Amphibious Operations Approach


By WINSTON CHURCHILL, Prime Minister of Great Britain

Delivered to the House of Commons, London, June 8, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 515-518.

AS the Allied war effort passes into the offensive phase and its scale and pace grow, continually more frequent consultations between the staffs and those concerned with high control become necessary.

In January, 1942, broad agreements on principle and on our joint or respective tasks were reached at our conference in Washington. In the meeting, these took a sharper point and among other things the operations in North Africa began to shape themselves. In October and November, action occurred at Casablanca.

In January of this year the President and I, with combined British and United States staffs, were able to survey new scenes and wider prospects. Plans and programs were approved which have by no means yet been accomplished.

Nevertheless, as the progress of events became more rapid and the armies marched faster than had been foreseen, it became necessary to explore a new field.

To have the initiative is an immense advantage. At the same time it is a heavy and exacting responsibility. Left to itself opportunity may easily lead to emergency.

Therefore, having consulted the President, I thought it necessary at the beginning of May to go with our Chiefs of Staff and a very large body of officers and secretaries, nearly 100, for the third time to Washington in order that the success then imminent in Tunisia should be examined and comprehended from the common viewpoint and then turned to the best possible account.

At Washington the entire expanse of the world war on which the mellow light of victory now begins to play was laid open to British and American leaders. We have shown that we can work together. We have shown that we can face disaster. We have still to show that we can keep ourselves at the height and level of successful events and to be worthy of good fortune.

Perhaps that may be the hardest task of all. It would not be right, of course, for me to attempt to give even in outline an account of the decisions which we reached. All I can say is that we have done our best.

A complete agreement about forward steps has been reached between the two governments. There have been nosort of differences such as occurred in the last war_inevitable on account of the forces at work—between the politicians and the military men.

I shall make no predictions as to what will happen in the future and still less in the near future. All I can say is that Anglo-American policy, strategy and economy were brought into the full focus and punch in those fifteen days' talks at Washington. The elaboration of modern war renders these prolonged discussions necessary. A conference lasting a day or two, such as sufficed in previous wars, is no longer sufficient to cover the ground and test the different propositions.

As I have said, very large numbers of officers expert in their different branches are required at the various levels to be in close consultation. This gives the best chances to the troops and the sailors and airmen wherever they may be, from Gibraltar to New Guinea and from the Aleutian Islands to the Burma Road.

In so vast and diverse a scene many questions of emphasis and priority arise, even where principles are agreed upon, and beneath them lie all those problems of transportation of munitions, of industry, of the food of nations, of the distribution and application of resources, most of which questions can best be settled, and many of which can only be settled, at the summit of the war's direction and which at that summit present themselves in fairly simple and yet at the same time in somewhat awe-inspiring forms.

After we had completed our task at Washington I thought it well to go to North Africa and I was very glad that the President decided to send along with me General Marshall, Chief of the United States Army and Air Force, a man of singular eminence of mind and character. We flew together across the Atlantic to Gibraltar and Algiers in order to deal more particularly and precisely on the spot with the problems of the Mediterranean theatre.

There for another week we had the advantage of full discussions with General Eisenhower, the supreme commander; with General Alexander, Admiral Cunningham, Air Chief Marshal Tedder, Air Marshal Conyngham, General Montgomery, General Spaatz, General Bedell and other high British and United States officers directly concerned with the execution of plans—of plans which I can best describe as directed to the application upon the enemy of force in its most intense and violent forms.

I can assure the House that the most complete concord and confidence prevails at General Eisenhower's headquarters and the forces of the two great nations of the English-speaking world are working together literally as if they were one single army.

I was told by the officers of both countries that in the movement of troops or the distribution of supplies no questions of national origin arise between the staff officers who are interleaved at every stage and tier of the vast organization. It is just a question of what is the best thing to do—that and no more.

The commanders are men in the full tide of successful experiment. They are proud of the troops they lead and are resolute on the plans they have made.

In traveling about these armies and seeing perhaps 20,000 troops and airmen in a day, I sustained the impression of their extraordinary ardor and zeal to engage the enemy again at the earliest moment.

Vast armies have come into being in this African war and to become conscious of their spirit is an ennobling influence for a visitor. Cheered by the remarkable victory after many bafflings and disappointments, the British and American

Armies, and now the new French Army, have become a most powerful and finely tempered weapon.

They have full confidence in themselves and also in the High Command in the war direction. This is also true of the more numerous and powerful forces—British, Canadian and American—which have formed and are forming in the United Kingdom.

Amphibious Operations Impend

It is evident that amphibious operations of a peculiar complexity and hazard on a large scale are approaching.

I can give no guarantee any more than I have done in the past of what will happen. I am sorry that a few days ago, in the press of travel and affairs, I let slip the expression "brilliant prospects lie before us." I would prefer to substitute the words "bright and solid prospects lie before us." That I think would be more appropriate and becoming in such anxious days.

Yet all the same I have good hopes that neither Parliament nor the Congress of the United States will find themselves ill served by their forces, whether in the British Isles or on the African shore. At any rate I can assure the House that on neither side, British nor American, have any narrow or selfish motives entered into the common task. The rest I must leave to action and to the march of events.

When I visited Tripolitania in January I had the pleasure of seeing the troops of the Eighth Army, whom I had met beforehand in the now far-off El Alamein position before their victory and marvelous advance across the desert. 1 was particularly glad on this last occasion to meet the men of the First Army who, after a very hard time in the rainy Winter, have come into their own and who had the honor with their comrades of the Second United States Army Corps of striking the final blow.

The British losses in Tunisia have been severe. The Eighth Army since they crossed the frontier of Tripolitania have sustained about 11,500 casualties and the First Army about 23,500 casualties. In all, 35,000 were killed, missing and wounded during the campaign of the two British armies.

Losses of the Enemy

The total number of prisoners taken who have passed through the cages of the Allies now amounts to more than 248,000—an increase of 24,000 on the previous published total. There must certainly have been 50,000 of enemy killed, making a total loss of about 300,000 men to the enemy since Tunisia alone.

More than half of these men are Germans. In fact, of 37,000 prisoners taken by the United States Second Corps—actually it was more than the size of an army than a corps—33,000 were Germans. The French Nineteenth Corps also led tens of thousands of Germans and Italian captives to the rear and must have felt after all their country had gone through that they were once again reliving the great days of Foch and Clemenceau.

All this takes no account of the very heavy tolls taken of German and Italian forces as they crossed over the sea or passed through the air. This toll was taken by the Allied Air Force and by the British submarines, cruisers, destroyers and motor torpedo boats.

This British naval force at the same time caused an impassible barrier between the enemy in Tunisia and all prospects of escape. During the latter phases the fixed patrol was maintained in a force which would have prevented any attempt at escape except by individuals. In fact, I believeonly 638 persons have escaped, and these for the most part by air, on this scene of surrender.

One cannot doubt that both Stalingrad and Tunisia are the greatest military disasters that have ever befallen Germany in all the wars she has made, and they are many.

There is no doubt from the statements of captured generals that Hitler expected his Tunisian army to hold out at least till August and that this was the view and intention of the German High Command.

The suddenness of the collapse of these great numbers of brave and skillful fighting men, with every form of excellent equipment, must be regarded as significant, and in a sense characteristic of the German psychology, which was shown after Jena and also at the very end of the last war.

Though this fact would certainly be noted and weighed, no undue expectations should be based upon it. We are prepared to win this war by hard fighting and if necessary by hard fighting alone.

Psychology of the Allies

In years of peace peoples of the British Commonwealth and those of the United States were an easy-going folk wishing to live a free life, with active politics and other opportunities of innocent diversion—and of national self-improvement. They do not covet anything from others, perhaps because they have enough themselves, and they have even failed to keep a good look out upon their own safety.

They have martial qualities, but they certainly do not like to drill. Nevertheless when they are attacked and assaulted and forced in defense of their life and liberty to make war and to subject all their habits of life to war conditions and to war discipline, they are not incapable, if time is granted to them—and time was granted to them—of making the necessary transformation. Indeed a great many of them are taking to it with increasing zest and zeal.

Such nations do not become exhausted by war. On the contrary they get stronger as it goes on. It is an error on the part of certain neutrals to suppose that the previously unprepared and ill-armed Anglo-Saxon democracies will emerge from this war weakened and prostrate even though victorious. On the contrary, we shall be stronger than ever before, in force, and I trust, also in faith.

It may well be that these guilty races that trumpeted the glories of war at the beginning will be extolling the virtues of peace before the end. It would certainly seem right, however, that those who fix on their own terms the moment for beginning wars should not be the same men who fix on their own terms the moment for ending them. These observations are of general character, but not without their particular application.

I must not neglect to make it clear that operations now impending in the European theatre have been fitted into their proper place in relation to the general war.

I am very sorry that we have not yet been able to bring into counsel Marshal Stalin or other representatives of our great ally Russia, which is bearing the heaviest burden and paying by far the highest price in blood and life. But I can assure the House that taking some of the weight off Russia and giving more speedy and effective aid to China and giving a stronger measure of security to our beloved Australia and New Zealand—these are never absent for one moment from our thoughts and aims.

Anti-U-Boat War Placed First

This war is so universal and world-wide it would take several hours to make an exposition of what is happening in

various theatres. Each of the Allies naturally sees these theatres from a different angle and in a somewhat different relation. We British must continue to place the anti-U-boat war first because it is only by conquering the U-boats that we can live and act.

The might of America is deployed far over the Pacific and is laying an ever stronger grip on the outlying defenses of Japan and offering every moment to the Japanese fleet the supreme challenge of sea power.

Russian armies, as I mentioned to the Congress the other day, are in deadly grapple with what we estimate to be 190 German and 28 satellite divisions along their 2,000 miles of front. It is here that the greatest battles seem to impend. Then there is the war in the air. The steady wearing down of German and Japanese air forces is proceeding remorselessly. The enemy who thought that air would be their weapon of victory are now finding in it the first cause of their ruin.

It is necessary for me to make it plain that so far as the British Government and the governments of the Dominions and also the Government of the United States and of the Russian Soviet Republic are concerned nothing will turn us from our endeavor and intention to accomplish the complete destruction of our foes by bombing from the air in addition to all other methods.

Loud and lamentable outcries are being made by the enemy now that this form of warfare by which they thought to obtain the mastery of the world has turned markedly to their disadvantage. These outcries will only be regarded by us as a very satisfactory proof of the growing efficiency of our attack.

Compared with this time last year, we British alone can now drop more than double the weight of bombs at the 1,500-mile range there and back.

In the Summer of last year, as Minister of Defense, I set on foot a policy of increasing our bomber effort, which, of course, entails certain sacrifices in other directions. All that is now coming into hand.

At the same time we took the measures which have thrown the very long range air power—V. L. R. as it is called—effectively into the anti-U-boat struggle. All this is now being brought to bear.

The month of May has from every point of view been the best month we have ever had in the anti-U-boat war since the United States was attacked by Japan, Germany and Italy. At that time we gained much greater combined resources, but we exposed much larger targets. We made at that time a budget of sinkings and buildings on which we knew we could survive indefinitely.

Sinkings have been greatly less than we apprehended and buildings have more than made good the prodigious programs undertaken by the American nation.

The month of May has been one of the very best for imports carried safely into this island since the end of 1941. Our combined new building has exceeded our losses by more than three to one. This first week in June could not possibly be taken as a criterion, but as a matter of fact it is the best ever for many, many months past.

During the last few months the enemy has made very heavy attacks on our convoys. This has given us the opportunity to hit him hard in open battle.

There are so many U-boats employed now that it is almost impossible not to run into one or another of these great fields or screens of U-boats which are spread out. Therefore you have to fight your way through, but there is no reason why we should regret that. On the contrary, it is around convoys that U-boats can best be destroyed.

New weapons and new methods and close coordination of effort between surface and air escorts have enabled us to inflict casualties which have surpassed all previous records. The First Lord of the Admiralty made a statement of very reassuring character upon this subject the other day, and I can only repeat that in May, for the first time, our killings of U-boats substantially outnumbered the U-boat output. That may be a fateful milestone.

The Germans seem to be staking their hopes upon the U-boat war, we may judge by appeals made to them. They are encouraged to bear the evils—the terror, as they call it, perhaps not an ill-chosen word—of the air bombardment by the hope that on the sea the U-boats are taking their revenge.

If it should be made clear that this hope has failed them they may be seriously disappointed, and they are a people who when seriously disappointed do not always find resources to confront approaching disaster once their reason tells them it is inevitable.

But again I say—I make the observation in passing—do not let us build on such deductions. It would be foolish to assume that good results of a single month are a guarantee of a continuing process. We may have setbacks, though I have always looked forward to this Summer as being a period which would be favorable to us.

Moreover, of course, the enemy may decline battle or he may look only for the most tempting opportunities. In this case we shall have fewer killings but more imports, and the freer movement of troops and munitions will be possible to all the various theatres.

I must say I feel confident that the U-boat war will not stand between the United Nations and their final victory, while all the time the air war will grow in weight and severity. I might well speak with more emphasis upon this point, but it is prudent to forbear.

French National Committee

I have touched on these matters connected with the war. It happened at the time when I was in Algiers that General de Gaulle and his friends arrived and I thought it would be well if the Foreign Secretary were on the spot in case it should be proved in our power to help.

We did not, in fact, intervene at all in those tense discussions between the French, but like General Eisenhower, the supreme commander, we watched closely and vigilantly in the light of British and United States interests and of the well-being of our armies in North Africa.

We all rejoiced when the agreement was made and the French National Committee of Liberation was set up and constituted as the single and sole authority for all Frenchmen seeking to free France from the German yoke.

When we met these seven men by and around whom the new French Cabinet has been formed one could not but be struck by the many different aspects of French energy and capacity to resist which they represented, and also by their high personal qualities.

So the gravest responsibility lies upon these men and opportunities shine brightly before them. They have only to act together in good faith and loyalty to one another and to set aside sectional or personal interests, and to keep all their hatreds for the enemy—they have only to do this to help I regain for France her inheritance, and in doing so become themselves inheritors of the gratitude of future generations of Frenchmen.

Formation of this committee, with its collective responsibility supersedes the situation created by the correspondence between General de Gaulle and myself in 1940. Our dealings, financial and otherwise, will henceforward be with the committee as a whole. There is a further and larger question, namely, the degree of recognition of this committee as representatives of France. These questions require consideration from the British and the United States Governments, but if things go well I should hope that a solution satisfactory to all parties may shortly be reached.

Two Predominant Impressions

Let me now sum up the two predominant impressions that I have sustained from this journey.

First is the spirit and quality and organization of the British and Allied armies in North Africa. Second is the intimacy and strength of ties now uniting the British and the United States Governments and the British and American peoples. All sorts of divergencies, all sorts of differences of outlook, all sorts of awkward little jars necessarily occur as we roll ponderously forward together along the rough and broken road of war, but none of these makes the slightest difference to our growing concert and unity, and there are none of them that cannot be settled face to face by heart-to-heart talks and patient argument.

My own relations with the illustrious President of the United States have become in these years of war those of a personal friendship and regard, and nothing will ever happen to separate us in the comradeship and partnership of thought and action while we remain responsible for the conduct of affairs.

The reason why I have not to make a longer speech today is that I have already given to the joint sessions of the Congress of the United States the statement which I should have made to this House on the victories in Tunisia had I been in this country. That, I think, is the valid explanation.

Certainly when I found myself walking into the august assembly, the free Congress of the most powerful community in the world, and when I gave them, exactly as I would do in this house, a businesslike stock-taking survey of the war and of our joint interests, even touching upon controversial matters, or matters of domestic controversy over there, and when I thought of our common history and of the hopes that lie before us, I felt this was an age of memorable importance to mankind.

For there can be no doubt that whatever world organization is brought into being after this war, that organization must be richer and stronger if it is founded on the fraternal relations and the deep understanding prevailing and now growing between the British Commonwealth of nations and the United States.

I have one thing more to say before sitting down. I must acknowledge with gratitude the extraordinary kindness with which I have been treated both by the House and out of doors throughout the land. And that is a very great help in these days of continuing crises and storm.

Let me in return record the fact that this House is a democratic institution founded upon universal suffrage, a House which has preserved its function and authority intact and undiminished during the war and has shown it can change, correct and sustain governments with equal consistency of purpose. It has proved itself a foundation and an instrument for the waging of successful war and for the safety of the State, never surpassed in modern or ancient times.