Chapter V
The Atlantic Crisis of 1941

The critical world situation confronting the United States in the spring of 1941 raised questions that were not answered by drafting long-range war plans. The most pressing of these questions was how to help insure the survival of Great Britain. Britain's weakness in early 1941 stemmed primarily from its increasingly critical shortage of merchant shipping. In March and April the British lost ships to Axis submarine, surface, and air attacks at an annual rate of about 7,300,000 gross tons; with a current British shipbuilding capacity of 1,250,000 tons, continuing losses at that rate would result in a net loss to Britain of about 6,000,000 tons a year, or about one fourth its available merchant fleet.1 The British Isles simply could not long survive continued losses of this magnitude. The shipping crisis had been the basis for Admiral Stark's prediction in December 1940 that Britain might not be able to hold out for more than six months. A month later Secretary Hull, in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the proposed Lend-Lease Act, asserted the necessity for control of the high seas by law-abiding nations and called such control "the key to the security of the Western Hemisphere.2 Enactment of the lend-lease bill on 11 March did not in itself furnish much relief for Britain's immediate plight. In fact, the great bulk of military material furnished to Great Britain during 1941 consisted of items ordered before the bill was passed.3 The Lend-Lease Act nevertheless had a very great significance in the evolution of American policy toward the war. It meant the abandonment of any pretense of neutrality, though it did not necessarily and inevitably mean open participation in the


war. Secretary Stimson called the Lend-Lease Act a "limited alliance with a warring democracy," and found its justification in the law of self-defense, not international law. The Axis Powers in their quest for world domination had knocked the bottom out of international law, said Mr. Stimson; Congress had now shown that it realized the true situation and had pierced through the legalistic shadows that had been checking American efforts.4 The Lend-Lease Act had a subtle but profound effect on the attitudes of the American people. Its general acceptance made them more receptive toward other forthright moves to bolster the British position. During April and early May, public opinion surveys indicated that although a substantial majority of the people still opposed direct military action outside the Western Hemisphere, an even larger majority indorsed the measures taken during March and April to help England. Even when it was expressly pointed out in the questioning that continued aid to England would probably lead to war with Germany, three fourths of those questioned approved continuing the aid.5

Independently of the Lend-Lease Act, the United States took steps in March and April 1941 that made available to Great Britain about 2,000,000 additional tons of merchant shipping. Although American shipyards could yield little new tonnage for months to come, the United States seized 600,000 tons of Axis-owned and Danish-owned shipping then lying idle in American ports and turned the ships over to the British, and it succeeded in persuading the other American republics to follow suit. The government also took possession of ships engaged in coastwise traffic and intercoastal operations via the Panama Canal and put them into military service. On 11 April President. Roosevelt declared the Red Sea no longer a combat zone, thus permitting American shipping to replace British in carrying materials by way of South Africa to the Middle East. The government also used its best efforts to secure ship repair facilities for damaged British merchant craft in private American shipyards.6

The United States gave other highly important and immediate aid to Great Britain during March 1941 when it opened American naval and private shipyards to damaged British warships. Lend-lease funds paid for the cost of their repair. The first damaged British warship steamed into New York Harbor


on 19 March. By opening its shipyards to British naval vessels, the United States helped to strengthen Britain's means of protecting merchant shipping in the North Atlantic, and therefore the move provided an additional method of cutting British ship losses.7

During March the United States made the first moves toward increasing and eventually taking over the air ferrying of military planes to Great Britain. These moves also promised some relief to the shipping shortage since the more planes that were flown, the fewer that would occupy transatlantic shipping space. By May the President and his advisers had decided that as soon as possible the United States Army should take over all transatlantic aircraft ferrying, both to Great Britain in the North Atlantic and to western Africa in the South Atlantic.8 To carry out this decision would require many new airfield facilities like those Pan American Airways was already beginning to construct between the United States and the Brazilian bulge. New facilities along the northeastern route would have to be provided in Newfoundland, Labrador, and Greenland, and the development of these facilities was to be one important factor in stimulating the projection of American military power toward the northeast and Great Britain in the summer of 1941. By an agreement of 9 April the United States guaranteed the security of Greenland, and on 19 June-a month later than planned-an Army Engineer construction force with artillery support sailed for Greenland to begin work on the first of its military airfields.9

Naval Plans and Preparations.

The Navy during March was preparing itself for a duty that, if undertaken, promised the greater measure of assistance to Great Britain that the United States could give at this time. That duty was to participate in the escort of convoys across the North Atlantic. Since the beginning of the European war, the Navy had maintained an increasingly wide and effective patrol in the western Atlantic, and in October 1939 the President had ordered the patrol to broadcast the location of suspicious vessels in plain English.10 To avoid incidents with the United States the German Navy kept out of the western part of the North Atlantic until early 1941, when Hitler (on 25 March) ordered an extension of the war zone to Greenland and southwestward


to the 38th meridian of longitude.11 Thereafter it appeared probable that the Germans would push their submarine and surface raider operations even further westward in the near future. Great Britain and Canada did not have the naval strength to extend their existing escort system westward to protect convoys all the way across the North Atlantic. Since the United States had decided that its own security demanded British survival, and since Britain could be saved only by maintaining a reasonably secure life line across the North Atlantic, the logic of the situation seemed to demand that the American Navy enter the Battle of the Atlantic.

Army and Navy leaders had reached this conclusion on 16 December 1940, and Navy planners drafted their first escort-of-convoy plans during the same month. President Roosevelt sanctioned this planning in his oral directive to Admiral Stark of 16 January 1941. On the following day, the Navy War Plans Division informed Admiral Stark that the Navy could be ready to begin escort duties across the Atlantic to Great Britain by 1 April. Effective 1 February, the Navy reorganized its forces and soon thereafter began to train them for convoy work in the Atlantic. The United States Fleet was redesignated the Pacific Fleet, and the Navy established a separate Atlantic Fleet under the command of Vice Adm. Ernest J. King. Two weeks later Admiral Stark directed the creation of the Northeastern Escort Force (renamed Support Force during March), which began intensive antisubmarine training about 1 March. By 20 March Secretary Knox was able to present to the President a broad plan for Anglo-American naval cooperation in the Atlantic and to state that the Navy was ready to execute the plan as soon as directed, although it could do so more effectively if allowed six or eight weeks more for special training. Under the plan the United States Navy would assume escort duties in the eastern as well as western Atlantic and would establish naval and naval air bases in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and, eventually, in Iceland.12 These naval plans and preparations had the hearty indorsement of Secretary of War Stimson. He and Secretary Knox were "agreed that the crisis is coming very soon and that convoying is the only solution and that it must come practically at once."13


Thus matters stood when President Roosevelt returned to Washington on 2 April from a Caribbean cruise. After lengthy conferences with Admiral Stark on 2 and 3 April, the President orally approved the Navy's Western Hemisphere Defense Plan No. 1, upon which the escort plans and naval dispositions proposed by Secretary Knox on 20 March had been based. He gave similar assent to the transfer of three battleships and other units from the Pacific to the Atlantic Fleet, a move necessary to strengthen the latter for its enlarged mission.14 A week after giving preliminary approval to the Navy's convoy plan, with its risk of early involvement in the Atlantic war, the President changed his mind. Several Cabinet members who had recently been "out West" had warned him on 4 April that American public opinion was not yet ready for extreme measures.15 Secretary of State Hull likewise counseled a less aggressive course of action.16 The rapidly changing international situation undoubtedly also influenced the President. During the week the British military position in the Mediterranean deteriorated markedly. In Libya the British Army was withdrawing rapidly toward the Egyptian border. On 6 April the Nazis launched their Balkan offensive against Yugoslavia and Greece, and three days later they captured Saloniki. By 16 April the Germans had overrun Yugoslavia, the British Expeditionary Force in Greece was in full retreat, and the German Afrika Korps. was at the Egyptian border. The uncertainty of the Japanese situation may also have helped stay the President's hand. The Japanese Cabinet was reshuffled on 4 April, and the Army and Navy were given stronger representation. Japanese Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, having just completed an ostentatious mission to Berlin and Rome, was stopping off at Moscow on his way home. The result of his Moscow visit was the Soviet Japanese nonaggression pact signed on 13 April.

Whatever the reasons that may have influenced the President, he decided on 10 April that the Congress and the American people were not ready to approve the escort of convoys by the United States Navy. Instead, he proposed to draw a line down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, to have the Navy patrol west of that line, and to instruct the naval patrols to follow convoys and to notify them of any German vessels discovered nearby. The patrols were also to notify British warships so that they could track down the German vessels. The President communicated these intentions to Prime Minister Churchill on 11 April and invited him to tell the American Navy about


British convoy movements in the future so that American patrol vessels could seek out Axis ships in the vicinity of convoys.17 The President at first proposed to draw the line down the 25th meridian of longitude, but he changed this a few days later to the 26th meridian. He also declared that the American defense zone would include all of Greenland, the protection of which the United States had just assumed. Initially, the President intended to announce the new patrol plan publicly, but on 15 April he told Secretary Stimson that he had decided not to do so-instead, he would simply give the Navy orders and allow its actions to speak for themselves.18

On 15 April the President had met with his principal military and naval advisers to discuss a modified Navy plan presented by Admiral Stark and designed to accomplish the patrol missions proposed by the President five days earlier. General Marshall apparently left the meeting without knowing that the President had decided to go ahead with the plan without any public announcement and, anticipating another White House meeting at which he might be called upon for further advice, gathered his principal advisers together on the morning of 16 April to consider what that advice should be. General Marshall evidently thought that even the modified Navy plan, if publicly announced, might lead to war in the very near future. He therefore asked his staff: (1) "If we have gotten to a point where we can no longer operate on a peacetime status, should he recommend a war status?" (2) "Is immediate action necessary?" These were embarrassing questions for the Chief of Staff to ask, for he realized that most immediate actions would have to be undertaken by the Navy and not by the Army.19 General Marshall's questions produced a quick analysis by the War Plans Division of the advantages and disadvantages of an immediate American entry into the war. The principal advantage, as the Army planners saw it, would be that "the United States would be awakened to the gravity of the current situation and brought together in a cohesive effort that does not prevail today." The principal disadvantage was that the Army was not yet prepared to undertake active military


operations except on an extremely minor scale. The planners concluded that a decision for war should be taken only if it were necessary in order "to avoid either a loss of the British Isles or a material change in the attitude of the British Government directed toward appeasement."20

General Marshall discussed the War Plans analysis and broader aspects of the war situation at a second conference on 16 April. Maj. Gen. Stanley D. Embick, a senior Army planner who had been summoned to Washington by General Marshall to help advise the President on the Army's position, was present. The planners pointed out that, in the event of an immediate entry into the war, the 1st Division was ready, and two more Regular Army divisions would be ready by 1 May, to undertake the Western Hemisphere missions specified in ABC-1. Ammunition for the Army was critically short and would continue to be so until January 1942. General Embick expressed a rather strong personal opinion, from the military viewpoint, against immediate entry into the war. The Army planners reiterated their stand in favor of decisive American action, if that was deemed necessary to save Great Britain. In answer to a question by General Marshall, the acting chief of the War Plans Division stated that an immediate entry into the war would not seriously jeopardize the Army's future freedom of action, since the immediate Army commitments could not be great.21

The Navy embodied the President's decision on action in the Atlantic in its Western Hemisphere Defense Plan No. 2, promulgated on 21 April 1941. Since the President himself edited the final draft of the plan, it represented an officially approved policy and program for action by American armed forces. The plan declared that the Western Hemisphere extended from longitude 26° west in the Atlantic to the International Date Line in the Pacific, and included (east of longitude 26°) all of Greenland and all of the Azores. Within the Western Hemisphere so defined, the armed forces of the United States were to regard the entry of belligerent naval vessels or aircraft, except


those belonging to powers possessing Western Hemisphere territory, "as actuated by a possibly unfriendly intent toward the territory or shipping of American Powers." The armed forces of the United States that discovered belligerent naval vessels or aircraft of the proscribed variety within the Western Hemisphere were to be instructed to trail them and to broadcast their movements "for the purpose of warning American Powers of a possibly hostile approach." The approach of such belligerent naval vessels or aircraft within twenty-five miles of any Western Hemisphere territory, except the Azores, would be considered presumptive evidence of intent immediately to attack that territory; American armed forces would at once warn the vessels or aircraft, and, if the warning went unheeded, attack them. American naval forces were not to be scattered promiscuously in the Western Hemisphere portion of the Atlantic Ocean but were to cruise along the established ocean trade routes. The Atlantic Fleet's Operations Plan No. 3 carried this plan into effect as of midnight, 24 April 1941.22

The Army promptly drafted instructions to its base commanders in Newfoundland, Bermuda, and Trinidad that faithfully followed the intent and phrasing of Navy Plan No. 2. The Department of State thereupon urged a more cautious phrasing, and Secretary Stimson finally had to redraft the message without further consultation with the President or the Department of State. It read:

In case any force of belligerent powers other than of those powers which have sovereignty over Western Hemisphere territory attacks or threatens to attack any British possession on which any United States air or naval base is located, the commander of the Army base force shall resist such attack, using all means at his disposal.23

Curiously enough, the Army does not appear to have sent comparable instructions


to its older and larger overseas garrisons in Puerto Rico and the Canal Zone.

Despite the President's decision not to authorize actual escort of merchant shipping in the Atlantic, on 18 April he approved the allocation of $50,000,000 of lend-lease funds for construction of American naval and naval air bases in Northern Ireland and Scotland. United States naval officers had selected the base sites during March when the Navy was actively preparing for escort duty across the Atlantic. On the other hand, in mid-April the President withdrew his earlier approval of the movement of a sizable detachment of the Pacific Fleet into the Atlantic and limited the transfer for the time being to one aircraft carrier and one destroyer squadron. Admiral Stark explained these apparently conflicting decisions by pointing out that although Mr. Roosevelt had recently reasserted his intention of following Plan D (defensive in the Pacific, preparation for an eventual offensive in the Atlantic) as a long-range objective, both the President and Secretary Hull wanted to maintain the existing naval balance in the Pacific until Japan's intentions had been further clarified.24

The War and Navy Departments (Stimson, Marshall, Knox, and Stark) took vigorous issue with the President and the Department of State on the fleet question. The service chiefs wanted the main fleet in the Atlantic not only because they wanted to make the patrol system more effective but also because they thought the United States might have to undertake expeditionary tasks in the very near future that would require strong naval protection-probably in the southern Atlantic, where Anglo-American naval power was then weakest. They believed, too, that the Japanese would be more impressed by an American Navy in action in the Atlantic than by an idle fleet held in the eastern Pacific. Secretary Hull, on the other hand, wanted to keep the Pacific Fleet intact until he received an answer to overtures he had made to Japan in mid-April. The President supported Secretary Hull. In addition, he expressed a belief that a strong naval force was needed to guard Hawaii. He also wished to follow out his earlier idea of sending detachments of the Pacific Fleet on westward cruises to keep the Japanese guessing. Nevertheless, the President himself admitted that "there was not going to come much good to the British in the patrol . . . with the number of ships available" in the Atlantic.25

This particular issue of "grand strategy" was hotly debated for about three weeks. General Marshall answered the President by asserting his opinion that


Hawaii was impregnable whether there were any ships there or not; Secretary Stimson and Secretary Knox both concurred. The President then took the position that the Pacific Fleet should not be diminished unless the British acquiesced in the proposal. British naval representatives at first insisted that the United States ought to keep at least six battleships in the Pacific at all times, but after they consulted Prime Minister Churchill they reversed their stand and agreed that the transfer of the bulk of American naval power to the Atlantic would be of great advantage to Great Britain. After the Japanese responded to the Secretary of State's proposals on 12 May, Mr. Hull also took a more favorable view toward the movement of the fleet. About the same time Admiral Stark adopted a more cautious attitude. The net result was that while the President on 13 May finally approved the transfer of the three battleships and other vessels as originally planned in early April, the proposal to move a larger naval force to the Atlantic was postponed for later decision. The ships transferred, representing about one fourth of the Pacific Fleet's strength, reached Atlantic waters before the end of May. By then the British and Canadians had instituted a transatlantic escort system with ships available to them for the purpose.26

The Crisis of May 1941.

The extension of naval patrol and other measures taken by the United States during March and April 1941 were evidences of the government's determination to support the British Commonwealth in its struggle against the Axis. In May, amidst a quick succession of ominous events and rumors, it looked very much as if the United States would soon have to plunge into open participation in the war in order to back up its commitments. Today, the war crisis of May 1941 seems much less real than it did at the time. What American and British leaders did not know then was that the Germans were on the point of concentrating their military might against the Soviet Union. The Nazis were very successful in making it appear during May that they were again getting ready to drive southwestward toward French West Africa and the South Atlantic.

The Germans actually had no immediate intention of moving through Spain, though Hitler and his associates had not lost their interest in a future southwestward drive. The German Navy considered it highly important to


gain control of northwestern Africa as soon as possible, both for its own operational use and to keep Great Britain and the United States from getting a foothold there-the Germans themselves believing that an African operation would offer the United States the best opportunity to intervene in the war effectively. The Germans had their eyes on Dakar, but they could not get to Dakar except by agreement with the French. In mid-March Hitler stated that there was no hope at the moment of negotiating with either France or Spain and that Germany would have to wait until it completed its conquest of the Soviet Union before forcing a decision of the French "problem" and the Spanish "question." He expected to be able to move toward northwestern Africa by autumn 1941.27 At the end of March Hitler harangued his subordinates for more than two hours on the reasons for smashing the Soviet Union first. "Only the final and drastic solution of all land problems," he stated, "will enable us to accomplish within two years our tasks in the air and on the oceans with the manpower and material resources at our disposal." 28

The German tide of victory in the eastern Mediterranean during April reopened the prospect of securing French collaboration. In late April Marshal Pétain let the United States know that the Germans were inquiring about French willingness to permit passage of German troops through unoccupied France and French North Africa so that they could reach Spanish Morocco and attack Gibraltar, and both Pétain and Vice Premier Admiral Darlan privately expressed the fear that Vichy would not be able to resist German demands of this sort. Although Marshal Pétain repeated to President Roosevelt his earlier assurances that France would not agree to any form of collaboration with Germany beyond the terms of the armistice agreement of 1940, Admiral Leahy advised the President that even if Pétain refused to agree to new German demands it "would have little or no deterrent effect upon the Germans."29

The Nazi Fuehrer summoned Admiral Darlan to a conference at Berchtesgaden on 11 May, and Darlan brought back to Vichy a general agreement for French collaboration with the Germans. Despite American warnings,


Marshal Pétain announced on 15 May that the Vichy ministry had unanimously approved the agreement. He also expressed the hope that further negotiations on the details of collaboration would produce a more specific understanding that would permit France to "surmount her defeat and preserve in the world her rank as a European and colonial power." President Roosevelt at once warned the marshal against any voluntary military collaboration with Germany, and the United States emphasized this warning by seizing eleven French ships then in American ports, including the liner Normandie. Whatever the marshal's true intentions may have been at the time, the President and the Department of State certainly had very little faith in Main's ability to resist German demands, and Secretary Hull justified the ship seizures on the ground that French collaboration had already gone beyond the terms of the armistice agreement. A succession of exchanges between Washington and Vichy finally produced a new French note, delivered to the Department of State on 27 May 1941, promising that the Vichy Government would not surrender French warships or colonial territory to Germany and that French collaboration with Germany would not go beyond the terms of the armistice. Nevertheless, on the very next day Admiral Darlan and the German ambassador signed three protocols providing for a variety of collaborative measures. Among them was a provision that German submarines might be based on Dakar from 15 July 1941 onward and that German surface and air forces could be based there at some later date as well. The Vichy Government at first approved the Darlan protocols and then, on 6 June, reversed its position and disapproved them. Hitler by then was starting the large-scale movement of German forces toward the Soviet frontier, and for the time being he ignored this French recalcitrance.30

A fortnight earlier, on 22 May, Hitler and some of his principal advisers had engaged in an extensive canvass of the Atlantic situation. They agreed that the Canary Islands must be reinforced to prevent seizure by British or American forces. They also agreed that Germany had the means to capture the Azores, but that it probably did not have the means to hold them indefinitely in the face of strong British or American attacks. At any rate, to capture and hold the Azores would require a concentration of all available German naval forces in the Atlantic, including submarines, and this would mean abandoning the Battle of the Atlantic. Hitler himself was still anxious to occupy the Azores as soon as possible, "in order to be able to operate long-range bombers from there against the United States," and he hoped the


opportunity to do so might arise by autumn 1941. But while he sympathized with his Navy's plea for permission to take more drastic action against American naval and merchant shipping in the North Atlantic, he refused to grant permission. Hitler said he believed that President Roosevelt's attitude toward full participation in the war was still undecided, and under no circumstances did he want to create incidents that would lead to American entry into the war, "especially since Japan will probably come in only if the United States is the aggressor."31

Marshal Pétain's announcement on 15 May that France had agreed to collaborate with Germany had had an almost electrifying effect in Washington. President Roosevelt and his advisers interpreted it as a portent of German intentions to launch an immediate drive toward the South Atlantic and of Nazi determination to follow up recent victories in the eastern Mediterranean with an all-out effort to knock Great Britain out of the war. The President decided he ought to address Congress on the gravity of the situation facing the nation and indicate what he believed should be done about it. On 16 May he told Secretary Hull that he wanted to send a special representative to Lisbon to find out what Portugal intended to do with respect to the Azores. On the same day General Marshall, with Department of State approval, sent his chief Latin American planner, Lt. Col. Matthew B. Ridgway, posthaste to Rio de Janeiro to seek permission for the immediate entry of Army forces to assist in the protection of northeastern Brazil.32 Across the Atlantic, it occurred to Mr. Churchill on 16 May that the United States ought to occupy Martinique at once in order to prevent it from being turned into a German submarine base. Four Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a public statement on 17 May urged this course.33

When General Marshall reached his office on Monday morning, 19 May, he called in the chiefs of his War Plans and Intelligence Divisions to get their estimates of the French and Caribbean situations. The chief of G-2 said that it looked as though Vichy had capitulated to the Germans and that "we can expect them to do anything the Germans want." While he did not think the Germans would try to land troops anywhere in the Western Hemisphere in the near future, he agreed that a German seizure of Dakar would have a profound effect on the attitude of Brazil. The War Plans chief then reviewed


the Martinique plan for General Marshall and discussed with him proposals for rushing Army air reinforcements to the Caribbean.34 After this briefing, General Marshall went to the first meeting of Secretary Stimson's new War Council. The Chief of Staff told the council (which consisted of the Secretary and his principal civilian and military advisers) that the Army had about 40,000 troops available for overseas emergency expeditionary force use, and he urged, in view of the uncertainty in the attitude of French West African officials and of the German threat toward Dakar, that negotiations with Brazil be pressed and more troops be sent to Trinidad.35

While the Army was thus re-examining its ability to deal with an emergency, the President was seeking advice on the position he should take in his proposed address to Congress. On this same day, 19 May, he asked Under Secretary of State Welles to draft a message that would in effect have extended the Monroe Doctrine to include western Africa and the eastern Atlantic islands. The President had also solicited the professional advice of the eminent geographer Dr. Isaiah Bowman, president of the Johns Hopkins University, as to what the generally recognized division between the Old and New Worlds was in the Atlantic. Dr. Bowman advised that a mid-ocean line drawn along the 25th meridian was geographically defensible at every point except with respect to the Azores, which were generally recognized as a part of the Old World, but urged the President to consider whether or not it was wise to take a stand on any fixed line. The United States, Dr. Bowman felt, might be in a better position to act if it had not limited its sphere of action in advance. Both Secretary Stimson and Secretary Hull argued against the idea of extending the coverage of the Monroe Doctrine across the South Atlantic to Africa. As Mr. Hull put it, a German occupation of West Africa would pose a threat to the Western Hemisphere that had "better be stated nakedly without raising a technical Monroe Doctrine issue."36

It appeared to Secretary Stimson as well as to others that President Roosevelt during these tense days was finding it difficult to make up his mind as to how American policy toward the Atlantic threat should be defined. The Secretary of War was worried "because the President shows evidence of waiting for the accidental shot of some irresponsible captain on either side to be the occasion of his going to war." Instead, Mr. Stimson thought that the President


"ought to be considering the deep principles which underlie the issue in the world and . . . [which have] divided the World into two camps, [in] one of which he is the leader," and that the President ought to define these principles clearly in his forthcoming speech.37 In fact, the President had an extremely difficult decision to make. He believed the situation was sufficiently critical to require a strong statement of policy, but he also knew that American military means to back up such a statement were still very limited. First he decided to drop the idea of extending the scope of the Monroe Doctrine beyond the recognized bounds of the Western Hemisphere. Then he decided to deliver a radio address to the nation rather than a more official message to Congress. When the President learned on 24 May that the Germans had loosed their monster battleship Bismarck. into the western North Atlantic, and that after sinking the British battle cruiser Hood. the Bismarck. had disappeared, he also decided to proclaim an unlimited national emergency.38

The President delivered his address on 27 May. He painted the British military position in dark colors and stated that the war was "approaching the brink of the Western Hemisphere itself" He asserted that German occupation of any of the southern Atlantic islands, or of Iceland or Greenland to the north, would place portions of the Western Hemisphere in immediate jeopardy and ultimately would threaten the security of the United States itself. Observing that the Axis Powers could never achieve their objective of world domination unless they first gained control of the seas, the President termed control of the seas "their supreme purpose today." To dominate the Atlantic, the Nazis had first to capture Britain. Once masters of the Atlantic, the Axis Powers would "then have the power to dictate to the Western Hemisphere." In effect, the President was saying that henceforth the United States would have to be assured of friendly control of the oceans-not just the Western Hemisphere portions of them-and that the maintenance of such control would thereafter be the crucial factor in determining the defense measures of the United States. To assure friendly control of the seas, the United States would have to "give every possible assistance to Britain and to all who, with Britain, are resisting Hitlerism." The President concluded his speech by announcing that, in order to strengthen American defense "to the extreme limit of our national power and authority," he had issued a proclamation of unlimited national emergency.39


The President's speech and proclamation had much more of a dramatic than practical effect. The Army's Judge Advocate General could not discern how the new proclamation "changed our status one iota from that which we held during the limited emergency" proclaimed in September 1939.40 In a press conference on 28 May, the President himself indicated that he had no intention of following up his speech with any new or drastic defense measures. Yet to Army observers the current military outlook seemed bleak indeed, and the need for action of some sort mandatory. A few hours before the President spoke, representatives of all the General Staff divisions and of General Headquarters met in a secret conference to discuss the war outlook. They acknowledged among themselves the probability of England's defeat, and they unanimously agreed on predictions that the British would lose the Suez Canal within six weeks and control over the Strait of Gibraltar within three months. They also agreed that the most the United States Army could do in the Atlantic before November 1941 was to deploy one small, unbalanced force, without combat aviation, and that even this force could not be used within one thousand miles off the coasts of Europe or Africa.41 On the day of the President's address, the American military attaché in London, Brig. Gen. Raymond E. Lee, confessed his firm conviction that, while Britain probably could resist a direct invasion, he could not see how the British Empire was ever going to defeat Germany "without the help of God or Uncle Sam."42 Four days later the executive officer for administering the lend-lease program, Maj. Gen. James H. Burns, informed the White House that in his opinion the time had come to "face the all-out effort and to place odds on such a basis.43

The Azores and Brazil.

During the last week of May it looked very much as though the next military step to deal with the Atlantic crisis might be the dispatch of United States ground and air forces to protect either the Azores or northeastern Brazil.

After President Roosevelt asked Secretary Hull on 16 May to sound out Portugal's attitude with respect to defense of the Azores, the Department of State first consulted with the British (since Portugal was Britain's ally) to


determine their reaction to the President's proposal. At Ambassador Halifax's request, the Department of State agreed to let Great Britain make the approach to Prime Minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal to discover what his government proposed to do in the event of a German attack and whether he would be receptive to the idea of a temporary protective occupation of the Azores by United States forces. On 22 May, before answers to these questions were received through the British, President Roosevelt directed the Army and Navy to prepare a joint plan that would permit an American expeditionary force sufficiently strong to insure successful occupation and defense of the Azores under any circumstances to be dispatched within one month's time.44

The Army and Navy had been considering for many months past the possibility of being called upon to occupy the Azores. They had drafted the first informal joint plan for such an operation in October 1940. In early 1941 the Army War Plans Division, in reviewing the earlier plan and assessing the current situation, had concluded that an American occupation of the Azores was not essential to hemisphere defense and should not be undertaken unless the United States openly entered the war in concert with Great Britain. Although the Azores lie athwart the shipping lanes between the United States and the Mediterranean and between Europe and South America, the Army considered them too far north in the Atlantic to be of any value as a defensive outpost against a German approach toward South America via Africa. The islands had a much greater potential strategic value for Great Britain than for the United States since, if Gibraltar fell, they would provide the British with an alternative naval base from which to cover the shipping lanes in the eastern Atlantic. At the beginning of 1941 the Azores were virtually defenseless, and the Army planners believed that the chief threat to American forces that might be stationed in the islands would be from German airpower based in France. Air defense of the Azores would be difficult since the islands then had no airfields capable of handling modern combat planes.45

Under the ABC-1 War Plan, the Azores and the other Atlantic islands (Madeira, the Canaries, and the Cape Verdes) would, in case of open war,


fall within the British area of primary responsibility, although American naval forces might be requested to assist the British in the occupation of the Azores and the Cape Verdes. Until the President issued his directive of 22 May, neither the Army nor the Navy anticipated that Army troops would be called upon to help secure the Azores.46 The President and the Navy knew that the British had plans for occupying both the Azores and the Cape Verdes as soon as possible after a German move into Spain.47 While the Army's 1st Division in mid-May was earmarked for an Azores expedition, as well as for many other possible operations,48 there had seemed little likelihood of employing it for this purpose.

President Roosevelt's order of 22 May led to hasty Army and Navy planning during the next five days to line up the proposed expeditionary force and arrange for it to receive as much preliminary training as possible. One of the principal difficulties was to find enough suitable shipping to transport it. As finally worked out, the plan called for an expeditionary force of 28,000 troops, half Army and half Marine, with strong naval and naval air support. The Army and Marine 1st Divisions were to supply the infantry contingents. To move the force would require a total of forty-one transports and other noncombatant vessels. The expedition was to be commanded by Admiral King, Commander in Chief, Atlantic fleet, and the landing force by Brig. Gen. Holland M. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division. At first, the services planned to send twelve combat landing teams (nine Marine, three Army) to the north shore of Puerto Rico for joint amphibious training. On 26 May this idea had to be abandoned because of the lack of sufficient shipping to carry the troops to and from Puerto Rico. Instead, limited amphibious training exercises were to be held at Atlantic coast points closer to the Azores--for the Army's 1st Division combat teams, in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. The shipping shortage was thereby solved, but the ammunition supply was certain to be short of estimated requirements. Nevertheless, by 27 May the general terms of an Azores expeditionary force plan that could be executed in time to meet the President's deadline of 22 June had been agreed upon. The planners thereupon drafted a formal joint plan (code name,


GRAY, which the Joint Board approved on 29 May, though an effort also to get the President's approval of it on the same day failed.49

Six days before the Army received the President's Azores directive, attention had hurriedly been turned in another direction-toward Brazil. The Army and Navy had agreed since the initial RAINBOW planning of 1939 that the most vital region to be defended in South America was the Natal area of Brazil. By May 1941 the military airfield program being sponsored by the United States Army was well under way in the Caribbean area and along the northeastern coast of Brazil. The air base sites and partially developed fields in Brazil were virtually unprotected, and if left undefended might offer a Nazi air invasion from Africa a ready-made approach route to the Caribbean, instead of serving their intended purpose of providing an American air defense route to the Brazilian bulge. During the fall and winter of 1940-41 the Army had discussed with Brazilian military authorities the possibility of placing American air base security detachments at the various airfield sites, but it had not been able to persuade the Brazilians to agree.50 Brazil's first open military collaboration with the United States was with the Navy. The Navy's Western Hemisphere Defense Plan No. 2 had provided for cooperative action with Brazilian naval forces in the patrol of the South Atlantic. Although Brazil did not immediately participate in the patrol, it did agree in April to open two Brazilian ports to American naval vessels, and thereby it established a precedent for the entry of Army forces into Brazil.51 A month later, the prospect of an imminent German drive southwestward had led to Colonel Ridgway's urgent mission to Rio de Janeiro.

While Colonel Ridgway was talking with Brazilian authorities, the War Plans Division was formulating the Army's view as to "the most practicable. immediate course of action to prevent the entrance of Axis military power in the Western Hemisphere."52 The Army planners currently viewed the war situation and the probable course of German action in these terms:

  1. The Situation. Germany is now engaged in a struggle for control of the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the oil fields of Iraq and Iran, and North Africa. Prospects for


    German success are good. By her air force, Germany now holds the initiative in the Western and Central Mediterranean. There are repeated reports of German infiltration toward Dakar. The Vichy Government has finally submitted to German domination. French West Africa is open to use by Germany for bases for extension of Nazi power to South America.

  1. Assumption. That immediate and vigorous preparations are being made to extend Axis political, economic, and military power to South America.

  2. Axis Courses of Action. The first and most logical Axis step to project Axis power into South America would be to establish a base on the West Coast of Africa. The obvious advantages of a base in the Dakar area, coupled with the fact that Dakar is in French hands and Axis domination of France is increasing, make it apparent, without further exposition, that Dakar would be the prospective Axis base site.

The most effective response to this German threat would be to dispatch a large expeditionary force to Dakar, or to British West Africa further to the south. But the Army had already calculated that such a force would have to number between 100,000 and 115,000 troops-far beyond existing Army means-in order to assure success. A force of this strength could not be sent to Africa before November 1941 at the earliest. Yet the planners believed that the United States ought to do something-as their study put it, "there is almost universal opinion that BLUE [the United States] should adopt some course of action in the immediate future to forestall Axis intentions toward South America." The United States had the means to develop naval and air bases in Brazil, and that was the immediately practicable course of action that War Plans recommended to General Marshall on 27 May.53

In considering the Azores and Brazil projects, Army planners had to bear in mind the qualified commitment already made in ABC-1 to send Army forces to the British Isles and Iceland sometime after 1 September 1941. Current and prospective shortages of air and antiaircraft artillery forces, and of ammunition, made it appear unlikely that the Army could carry out effectively more than one of these projects before early 1942. As between the Azores and Brazil proposals, only the latter would be of direct advantage in hemisphere defense. The Azores operation would detract much more than the Brazilian from American ability to carry out the ABC-1 commitment. On the basis of these observations and assumptions, a War Plans study of 27 May contended that the United States would have to choose between "two mutually exclusive courses of action which can be undertaken effectively


with the Army forces available during the coming summer and fall." These were:
  1. To protect our interests and the Western Hemisphere by assisting the British to maintain their position and ultimately defeat Germany.

  2. To postpone Army aid to the British in order to insure the immediate security of the Western Hemisphere against possible Nazi attack or political control [through subversion] in Brazil.

This study concluded by recommending the second course of action, to be implemented on the one hand by the immediate dispatch of a balanced United States Army force to the Natal area and on the other by making every effort to prepare the forces required to carry out the ABC-1 commitment at some date later than 1 September 1941. If this recommendation were disapproved, then the British should be consulted as to their preference between an Azores expedition and carrying out the ABC-1 commitment during 1941, since the United States Army could not do both. If the decision were for the Azores, the expedition should be postponed at least until 15 August 1941 in order to assure its success through adequate training and preparation.54

The Crisis Resolved.

President Roosevelt left Washington for Hyde Park on Thursday, 29 May, without having made a final decision as to the immediate course that the United States should follow to combat the Nazi menace in the Atlantic. Eight days later, on 6 June, he announced to Secretaries Hull, Stimson, and Knox certain vital decisions, both as to what should be done in the Atlantic and as to the reinforcement of the Atlantic Fleet.55 The most significant of these decisions was that American troops should be sent as soon as possible to replace British forces then occupying Iceland.

Before announcing his decisions, which fixed a line of action that, for the time being, excluded the possibility of sending an expeditionary force to the Azores, the President had on 4 June approved the Azores plan. But it was a qualified approval, for at the same time he directed the armed forces to prepare an alternate plan for an unopposed garrisoning of the islands.56 Before taking this action, the President had received word through the Navy that, although the Azores had been substantially reinforced by troops from Portugal, these forces and the Portuguese Government would probably welcome


an American occupation if the Germans invaded Portugal itself.57 Also, at the President's suggestion, the Department of State had invited Brazil to contribute a token force to any expedition that might be sent either to the Azores or to the Cape Verdes.58

On the same day that the President approved the Azores plan, Under Secretary of State Welles presented him with information that would in all probability have postponed American action in any case. On 30 May Mr. Churchill had informed the President that Great Britain was prepared to occupy the Cape Verde Islands, Grand Canary, and one of the Azores, should the Germans march into Spain. The Prime Minister had stated then that he would welcome American collaboration in the occupation of the Azores. On the same day Portugal informed Great Britain that while it might accept the aid of its British ally it did not want that of a nation with which it had no existing political commitments. The President's address of 27 May, said the Portuguese ambassador to London, had alarmed Portuguese public opinion, and Prime Minister Salazar felt that any invitation to the Americans would have to be deferred. The British therefore suggested to the United States on 2 June that it bow out of the Azores picture for the time being.59

The Iceland decision had more of a political than military background, although it grew out of the commitment in the ABC-1 plan that, if the United States joined in the war, American troops would be sent to relieve the British garrison there, though not before 1 September 1941. As of 22 May, the Navy wanted to drop this commitment, and at the end of the month the Army proposed that the British be asked to release the United States from it.60 Army planners held that Iceland had little strategic value as an outpost from which to defend the Western Hemisphere.61

But Iceland did have great strategic value for the defense of the British Isles and the North Atlantic seaway. After the British and Canadians extended their escort system across the Atlantic in the late spring of 1941, Iceland served as a much needed intermediate naval and air base. In the President's speech of 27 May he had taken the position that successful hemisphere defense depended upon the salvation of Great Britain and its oceanic life line across the North Atlantic. From this broad point of view both friendly control


and effective military use of Iceland were vital to the national security of the United States.

On the eve of his unlimited national emergency address, President Roosevelt had approached Mr. Churchill on the subject of Iceland, and on 29 May the Prime Minister responded that he would cordially welcome an immediate relief of the British forces there.62 On 30 May the United States Ambassador to Great Britain, John G. Winant, arrived in New York to make a personal report on the situation and also to deliver to the President some confidential papers addressed to him by the Prime Minister. The ambassador was told by telephone from Hyde Park to go on to Washington and stay at the White House.63 Mr. Winant subsequently told Secretary Stimson that the two principal objectives of his visit were, first, to make sure of the safety of convoys of foodstuffs and munitions to Great Britain and, second, to arrange to have United States naval strength on hand in the North Atlantic "when the attack is made on Great Britain later on by way of invasion."64 From Mr. Churchill, the ambassador brought specific requests for an extension of American naval activity in the North Atlantic and for American troops to replace British forces in Iceland.65

On Monday afternoon, 2 June, Mr. Harry Hopkins (who then resided in the White House) asked Secretaries Stimson and Knox to join him in a discussion of the British situation and the steps that the United States ought to take to remedy it. One can only surmise that Mr. Winant may have already intimated to Mr. Hopkins the contents of the report and messages that he had brought from London. According to Secretary Stimson's record of this meeting, the discussion turned to a consideration of "further and more effective means of pushing up the situation, particularly by action in the northeast." Secretary Knox suggested American action with respect to Iceland, and both Mr. Stimson and Mr. Hopkins heartily concurred in the suggestion. According to the Secretary of War, General Marshall also indorsed it immediately after the White House conference.66 At the War Council meeting the next morning, Mr. Stimson asked General Marshall to investigate the "possibilities in case we take vigorous action in the Northeast," by which he meant sending an expeditionary force to Iceland.67 Later on the same day,


Mr. Stimson and Mr. Knox met with Secretary of State Hull and were at least partially successful in persuading him to support the Iceland project. After this meeting, General Marshall delivered to Mr. Stimson a staff report on the relative merits of an Iceland, as against an Azores, operation and expressed his preference for the former.68

President Roosevelt returned to Washington on 3 June, and at noon Mr. Winant joined him to deliver his report and the messages from Prime Minister Churchill. After discussing matters with the ambassador, the President indicated his tentative approval both of the Iceland proposal and of more vigorous American naval activity in the North Atlantic.69 On 4 June the Army planners were told to prepare a plan for the immediate relief of the British forces in Iceland. It was at once clear to them that there was not enough shipping to carry out the Azores and the Iceland operations simultaneously. Three days later the Army suspended its planning and preparations for an Azores expedition.70 The investigation of Army capabilities quickly convinced the President that the Marine Corps would have to contribute the initial contingent even for Iceland, and on 5 June he directed Admiral Stark to prepare a reinforced Marine brigade for dispatch to Iceland within fifteen days. On 6 June the President confirmed his decision to send a United States force as soon as the Icelandic Government requested American protection, and he tentatively decided also to order the transfer of a second quarter of the Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic.71

These decisions in all probability reflected the President's new conviction that the Nazis were preparing to launch an all-out attack against the Soviet Union. Ambassador Winant told the President that before he left London British Intelligence sources had indicated the likelihood of a Nazi-Soviet struggle. During the first week of June the Department of State likewise received what Secretary Hull has called "convincing cables" from its representatives in Bucharest and Stockholm asserting that the Germans would invade the Soviet Union within a fortnight.72 Should these reports be true, the


United States could act with comparative safety along very different lines from those proposed during late May. It need no longer fear an immediate German drive toward the South Atlantic, and it probably could take much more forceful action in the North Atlantic without risking German retaliation or open involvement in the war.

While Secretary Stimson strongly favored an Iceland expedition as well as other vigorous lines of action in support of Britain, the Army planners would have much preferred to have nothing to do with expeditions either to Iceland or to the Azores. As late as 6 June, they were composing strong arguments against an Azores expedition, but they would have preferred an Azores to an Iceland operation.73 With the GRAY plan suspended, War Plans chief Brig. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow on 19 June characterized the proposed Iceland expedition as "a political rather than a military move," and asked General Marshall to try to persuade the President to call it off. General Gerow believed that it was impracticable at this time for the Army to engage in any operations "which might involve engagements with the German forces," and he and his staff were therefore opposed to any movement of Army forces outside the Western Hemisphere.74

No matter what else was done, both Secretary Stimson and the Army General Staff also wanted to move a small security force (about 9,300 troops and 43 planes) to northeastern Brazil as soon as possible. On 17 June General Marshall pointed out to Under Secretary Welles that, as of 10 June, there was not a single American naval vessel within 1,000 miles of the eastern tip of Brazil, and no United States Army forces within twice that distance.75 In an estimate submitted to General Marshall on 18 June, G-2 expressed its belief that the German push southwestward had reached ominous proportions: ten thousand Germans were believed to be in Spain; it was "reliably reported" that the Germans had concentrated transports in southern French ports ready to move four divisions to Portugal; German artillerymen, equivalent in strength to two regiments, were believed to have moved into Spanish Morocco; and G-2 was certain that German submarines were being supplied from the Canaries, and probably from French West African ports as well.76 If this G-2 estimate were anywhere near accurate, it certainly behooved the United States to take some sort of quick action to protect the Brazilian bulge. This was the view presented by Secretary Stimson


and General Marshall to the President in a bedside conference on 19 June, and the President told them he would direct the Department of State to find ways and means of getting American troops into Brazil.77

The day before this conference with the President, the Secretary of War had received some "very upsetting news" to the effect that the tentative decision to reinforce the Atlantic Fleet had been reversed. Mr. Stimson drafted a protest to the President, stating "we are confronted with the immediate probability of two major moves in the Atlantic [Iceland and Brazil] without sufficient naval power there to support them." Continuing, he wrote, "the menace of Germany to South America via Dakar-Natal requires that the hold by American sea-power upon the South Atlantic should be so strong as to be unchallengeable.78 Although Secretary Knox shared Mr. Stimson's views on the question of Atlantic Fleet reinforcement, the President was impervious to the Secretaries' pleas. On the other hand, at the 19 June conference the President asked Mr. Stimson and General Marshall whether the Army could immediately organize an expeditionary force of 75,000 men for use in several theaters-Iceland, the Azores, the Cape Verdes, or elsewhere. In effect the President was told that, because of legislative restrictions on employment of Reserve and National Guard troops outside the Western Hemisphere, this could not be done without completely destroying the efficiency of all Army combat units. Aside from that, the Army had neither the equipment nor the ammunition available to mount such an expeditionary force and still leave anything for the Army units remaining to defend the continental United States.79 In short, at the time Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the United States Army's offensive combat strength was still close to zero.80


On the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union a German submarine almost precipitated open war with the United States by chasing and trying to attack the battleship Texas. and an accompanying destroyer southeast of Greenland and within the war zone that the Germans had proclaimed. The U-203 trailed the Texas. and the destroyer on the night of 19-20 June for about 140 miles but could not launch its torpedoes because of poor weather conditions and the evasive action of the American ships. After the sinking of the American freighter Robin Moor. in the South Atlantic a month earlier, Hitler had forbidden further attacks on United States merchant and naval vessels outside the war zone. When he learned about the Texas incident on 21 June, Hitler, in order to prevent incidents that might bring the United States into the war, directed the German Navy to stop all attacks on naval vessels in the North Atlantic war zone until after the Eastern Campaign was well under way.81

The Germans invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. The next day, in a letter to the President, the Secretary of War called the event "an almost providential occurrence." In the letter Stimson stated that he had met with General Marshall and his War Plans staff, and they had estimated that the Germans would now be thoroughly occupied in the Soviet Union for a period of from one to three months. While so involved, the Germans could not invade Great Britain, nor could they attack Iceland or prevent American troops from landing there. The Germans would also have to relax their "pressure on West Africa, Dakar and South America." The General Staff officers with whom Mr. Stimson had consulted were unanimously of the opinion that the United States ought to take advantage of this golden opportunity "to push with the utmost vigor our movements in the Atlantic theater of operations." Secretary Stimson interpreted this to mean the execution of the Iceland project, American naval reinforcement in the Battle of the Atlantic, and the movement of American security forces to Brazil.82

War Department officials, military and civilian, were undoubtedly united in the opinion that the United States ought to act with vigor during the period that Germany was heavily involved in the Soviet campaign, but the


new war outlook had not wrought any miraculous change in the Army's very limited means for action. A June estimate of Army capabilities, under preparation since late May but adjusted to take the German attack on the Soviet Union into account, concluded that the United States could not for many months do much more than conduct "a citadel defense of the Western Hemisphere including the line Greenland, the Atlantic bases, Natal, the Amazon Valley, Peru, Hawaii, and Alaska." Beyond that, it could probably carry out its ABC-1 commitments to England, including a "subsequent" complete relief of British forces in Iceland. Similarly, it could carry out a limited reinforcement of the Philippines. The United States probably could land holding forces in the Azores, but it probably could not occupy and hold any of the other southern Atlantic islands or any foothold on the western coast of Africa. In time, the United States might accumulate sufficient military strength to secure southern South America. In the still more distant future, it might be able "to take action against our main enemies in Europe."83 Army planners under the circumstances would have preferred to limit immediate Army action in the Atlantic to the dispatch of security forces to Brazil.

In spite of the Army's prime interest in Brazil, the plan to send troops there ran into various snags that prevented any action for the time being other than the initiation in July of formal Brazilian-American joint staff planning.84 With a different point of view from that of the Army planners, Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy urged Mr. Stimson to concentrate Army action toward what he termed the main strategic area of the war--the British Isles, and their North Atlantic approaches. To gain control of the northern and southern flanks of these approaches, he advocated placing troops in both Iceland and the Azores before undertaking any Brazilian operation. "The focus of the infection lies to the northeast," he wrote. "With that insulated, South America presents no problem."85

Although the Army's lack of readiness made it hesitant to advocate measures that would lead to open involvement in the war, the United States Navy was ready to take the risk. Two days after the Germans launched their new attack, Admiral Stark went to the President and urged him to approve the immediate assumption by the American Navy of convoy responsibilities in the North Atlantic. The Chief of Naval Operations recognized that this step would almost certainly involve the United States in the war, but he considered "every day of delay in our getting into the war as dangerous, and that


much more delay might be fatal to Britain's survival." Only a war psychology, Admiral Stark believed, would speed war production and thereby permit the United States to initiate decisive measures in the Atlantic.86

President Roosevelt at first leaned toward the Navy's school of thought. He had no intention of dropping the Iceland project, and on 1 July, when the Icelandic Government agreed to the terms upon which American troops were to be received, the President ordered the initial Marine contingent to sail. On 2 July, he tentatively approved a new Navy plan for North Atlantic operations (Navy Western Hemisphere Defense Plan No. 3) that would have involved American naval escort of all sorts of shipping from the Halifax-Newfoundland area to the longitude of Iceland, to start as soon as American forces landed in Iceland. On 5 July the President told Mr. Stimson that he was again planning to order a second increment of the Pacific Fleet into the Atlantic to implement this Navy plan. But when it became clear that the Japanese had decided to continue their southward advance the President for the second time postponed naval reinforcement of the Atlantic and instead instructed the Navy to adopt a more modest projection of its current North Atlantic activities. The Navy thereupon put into effect its Western Hemisphere Defense Plan No. 4, which provided specifically only for the escort of United States and Icelandic shipping to and from Iceland.87

The real impact of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on the security of the Western Hemisphere derived not from the immediate but from the longer range development of the situation. Instead of a breathing space of one to three months duration, the United States and the rest of the New World were to be free henceforth from any great danger of German surface or air aggression in the western Atlantic. The Nazi-Soviet conflict had a contrary effect in the Pacific. Japanese decisions and actions from early July 1941 onward showed that the Japanese also considered this conflict a "providential occurrence," and they proceeded to take full advantage of it by pushing the erection by force of a "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" with all speed. The United States in consequence was to be brought fully into the war not as a result of measures taken to combat the Nazi menace in the Atlantic, but by Japanese aggression in the Pacific.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (4) * Next Chapter (6)


1. John G. Winant, Letter From Grosvenor Square (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1947) hereafter cited as Grosvenor Square), p. 254; Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940--43, pp. 47-50; S. W. Roskill, The War at Sea, 1939-1945, Vol. I, The Defensive (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1954), p. 618.

2. Testimony on 15 Jan 41, US. Dept of State, Peace and War, Doc. 195, pp. 612-18.

3. For example, less than 100 of the approximately 2,400 airplanes delivered to the British between 11 March 1941 and the end of the year were sent under lend-lease. Craven and Cate, A AF 1, pp. 318-19. Secretary of War Stimson had predicted as much when he advised the President in January, "whatever benefit Britain would derive during that period [before 1942] would be mainly in the increased morale which such passage would undoubtedly give to the British people," since American munitions output could not be greatly increased until 1942. Ind to Memo. SW for President, 22 Jan 41, Pearl Harbor Attack, Pt. 20, pp. 4275-80.

4. Statement of Secretary Stimson as recorded in Min of a Conf in OSW, 17 Mar 41, OCS Conf Binder 11.

5. Statements based on percentages disclosed by Gallup surveys. Memo, Maj Gen Edwin M. Watson for President, 16 May 41, FDR Personal Letters, II, 1158.

6. Winant, Grosvenor Square, pp. 254-56; Hull, Memoirs, II, 927-28; Memo, President for Secy Knox, 1 Apr 41, Roosevelt Papers; Ltr, SN to President, 21 Mar 41, summary in Calendar of Hopkins Papers, Book IV, item 1. Last two in FDRL.

7. Ltr, SN to President, 24 Mar 41; Memo, President for SN, 1 Apr 41. Both in Roosevelt Papers, FDRL. Kittredge MS, Ch. 15, p. 407.

8. Stimson Diary, entries of 7 Mar, 8 and 11 Apr, and 22 May 41; Winant, Grosvenor Square, p. 243; Arnold, Global Mission, p. 241.

9. See Conn, Engelman, and Fairchild, Guarding the United States, Ch. XIII.

10. See Ch. I, above.

11. Samuel F. Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1942 ed.), p. 861 and Map 38.

12. Morison, Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 44-55; Memo, SN for President, 20 Mar 41, SW file, Navy Dept.

13. Stimson Diary, entry of 24 Mar 41. On the same day Admiral Stark remarked, "if England is to be saved, we will have to get in and quickly," and went on to say that there were things the United States would have to do "which may cause war." Notes on SLC mtg, 24 Mar 41, SLC Min, Vol. II, item 13.

14. Kittredge MS, Ch. 14, p. 375, and Ch. 15, App. A, pp. 312-14; information obtained from Captain Kittredge, USN, JCS Hist Sec, in written commentary for OCMH Strategy Sec.

15. Stimson Diary, entry of 4 Apr 41.

16. Kittredge MS, Ch. 15, p. 415.

17. Stimson and Bundy, On Active Service, p. 368; Stimson Diary, entry of 10 Apr 41; Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, Vol. III, The Grand Alliance (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950), p. 140; Langer and Gleason, Undeclared War, p. 435.
The President's scheme may have been based in part on a proposal contained in a memorandum to Harry Hopkins from his assistant, Oscar Cox, on 10 April 1941. Cox suggested "that if the Western Hemisphere is defined either in legal or geographical terms the definition be such that it would keep German raiders out of it, permit the convoying by American naval vessels of British and American ships to the end of the Western Hemisphere, and the delivery of goods in the Western Hemisphere for trans-shipment to Great Britain." Calendar of Hopkins Papers, Book IV, Item 3, FDRL.

18. Stimson Diary, entry of 15 Apr 41.

19. Notes on Conf in OCS, 16 Apr 41, OCS Conf Binder 13.

20. Memo, WPD for CofS, 16 Apr 41, WPD 4402-9. The final clause quoted above referred to reports of the difficulties faced by the Churchill ministry because of the disasters overtaking the British armies in the eastern Mediterranean. The preceding day, Secretary Stimson had protested to General Marshall about criticisms of the Churchill government being made by Army officers. "I pointed out that the success of the United States depended on the safety of the British fleet; that the safety of the British fleet and its preservation depended on the preservation of the Churchill government and the life of the promise made by Churchill last summer to keep the fleet at all odds; therefore, in circulating . . . such comment, they were attacking the vital safety of the United States." Stimson Diary, entry of 15 Apr 41.

21. Notes on Conf in OCS, 16 Apr 41, OCS Conf Binder 10. The record of these 16 April conferences does not disclose General Marshall's own answers to the questions he had posed, nor has any evidence been uncovered that he or General Embick presented the Army's views, as developed in these meetings, to the President. For a more detailed account, see Watson, Prewar Plans and Preparations, pp. 386-90.

22. Memo, CNO for SN, 16 Apr 41, WPD 4351-98, Sec. 6. Though dated 16 April, this copy in Army files contains changes made by the President during the weekend of 19-21 April. Memo, WPD for CofS, 22 Apr 41, WPD 4351-98, Sec. 6, indicates the President's approval of the plan as revised "for planning purposes." The Fleet's operations plan is dated 18 April 1941, but could not have been issued before the President's weekend decisions. A personal letter of Admiral Stark to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, dated 19 April 1941 (printed in Pearl Harbor Attack, Pt. 16, pp. 2163-65), is the best source on the circumstances of the plan; but the postscript of the letter could not have been written before Monday, 21 April. Captain Kittredge has treated this episode in detail in Chs. 14-16 of his monograph. That the British were promptly notified is indicated by Churchill in Grand Alliance, p. 142, though they could not have been notified as early as 18 April, nor was the plan "announced."
Technically, the terms of this plan would have been applicable to Japanese naval vessels and aircraft operating east of the International Date Line. In practice-before December 1941-the Navy did not apply the plan or the plans that superseded it during 1941 to Japanese craft. See Ch. VI, below.

23. Telg, TAG to CG's First Army and CDC, 10 May 41, WPD 4351-98, Sec. 6. Information about the drafting and transmission of this message has also been derived from other papers in this file and from Stimson Diary, entry of 10 May 1941.

24. Kittredge MS, Ch. 15, pp. 408-09; Ltr, CNO to CinC Pacific Fleet, 19 Apr 41, Pearl Harbor Attack, Pt. 16, pp. 2163-65.

25. Stimson Diary, entry of 24 Apr 41.

26. Aide-Memoire, Gen Marshall for President Roosevelt, 24 Apr 41, sub: Def of Hawaii, WPD 3672-32; Stimson Diary, various entries for period 23 Apr-14 May 41; Stimson and Bundy, On Active Service, pp. 386-87; Morison, Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 56-58; Butler, Grand Strategy, II, 502-03.

27. Fuehrer Conferences, 1941, 1, 28, entry of 18 Mar 41. A German staff study dated 11 March proposed an attack on Gibraltar, by troops and equipment withdrawn from the Eastern Front, as soon as German forces had penetrated to the Kiev-Smolensk line. British Cabinet Office, Historical Branch, "Operation FELIX: German Plans for Spain and the Capture of Gibraltar (June 1950)," Pt. I, Political Considerations, in Axis Plans and Operations in the Mediterranean, September 1939-February 1941, pp. 29-30.

28. Halder Journal, VI, 41, entry of 30 Mar 41.

29. Ltr, President Roosevelt to Prime Minister Churchill; 4 May 41, FDR Personal Letters, II, 1148-50. See also Langer, Our Vichy Gamble, pp. 144-45.

30. Langer, Our Vichy Gamble. pp. 159, 407-08; Langer and Gleason, Undeclared War, pp. 497-510; Leahy, I Was There. pp. 31-32; Hull, Memoirs, 11, 962-66.

31. Fuehrer Conferences, 1941, 1, 62-76, entry of 22 May 41.

32. Memo, Maj Lemuel Mathewson for Gen Gerow, WPD, 21 May 41, WPD 4224-150; Memo, Col Ridgway for Gen Gerow, 23 Jul 41, WPD 4115-52.

33. The effect of Pétain's 15 May announcement has been gauged primarily on the basis of various items in the Roosevelt Papers, FDRL, and on entries in the Stimson Diary. For Churchill's note, see Grand Alliance, p. 765.

34. Notes on Conf in OCS, 19 May 41, OCS Conf Binder 15.

35. Notes on War Council mtg, 19 May 41, SW Conf Binder 1.

36. Memo, Secy State Hull for President, 25 May 41, Roosevelt Papers, FDRL. On the proposed Monroe Doctrine extension, see also Hull, Memoirs, II, 959-60, and "Memo of Interview with the President, Tuesday, May 20, 1941," Stimson Diary. On the approach to Dr. Bowman, see Ltr, Dr. Bowman to President Roosevelt, 19 May 41, and other papers in Roosevelt Papers, FDRL.

37. Stimson Diary, entry of 23 May 41.

38. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 296.

39. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, compiled by Samuel I. Rosenman, 1941 volume: Call to Battle Stations (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950) (hereafter cited as FDR Public Papers and Addresses, 1941), pp. 181-94.

40. Memo, SGS for CofS, 29 May 41, OCS Conf Binder 15.

41. Memo, G-2 GHQ for CofS GHQ, 28 May 41, GHQ 381, Sec. 1.

42. Ltr, Gen Lee to Ambassador John G. Winant, 27 May 41, quoted in Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 301-02.

43. Memo, Gen Burns for Mr. Hopkins, 31 May 41, Calendar of Hopkins Papers, Book III, Item 7, FDRL.

44. Memo of Conv, Dept of State, 17 May 41, Roosevelt Papers, FDRL; Memo, Lt Col Charles W. Bundy for ACofS WPD, 23 May 41, WPD 4422-3; Hull, Memoirs. 11, 939-41. See also, Langer and Gleason, Undeclared War, pp. 366-70, and Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42, pp. 44-50, on the background of the Azores directive.

45. Memo, WPD for CofS, 24 Jan 41; WPD study, n.d. [early February 1941?]. Both in WPD 4422.

46. WPD Memo for File, 16 May 41, WPD 4422-2; Memo, CNO for CofS, 22 May 41, sub: Analysis of Plans for Overseas Operations, OPD Exec 13, General Malony Binder 1.

47. Msg, Prime Minister Churchill to President Roosevelt, 24 Apr 41, Churchill, Grand Alliance, pp. 143-45; Msg, Adm Ghormley to CNO, 7 May 41, cited in Kittredge MS, Ch 16, note 45, p. 326.

48. Ind, title: Emergency Expeditionary Force Plan, to Memo, WPD for CofS, 15 May 41, WPD 3493-11.

49. Ltr, CNO to CinC Pacific Fleet, 24 May 41, Pearl Harbor Attack, Pt. 16, pp. 2168-70; various papers, dated 23 May-2 Jun 41, WPD 4422-3, WPD 4422-4, WPD 4232-5, WPD 4232-10, WPD 4232-11, AG 353 (5-23-41), Sec. 1, AG 370.5 (5-26-41), OPD Exec 13. Also, Notes on War Council mtg, 26 May 41, SW Conf Binder 1; Diary of Brig Gen Leonard T. Gerow, entries of 29 May and 2 Jun 41, OPD Exec File; Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-43, pp. 68-71.

50. For details of the negotiations with Brazil during this period, see Ch. XI, below, and Langer and Gleason, Undeclared War, pp. 518ff.

51. Pars. 2 and 3, Navy Western Hemisphere Def Plan No. 2, 16 Apr 41, copy in WPD 4351-98, Sec. 6; Notes on SLC mtg, 21 Apr 41, SLC Min, Vol. II, Item 20.

52. Study dated 22 May 1941, inclosed as Tab A to Memo, WPD for CofS, 27 May 41, WPD 4224-155.

53. Memo, WPD for CofS, 27 May 41, and atchd Tab A, WPD 4224-155. War Plans had produced a study on the possibilities of a Dakar operation on 7 May 1941 (copy in OPD Exec 13). The planners also dismissed an occupation of the Cape Verde Islands as a practicable alternative to the Brazilian proposal; unless United States or other friendly forces also held Dakar and the adjacent African coast, the Cape Verdes would be untenable. Memo, WPD for CofS, 14 Jun 41, OPD Exec 4, Item 7.

54. Memo, Lt Col Lee S. Gerow for Gen Gerow, 27 May 41, and Incl, WPD 4422-5.

55. Stimson Diary, entry of 6 Jun 41.

56. President's notation, dated 4 Jun 41, on Ltr, JPC to JB, 28 May 41, JB 325, set 694; Memo, WPD for ACsofS G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4, 6 Jun 41, WPD 4422-8.

57. Cablegram, ALUSNA Lisbon to OPNAV, 26 May 41, copy in Roosevelt Papers, FDRL.

58. Memo, President for Secy State, 31 May 41, Roosevelt Papers, FDRL; Hull, Memoirs, II, 940.

59. Ltr, Under Secy Welles to President Roosevelt, 4 Jun 41, inclosing Memo, British Embassy for Dept of State, 2 Jun 41, Roosevelt Papers, FDRL.

60. Memo, CNO for CofS, 22 May 41, OPD Exec 13, General Malony Binder 1; Memo, OCS for CofS, 31 May 41, WPD 4175-22.

61. Memo, WPD for CofS, 14 Jun 41, OPD Exec 4, Item 7.

62. Langer and Gleason, Undeclared War, p. 523.

63. Winant, Grosvenor Square, pp. 194-95. In timing the incidents of this period, the author has also profited from an examination of the President's appointment books in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.

64. Stimson Diary, entry of 5 Jun 41.

65. Winant, Grosvenor Square, p. 203.

66. Stimson Diary, entry of 2 Jun 41.

67. Notes on War Council mtg, 3 Jun 41, SW Conf Binder 1; Stimson Diary, entry of 3 Jun 41.

68. Stimson Diary, entry of 3 Jun 41. There is an unsigned and undated report in the GHQ-OPD INDIGO "A" file, discussing the merits of the two operations. It concludes that unless the United States were prepared to enter the war as an active belligerent, it should not undertake either an Iceland or an Azores expedition. If one had to be undertaken, the report favored the Azores. This may be the staff report delivered by the Chief of Staff to Mr. Stimson on 3 June.

69. Stimson Diary, entry of 5 Jun 41.

70. Memo, WPD for CofS, 5 Jun 41, OPD Exec 13; Gerow Diary, entries of 4 and 7 Jun 41. For a detailed survey of the Iceland operation and its background, see Conn, Engelman, and Fairchild, Guarding the United States, Ch. XIV.

71. Information obtained from Captain Kittredge, USN, JCS Hist Sec, in written commentary for OCMH Strategy Sec; Stimson Diary, entries of 6 and 18 Jun 41, and "Memo of Talk with Sec Knox at Woodley, 20 June 41"; Butler, Grand Strategy, II, 507.

72. Winant, Grosvenor Square, p. 204; Hull, Memoirs, II, 973.

73. WPD draft of Memo, CofS for CNO,--Jun 41 (dated in pencil, 6 Jun 41, and stamped "Not used") and Incls, WPD 4422-7; unsigned and undated staff report in GHQ-OPD INDIGO "A" file.

74. Gerow Diary, entry of 19 Jun 41.

75. Memo, CofS for Under Secy State, 17 Jun 41, AG 380 (5-18-40), Sec. 2.

76. Memo, Actg ACofS G-2 for CofS, 18 Jun 41, WPD 4516.

77. Stimson Diary, entry of 19 Jun 41; Gerow Diary, entry of 19 Jun 41; Memo, CofS for WPD, 21 Jun 41, WPD 4516.

78. Draft of Ltr, SW to President, 19 Jun 41, in Stimson Diary. Instead of sending this letter, Mr. Stimson presented his views in person when he went with General Marshall to see the President on 19 June.

79. Gerow Diary, entry of 19 Jun 41.

80. The Army Air Forces rated the General Headquarters Air Force at zero strength as of 1 July 1941--that is, there were no trained combat air units in the continental United States available for employment with overseas expeditionary forces. Memo, AAF for WPD, 7 Jul 41, WPD 3774-28.
The Air Forces was in the midst of a tremendous expansion that absorbed all of its available combat planes in training.
In general, the Army's weakness in effective combat strength at this time was due to factors beyond its control. The Army's numerical strength had increased five-fold during the preceding year, a pace the expansion of the American munitions industry simply could not match. Furthermore, a large proportion of the American munitions output was going to Great Britain. Marine combat forces had priority in the munitions supply that was available. General Marshall summarized the Army's predicament when he remarked, "whether we will have anything left after Britain and the Marines get theirs, I do not know." Notes on War Council mtg, 3 Jun 41, SW Conf Binder 1.

81. United States Navy Department, translation of Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote War Logs for period 1 January 1941 to 31 December 1943 (hereafter cited as B.d.U. War Logs), entry of 20 Jun 41; Fuehrer Conferences, 1941, II, 1, entry of 21 Jun 41.
Under this directive as clarified, submarine commanders were permitted to attack naval vessels in the war zone only when the vessels were "definitely established as enemy ships from cruisers on up," or when the vessels themselves were unmistakably attacking. Fuehrer Conferences, 1941, II, 3, entry of 10 Jul 41.

82. Ltr, SW to President, 23 Jun 41, original in Roosevelt Papers, FDRL, and printed in Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 303-04.

83. This summary of the June 1941 estimate was embodied in a paper circulated at a conference in the Secretary of War's office on 16 September 1941. Copy in OCS file, Conferences (9-21-41).

84. See Ch. XI, below.

85. Memo, ASW for SW, 24 Jun 41, SW file, War Plans.

86. Ltr, Adm Stark to Capt Charles M. Cooke, Jr., USN, 31 Jul 41, Pearl Harbor Attack, Pt. 16, p. 2175.

87. Langer and Gleason, Undeclared War, pp. 574-75; Morison, Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 74-79; Kittredge MS, Ch. 19, pp. 539-52; Stimson Diary, entries of 5, 8, and 21 Jul 41.

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