first essential in the war against Germany was to preserve the lines of communications across the North Atlantic between the United States and the fortress in the British Isles, and that, as an immediate step in that direction, U.S. forces should be dispatched to Great Britain. The agreement did not include any strategic concept or plan for using that fortress as a base for invasion of the Continent. In the early months of 1942 the need for such a concept and plan began to be keenly felt in the U.S. War Department. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, General Marshall, and the Army planners became increasingly disturbed over the dispersion of troops, ships, and supplies to meet immediate crises in non-European parts of the globe--Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, and the Pacific.13 To these demands were added the desperate pleas of the Russians and Chinese for more aid. Practically all the forces that the Army and Navy had ready in the first six months after Pearl Harbor had to be sent to the Pacific. Unless the trend toward dissipation were checked, the planners realized, the United States would eventually be deprived of the power to exercise decisive weight and influence in coalition strategy. The thinking of the Army staff was sharply reflected in a notation made on 22 January 1942 by Brig. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the chief War Department operations officer for the Pacific: "The struggle to secure adoption by all concerned of a common concept of strategical objectives is wearing me down. . . . We've got to go to Europe and fight. . . . We've got to begin slugging with air at West Europe; to be followed by a land attack as soon as possible."14
In February and March the War Department planners, under General Eisenhower's guidance, and the joint Staff Planners studied the whole problem of Pacific deployment in the context of global strategy. Clearly, limits would have to be set for subsequent movements of Army forces to the Pacific, but that in itself would not solve the problem of defeating Germany. As a solution, the joint Chiefs adopted the concept of invading Europe in force from the United Kingdom with a fixed target date. This plan, as proposed by General Marshall, called for forces to be assembled immediately (BOLERO) for a cross-Channel invasion in the spring of 1943 (ROUNDUP). To BOLERO-ROUNDUP was added a subsidiary plan, SLEDGEHAMMER, providing for an emergency small-scale landing in the autumn of 1942 should either Germany or the USSR seem on the verge of collapse.
On 1 April the President accepted the plan and dispatched Marshall and Harry Hopkins to London to secure British approval. The British approved "in principle," and BOLERO received top priority. The relief felt by General Marshall and
his staff found expression, when Marshall returned from London, in a notation by Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Chief, Operations Division, War Department General Staff (OPD, WDGS): ". . . at long last, and after months of struggle, . . . we are all definitely committed to one concept of fighting! If we can agree on major purposes and objectives, our efforts will begin to fall in line and we won't just be thrashing around in the dark."15 The agreement lasted less than three months. Obviously, neither the President nor the Prime Minister had been fully persuaded.
To the American staff, BOLERO-ROUNDUP was especially desirable for a number of reasons. It offered, in their opinion, the soundest basis of strategy for the European war--an all-out bombing offensive against Germany and an attack on the northwest coast of France, using the British Isles as the base. BOLERO represented the shortest route from the United States to the heart of Germany. In the British Isles, the United States could safely land its ground forces without the aid of carrier-based air cover and could safely develop air superiority over northern France. The route of attack into Germany via the Low Countries was considered easier than any other. The plan would meet the Soviet demand for a second front. It promised to furnish a definite long-range strategic goal for industrial and manpower mobilization. Above all, it promised decisive action by a definite date--early 1943--and offered a long-range plan that would fulfill the principle of concentration. For a while plans went ahead for the second front. General Eisenhower arrived in England on 24 June 1942 to assume command of the European Theater of Operations (ETO), and U.S. forces began to land in considerable numbers.
But the tide soon turned against the American plan. In June the Prime Minister came to Washington and supported a North African operation--as he had at ARCADIA. So disturbed was the American staff over the evident British intention to scuttle BOLERO-ROUNDUP that in July the Joint Chiefs even considered threatening the British with an all-out offensive in the Pacific--the so-called Pacific alternative--a threat the President refused to allow them to make. In July Hopkins, Marshall, and King went to London for further discussions. Out of these came the decision to launch a North African attack in the autumn of 1942. TORCH replaced BOLERO-ROUNDUP. The American staff had lost out, the President overruling it.
The TORCH decision resulted from two basic factors--President Roosevelt's insistence on action by U.S. ground forces against Germany in 1942, and the categoric refusal of Churchill and his staff to accept the notion of a 1942 cross-Channel operation. The need to relieve the critical British situation in the Middle East undoubtedly influenced Churchill. There were also some positive advantages that all sides recognized could result from a successful TORCH operation. The shipping situation was so tight that all possible measures had to
be taken to get more ships. A saving of over 200 ships per month could be effected if Allied convoys to the Middle East and India could go through the Mediterranean instead of around the Cape of Good Hope. There were, it must be recognized, serious questions concerning the feasibility of launching the cross-Channel operation in 1942, or even in the spring of 1943. Practical considerations played an important part. There were resources for TORCH; those for the cross-Channel undertaking were more doubtful.
To Marshall and Stimson the TORCH decision was a bitter pill. To them it meant the adoption of a strategy of encirclement, of periphery-pecking, and of what Maj. Gen. Thomas T. Handy later termed "scatterization."16 It meant inevitable postponement of a definitely scheduled direct thrust
What are some of the strategic lessons of the BOLERO versus TORCH controversy of 1942? The BOLERO-ROUNDUP plan, a concept generated by the War Department--outside the regular JCS-CCS system--miscarried. In retrospect the plan seems to have been premature. Neither the British nor the forces and the means to cross the Channel appeared to be ready. But forces in being have a way of generating a strategy of their own, and the impatience and pressure of political leaders for action may override the strategy of the military, however sound it may appear to the latter. There were enough forces and means to undertake TORCH. The Western Allies undertook TORCH.
The TORCH decision, which so disappointed American military hopes, also complicated relations with the Soviet Union. Churchill felt the full weight of Marshal Joseph Stalin's disapproval in a stormy interview in Moscow in mid-August. Sensitive as the Western Allies were to Soviet reactions, they tried to compensate for the immediate effects of TORCH on aid to the Russians by such friendly gestures as offering direct military assistance in the Caucasus, development of the Persian Gulf. delivery route, and a build-up of the Alaska-Siberia air ferry route.17 These efforts meant little to Stalin. The Western Allies were beginning to learn that there was no banking good will with the Soviet Union. They could expect no real improvement in military relations with the USSR except where collaboration would clearly contribute to the one common interest the early defeat of Germany.
The Pacific was also diverting power from the American resources on which the Army planners could count for "beating Germany" first. In 1(142 demands in the Pacific were exigent and heavy. The first year of the war in the Pacific was largely spent by the United States armed forces in establishing and protecting supply lines and bases from which offensives might later be undertaken against Japan. The War Department had tried to keep the forces and means allotted to the Pacific to a minimum, but it had not fully anticipated the great need for air and ground service units for Australia
and Pacific island bases and had to make successive ad hoc increases in the allotment of Army troops. Air deployment to the Pacific conflicted with the determination of the AAF to initiate large-scale bombardment to western Europe.
By mid-1942 the diversion of men and resources to the Pacific had begun to produce results, but the rebuff to the Japanese forces at the battles of Coral Sea (May 1942) and Midway (June 1942) by no means slowed Army deployment to the Pacific. That deployment, in the new phase of the Pacific war, was no longer confined to garrisoning a "line" of bases to support a harassing naval defensive, but was being calculated in terms of tactical offensive moves beyond that line. A series of limited offensives was plotted and begun with the invasion of Guadalcanal in August 1942. The new policy required emergency reinforcements in the fall for both Guadalcanal and the Papua Campaign. Before the close of the year some of the troop strength originally built up in the Central Pacific was being transferred to support these local offensives, and it was clear that still more Army troops would be needed to complete these tasks.
For the Pacific theater as a whole, the total number of Army forces deployed at the end of 1942 (approximately 3,550,000) was about equal to the total number of Army forces deployed in the United Kingdom and North Africa (approximately 347,000). Nine of the 17 divisions overseas and 17 of the 72 air combat groups overseas were in the Pacific.
In the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater early limitations on Army deployment had been maintained far more successfully, but the problems presented by the CBI theater had by no means been resolved by the close of 1942. In the CBI, as in the Middle East, the United States was drawn into highly complicated jurisdictional, strategic, and logistical problems. Basic strategic considerations, as well as limited Allied resources for mounting major attacks on the Asiatic mainland and pressing immediate needs of other theaters, combined to keep the CBI theater, throughout 1942, low on the list of priorities set by the CCS for overseas deployment. For the United States, the object of strategic policy toward China since the very beginning of the war had been to keep that country actively in the war without a major investment of U.S. forces. To carry out this policy Maj. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell's mission to China had been instructed in February 1942 to increase both the effectiveness of American assistance to the Chinese Government and the combat efficiency of the Chinese Army.18 After the Burma Road was cut by the Japanese in late April, the problems facing Stilwell's mission became far more difficult. For the U.S. Army, however, the CBI remained--as did the Middle East--essentially an air and supply theater. A year after Pearl Harbor about 17,000 U.S. troops were present in or en route to the China-Burma-India area.
The Middle East was an area of British strategic responsibility and one in which the United States preferred not to become deeply involved. But events in
1942 had forced successive modifications in the plans for the use of Army forces in the area. At the end of December 1942 about 30,000 troops were present in or en route to the Middle East--primarily air and service troops. This enlarged commitment reflected, in part, increased operational air activities by United States forces in support of British-American offensive action in the Mediterranean. In part, it reflected the greater need for service units required to construct, operate, and maintain the Persian Gulf supply route for shipments of supplies to the Soviet Union.
All in all, by 31 December 1942 slightly more than half of the divisions and about a third of the air combat groups overseas were deployed in the war against Japan. The remaining divisions overseas and over one half of the air combat groups overseas were deployed in the war against Germany. The rest of the air combat groups overseas were distributed among Latin American and South Atlantic bases. The total U.S. Army forces then deployed in the war against Japan exceeded by over 85,000 the total U.S. Army forces deployed in the war against Germany.19 The scattering of men and planes was paralleled by the parcelling out of shipping to move and maintain troops overseas. Throughout 1942 shortages--especially of escort vessels and landing craft--imbalances between available troop and cargo shipping, and the heavy rate of sinkings made shipping the limiting factor in Army planning for overseas deployment.20
With the launching of TORCH at the end of 1942, the first stage in the search for a strategic plan against Germany came to an end. 1941-42 had been the period of defensive strategy and a strategy of scarcity. The basic fear was the fear of defeat; the great concern, the survival of the Soviet Union. By the close of 1942 it had become apparent that, though the Western Allies were still not agreed on strategy, their plans were tied to the outcome of the struggle on the Eastern Front. But Stalin had turned down the offer of Roosevelt and Churchill to send an Anglo-American air force to support the Soviet forces in the Caucasus. He made it unmistakably clear that Western military forces were not wanted in Soviet territory to fight beside Soviet soldiers.21 From the West Stalin wanted only more lend-lease and a second front.
The two approaches to war had had their first conflict and British opportunism or peripheral strategy had scored the first victory. However, the issue was not yet squarely joined. That British notions of strategy had tended to prevail was not surprising. British forces had been earlier mobilized and were in the theaters in far greater numbers than were those of the Americans. The United States was still
mobilizing its manpower and resources. It had taken the better part of the year after Pearl Harbor for U.S. forces to have any appreciable effect in the theaters. Strategic planning in 1942 had been largely short run, hand to mouth, and opportunistic. Its scope had been in considerable measure determined by critical shortages in shipping and munitions. Troops had been parcelled out piecemeal to meet immediate threats, crises, and needs in the primarily defensive and garrisoning phase of, the war. New to the art of military diplomacy and negotiation, the Americans were still thinking in "either-or" terms--this operation or that one. The one scheme to put Allied planning on an orderly, long-range basis and to achieve the principles of mass and concentration in which the Americans had put their faith had failed. An effective formula for halting the continued dissipation of forces and materiel in what they regarded as secondary ventures still eluded them.
The transition to the strategic initiative introduced many new and complex problems for the American military staff. Active and passive fronts were now established all over the world. The TORCH decision had thrown all Allied strategic planning into a state of uncertainty and flux. The old issues of encirclement versus concentration and Atlantic versus Pacific deployment, which the Army staff hoped had been settled once and for all by the British-American agreement in the spring of 1942 on BOLERO-ROUNDUP, were being debated anew. The basic strategic question for the planners was how to limit operations in subsidiary theaters and carry the war decisively to the Axis Powers.
As the strategists groped their way toward agreement on an answer to the question during 1943 and 1944, they often found themselves engaged in consideration of possibilities of action that became academic before a decision on them could be reached. The positive aspect of their planning was governed by the growing inevitability of a large-scale invasion of northwestern Europe, even as the War Department had envisaged it in the spring of 1942, together with the development of essentially comparable means to defeat Japan. Subordinate to this was the attempt to guide the intermediate operations required to prepare the way for the main offensives. To present the story of that strategic planning is the purpose of the pages that follow.
Table of Contents
Preface * Next Chapter (1)
1. General Marshall had been ordered to Washington to serve as Assistant Chief of Staff, War Plans Division in July 1938, and in October 1938 became Deputy Chief of Staff. He was appointed Chief of Staff in September 1939.
2. The fullest account of peacetime military preparations is contained in Mark Skinner Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1950) (hereafter cited as Prewar Plans and Preparations). See also: (1) Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1953) (hereafter cited as Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning: 1941-1942), Chs. I-IV; and (2) Maurice Matloff, "Prewar Military Plans and Preparations, 1939-41," United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol, 79, No. 7 (July 1953)
3. John R. Deane, The Strange Alliance (New York, The Viking Press, 1947), pp. 319-20.
4. For a discussion of American prewar strategic planning culminating in the evolution of the RAINBOW plans, see: (1) Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning: 1941-42, Chs. I-III; (2) Watson, Prewar Plans and Preparations, Ch. IV; (3) Stetson Conn and Byron Fairchild, The Framework of Hemisphere Defense, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1959).
5. Interv, Dr. Sidney Mathews, Maj Roy Lamson, and Maj David Hamilton with Gen Marshall, 25 Jul 49, OCMH files.
6. The ARCADIA Conference is discussed at length in Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning: 1941-42, Ch. V. At the conference a fixed distinction between the terms "Joint" and "Combined" was adopted. Henceforth "Joint" applied to interservice affairs in the United Kingdom or the United States, and "Combined" to British-American collaboration.
7. Admiral Leahy had served as governor of Puerto Rico and ambassador to France after his retirement as Chief of Naval Operations in 1939. In 1942 the President appointed him Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief. Admiral King had become Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, in December 1941 and in 1942 was also designated Chief of Naval Operations. General Arnold became Chief of the Air Corps in 1938, Deputy Chief of Staff (Air) in 1940, and Commanding General, Army Air Forces, in 1942.
8. Field Marshal Dill had served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1940-41. In 1941 he became head of the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington.
9. For accounts of ABC Conference and ABC-1 see (1) Watson, Prewar Plans and Preparations, Ch. XII; and (2) Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning: 1941-42, Ch. III.
10. Chart, "Ultimate Requirements-Ground Forces," App II, Pt II, Sec 1, JB 355, ser 707.
The Victory Program is discussed in (1) Watson, Prewar Plans and Preparations, Ch. XI; (2) Richard M. Leighton and Robert W. Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1955), Ch. V. See also William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason, The Undeclared War (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1953) pp. 735-42; [and Charles E. Kirkpatrick, An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941].
11. For the initial Victory Program estimates, the newly established Air War Plans Division prepared a plan known as AWPD/1. This plan, calling for over 2,000,000 men and some 60,000 combat planes, contained the blueprint of AAF wartime expansion and embodied its strategic faith. In the opinion of the air planners, it was doubtful if a large-scale invasion of Europe could be launched before the spring of 1944. The invasion would coincide with the climax of the bombing offensive. The air planers went further and expressed the belief that if the air offensive were successful, a land offensive might not be necessary. Even though these views ere not entirely consistent with those of the War Department, General Marshall and the Army planners approved AWPD/1, which became the "bible" of air planners. (For a detailed discussion of AWPD/1, see Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II, I, Plans and Early Operations-January 1939 to August 1942 (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1948) (hereafter cited as Craven and Cate, AAF I), 131-32, 146-17, 149-50, 594, 599-600)
12. For an elaboration of the points that follow, including the evolution of the BOLERO-ROUNDUP plan, the consequent Anglo-American debate, and the eventual decision to launch TORCH, See: (1) Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning: 1941-42, Chs. VIII, XII and XIII; (2) Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (rev. ed.) (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1950), Chs. XXIII and XXV; (3) Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1948), Ch. XVII; (4) Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War: The Hinge of Fate (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950), Book I, Chs. 18 and 22, and Book II, Ch. 2; and (5) Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe (London, Collins, 1952), Ch. V.
13. Secretary Stimson had been Secretary of War in 1911-13; Governor-General of the Philippines in 1927,-29; and Secretary of State in 1929-33. In July 1940 he again became Secretary of War.
14. Notations by Eisenhower, 22 Jan 42 entry, Item 3, OPD Hist Unit File.
General Eisenhower had served as assistant to the military adviser of the Philippine Islands from 1935 to 1940. In June 1941 he became chief of staff of the Third Army. He joined the War Plans Division of the War Department in December 1941 and became chief of that division in February 1942.
15. Notations by Eisenhower, 20 Apr 42 entry, Item OPD Hist Unit File. For the evolution of the Operations Division into General Marshall's global command post in World War II, see Ray S. Cline, Washington Command Post: The Operations Division, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1951) (hereafter cited as Cline, Washington Command Post).
Eisenhower had been promoted to the rank of major general on 27 March 1942.
16. After serving in the war Plans Division from 1936 to 1940, General Handy returned in 1941 and served as Chief of the Strategy and Policy Group until he succeeded Eisenhower in June 1942 as Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations Division.
17. For the effects of TORCH on postponing convoy sailings to the USSR along the northern route, see Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning: 1941-42, Ch. XIV.
18. General Stilwell had commanded the III Corps in California in December 1941 and in early 1942 took part in the preliminary planning for a North African operation. In February 1942 he was appointed Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces in the Chinese Theater of Operations, Burma and India. Stilwell was promoted to lieutenant general on 25 February 1942.
19. Figures based on: (1) USAF Statistical Digest, 1947, pp. 2-12; (2) STM-30, 1 Jan 48; and (3) OPD Weekly Status Map, 31 Dec 42. According to the STM-30 computation, total forces deployed in the war against Japan--including Alaska and CBI--amounted to 464,868. Forces deployed against the European Axis Powers--including Africa, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf Service Command--numbered 377,644.
20. For the impact of shipping and other logistical factors on Army planning and the constant struggle to match ends and means in 1942, see Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-43.
21. Stalin's position evidently represented a change of mind, since in September 1941 he had asked for twenty-five to thirty divisions to be sent from Great Britain to Archangel or through Iran to the southern front in the USSR. See Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War: The Grand Alliance (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950), pp. 462-63.