EXTRACTS FROM CAPTAIN BUTCHER'S DIARY
TRACING DEVELOPMENT OF PLANS FOR AFRICAN LANDINGS
General Eisenhower's aide, Captain Harry C. Butcher, USNR, says in his diary,1 dated July 10, 1942: "On Thursday, July 2, and after a seige of 25 days, Sevastopol, last Russian stronghold in the Crimea, fell to the Axis.
Rommel finally has been stopped by the British some 70 miles from the Nile Delta. Both the Russian and desert situations are causing grave concern.
President Roosevelt and the American Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that we must help Russia stay in the war. The Combined Chiefs of Staff have been considering a quick thrust across the Channel during the summer of 1942, on the assumption that if a toe hold can be obtained on the French coast, some of Germany's strength will be diverted from the Russian front.
This projected operation goes by the code word: SLEDGEHAMMER. But the main project in this theater is to plan, build up and execute a major all-out effort across the Channel in the spring or summer of 1943. This much larger projected operation goes by the code word: ROUNDUP.
After many conferences with the British during his first weeks as Theater Commander, General Ike reported to General Marshall in Washington that the British Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister had decided that the SLEDGEHAMMER operation could not be successfully executed in 1942 if our invading force was expected to retain its beachhead. British military authorities are fearful, in reaching this decision, that General Marshall may feel that they have let him down. General Ike has sought to deal with the British with all cards on the table. They have responded with enthusiasm.
The British appear to be favoring an attack in North Africa - 'to get Rommel's tail.' In fact, the Prime Minister has said President Roosevelt suggested such an operation before the United States entered the war. Ike, however, feels that if he were ordered to conduct an offensive in 1942, he would prefer to cross the Channel rather than open a new front in North Africa, which he fears would not materially assist the Russians in time to save them.
London, Tuesday, July 14, 1942. Generals Marshall and Eisenhower exchanged cables reviewing the prospect of an agreement with the British for offensive operations this year. General Ike reported to Marshall that he had repeated the American view of the transcendent importance of keeping Russia in the war, and that British and Americans should do whatever may best assist to that end. The Commanding General had explained to the British - as a matter of personal opinion - that a collapse of Russia would force the United States to go on the defensive throughout the Atlantic and to build up offensive operations against Japan.
London, Thursday, July 16, 1942. Big things today. Captain Lee came in before noon and said the General was canceling all appointments for a week. He was in the dark as to the reason.
For the first time since we have been here, Ike suggested we leave the office "early" - six o'clock. We had hardly sat down in Ike's apartment when Ike received a phone call from Brig. Gen. Charles L. Bolte, Chief of Staff, who came right over with an important message. It turned out to be from General Marshall and involved immediate consideration of a second front in Europe in 1942.
Important visitors are on their way from Washington tonight. General Marshall, Admiral King, Harry Hopkins and others. It is obvious they are going to try to argue the British, particularly the Prime Minister, into making a quick move for a second front for at least a toe hold on the continent, with the hope of helping the Russians, who have been falling away fast in the last few days.
Ike immediately set me to calling for the senior generals. In short order come General Lee, head of the Service of Supply; Col. Ray Barker, Assistant Chief for Plans; Maj. Gen. Tooey Spaats, Air Force; and by ten o'clock from Salisbury, Maj. Gen. Mark Clark, driving himself at high speed.
Ike outlined the facts and views they are to assemble. The Washington visitors are due Friday afternoon, and General Marshall requested Ike by personal message to have all the dope ready.
London, Friday, July 17, 1942. In the party arriving at Prestwick were: General Marshall, Admiral King, Harry Hopkins, Steve (Early), Brig. Gen. Charles P. Gross, Brig. Gen. W. B. Smith, Col. Hoyt Vandenburg, Comdr. Ruthven Libby, Maj. Frank McCarthy and Comdr. J. B. Fulton, Harry Hopkins' doctor.
Steve and I had dinner in the Commanding General's apartment with Ike and General Clark, with much friendly and big talk. Since Thursday, Ike had been working night and day preparing reports for General Marshall's use, and had frequently been closeted with Marshall, Admiral Kjng and others of the party. They were preparing the case for a second front this year to be presented to the British. Harry Hopkins had gone to Chequers for the week end.
London, Sunday, July 19, 1942. Late in the day, Ike finished the draft of the basic proposals for Marshall and King to present to the British. Presently, an officer came with the proposal, as slightly revised by Marshall and King. There had been no change in the meaning, but some of the fire of Ike's pungent language had been toned down. Ike phoned Marshall at 10:00 to say that he had no further suggestions. The proposal was for the second front in France by October of this year to help the Russians. These are momentous days!
London, Wednesday, July 22, 1942. Ike has been busy dictating various documents for the use of General Marshall and Admiral King.
The gist of his comment is that the British have repeatedly gone on record against the proposed SLEDGEHAMMER attack because they believe it will not relieve Russia's situation and will expose us to the risk of a tactical disaster - partly because of superior German strength in the west;
partly because of bad weather conditions.
The American point of view, expressed by the Commanding General and General Clark, is that the Russians' situation may become so desperate as to make even an unsuccessful attack worth while, especially if it could be launched soon. In any case, agreement at the military level should be reached today by General Marshall and Admiral King, for the United States, and the British Chiefs of Staff....
At dinner with me, Steve said the barometer had gone down, and the British had refused to go along on the American proposal for a second front this year, but had made alternative proposals. This I had known from Ike, but this job makes me tongue-tied.
London, Friday, July 24, 1942. Ike spent much of the day with Marshall, King, and Hopkins.
Indications of getting together with the British, not on a second front for '42, but with the prospect of substantial agreement.
Met Ike at his apartment later. We spent a quiet evening standing by for any calls from Marshall.
Actually the decision of the Combined Chiefs had been made this day, Friday, subject to approval of Churchill and Roosevelt. It was to clean up North Africa and Rommel. New code name selected - TORCH.
London, Friday, July 31, 1942. The Commanding General said that his discussions with General Marshall indicated that the Prime Minister looked upon the African assault as an American operation to or around Casablanca on the west coast, and as primarily a British operation on the north coast - but to be led, at the time of the landing operations, by American troops for such psychological advantages as might be expected amongst the French.
Brigadier Stewart said the essence of the North African operation in the Mediterranean is to take Tunisia in 28 days....
General Eisenhower, seeking to recapitulate, asked what the British now conceived as the primary military objectives to be attained by the TORCH operation. Brigadier Stewart and Captain Lambe discussed the objectives and concluded; (l) to open the Mediterranean; (2) to prevent the Italian and French fleets from becoming free to join as a large naval force, possibly at Casablanca or Dakar, which would require United States and British naval forces in comparable strength to be stationed possibly at the Shannon River in Eire - this to protect convoys, U. S. to Britain, and to fend the threat of the combined enemy navy, and (3) to pull German forces from Russia....
The British emphasized the key is Tunisia. Its seizure would disrupt Rommel's supply lines and make his situation difficult, if not intenable.
The big defects for the entire attack are shortage of naval support, the surf conditions on the west coast, where heavy swells from the Atlantic make landing difficult, if not impossible, in the late fall, and the shortage of landing craft.
London, Sunday, August 9, 1942. Had a call from General Patton, who is to lead the American forces into Casablanca. Ike invited him to come over to the apartment. General Patton joined us for a drink and dinner.
He and Ike agreed on various personnel assignments. Patton worried because G-2 indicates about 8,000 more enemy troops on the west coast, near landing place, than he will have. Also worried about heavy swells which sometimes run to 60 feet, and scarcity of suitable beaches for landings. He had an ironic note in his voice when he said someone had suggested he be sure to have a good second man because he might be drowned."
While the Combined Chiefs of Staff were plunged in these details and Eisenhower was carrying the heavy load of responsibility, the light touch was not lacking. On August 10, 1942, Captain Batcher records in his diary: "Social invitations still pouring in, Lady Astor phoned Lee a day or two ago to invite Ike down for dinner and an evening. None less than George Bernard Shaw was to be present, whom I would like very much to meet. But Ike said, 'T'hell with it; I've work to do!'"
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1. See his book, "My Three Years with Eisenhower."