THE STRATEGIC BACKGROUND OF OVERLORD
INTRODUCTORY: POLICY AND STRATEGY IN WORLD WAR II
1 A. Definition of Operation OVERLORD
- Operation OVERLORD may be described as the planning, preparation and execution of the 1944 invasion of Europe via Northwestern France, together with the subsequent allied military advance into the heart of Germany and the destruction of the German armed forces.1 Operation NEPTUNE was the cross channel assault phase of OVERLORD.2
- OVERLORD was the culminating Anglo-American effort in the war against Germany. In the years before it was launched, a major share of the allied war effort was directed toward attaining a military situation suitable for carrying it out. Even offensive prosecution of the war against Japan was postponed in order to permit the Allies to concentrate their force for the great offensive against Germany. OVERLORD was, therefore, central to the entire
program by which the Allies intended to achieve their
war objects. Accordingly, before considering how OVERLORD
was executed, it may be interesting to consider
how OVERLORD was expected to contribute to the accomplishment
of allied war objects and what part it played in
the Allied Grand Strategy.
1 B. U.S. Policy and Grand Strategy
- Grand strategy may be described as the general plan for the military employment of the nation's force in order to accomplish the objects for which the nation undertakes war. A traditional American policy, reaching back to Washington's farewell address and the Monroe Doctrine, is that the Unites States will exert its armed force in order to resist the extension of European or Asiatic political or military power in the Western Hemisphere. During the 19th century, the effective exercise of sea power by the Royal Navy made it, in fact, unnecessary for the United States to envisage any overseas military action. The defense of the United States and the implementation of American policy could be assured, so long as Britain ruled the seas, by a purely continental defense program, supplemented by a navy of sufficient strength to prevent any European power from sending forces to the American continent.
- In the past half century, power relationships have undergone profound political changes, as Mahan pointed out in a series of volumes on "The Influence of Sea Power on History (1891-1896)". British naval superiority was no longer predominant, except in the North Sea and North Atlantic waters. It therefore became necessary for the U.S. to envisage new military and naval policy and strategy in order to continue to ensure the defense of the American continent and the implementation of American policy.
- Between 1890 and 1910, the U.S. Navy was increased in strength so as to assure, if necessary in cooperation with the Royal Navy, the continuance of effective command of the seas, which might be avenues to America rather than defenses. The growth of the power of Germany in Europe and of Japan in the Far East, created a new world situation. Under the leadership of President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States responded to the challenge of events by attempting to make its influence felt throughout the world for the maintenance of peace and a stable world order. Twice in twenty-five
years, the United States has, in fact, been involved in
World Wars alongside Britain in continuance of the
national policies and national strategic concepts, defined
in the period after 1898, when the United States became
for the first time a world power.
- In the period after 1919, it appeared that the victorious allies in World War I might be able to establish by international agreement world organization to assure peace. At the time, the program included the progressive disarmament of all nations. In fact, however, only the peace loving nations observed the disarmament provisions of international treaties and agreements. Japan, after 1930-1931, and Germany, after 1933, began to implement programs of aggression to extend their own power, apparently with the design of assuring Japanese order in Asia and a German order in Europe. This program, consolidated in the Axis framework after 1937, made it clear that the United States would not long be able alone to defend the Western Hemisphere should the other continents fall under Axis domination. This danger was clearly and repeatedly emphasized by President Roosevelt, particularly in his statements, made after his Chicago address of October 1937, when he called upon peace-loving, democratic nations of the world to cooperate in "the quarantine of the aggressors". When Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 automatically initiated World War II, the interests of the Unites States clearly required the military defeat of Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia, if Japan joined in the War. American policy after June 1940 increasingly reflected the current American opinion that the defense of America could be assured only by aid to the Allies. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor automatically converted the United States from the status of a nonbelligerent ally to Britain, into a full partner in what was to become the United Nations program of war operations to assure the defeat of Germany and Japan.
- Whatever the popular mind may have considered to be the objects for which the United States undertook the second World War, the American military leaders appear to have had few doubts. The official concept of U.S. war aims was "to assure that the Western Hemisphere remain secure against the extension of non-American political military
In the year 1940, the continued ability of
the United States to assure the security of the Western
Hemisphere was menaced by Germany and Japan, each of which
stood on the threshold of achieving a continental hegemony
containing potentialities of military power of staggering
proportions. Therefore, in order to accomplish its basic
aim of maintaining its ability to defend the Western Hemisphere,
the United States military and naval staffs defined
the broad strategic objectives of the armed forces of the
United States as the defeat of Germany and Japan.2
1 C. American-British Combined Strategy (ARCADIA Conference Decisions, Washington, January, 1942)
- How was the defeat of Germany and Japan to be accomplished? At the ARCADIA conference (Washington, 24 December 1941 to 14 January 1942), the American and British Chiefs of Staff developed and the President and Prime Minister approved a broad strategic plan for the conduct of the war. This plan laid down three broad strategic policies; (1) "Realization of the victory program of armaments which, first and foremost, requires the security of the main areas of war industry" and "the maintenance of essential sea communications", was a necessary pre-condition of victory; (2) Designation of the Atlantic and European area as the decisive theater in the war against the Axis in order to assure the defeat of Germany; (3) Maintenance of a defensive position in the Pacific until successes in the Atlantic and in Europe permitted undertaking offensive operations against Japan;1 (4) The attack on Germany should be initiated by offensive operations in the Mediterranean, coupled with the maximum possible air bombardment of Germany and Fortress Europe, with reinforcement of the blockade against Germany and by subversive operations in German-held Europe.
- The conference expressly left the question open of what strategy to follow after the Mediterranean had been seized. "In 1943, the way may be clear for a return to the Continent, across the Mediterranean, from Turkey into the Balkans, or by landings in Western Europe. Such operations will be the prelude to the final assault on Germany itself, and the scope of the victory program should be such as to provide means by which they can be carried out.1
- The outstanding point of the ARCADIA strategy was the decision to concentrate first on the defeat of the Axis in Europe and until that was accomplished to stand on the strategic defensive in the Southwest Pacific. 2 This was the really a dual decision. It meant that the Allies would give the defensive position in the Pacific a higher priority than their offensive in Europe but at the same time, they would give the European offensive a higher priority than any offensive in the Pacific. As the war potential of both Russia and the British Empire was almost completely committed, the entire question really was, how should the forces of the United States be deployed? Should the United States concentrate on Germany first or Japan first or both at once, and if the latter, in what proportions? The decision on how to apportion the U.S. effort between the two theaters was, to a large measure, dictated by the existing war situation.
1 D. 1942 Situation of the United Nations Coalition: Allocation of U.S. Forces
- The general situation on the war fronts in 1942 was deplorable. On December 7 1941, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was crippled and the Japanese obtained command of the sea in the area of operations--the South China Seas. Singapore fell February 15; the Japanese invaded Sumatra February 15, Java February 28, and New Guinea on March 8; Bataan surrendered April 9, Mandalay fell May l, and the Japanese occupied Kiska and Attu in the Aleutians on June 12. In the Middle East, Rommel's offensive, which started 26 May 1942,
broke out of Libya and stood at El Alamein at the gates
of Alexandria on 1 July 1942. In Russia, the Germans,
having very nearly captured Moscow and Leningrad in the
winter of 1941-1942 and having been set back in the
vicinity of Rostov, resumed their offensive June 6 1942,
penetrated the Caucasus and nearly reached the Volga,
capturing nearly all of Stalingrad on the western shore
of that river. In China the situation was even more
desperate. The enemy everywhere held the initiative. He
could concentrate his forces for an offensive against any
one of several points of attack. The Allies had to be
prepared to defend every possible point of attack against
the concentrated forces of the enemy.
- In the Far East, Japan had gained territory which would permit her to achieve economic self sufficiency in practically all important strategic materials, provided she were given time to exploit these opportunities. On the other hand, the strength of the economic position of the United Nations had been seriously reduced by the Japanese conquests.1 The Japanese forces were advancing in superior strength and on interior lines against isolated and relatively weak opposition. They were capable of any of the following lines of action: (1) to complete the capture of Burma and drive through to India, which would effectively deny both land and air access to China except through Russia or Tibet; (2) to seize Ceylon, which would control the Bay of Bengal, and harass allied sea communications with the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, (3) to attack Australia and Hawaii; (4) to attack Russian Siberia concurrently with a German drive to the Caucasus.2
- The sea forces of the United Nations in the Atlantic were approximately equal to those of the Axis Powers plus Vichy Units, the former having about 200 more destroyers and the latter about 200 more submarines. The Axis surface forces were relatively concentrated and were operating within areas in which the Axis had air superiority. The surface forces of the United Nations were compelled, on the other hand, to protect shipping on long and vulnerable sea routes and were relatively dispersed. The governing necessity of maintaining dispositions in the Atlantic which would meet adequately the possibility of a coordinated sortie by the Axis forces, together with requirements for the protection of sea routes, had made it necessary to accept, for the time being, sea strength in the Pacific numerically inferior to that of Japan.1
- In Europe, the Germans had several courses of action open to them. These were: (1) an all out offensive to destroy the Russian Army and gain the oil of the Caucasus; (2) a drive through the Middle East to control its resources, cut off the southern route to Russia and destroy the Allied forces of the Middle East; (3) invasion of the British Isles; (4) operations in the Iberian Peninsula, the Central and Western Mediterranean and North Africa, to control the resources of this area, control the Mediterranean sea lanes and support the drive through the Middle East; (5) an intensification of the battle of the Atlantic sea lanes to include interdiction of the northern route to Russia.2
- In the opinion of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, "the United Nations would constantly be on the verge of ultimate defeat during the year 1942".1 In view of this situation, how should the United States deploy its war resources? Four general considerations were relevant: (1) the paramount importance of retaining Russia in the war; (2) the fact the resources of the United States which were then mobilized were very small; (3) the fact that available shipping limited the size of the forces which the United States could deploy in 1942 to negligible proportions, and (4) the fact that if Russia did not collapse, the United States would be able, in due course, to mobilize and deploy decisive military forces. In deciding how to apportion U.S. forces between two theaters, four courses of action were considered:2 (1) to carry on the war in both theaters more or less equally; (2) to concentrate on Japan first at the expense of effective action in Europe; (3) to concentrate on the war in Europe and abandon the Western Pacific; (4) to concentrate on the war in Europe but only after providing for the defense of the southwest Pacific.
- The fourth alternative was the one decided upon at the ARCADIA Conference. It may be summarized as the policy of concentrating on the defeat of Germany while holding Japan with minimum forces. It involved the following order of priorities between requirements: (1) to defend the territory of North and South America and their coastal communications; (2) in cooperation with the forces of the British Commonwealth to defend the Trans-Atlantic sea and air routes; (3) to defend Australia, the island positions between Australia and Hawaii, and their sea and air communications with the United States; (4) to contain Japanese forces in the southern part of the Pacific Theater, inflict attrition, and exert economic pressure by the destruction of vessels carrying strategic and war materials between Japan and the southwest Pacific area; (5) to give limited air assistance to the
defense of the India-Burma-China areas; (6) having
arranged for the accomplishment of the above courses of
action with minimum forces, to exert a maximum effort in
cooperation with the British in offensive operations
COMBINED STRATEGY IN THE EUROPEAN THEATER
2 A. Combined Planning of Future Operations (January-July 1942)
The Combined Chiefs of Staff, in their first sessions
in Washington in January 1942, had defined the strategic
concepts to govern the planning of future operations.
They had also to devise a strategy to be followed in
the conduct of the war in the European Theater. At the
ARCADIA Conference, they provisionally agreed that:
"In 1942, the methods of wearing down Germany's resistance will be * * * ever increasing air bombardment by British and American forces; * * * assistance to Russia's offensive by all available means * * * (and operations) the main object (of which) will be gaining possession of the whole North African coast * * * It does not seem likely that in 1942 any large scale land offensive against Germany, except on the Russian front, will be possible * * * (but) in 1943, the way may be clear for a return to the Continent across the Mediterranean, from Turkey into the Balkans, or by landings in Western Europe. Such operations will be the prelude to the final assault on Germany itself."1
This plan was not aggressive enough to suit either the
British or the U.S. High Command, but direct offensive
action against Germany was beyond allied capabilities. The
major considerations which governed the decision were:
- The availability of resources, and
- How to prevent the elimination of Russia.
A survey of allied resources showed:
- That the Allies would be unable to concentrate enough force in England for an effective offensive against the Continent in 1942;
- That limited forces would be available in 1942 for a "sacrifice" cross channel assault (Operation SLEDGEHAMMER);
- That the United States might be able to build up the forces necessary for an invasion by 1943 (Operation ROUNDUP); and
- That sufficient resources were available for a smaller offensive in 1942.
- The Combined Chiefs of Staff at their first meetings in Washington in January and February 1942, reviewed the strategic concepts which had been approved at the ARCADIA Conference and examined alternative plans for future operations. There was general agreement that the most desirable course of action would be to invade Northwest Europe in 1942, provided resources were available. As it was obvious that the necessary forces were not available, it became necessary to agree on the action to be taken during 1942 and the first half of 1943.
- The British Chiefs of Staff, on the one hand, believed that the Allies should not remain idle while Russia was being defeated, but should utilize available forces at once for such offensive action as was possible. In particular, they favored an air offensive, designed to draw German air forces away from the Russian front, and a Mediterranean offensive, designed: (1) to divert Axis air and ground forces from Russia to the Mediterranean; (2) to strengthen the allied position generally; and (3) to neutralize or eliminate the Vichy and Italian Navies.
- The members of the American Planning Staff had radically different views. Their plan, in the drafting of which general Eisenhower had had a large part, was presented to the British Chiefs of Staff by General Marshall on his visit to England in April 1942. This plan was, in substance, as follows: (1) That having provided for the defense of the numerous vital areas, Britain and the United States ought to concentrate the balance of their forces on one offensive effort. They should not further disperse their strength among several minor offensive fronts; (2) the single offensive effort should be chosen with a view to giving the maximum assistance to Russia; (3) an offensive launched from England through France and the Low Countries and aimed at entering Germany and destroying her forces in Western Europe, would afford Russia maximum assistance and, indeed, would be the only method of achieving ultimate victory over the Germans; (4) therefore, Britain and the United States should categorically decide to invade France at the earliest possible moment and categorically abandon all ideas of offensive operations in North Africa, Norway or elsewhere.1
- General Marshall estimated that the forces required to carry out such an operation with some prospects of success were a balanced force of approximately 48 divisions of ground troops, 6,500 combat aircraft, 7,000 landing craft, and the necessary support forces, replacements and reserves. As Britain could not supply more than about 2/5ths of this requirement, the United States would have to provide approximately 1,000,000 men, 3,650 aircraft, and about half the assault craft. General Marshall appreciated that an operation on the required scale could not be mounted before September 1 1942; that weather conditions precluded a cross channel offensive from September until April; and that, therefore, an invasion could not be scheduled until 1 April 1943, at the earliest. Even a target date of 1 April 1943 would be exceedingly difficult to meet. Trans-Atlantic shipping and the supply of landing craft were the bottlenecks. In General Marshall's view, the shortage of landing craft could be made good prior to April 1943 by new construction, provided the operation was definitely scheduled and both Britain and the United States resolved to carry out the necessary program.
- In the estimate of available U.S. ground and air forces, the U.S. Staff were convinced that American manpower and industry would provide the force necessary for offensive operations by April 1 1943. The United States, however, could only transport 40% of the necessary personnel and material on American ships by that date. In General Marshall's opinion, therefore, the British should find the shipping necessary to transport 60% of the U.S. forces, in order that the operation could be launched some time in 1943. General Marshall strongly urged that agreement should be reached on launching the invasion in the spring of 1943, even if this made it necessary to abandon all other plans for offensive operations. By adopting a combined program for allocation of existing shipping, new construction and war production, it would be possible to begin at once both detailed planning of the operation, and training of the forces to be assigned to it.
- General Marshall was aware that an emergency might develop on the Continent before the invasion could be launched. The emergency might take one of two forms: (1) the Russians might score a major success, or the German home front might collapse. In either case, the Germans would be compelled to withdraw from France. In such a case, the Western Allies ought to take advantage of the German weakening by crossing the channel and driving towards and into Germany; (2) the Russians might be on the verge of collapse. In this case,
the Western Allies ought to conduct a sacrifice offensive,
accepting the probability that the forces employed
might be annihilated, but hoping that it would divert
enough German strength from the Eastern front to save
Russia. In view of the fact that the United States would
not have substantial forces in England at the time such
an emergency would develop, General Marshall considered
that the British might have to undertake the sacrifice
operation alone. Britain should use such forces as would
be available, including, if necessary, the forces employed
in the defense of Great Britain. In such an emergency,
such U.S. forces as were on hand could also be used. After
the sacrifice, the British would rely on the United States
for the defense of Great Britain. U.S. forces would
accumulate gradually in the United Kingdom as the build-up
- The British Chiefs of Staff raised several objections to General Marshall's plan.2 It did not provide for maximum aid to Russia during the critical period of Russia's war. For Russia, the critical period would be the late summer, autumn and early winter of 1942. General Marshall's plan would utilize that time and its available shipping solely for the purpose of a balanced build up. While the Allies were building up in England, Russia might collapse. The suggested sacrifice operation would probably do Russia no good and might ruin England.3 The Germans could probably annihilate any Army the Allies would be able to land in France. The German high command, with total victory in
Russia within its grasp, was hardly likely to prejudice
that victory by diverting forces to France to repel a
tiny Allied army. They could be expected to finish off
Russia first. Then, if their released forces were able
to annihilate the British Army in France, they could
attempt to cross the Channel to take advantage of England's
weakened defenses and thus eliminate her entirely. The
net effect of this operation would be to incapacitate
England or eliminate her from the war as well as Russia.1
- As an invasion in 1943 was as likely as not to be beyond the capabilities of Britain and America, the British Chiefs of Staff felt the Marshall Plan contained the danger that the Western Allies might remain idle until the summer of 1944. This would give Germany still another uninterrupted year to eliminate Russia. In a study of the proposed cross channel operation, made by the Combined Staff Planners in April 1942, the conclusion was reached that an invasion in 1943 might be possible only by a very narrow margin.2 Therefore, if Russia collapsed, or if she were seriously weakened, the Germans could divert sufficient forces to France to make even a large scale invasion impossible. Any reverse in Allied fortunes anywhere in the Pacific, in the Middle East, or in the submarine war, might compel the Allies to divert shipping away from the Trans-Atlantic build-up program.
2 B. Mediterranean Strategy 1942-1943; British Strategic Concepts
- The Allied position in the Middle East and the Mediterranean would be gravely endangered if Russia were eliminated. While the collapse of Russia would free enormous German forces for a drive through the Middle East, only a small British Army in an isolated position would be available for resistance. Allied European strategy should give some attention to strengthening that position by gaining possession of all of North Africa and the Mediterranean before Russia collapsed.
The British Chiefs of Staff pointed out that if
the Allies could gain possession of the Mediterranean
and North Africa, they would be in a position
- to conduct an air bombardment of the Axis from the south;
- to "eliminate Italy as an active partner in the Axis";1
- to bring Turkey into the war on the Allied side;
- to launch or threaten an assault on Germany's southern and Balkan flank; and
- to complete the blockade of Europe, thereby "closing and tightening the ring around Germany".2
In the British view, the objectives of the Allied
strategy should be:
- to work out plans and preparations for a return to the Continent at a later date, should a situation develop in which such a course appeared wise;
- to undertake, as soon as possible, operations designed to afford Russia immediate assistance and to accomplish other Allied aims;
to conduct a two-fold offensive at the first opportunity,
- to enter North Africa and seize the Mediterranean;
- to divert German air strength from Russia by launching the most massive air offensive possible; and
- to conduct a cover plan designed to draw maximum German forces into non-combatant areas, such as France and
- The U.S. Chiefs of Staff, in general, supported
Norway, and to retain them there.1
General Marshall's opinion that this British strategic
policy was unsound for the following reasons:
- a North African operation would compel the Allies to disperse their forces when, on general principles, they ought to concentrate them;
- a new front would be an enormous drain, especially in view of commitments of men and material required to operate a front before one soldier can be effectively engaged;
- a North African invasion would be a further strain on Allied shipping, already overtaxed;
- the only area where sufficient force could be deployed to defeat Germany, was in France, and hence, operations Italy, the Mediterranean and Turkey could only be side issues;
- once the Allies definitely decided on a course of action, all production, transportation, training and general preparation should be geared to one plan in order to make it possible to produce and deploy the forces required rapidly and effectively.
- a Mediterranean campaign in 1942 would so strain Allied resources as to make impossible a cross channel operation in 1943, since logistic studies had made it abundantly clear that even if all available shipping were devoted to the necessary build-up for such operations, resources could hardly be accumulated in England in time for a full scale invasion in 1943;
- finally, the necessary diversion of shipping to a North African operation in 1942 would make impossible the build up in Britain on the scale that would be necessary for any cross channel operation in 1943.
- The final decision to begin operations in the Mediterranean by landings in North Africa, rather than to stage a "sacrifice" cross channel operation in 1942, or to organize a full scale offensive against German forces in France in 1943 was due primarily to the fact that the President and the Prime
Minister attached great importance to the launching of
a successful offensive in 1942.1
They left the decision
as to the time and place of the attack to the CCS. They
preferred, if possible, an invasion of France, but they required:
- that some offensive should be launched in 1942, and
- that it should hold out a reasonable prospect of success.2
- By the end of July 1942, it had become obvious that even a minor cross channel assault would be impossible in 1942.1 The CCS, therefore, reluctantly decided to execute TORCH,2 and to use any residue of Trans-Atlantic shipping that would remain after TORCH requirements were met, for the build up of bomber forces.3 Thus, the strategy for the opening phase of the European war was to initiate the attack on Germany by a combined air-Mediterranean offensive.
When the Casablanca Conference was held in January
1943, the CCS defined overall strategy in 1943 in the
"Operations in the European Theater will be conducted with the object of defeating Germany in 1943 with the maximum forces that can be brought to bear on her by the United Nations.
The main lines of offensive action will be:
In the Mediterranean
The occupation Sicily with the object of:
- Making the Mediterranean line of communications more secure,
- Diverting German pressure from the Russian front.
- Intensifying the pressure on Italy.
- To create a situation in which Turkey can be enlisted as an active ally.
In the United Kingdom
- The heaviest possible bomber offensive against the German war effort,
- Such limited offensive operations as may be practicable with the amphibious forces available,
- The assembly of the strongest possible force (subject to (a) and (b) above), in constant readiness to reenter the Continent as soon as German resistance is weakened to the required extent.1
- The occupation Sicily with the object of:
2 C. Planning the Assault On Germany: (OVERLORD and American Strategic Concepts)
- The Mediterranean strategy, approved at the time of the Casablanca Conference, was successfully followed throughout the year 1943. The decision then taken to invade Sicily in June was followed, after the successful landings in Sicily, by the decision to undertake landings in Italy, approved at the TRIDENT Conference in Washington in May 1943. Nevertheless, planning and preparations for future cross channel operations were continued, primarily through the agency set up by the CCS at the Casablanca Conference. In conformity with the earlier decision taken in July 1942, CCS agreed in January 1943 to establish a staff under the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC), to assume responsibility for planning future cross channel operations. It was agreed, as proposed by the British Chiefs of Staff, that Lt. Gen. F.E.Morgan should assume the functions of COSSAC. The CCS directive provided that COSSAC should prepare a detailed appreciation and outline plan for cross channel operations on the assumption that this operation would take place in 1944. This preliminary planning would permit preparations for the operation to be undertaken without delay when the CCS should so decide. The preliminary outline of the OVERLORD Operation was approved at the TRIDENT Conference in Washington in May 1943. At that time, COSSAC was instructed to complete the OVERLORD Plan. This plan was conditionally approved by the CCS at the QUEBEC Conference in August 1943.
- The successful operations, first in Sicily and later in Italy, led to the negotiation of the Italian surrender, which Marshall Badoglio announced in September 1943. The Anglo-American commitment in Southern Italy made it necessary, in accordance with the TRIDENT decision, to proceed with offensive operations in Italy. Moreover, the surrender of the Italian fleet and the agreement negotiated by Admiral Cunningham for Italian naval forces to operate under his command in the Mediterranean, completely altered the Mediterranean situation. Hence at the QUEBEC Conference, only conditional approval was given to the OVERLORD Plan. The final decision as to whether the final assault on Germany should be launched from Northwest Europe or by operations across the Mediterranean and from Turkey into the Balkans, was postponed for later decision.
- The profound but gradual evolution in the European war situation, 1942-1943, was not accompanied by a corresponding evolution in American strategic conceptions, consistently maintained by General Marshall. The defeat of Germany in the shortest possible time was regarded as the chief objective of the United States Armed Forces in the European theater. This, he saw, could be accomplished most easily by Anglo-American invasion from the west. It did not seem possible to build up sufficient forces in the United Kingdom for a cross channel assault if Mediterranean operations were continued, since these operations would create a strategic focussing point toward which Allied resources must be directed. In the American strategic view, the defeat of the Axis in Europe could be best secured by keeping the U.S.S.R. in the war by the combined bomber offensive from the United Kingdom, by an invasion of the Continent in the spring of 1944, and by limiting Mediterranean operations lest they become a drain upon resources needed for the cross channel operation.
- It seemed to the American Planning Staffs strategically and logically unsound to attempt the defeat of the European Axis by an invasion from the Mediterranean. On the other hand, they believed that the United Kingdom was an unparalleled base for the invasion of Europe, and that France was the only area where armies of sufficient size to defeat Germany could be deployed. The elimination of Italy was not a necessary prerequisite for such an offensive operation, and the advantages of occupying Sicily or of eliminating Italy did not seem to them worth the cost but would only defer the main effort. Experience had shown that the desire to ensure success, even of secondary operations, led to increasing demands for greater forces. The main effort of the United Nations should, therefore, be concentrated upon the bomber offensive and the invasion of Northwestern France.1
- In July of 1942, General Marshall had been opposed to executing the North African invasion. 2 At the Casablanca
Conference, he was opposed to the invasion of Sicily;1
at the Washington Conference (TRIDENT) in May, he was
opposed to the invasion of Italy, and agreed to it only
on the condition that seven of the thirty-four divisions
then available in the Mediterranean should not be used
in Italy, but, instead, held in idleness for subsequent
transfer to the United Kingdom.2
At the Quebec Conference
(QUADRANT) in August, he urged scheduling OVERLORD unconditionally
and employing Mediterranean resources solely
in support of OVERLORD.3
At the Cairo Conference (SEXTANT)
in November 1943, he endeavored to obtain a categorical
British commitment that OVERLORD, and operations in support
of OVERLORD, would be the sole allied offensive, and to
institute a system of Mediterranean command which would
prevent the British from embarking on unilateral Mediterranean
At Teheran, he told the Russians he was
entirely in favor of OVERLORD and that his only misgivings
were on the question of whether OVERLORD would
2 D. Planning Offensive Operations; 1943 British Proposals
- The strategic concepts of the British Staff had only gradually changed as the war situation had developed. They were necessarily influenced by political as well as by military objectives. In the British view, the victory over Germany should be won with the minimum expenditure of men and materials. Moreover, it was vitally important for the British Commonwealth of Nations to consolidate the British position in the Mediterranean and in the Near and Middle East. Those long range objectives were consistently in the minds of the British Staff planners. As additional forces became available, chiefly through American reinforcements, they began to concentrate on the planning of the final stages of offensive operations in the war against Germany. In 1942, the immediate British strategical objective was to prevent the elimination of Russia from the war. In 1943, after Stalingrad, Russia seemed to be assured against defeat. The immediate British objective, therefore, was that of weakening German strength and offensive spirit to an extent which would permit a successful invasion of the German held continent. At the end of 1943, the Allied successes in the Mediterranean led the British Staff to attach greater importance to the development of offensive operations in the Eastern Mediterranean than to a cross channel operation. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Churchill, the British Staffs, therefore, at the end of 1943, were advocating the strategy of attacking Germany through the Balkans and the Black Sea rather than across the Channel.1
- These views were expressed in varying forms at the Casablanca, Washington and Quebec Conferences in 1943. The British insisted that the Allies should retain the initiative by exploiting and developing offensive action in the Mediterranean and by intensification of the bombing offensive against German communications and war production on the Continent. At the same time, they urged a maximum
build up of Anglo-American forces in the United Kingdom
for the final offensive against Germany. In the British
view, it was important that sufficient forces should be
accumulated in the United Kingdom for full scale amphibious
operations on the Continent before May 1944.1
- In the British view, it seemed desirable in 1943 to follow up successes in the Mediterranean, rather than to postpone further offensive action until sufficient forces could be accumulated in England to permit a cross channel operation to be undertaken. This might leave the initiative to the Germans until the cross channel operation could get under way. Moreover, it would allow them time to recuperate and to concentrate forces for the defense of France and the Low Countries.
- The CCS made an analysis in May 1943 of shipping resources which indicated that the number of U.S. troops which would be available in England if the Mediterranean front was held defensively and the offensive forces shifted to England, would be some 4 or 5 divisions fewer than if the Mediterranean were operated at full offensive capacity.1 In
addition to this, the total allied strength which would
be deployed against Germany would be far less, because
shipping space would be employed merely in moving forces
from one active front to another instead of bringing fresh
forces up. Thus, Mediterranean operations would not reduce
the scale of OVERLORD more than three or four divisions,
or more than some 10% of available assault shipping.
Sir Alan Brooke thought this would be a "cheap price to pay"
for the enormous and certain advantages of pushing the
The British view was that in 1943, Mediterranean action
should be directed toward:
- occupying Sicily;
- eliminating Italy;
- bringing Turkey into the war on the Allied side; and
- establishing a foothold in the Balkans.
The Allied decision whether to do this or whether to close down the Mediterranean offensive altogether should be decided on the basis of which policy gave the most assured prospects of a speedy allied victory. The occupation of Sicily would save an estimated two million tons of shipping a year. To Germany, "tearing Italy from the Axis would be a military disaster of the first magnitude". It would compel her to utilize some 20 to 30 divisions of German troops to replace Italians.1 It would also compel Germany to send another army into Southern France to stand guard against possible allied amphibious assaults there.
- The fall of Italy would split German air defenses, bring the Ploesti oil fields within range of effective air attack, and provide air bases from which medium bombers could join the long range heavies in the southern air offensive. The whole of Southern Europe would then be subject
to attack, a much more massive attack than had been
previously possible. This, in turn, would divert still
more German air forces from the Channel area and from
the Eastern Front. Elimination of Italy would be a powerful
factor in bringing Turkey into the war. This would
open the route through the Dardanelles to the Black Sea.
It would make possible an Allied thrust into Bulgaria in
the rear of the German Ukranian Front, and, at the least,
compel Germany to divert further forces to stand guard
against Turkey's army.
GRAND STRATEGY OF THE OVERLORD PLAN
3 A. Quebec Conference: Views of British Chiefs of Staff
The British Chiefs of Staff, throughout the discussions
in 1943, had maintained that a cross-channel invasion
would not be possible unless four conditions
- The over-all allied offensive strength would have to exceed, the over-all German defensive strength in France. Thanks to the BOLERO build-up, this was no longer a critical factor. Without skimping the Mediterranean, the Allies could assemble by 1944, the necessary over-all strength in the United Kingdom;
- During the OVERLORD assault and post assault build-up, the Allies must have an overwhelming air supremacy over the Channel and the assault area. Without this, the assaulting army could never establish itself ashore nor win the build-up race. This air supremacy would have to be achieved before the amphibious assault could be launched. The air offensive against Germany might result in the required supremacy by bringing Germany's air forces to battle, by destroying German aircraft on the ground, by destroying German aircraft factories, and by generally reducing the over-all German air potential. It was still too early, however, to count on this. An advance into Italy from the Mediterranean would assist in accomplishing the required allied air supremacy by forcing the Germans to divert air forces to the south;
- Allied assault strength must exceed the strength of the German beach defenses. This would turn on the availability of assault lift which was in exceedingly short supply;
- The Allies would also have to be able to build up their forces at the point of assault more rapidly than the Germans would be able to reinforce their defenses. If they could not do so, the Allies would never be able to establish their massive armies ashore. The build-up race would depend on;
- The availability of follow-up and build-up shipping;
- The degree to which the German rate of reinforcement could be curtailed; and
- The success with which the Allies could prevent the Germans from disrupting Allied build-up shipping.
- The maximum weight which the Allies could give to their assault and the maximum speed which they could attain in their build-up, was pre-determined by the availability of assault and build-up shipping. The maximum assault lift in sight for 1944 was enough for an assault of not more than three divisions and for a build-up of some three or four divisions a week. Such a force would not be strong enough to storm German coastal defenses or to establish itself ashore before German mobile reserves could be brought into action unless German strength in Northern France was reduced and unless German forces in Southern France and Italy were "tied down". The only way by which a favorable balance of power on Normandy beaches could be obtained was by causing the Germans to reduce their strength in France. Vigorous Mediterranean operations would contribute mightily to this.
- The British Chiefs of Staff, at the Quebec conference, in August 1943, agreed conditionally that the OVERLORD Operation, as proposed in the COSSAC outline plan, should be undertaken in 1944 if the conditions described in paragraph 44 above had been met. They also agreed that when the OVERLORD Operation had been finally approved, there should be the necessary curtailment of further Mediterranean operations. The developments that occurred in the Mediterranean between August and October 1943, resulted in a change in the views of the British Chiefs of Staff. When the SEXTANT Conference met at Cairo in November 1943, they again proposed offensive operations in the eastern Mediterranean, if necessary at the expense of the OVERLORD Operation.
- The British view, as expressed in their paper CCS 409 of 25 November 1943, was as follows:
[The original manuscript contains two (2) paragraphs number 45. This is the second of two.]
- Landings in Southern France.
- The Italian campaign. The offensive in Italy should be nourished and maintained until we have secured the Pisa-Rimini line,
- Yugoslavia, Greece and Albania. Our policy should be to place on a regular military basis and to intensify our measures to nourish the Partisans and irregular forces in these countries,
- Turkey. We should bring Turkey into the war this year,
- The Dardanelles. We should aim to open the Dardanelles as soon as possible.
- The Balkans. We should undermine resistance in the Balkan states and do everything possible to promote a state of chaos and disruption in the satellite Balkan countries.1
"For some time past, it has been clear to us and doubtless also to the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, that disagreement between us exists as to what we should do now in the Mediterranean, with particular reference to the effect of future action on OVERLORD.
"At the outset, we must point out that there have been major developments in the situation. The Russians' campaign has succeeded beyond all hope or expectation, and their victorious advance continues. Italy had been knocked out of the war; and it is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that Turkey will come in on our side before the New Year. We submit the following proposals for action in the Mediterranean:
In recommending this policy of Eastern Mediterranean
operations, the British Chiefs of Staff recognized that
this might delay the time when a cross channel operation
might be undertaken from England. They pointed out
"If the above measures necessitate putting back the date upon which the forces agreed to be necessary for OVERLORD will be available in the United Kingdom, this should be accepted * * * If we pursue the above policy, we firmly believe that OVERLORD (perhaps in the form of RANKIN) will take place next summer. We do not, however, attach vital importance to any particular date or to any particular number of divisions in the assault and follow up, though, naturally, the latter should be made as large as possible, consistent with the policy stated above. It is, of course, valuable to have a target date to which all may work, but we are firmly opposed to allowing this date to become our master and to prevent us from taking full advantage of all opportunities that occur to us to follow what we believe to be the correct strategy."1
3 B. Strategical Implications of OVERLORD: The American Position
- The United States Joint Staff planners thought that the British proposals were couched in the broadest terms. No realistic effort had been made to assess the cost of the proposals to agreed operations elsewhere. To accept the British proposals in that form would authorize, in principle, almost any type of operation in the Balkan Eastern Mediterranean region. The underlying strategic concept expounded by the British Chiefs of Staff would result in less, not more pressure being exerted upon the enemy. Experience had shown that to approve eccentric operations, no matter how attractive, invited a situation requiring military means far in excess of those originally allotted.2
- In 1943, the President had formally defined the policies to be followed by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff in planning the final offensive operations against Germany in Europe. In a directive issued in February 1943, the President had declined to commit any American forces for operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was clear to the American Chiefs of Staff that British strategy, as proposed at the SEXTANT Conference, was designed to implement long range policy objectives of the British Commonwealth of Nations, as well as to contribute to a military victory over Germany. Under the conditions that prevailed at the end of 1943, the American Chiefs of Staff, therefore, declined to agree to any modification of the decision conditionally reached at the Quebec Conference in August.1 The final decision on the strategy to be followed in 1943 was therefore delayed until the meeting of the President and Prime Minister with Marshall Stalin at the Teheran (EUREKA) Conference, to be held a few days later.
3 C. The General War Situation, November 1943
- The final decision to launch OVERLORD and to curtail the Mediterranean offensive, was taken at the Teheran (EUREKA) Conference on 30 November 1943.2 Prior to that time, the CCS had repeatedly re-examined the question of whether to make this change in their strategy at all, and if so, when. During the twenty months which had elapsed since the dark days of the spring of 1942, when the Russian position was desperate and the Allies had stood on the verge of "ultimate defeat", the war situation had gradually changed. By January (the time of the Casablanca Conference), the Russian position, though still critical, was much improved. As the year progressed, it became more and more evident that Russia was safe, and that German and Italy were doomed.
By 1 November 1943, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff were
able to summarize the European situation as follows:1
"Germany is now under severe strain and her general situation is deteriorating.2 Her strength remains formidable, however, and granted relief from pressure, she still has the power of recuperation.
"Germany is now on the defensive on all fronts. She has no decisive offensive capabilities. Her military resources are inadequate to meet all of her defensive requirements. The German Air Force is unsuitable to ward off destructive Allied strategic bombing. Its
"concentration to resist such bombing leaves Germany's
"land fronts in the east and the south inadequately supported.1 On both of these fronts, the German
"Army has been compelled to yield considerable ground at the sacrifice of military, economic, political and
"The German Navy has been unable to prevent the build-up of Allied offensive forces within striking distance of the Continent.1
This review of the war situation in November 1943,
made four facts obvious:
- Germany was losing the war, and her ultimate defeat was certain,
- Russia was the only continental power besides Germany which possessed a formidable military establishment.
"The bomber offensive is increasingly destructive of German air strength, industrial capacity and morale. Reserves of fit German manpower are now exhausted and continued heavy casualties must cause either a decrease in strength or a decline in quality in the German Army. The prospect is such as to cause her Allies to seek means of escape, to encourage renewed resistance in occupied areas, and to impair her morale. Signs of deterioration in her political structure are beginning to be discernible.
"Nevertheless, Germany's armed forces are still strong, experienced and willing to fight hard. By reason of past conquests, she is still able to fight well in advance of her vital areas (except in the air). Her political structure is designed to withstand internal strain. Given any relief from pressure, she has the power of recovery. Germany's most probable courses of action are to stand on the strategic defensive and concurrently seek a negotiated peace by psychological and political means, including continuation of efforts to divide her principal enemies. She will sue for peace only after it has been proven impossible to achieve either a negotiated peace or a stalemate.
"Germany will continue to resist as long as hope persists that thereby she may gain a stalemate or negotiated peace. When that fails, the High Command may assume control in order to halt destruction prejudicial to Germany's eventual recovery. Unmistakable signs of German collapse will not become apparent until the end of resistance is close to hand. When that point has been reached, disintegration will proceed with startling rapidity."
- If the German armies were utterly liquidated, no military force would stand between Russia and a hegemony except the British and American armies, which did not permanently belong on the Continent,
- Every country in Europe was afraid of this result.
TRIPARTITE STRATEGIC AGREEMENTS:
THE EUREKA CONFERENCE (TEHERAN)
4 A. Soviet Strategic Objectives
- President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, accompanied by the American and British Chiefs of Staff, met Marshall Stalin with his military advisers for the first time at the EUREKA Conference, held in Teheran in the last days of November and the first days of December 1943. Up until this time, military operations against Germany had been conducted more or less independently by the combined Anglo-American High Command in the west and by the Soviet High Command in the east. At the end of 1943, the Allied leaders were convinced that victory was in sight. It therefore became necessary for closer coordination to be established for the final assault to be made upon Germany simultaneously from the west and from the east. This would be possible only if agreement could be reached with Marshall Stalin and his military advisers to concert the operations of Anglo-American forces with offensives which the Russians might be planning on the eastern front between the Baltic and the Black Sea. As the British and U.S. Chiefs of Staff had been unable to agree at Cairo on the combined Anglo-American offensive operations to be undertaken in 1944, the Soviet High Command was given the opportunity of defining the military strategy to be followed in this final assault on Germany.1
The first Big Three meeting had been held in Moscow
at the end of October, attended by Secretary of State Hull
and by Foreign Secretary Eden. At this meeting, the political
basis for Three Power cooperation in the final stages of the
war and in the making of the peace had been discussed. At
the same time, officers of the British and American Military
Missions in Moscow had informed the Soviet authorities of
the outline plans for future U.S.-British combined operations
in Western Europe. The Russians, therefore, had been
able to review, before the Teheran meeting, the plans of
the Western Allies in relation to their own political and
military objectives. At the first Teheran meeting between
the President, the Prime Minister and Marshall Stalin,1
the President put the question at issue squarely up to the
Russians. He explained that OVERLORD was in the course of
being prepared, but that certain operations in the Mediterranean
were also being considered, which, if executed,
would mean that OVERLORD would have to be given up. Other
smaller Mediterranean operations were also being considered
which, if executed, would mean delaying OVERLORD from a
date in May to a day in July or August. The Mediterranean
operations being considered were:
- to increase the drive in Italy;
- to assault amphibiously the Northern Adriatic;
- to increase assistance to Yugoslavia, including, possibly, an expeditionary force;
- to drive through the Adriatic; and
- to bring Turkey into the war and launch Balkan operations from there.
The President asked Marshall Stalin which course of action he would prefer Britain and the United States to follow.
- The Russian view was unambiguous. Marshall Stalin wanted Britain and America to establish their forces in the west. He did not want them to introduce forces into the Balkans, the Black Sea or the Aegean. He had studied the ideas of both the British and the Americans and he favored the American view. He wanted the Allies to make their main
effort and concentrate their principle forces on the Cross
Channel assault for an offensive against Germany from the west.
He wanted the Allies to utilize Mediterranean forces for an
assault on Southern France which could join the offensive
against Germany from the west. He did not favor pushing
either the Italian campaign or the Adriatic campaign, both
of which would put the Allies in the upper Balkans. He did
not favor putting Allied forces in Greece or the Adriatic.
He stated bluntly that Turkey would not enter the war, that
he would not assist in dragging her in, that he was not in
favor of putting British or U.S. forces into Turkey, and
that he was opposed to their launching an offensive from there.
- Marshall Stalin gave military reasons for these views, the same reasons as those advanced by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff. He regarded the Italian operation as of great importance to free the Mediterranean for navigation, but of no further great importance in the defeat of Germany. The most suitable sector for a blow at Germany was in Northwest France. Things could not be settled in Italy. Germany was defended by the Alps. The Balkans were a better area from which to launch an attack than Italy, but Northern France was very much better than either for invasion purposes. It was not worthwhile to scatter British and American forces. The plans seemed to indicate that part of these forces would be sent to Turkey, part to Southern France, part to Northern France, and part across the Adriatic.
- The Soviet High Command suggested that OVERLORD should be accepted as a basis for operations in 1944 and that other operations should be considered as diversionary. After ascertaining that it would not be possible to transfer all Mediterranean forces to OVERLORD, and that, in all events, some allied forces would have to remain in the Mediterranean, he said that he thought that there was a chance for an operation against Southern France. This operation could be mounted from Corsica, and the forces involved could make contact with OVERLORD forces in due course. This, he felt, was better than to scatter forces in several widely scattered areas.
- Marshall Stalin stated that he believed that OVERLORD had the greatest possibilities, particularly if it were supported by another offensive from Southern France. He believed that the Allies should be prepared to remain on the defensive in Italy and use the divisions released for operations in Southern France. Then with the German forces
divided, the time would be propitious for OVERLORD. Rome
might be captured at a later date. Marshall Stalin asked
who would command OVERLORD. When he was told that this
matter had not yet been decided, he said that nothing
would come out of these operations. One person must be
4 B. U.S.-British Positions At the EUREKA Conference
Among all military questions then under discussion,
OVERLORD was the most important and decisive. Diversions
from the most important operation to carry out secondary
ones must not be permitted. The President and the Prime
Minister were required to determine only three things:
- OVERLORD must not be postponed and must be carried out by a limit
- OVERLORD must be reinforced by a landing in Southern France to take place before, with, or after OVERLORD; and
- the appointment of a Supreme Commander must be made forthwith. Until such a commander was appointed, no success could be expected in the matter of organization for the operation.
If these three points were carried out, it would result in the successful and rapid accomplishment of OVERLORD.
- British views were argued valiantly and repetitiously by the Prime Minister and Sir Alan Brooke. They had nothing to add to the points they had previously made. The success of OVERLORD was conditioned on a weakening of German strength in Western France. Mediterranean operations were the best way of bringing about this weakening. A strong Italian campaign would withdraw German forces from both the Eastern and the Western fronts, thus helping both Russia and OVERLORD. A strong Italian campaign or an amphibious assault at the head of the Adriatic would enable the Allies to turn toward the Danube across Croatia, thus cutting into German lines of communication with their Ukranian armies.
- The British representatives pointed out that an offensive through the Aegean, coupled with the entry of Turkey into the
war, would enable the Allies to pass the Dardanelles,
to operate in the Black Sea, and to assault Bulgaria with
the double benefit to Russia of flanking the German
Ukrainian army and of increasing lend-lease deliveries
by shortening the shipping route. Allied offensives in
Yugoslavia would also benefit both Russia and OVERLORD, by
enabling the Yugoslav underground to become a regular army
and by opening the way for an allied drive into the upper
Balkans, thus cutting German lines of communication. Doing
any or all of these might not result in cancelling OVERLORD.
The most likely result would be that OVERLORD would only be
postponed. Failing to do any of these would mean that the
allied army in the Mediterranean (predominantly British),
would stand idle for some six to eight months, giving
Germany a chance to recuperate, and affording Russia no aid
during her gruelling winter battles.
- American views, as expressed by General Marshall, reflected the strategy which had been consistently upheld by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff. Dispersion of allied resources on many small enterprises was unsound. For logistic reasons, the weight of the offensive which the Allies could deliver against Germany from the eastern Mediterranean was only a fraction of what could be delivered in France.1 In any event, the reorientation of allied strength to the eastern Mediterranean would impose nearly as great a delay reorienting it to France. General Marshall had only one serious misgiving. Would OVERLORD succeed? The President shared General Marshall's view. He opened the Teheran Conference saying that he thought that OVERLORD should be carried out. After much debate between Mr. Churchill and Marshall Stalin, not altogether without acrimony, the president repeated his own conviction that OVERLORD should be launched in May 1944 and that Mediterranean operations should be reduced as might be required to implement the cross channel operation.
4 C. Final Approval of OVERLORD At Teheran.
- The final decision to undertake the OVERLORD Operation,
so far as the military leaders were concerned, was
reached in a CCS meeting held in Teheran. After much
discussion, primarily of Sir Alan Brooke's suggestions
as to the possibility of disposing allied forces so as to
accomplish the British scheme of gravitating to the eastern
Mediterranean without abandoning or unduly postponing OVERLORD,
the CCS agreed to "recommend to the President and the
Prime Minister that Marshall Stalin should be told that
OVERLORD would be launched during May 1944 in conjunction
with supporting operations against Southern France."1
Prime Minister accepted this recommendation, and, that afternoon,
at the third plenary EUREKA meeting, the President
invited Sir Alan Brooke to inform the Russians of the decision
- Marshall Stalin said that the greatest danger would be that at the time of the OVERLORD attack, the Germans might try to transfer divisions from the Eastern Front to meet it. In order to deny the Germans the freedom of action which would permit them to move their forces to the west, the Soviets would undertake to organize a large scale offensive in May in order to contain the maximum number of German divisions on the Eastern Front, and thus remove difficulties for OVERLORD.
The President and the Prime Minister expressed their
satisfaction at this commitment, and, in their turn, promised
Marshall Stalin that they would appoint a Supreme Commander
for OVERLORD within three or four days of their return to
Cairo. The Conference thereupon ended. The military conclusions
of the EUREKA Conference were that "the Conference:
- Agreed that the Partisans in Yugoslavia should be supported by supplies and equipment to the greatest possible extent and also by commando operations;
- Agreed that, from the military point of view, it was most desirable that Turkey should come into the war on the side of the Allies before the end of the year;
- Took note of Marshal Stalin's statement that if Turkey found herself at war with Germany, and, as a
- Took note that Operation OVERLORD would be launched during May 1944, in conjunction with an operation against Southern France. The latter operation would be undertaken in as great a strength as availability of landing craft permitted. The Conference further took note of Marshall Stalin's statement that the Soviet forces would launch an offensive at about the same time, with the object of preventing the German forces from transferring from the Eastern to the Western Front;
- Agreed that the military staffs of the Three Powers should henceforward keep in close touch with each other in regard to the impending operations in Europe. In particular, it was agreed that a cover plan to mystify and mislead the enemy as regards these operations, should be concerted between the staffs concerned."1
result, Bulgaria declared war on Turkey or attacked
her, the Soviet would immediately be at war with
Bulgaria. The Conference further took note that
this fact could be explicitly stated in the forthcoming
negotiations to bring Turkey into the war;
4 D. Allied Program for Victory in Europe: Political Implications.
At the end of 1943, when the EUREKA Conference was
held, the three pre-eminent facts in the European military
- No continental European nation, except Germany, possessed, at that time, sufficient military power to restrain Russia from establishing a European hegemony, if she so desired;
- Germany was going to lose the war;
- The numerous Europeans nations possessed potential military power which, given time, might become a formidable barrier to Russian hegemony.
- The only questions as to future developments which remained in doubt at the end of 1943 were:
- How soon would the fighting in Europe come to an end? and
- What would be the disposition of power in Europe when the fighting stopped?
It was clear that the course of action which Britain
and the U.S. would follow in 1944 would have a profound
influence on determining the answer to those two questions.
What courses of action were open, and what did each imply?
Three alternative policies had been mooted from the earliest
days of war. These were: "a return to the Continent
- across the Mediterranean,
- from Turkey into the Balkans, or
- by landings in Western Europe."1
- One possibility was to bring Turkey into the war, open the Aegean Sea, open the Dardanelles, and launch an offensive into Bulgaria in the rear of the German armies of the Ukraine. Mr. Churchill and Sir Alan Brooke often brought this proposal forward, but they neither produced an appreciation and outline plan, nor made any realistic assessment of what resources would be required to execute the plan. It is clear, however, that the successful prosecution of this plan would have required a very heavy outlay of military resources, that with remaining resources, a cross channel operation, except under RANKIN conditions, would probably have been impossible, and that the end of the fighting would have been brought about less quickly. It would seem that the only logical ground supporting this strategy was that it would benefit Britain and America, as against Russia, in the post war world. It aimed at assuring that Britain and America would be in military possession of southeastern and a part of Middle Europe, and at excluding Russia from control of this area. It also opened a possibility that Germany might be beaten in the field in Russia and forced to accept allied terms while yet she retained her national integrity, and while yet Russian armies remained in Russia.
- If nothing better than the first result occurred, Russia would, at least, not be in possession of the Balkans when the fighting stopped. If the second result came about, Russia's formidable armies would end the war in Russia. A defeated Germany would be intact. Anglo-American armies, rather than Russian ones would be on her southeastern flank. A Russian post-hostilities occupation of the area would have been improbable owing to the political and moral opprobrium which would result from a peace time aggression against smaller states, contrary to the desires of recent allies and in the face of Germany, weakened but in existence, and a reviving Western Europe. These factors would have proved formidable if not insurmountable obstacles to Russian occupation of Eastern Europe.
- The second course of action open to Britain and America was to concentrate their forces in the west and to execute OVERLORD with all their might. This is what General Marshall wanted to do from the very first. It was clearly the speediest, simplest and surest way of winning the war against Germany. Its only possible drawback was that it would leave Russia in undisputed possession of all of Eastern, Southeastern and Middle Europe. When Britain and America withdrew, it would leave no barrier against her continued advance westward. It implied that during the period when Russia held the moral justification of pursuing Germany in a state of war, her armies would over-run all of Eastern and Middle Europe. When hostilities ceased, she would be in possession and the Western Allies would have the problem of getting her out.
- The third possible course of action was a compromise between the other two. In this alternative, the Allies would have tried to establish a position in the Balkans with small forces and to have utilized remaining resources for OVERLORD. The advantages would be that as the Russian advance rolled westward, they would have found it awkward to expel even small allied forces, so that they would probably have detoured to the north, leaving a part, at least, of the Balkans in Anglo-American hands. From the purely military point of view, such a course would have been an unacceptable dispersion of resources. The policy could be justified only in relation to the question of the post-war position of Britain and America, as against Russia.
- These were the alternatives. What did the Allied leaders decide? The EUREKA decision was that Britain and America would center their entire effort in the war for an offensive against Germany from the west. Those Mediterranean military resources, which, by reason of shipping shortages, could not be transferred to England, would assault in the Western Mediterranean and join the advance on Germany from the west. Russia alone would move into Eastern and Middle Europe.
- At the beginning of this chapter, it was suggested that the ultimate object of the United States armed forces in the European War, was to preserve the ability of the United States to defend the Western Hemisphere by preserving the dispersion of military power in Europe. In particular, the United States desired to prevent any European power from establishing a continental hegemony in order that European military power should not become so concentrated as to undermine the continued ability of the United States to prevent the extension of European military and political power into the New World.
- In 1941 and 1942, Germany stood on the threshold of achieving that hegemony. By November of 1943, conditions had changed. The wisdom of adopting the OVERLORD strategy of culminating the war in Europe by attacking and defeating Germany from the west, may be measured by considering whether such a course of action was likely to accomplish fundamental U.S. war objects.
CCS 304/12 of 12 February 1944.
The planning phase may be said to have begun in January 1943 when the CCS established COSSAC and directed him to prepare a plan. (CCS 67th meeting of 22 January 1943 and CCS 169 of 22 January 1943). The preparatory phase may be said to have begun in August 1943 when the CCS approved the COSSAC Appreciation and Outline Plan and authorised (COSSAC) to take executive action toward implementing the Operation. (CCS 108th meeting of 21 August 1943). The actual operation began 31 May 1944 when the first ships and craft sailed in order to reach their destination off the assault beaches in time for D-day H-hour, which was 0630 hours 6 June 1944. (ANCXF Report, Vol.1, P. 43). Operation OVERLORD continued thereafter as the sum total of Anglo-American operations in the area of the Supreme Commander's responsibility until after the last surrender of German forces on 8 May 1945. OVERLORD may be said to have terminated at 0001 on the 14th July 1945, when the Allied Supreme Command was dissolved and control of forces and areas of Europe was assumed by allied post-hostilities authorities on a tripartite basis.
p.1 #2 Operation NEPTUNE was defined as the plans, preparations and execution of a cross channel amphibious assault on the continent of Europe, with the object of securing a lodgement area from which further offensive operations could be developed. (ONI Para 1).
p.4 #1 This was set out in a joint U.S. Army-Navy paper JB No. 325, Serial 674 of 14 Dec, 1940, Annex II Para. 4 & 5, prepared by the U.S. Joint Board on the eve of the first visit of the British Chiefs of Staff to Washington with the object of officially informing the British of the U.S. terms of reference for holding the forthcoming ABC conference. The paper was approved by both the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy with the knowledge and consent of the President. This concept of American and allied war aims was reiterated in the agreed conclusions of the ABC conference as follows: (1) "The United States must ----- in all eventualities prevent the extension of European or Asiatic military or political power into the Western Hemisphere". (2) "The British Commonwealth must maintain the security of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth and retain a military position in the Far East such as will ensure the cohesion and security of the British Commonwealth. Paragraphs 11(a) and 11(b) A.B.C.I. (U.S. Serial 011512-12 (R), BUS (J) (41) 30, 27 March 1941.
p.4 #2 The pre-war unilateral statement of this policy in JCS No. 325 was that in order to accomplish its basic aim of defense of the Western Hemisphere, "the United States policy is, if it remains neutral, to oppose by diplomatic and economic means any extension of Japanese rule over additional territory" and "to afford diplomatic and material assistance to the British Commonwealth". To accomplish this end in case "the U.S. makes war against Germany in common with the British Commonwealth, the U.S. policy is to defeat Germany and her allies" and "to endeavour to keep the Japanese from entering the war or attacking the Dutch". In the agreed statement of ABC 1, the same policy was expressed in Paragraph 10, and after the United States was in the war in the ARCADIA Document CS-1 of 31 December 1941, Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3.
p.5 #1 The A.B.C. Conference (January-March 1941) had stated this principle as follows: "Since Germany is the predominant member of the Axis Powers, the Atlantic and European area is considered to be the decisive theater. The principle U.S. military effort will be exerted in that theater and operations of U.S. forces in other theaters will be conducted in such a manner as to facilitate that effort..... If Japan does enter the war, the military strategy in the Far East will be defensive". ABC-1 Para. 13 (a) and 13 (d).
The ARCADIA Conference stated the policy as follows: "At the American-British Staff conversations in February it was agreed that Germany was the predominant member of the Axis powers, and consequently, the Atlantic and European area was considered to be the decisive theater. Much has happened since February last but notwithstanding the entry of Japan into the war, our views remain that Germany is the prime enemy and her defeat is the key to victory. Once Germany is defeated, the defeat of Japan must follow. In our considered opinion, therefore, it should be a cardinal principle of American-British strategy that only the minimum of force necessary for the safeguarding of the vital interests in other theaters should be diverted from operations against Germany". (ABC-4 ARCADIA Documents CS-1 of 31 December 1941, Para. 1, 2 and 3).
p.6 #1 ARCADIA Document CS-1 of 31 December 1941, Paragraph 17.
p.6 #2 ARCADIA Document CS-1 of 31 December 1941, Parpagraph 3.
p.7 #1 JCS 23 of 14 March 1942.
p.7 #2 JCS 23 of 14 March 1942 and CCS 91 of 7 July 1942.
p.8 #1 JCS 23 of March 14 1942. It will be noted later that one of the reasons for the Mediterranean offensive was to eliminate the danger of a coordinated German, Italian, Vichy naval sortie by restricting the French and Italian fleets to their bases and obtaining a position from which they could be eliminated.
p.8 #2 CCS 91 of 7 July 1942, JPS 5 of 3 February 1942 and JPS 5/1 of 11 February 1942.
Invasion of the British Isles and operation in the Western Mediterranean, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, would require the Germans to divert forces of such magnitude from the Russian front, that a decisive victory could not be obtained against Russia. These alternatives were therefore considered improbable.
In the war against Russia, the most probable German operation during 1942 was considered to be an offensive in the south, designed to complete the destruction of the Russian Army and to gain access to the oil of the Caucasus. In conjunction with the main effort, three subsidiary efforts were considered probable: (1) an attack towards Moscow from the south to protect the main effort by containing and destroying the Northern Russian Armies; (2) a direct attack on the Caucasus by an amphibious operation through the Black Sea; (3) an offensive from Libya through Turkey in the Middle East to encompass a double envelopment in conjunction with the main effort.
p.9 #1 JCS 23 of March 14 1942.
p.9 #2 The following analysis of possible courses of action, and the reasons in favor of and against each, has been taken from United States papers JCS 23 of 5 March 1942, and from the following British papers: COS (42) 97 (O) of 18 April 1942; COS (42) 23rd meeting (O) of 9 April 1942; CCS 135/2 of 3 January 1943.
p.9a #1 JCS 23 of 14 March 1942 and JCS 6th meeting of 16 March 1942. The British fully concurred (see Part II of British Paper COS (42) 97 (O) of 13 April 1942 and COS (42) 23rd meeting (O) of 9th April 1942.
p.10 #1 ARCADIA Document CS-1 of 31 December 1941.
p.11 #1 General Marshall's plans are set out in a paper entitled "Proposals for Cross Channel Operations in 1942 presented by General Marshall to the British Chiefs of Staff at COS (42) 23rd meeting (O) of 9 April 1942." It is included in the CNO files, Atlantic section, under the title "BOLERO PAPERS" -- See also CCS 72 of 16 May 1942.
p.13 #1 Plans were drawn for both the full scale operation invasion in 1943 (Operation ROUNDUP) and for the sacrifice assault in 1942 (Operation SLEDGEHAMMER). Details of these plans are set out in Chapter II, Section I following.
p.13 #2 British reactions to General Marshall's proposals are contained in COS (42) 23rd meeting (O) of 9 April 1942; COS (42) 97 (O) of 13 April 1942 annexes; and CCS (42) 118th meeting of 14 April 1942.
p.13 #3 General Marshall's plan for the British to undertake an emergency return to the Continent in the event of a German weakening or collapse was acceptable to the British Chiefs of Staff and in that even they might be willing to utilize forces required for the defense of Great Britain, as well as their offensive forces. (See COS (42) 97 (O) of 13 April 1942.
p.14 #1 COS (42) 118th meeting of 14 April 1942.
p.14 #2 CPS 26/1 of 3 April 1942. This study contained the facts of the situation on which both the British and the American staff based their calculations.
p.15 #1 See ABC-1 Para 12 (c). For a general discussion of the strategical basis of the North African operation, see CCS 38th meeting, supplementary minutes, item 6, and CCS 40th meeting, supplementary minutes, item 1.
p.15 #2 As set out in ARCADIA Document CS-1 of 31 Dec.,1941, Para.13.
p.16 #1 In January, the British had presented detailed plans to the ARCADIA Conference for a North African expedition scheduled for the first half of 1942. At that time, the cumulating disasters in the Pacific and the Middle East had diverted all available shipping and naval resources to the task of reinforcing those areas. After a careful survey, the CCS was compelled to conclude that although we "regard this project as of the first strategical importance * * * we do not possess the resources * * * to force an entry into French North Africa" during the first six months of 1942. (ARCADIA Document 4/6 of 12 Jan. 42, Para. 5). They agreed, however, to continue to develop detailed plans for the operation and to consider at a later date whether the operation could be carried out in the second half of 1942.
Several different plans for the invasion of North Africa were considered at ARCADIA under the code name GYMNAST. Operation GYMNAST was a plan for an unopposed occupation of North Africa in case the Vichy French Government invited allied occupation. Operation SUPER-GYMNAST was a plan for the invasion of Morocco only against opposition in case the Vichy French did not invite the occupation.
A survey of available shipping resources indicated that the earliest date on which the operation could be mounted was 25 May (see ARCADIA Document ABC-4/2A, of 13 Jan.42), and that even if executed on that date, it would have adverse effect on other projects which were unacceptable from the point of view of the war effort as a whole. (See ARCADIA Document 4/6 of 13 Jan.42, Para. 6).
The CCS, therefore, reluctantly abandoned the project for the first half of 1942. For details of GYMNAST studies and decisions, see:
|ARCADIA||3rd||meeting of||26 Dec.41, JCCSs-J, Items 1 & 2 and annexes I & II.|
|"||4th||"||27 Dec.41, JCCSs-4, Items 1 & 2.|
|"||5th||"||29 Dec.41, JCCSs-5, Items 1 & 3 & annex I.|
|"||8th||"||10 Jan.42, JCCSs-8, Item 1.|
|"||11th||"||14 Jan.42, JCCSs-11, Item 3 & annex III.|
|"||12th||"||14 Jan.42, JCCSs-12, Item 2 & annex I.|
|Document||ABC-4/1 of 29 Dec. 41,||Document||ABC-4/4 of 31 Dec. 41|
|"||ABC-4/2/A of 14 Jan. 42,||"||ABC-4/6 of 13 Jan. 42.|
p.18 #1 On 17 January, they agreed that a second front would be opened in 1942 (see memorandum in Vice Admiral Cooke's TORCH File in the Atlantic Section of Operational Plans Division of Chief of Naval Operations.
p.18 #2 The directive to the CCS from the President and the Prime Minister is set out in CCS 83/1 of 24 June 1942. It reads as follows:
- "Plans and preparations for the BOLERO (Cross Channel) Operation in 1943 on as large a scale as possible, are to be pushed forward with all speed and energy. It is, however, essential that the U.S. and Great Britain should be prepared to act offensively in 1942.
- Operations in France or the Low Countries in 1942 would, if successful, yield greater political and strategic gains than operations in any other theater. Plans and preparations for the operation in this theater are to be pressed forward with all possible speed, energy and ingenuity. The most resolute efforts must be made to overcome obvious dangers and difficulties on the enterprise. If a sound and sensible plan can be contrived, we should not hesitate to give effect to it. If, on the other hand, detailed examination shows that despite all efforts, success is improbable, we must be ready with an alternative.
The possibilities of Operation GYMNAST (North African
Invasion), will be explored carefully and conscientiously,
and plans will be completed in all details as soon as
Forces to be employed in GYMNAST would, in the main, be found from BOLERO units, which had not yet left the U.S. The possibilities of operations in Norway and the Iberian Peninsula in the autumn and winter of 1942, will also be carefully considered by the Combined Chiefs of Staff."
p.19 #1 General Eisenhower, who had been designated to command SLEDGEHAMMER (the cross channel assault planned for 1942) estimated that the chance of success for establishing the leading formations ashore was one chance in two, and for success in the whole operation, one chance in five. (See memorandum of General Eisenhower dated 17 July 1942). General Marshall, who, among all the high command, was most reluctant to abandon cross channel operations in favor of Mediterranean ones, finally conceded that SLEDGEHAMMER was hopeless on 24 July. (See CCS 94 of 24 July 1942). The Dieppe Raid, executed in August with approximately the strength planned for the leading phase of SLEDGEHAMMER, was characterized by Hitler as military idiocy. At all events, it confirmed that it would be impossible for an assault in that strength to succeed. For the decision to launch TORCH, see also CCS 32nd meeting of 24 July 1942; CCS 33rd meeting of 25 July 1942; and CCS 34th meeting of 30 July 1942. For an analysis of the Dieppe Raid, see U.S. Assault Training Center Conference on assault landings, 24 May to 23 June, Vol. 1, Part II, Phase 1.
p.19 #2 TORCH was simply SUPER-GYMNAST, modified to some extent and under a new name. Plans, organizations, composition of forces and other operational logistic and administrative matters relating to TORCH are contained in the CCS 103 series. CCS 103 of 25 August 1942, is the initial outline plan, CCS 103/3 of 8 October 1942 is the final outline plan.
p.19 #3 CCS 69 of 4 May 1943 and CCS 73 of 19 May 1943.
p.20 #1 CCS 155/1 of 17 January 1943.
p.22 #1 CCS 83 of 31 June 1942; CCS 135 of 16 Dec. 1942; CCS 215 of 13 May 1943; CCS 235 of 10 May 1943; CCS 398 of 18 Nov.1943.
p.22 #2 CCS 83 of 21 June 1942; JCS 20th meeting supp. of 19 June 1942.
p.23 #1 At the time of the Casablanca Conference, General Marshall's view about what the Allies should do in the European theater was:
- "to ensure that the primary effort of the United Nations is directed against Germany rather than against her satellite states,
- to conduct from bases in the U.K., North Africa, and, as practicable, from the Middle East, an integrated air offensive on the largest practicable scale against German production and resources, designed to achieve a progressive deterioration of her war effort,
- to build up, as rapidly as possible, balanced forces in the United Kingdom in preparation for a land offensive against Germany in 1943,
- to expel the Axis from North Africa, and thereafter to consolidate and hold that area with forces adequate for its security * * * and
- to transfer any excess forces from North Africa to the U.K. for the invasion of Western Europe in 1943". (See CCS 135 of 26 December 1942).
p.23 #2 CCS 215 of 13 May 1943; CCS 235 of 18 May 1943; CCS 237/1 of 20 May 1943; and CCS 88th meeting of 19 May 1943.
p.23 #3 JCS 253 of 13 August 1943; and 2nd CITADEL meeting of August 1943.
p.24 #1 JCS 122nd meeting of 9 November 1943; JCS 567 of 5 Nov. 1943; CCS 398 of 18 November 1943; CCS 408 of 25 November 1943; and CCS 126th meeting of 5 November 1943. General Marshall's view is succinctly set out in CCS 398 of 18 November 1943. "Operation OVERLORD will be the primary U.S.-British ground and air effort against Germany (in 1944) * * * as between Operation OVERLORD and operations in the Mediterranean, available resources will be distributed and employed with the main object of ensuring the success of OVERLORD. Operations in the Mediterranean theater will be carried out with the forces (already) allotted. * * * Recognizing that (1) the Balkan Eastern Mediterranean approach to the European Fortress is unsuitable, due to terrain and communication difficulties for large scale military operations, (2) the implementation of our agreed strategy (cross channel operations) for the defeat of Germany will require all available military means, and (3) our experience shows that the acceptance of limited objective operations, however attractive in themselves, requires resources beyond those originally anticipated * * * operations in the Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean will be limited to (1) the supply of Balkan guerillas, (2) minor Commando raids, and (3) bombing of vital strategic areas * * * military assistance to be furnished Turkey (if she is persuaded to enter the war) will be limited to such supplies and equipment as can be furnished without prejudice to the successful accomplishment of our commitments elsewhere."
p.24 #2 It is a curious fact that after EUREKA, after it had been decided to transfer the primary offensive from the Mediterranean to OVERLORD, General Marshall swung the other way in his strategical endeavors and advocated allotting the Mediterranean ANVIL offensive full assault lift requirements, and OVERLORD "the largest assault possible with remaining resources". (CCS 465/1 of 31 January 1944.)
p.25 #1 For the following exposition of British views, see CCS 167 of 22 January 1943; CCS 235 of 18 May 1943; CCS 215 of 13 May 1943; CCS 85th meeting of 15 May 1943; CCS 87th meeting of 18 May 1943; and CCS 234 of 17 May 1943.
p.26 #1 C.C.S. 235 of 18 May 1943 is a paper prepared by the U.S. Joint Staff Planners in consultation with the British Joint Planners. After a thorough analysis of shipping capabilities, this paper concluded:
"the build up in the United Kingdom for a cross channel operation can be obtained by the movement of forces from the U.S. only or by moving troops from the U.S. and transferring surplus U.S.-British formations from North Africa.
|Build-up (Divs) from U.S. only|
|1 July||1 Oct.||1944
|1 April||1 July||1 Oct.||1945|
|Build-up (Divs) from U.S. and North Africa|
The paper pointed out, however, that OVERLORD would be benefited by transferring battle seasoned U.S. troops from the Mediterranean to England, even though the resultant force would be numerically smaller.
p.27 #1 Though the loss of the Italian front line divisions might not be serious, the loss of Italians employed in garrison duty in inactive areas and of Italian service troops, would require the Germans to make good some 20 to 30 divisions.
p.31 #1 At the 2nd SEXTANT Plenary meeting of 24 November 1943, Mr. Churchill, after giving a lengthy elaboration of these views, said "To sum up, the program he advocated was Rome in January, Rhodes in February, supplies to the Yugoslavs, a settlement of the Command arrangements on the opening of the Aegean, subject to the outcome of an approach to Turkey". These views were further elaborated to Marshall Stalin at the 1st EUREKA Plenary meeting of 28 November 1943, when "President (Roosevelt) said that possibly an entry through the North Eastern Adriatic for offensive operations against Germany in the direction of the Danube would be of value * * * But Plans for these operations had not been worked out in detail."
p.32 #1 CCS 409 of 25 November 1943.
p.32 #2 In JCS 612, 27 November 1943, a report upon The Implications of the Decisions made by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff with regards to CCS 409.
p.33 #1 The views of the American Chiefs of Staff were expressed in JCS 122nd meeting of 9 November 1943 and CCS 131st meeting, 26 November 1943.
p.33 #2 CCS 132 of 30 November 1943, 3rd Plenary EUREKA meeting of 30 November 1943.
p.34 #1 The following analysis of the situation and all quotations have been taken from CCS 300/3 of 15 November 1943. This is a memorandum from the U.S. Chiefs of Staff.
p.34 #2 On the Eastern Front, Germany had suffered a resounding defeat at Stalingrad from which she had lost a considerable army and much ground. She had achieved no major successes and had been compelled to withdraw along the entire line. During 1943, approximately two-thirds of Germany's ground strength was deployed on the Russian front, but her strength in Russia was significantly less than in 1942 and had been steadily reduced to meet the increasing requirements of the Western and Mediterranean fronts, thus facilitating the Soviet advance. German ground strength on the Eastern Front consisted of 205 German and 14 satellite divisions of varying strength. Numerically, Soviet ground strength exceeded the German by a ratio of approximately as 3 to 2. Relative air strengths were: Germany--393 fighters, 1062 bombers and 237 others; Russia--1700 fighters, 2450 bombers and 250 others. During 1943, Germany surrendered the initiative to the U.S.S.R., yielding space under pressure in order to minimize losses. The extension of Russian and the shortening of German communications had not resulted in a position which the Germans could hold with reduced forces against weakened Russian pressure, and it had failed to gain them the greater freedom of action which they required in order to meet the requirements of 1944.
On the Northern and Western fronts, dispositions were as follows:
|Finland & Northern Norway||22 Divisions (7 German) (15 Finnish)||33 Russian Divisions|
|156 Aircraft||200 Russian Aircraft|
|Norway & Denmark||16 German Divisions||0 Allied Ground Troops|
The coast from Brest to Den Helder was well fortified in depth against Allied invasion, but no prepared defensive line existed between the coast and the West Wall (Siegfried Line) within which was located inside Germany. On the Mediterranean front, the Germans had lost a major army. The Allies had gained possession of all of Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Southern Italy. The Mediterranean was open to Allied shipping and virtually freed of all German naval interference. The Allied air attack from the Mediterranean was progressively increasing in weight.
Italy as a nation was eliminated on the Italian front, but the Germans had succeeded in establishing a front in Italy, employing some 22 to 25 offensive divisions, and had the situation behind their lines reasonably well in hand. German air strength in Italy and Southern France consisted of some 421 aircraft. Since the topography in Central Italy is well suited to defense against frontal attack, the Germans were principally concerned lest their flanks be turned by amphibious operations. Their intention appeared to be to engage in strong delaying actions in successive positions as long as possible, and eventually to hold when equilibrium was established, probably north of Rome.
In Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece and the Aegean Islands, Axis ground strength consisted of some 20 German, 8 Croat, 1 Serb and 9 Bulgar Divisions. Of these, only 14 German Divisions were of the offensive type. German air strength consisted of 65 fighters, 199 bombers, and 63 other types. Axis occupational forces in the Balkans were stretched thin to make up for the disappearance of 30 Italian Divisions. They were still able to hold important localities and routes of communication, but they were inadequate to suppress guerilla activity and probably inadequate to hold the interior and resist invasion simultaneously.
Military reserves were ample on the Allied side but the Germans had virtually no strategic reserves. Relief and reinforcement was accomplished by the transfer of units from one front to another, according to circumstances. Since their air strength was inadequate on all fronts, reinforcement of one area was possible only at the sacrifice of less important interests on another. The Germans were still able, however, to withdraw one or two divisions from any front (except the Balkans) without undue risk, and several such withdrawals in combination constituted an appreciable reinforcement at the point where they were needed. There was an apparent surplus of divisions over minimum defensive requirements in France, but as France was a notable training and reforming area, many of these divisions were not fully effective. (See CCS 300/3 of 15 Nov. 1943).
p.36 #1 The German Air Force, at the end of October 1943, had a total first line strength of approximately 5,325 aircraft.
The high proportion of fighters (2,550) to bombers (2,300) and other types (475) indicated the continued emphasis upon defensive requirements at the expense of offensive. As a result of bombing attacks, the rate of production had declined to a level in balance with the rate of attrition. If the attrition rate were to be maintained and further reduction in the rate of production affected, a downward trend in overall strength would result, for no substantial stored reserves of aircraft exist to serve as a cushion.
Owing largely to the shortage of trained crews, the efficiency of the long range bomber force was low. In equipment, some improvement in present types continued but no important production of radically new types is expected. In defense against daylight bombing attacks and in offensive operations against shipping, some tactical and technical improvements have been made, particularly in the use of rocket projectiles and radio controlled bombs, and further improvements may probably be expected. Little, if any, deterioration of air force morale is apparent.
The remnants of the Italian Air Force in German hands had little, if any, actual or potential value. Satellite air strength was negligible. The primary commitment of the German Air Force was defense against Allied strategic bombing. To this end, out of an overall fighter strength of 2,422 in operational units, 1,686 were concentrated in Germany, the Low Countries and France. In addition to demands for defense against bombing from Great Britain, it had become necessary to set up in Southern Germany and Austria similar defenses against such attacks from Mediterranean bases. In order to meet these requirements, German air support of the Russia and Mediterranean land fronts had been seriously curtailed.
The campaign to draw German air strength away from the Russian front had succeeded to such a degree that in November 1943, air strength compared as follows:
|Germany & Satellites||393||1,062||231|
Despite these efforts and sacrifices, the Germans had not succeeded in warding off the Allied Air offensive, which continued to increase in weight of attack, range of penetration and technical effectiveness. In addition to the general destruction of German industrial capacity and dislocation of civilian life, the German Air Force itself has suffered direct and indirect damage which impaired its ability to maintain the present scale of defense. Heavy combat losses had been inflicted on it, single engine production has been substantially reduced, the percentage of serviceability had been lowered, and the flow of replacements had been seriously interrupted. The growth of the German fighter force had been checked; attrition and production were approximately in balance; a decline in strength, which would open the way to further progress in the effectiveness of the attack was probable.
With the continued growth in the strength of the Allied air offensive, the results achieved would increase progressively. The cumulative effects were expected to weaken Germany's capacity for armed resistance, and to accelerate greatly the collapse of her will to continue the conflict.
p.38 #1 The War at Sea had reached a state of almost total victory for the Allies. Axis naval strength which, at its peak, had comprised the navies of Germany, Italy, and, to some extent, Vichy France, had declined as follows: Battleships 2 (one seriously damaged), Pocket Battleships 2, Carriers 1 (unfinished), Heavy Cruisers 2, Light Cruisers 4, Destroyers (operational), approx. 37, Destroyers (in construction) 18, Torpedo Boats approx. 83, Submarines (operational) approx. 200, rate of Submarine construction approx. 40 per month.
German morale in her light surface forces was fair, in heavy vessels medium to poor, and Germany was encountering great difficulty in manning her submarines. The only real German threat in the war at sea was her submarine campaign. But in this campaign too, the Allies had decisively gained the upper hand.
The following table shows Allied merchant shipping and losses by periods:
|Gains by new construction
(thousands of tons)
|Losses by War & Marine
Occurring in each period
(thousands of tons)
|Net gain (+) or|
(thousands of tons)
See Table 23 of Statistical Digest Series E No. 50 of June 1945, issued by Central Statistical Officer, British War Cabinet.
Concurrently with these gains, the casualty rate of German U-Boats increased remarkably. Admiral King produced figures at the Cairo Conference (CCS 399 of 8 November 1943 - Memorandum from COMINCH) which showed: "In September 1943, 17 Merchant Vessels were sunk--In October, 15. For 1942, 1 submarine was sunk or probably sunk for every 9.3 Merchant Vessels lost. For 1943 to date, this figure is 2.1 Merchant Vessels. For the past 5 months, - .5".
p.41 #1 At the Moscow Conference in October 1943, the Russians had been informed of the progress of the preparations for OVERLORD. Late the same month, General J.R. Deane reported from Moscow that upon the instructions of the Prime Minister, General Alexander's estimate of the Italian situation was to be shown to Marshall Stalin. General Deane felt that the Russians would infer from the message that the OVERLORD operation would be abandoned or delayed in favor of continued Mediterranean enterprise (Moscow to AGWAR No. 24 of 28 October 1943), General Marshall felt that because of this action by the British, the American fight for OVERLORD might be lost in Moscow even before the matter could be discussed at the coming Cairo and Teheran Conferences. (General Marshall, Memorandum for Admiral Leahy, 28 October 1943) In order to maintain the position of the United States Chiefs of Staff, General Deane was authorized to inform the Russians that the American Chiefs of Staff did not believe that the Mediterranean situation would cause the abandonment or delay of OVERLORD. (OPD to Moscow No. 792 28 October 1943). To further support General Deane's position, General Eisenhower's views on the Italian campaign were forwarded to him. General Eisenhower felt that what happened in Italy was of little moment provided OVERLORD was a success. (Marshall to Deane No. 797 of 29 October 1943).
p.42 #1 Held on November 28 1943.
p.45 #1 The shipping haul from America to the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea was approximately twice that of the haul to England and France, while for the British, the haul from Britain to the eastern Mediterranean, was enormously greater than the cross channel haul.
p.46 #1 CCS 132nd meeting of 30 November 1943.
p.46 #2 Reference Third Plenary EUREKA meeting of 30 November 1943.
p.47 #1 CCS Memorandum for Information 165 of 2 December 1943.
p.48 #1 ARCADIA Document CS 1 of 31 December 1941.