4-171 Draft Memorandum for the President, December 23, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: World War II

Draft Memorandum for the President

December 23, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


I suggest that the Prime Minister release an announcement along the following lines:

General Montgomery relinquishes command of the Eighth British Army in Italy and assumes command of a Group of Armies in England.

The agreement of the Combined Chiefs of Staff intentionally provides no Ground Force commander for OVERLORD.1 This was done in order to permit the Supreme Commander to directly control the operation. The agreement provides for the initial force to come under the immediate command of the American First Army which will operate under the British 21st Army Group until sufficient additional Armies have crossed the channel to require additional Army Group headquarters to handle the operation. The second Army Group, the American Army Group, will be in operation on the continent not later than D plus 70. From that time on command of British and American forces will be exercised by the Supreme Commander through two and later more British and American Army Groups. This is one of the Army Groups, or Group of Armies which happens to be the initial one, that General Montgomery should command and not be the commander of all Ground Forces throughout the operation.

I believe this latter is the Prime Minister’s concept which would place all Ground Forces, American, Canadian, and British, under the command of General Montgomery, which is unacceptable.2

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. On December 19, Churchill sent from Tunis a message listing his proposals for command relationships and commanders in the Mediterranean and for OVERLORD. “The War Cabinet desire that Montgomery should command the First Expeditionary Group of Armies. Eisenhower would have chosen Alexander, but I feel the Cabinet are right as Montgomery is a public hero and will give confidence among our people, not shared by yours.” Roosevelt replied on the twentieth that he preferred “to delay announcement of changes in subordinate commands until after the first of the year, because I want to have opportunity to discuss it with Marshall.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 622-24.)

Secretary Stimson was particularly worried that Churchill’s phrase “First Expeditionary Group of Armies” meant that Montgomery would command all Allied ground forces, which was unacceptable. He and McNarney drafted a lengthy response and showed it to Marshall on December 23. “Marshall approved of my letter and so I told him to take it with him to the President, which he did.” (December 23, 1943, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 45: 140]; Stimson’s letter to Roosevelt, dated December 20, is on pp. 143-46.)

2. Marshall may have taken the document printed here to his December 23 White House meeting with the president, but it was not used because Churchill clarified his position that day in a message from London stating that “Montgomery’s appointment is exclusively to the command of British and Canadian Expeditionary Forces.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 629.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 201-202.

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