4-144 Draft of Message from President, October 25, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 25, 1943

Subject: World War II

Draft of Message from President to Prime Minister1


[October 25, 1943] [Washington, D.C.]


In reference to your 471, I am still of the opinion that the conference should be delayed as indicated in my number ____.2 The changes you mention, the fall of Mussolini, the Italian surrender, the fact that we got the Italian fleet, our advance on Rome, all of these are in our favor. They were among our hopes but now are to our credit balance. However, since you feel so strongly I will agree to an early meeting, but November 20 is the earliest date I think we can make. This arrangement would allow you and me to proceed to Eureka by November 25 if that became necessary, while the Chiefs of Staff continued their discussions.

I do not view the situation in Italy as pessimistically as Alexander outlined in Eisenhower’s NAF 486.3 Our overwhelming air power is to a serious extent ignored, our naval power and threat not sufficiently evaluated. The Germans have their worries, and I am certain these days are filled for them with black prospects. Your seeming doubt as to the soundness and feasibility of OVERLORD worries me exceedingly. I feel that we have passed the point where we should be so much controlled by fear of what the Germans may do. The initiative is ours and we should use it to bend events to our will and not that of the Germans, Von Tomba [von Thoma] to the contrary notwithstanding.4

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. Marshall heavily edited this staff-drafted document (see NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 5, Item 12a]) and had it sent to Admiral Leahy for action. (Handy Memorandum for Admiral Leahy, October 25, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. On October 20, Churchill had asked Roosevelt to meet him at Casablanca for a meeting with the Combined Chiefs of Staff prior to the meeting with Stalin the two leaders were trying to arrange (which was code-named EUREKA). Roosevelt replied on October 22 (No. 394) that he preferred that they meet with Stalin first. (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 543-44, 550-51.)

Churchill reiterated his request for a meeting in message 471 on October 23, stating that he desired that their staffs should meet by November 15 and they themselves by the eighteenth or nineteenth. He noted the changes in the Mediterranean situation since the August conference in Quebec. “Our present plans for 1944 seem open to very grave defects,” he cautioned. “The disposition of our forces between the Italian and the Channel theatres has not been settled by strategic needs but by the march of events, by shipping possibilities, and by arbitrary compromises between the British and Americans. The date of OVERLORD itself was fixed by splitting the difference between the American and British view. It is arguable that neither the forces building up in Italy nor those available for a May OVERLORD are strong enough for the tasks set them.” Mediterranean operations would be crippled, he wrote, if the movement of landing craft to Britain agreed to at Quebec was “interpreted rigidly and without review in the swiftly changing situations of war.” (Ibid., pp. 555-57.)

3. General Sir Harold Alexander—commanding general of Fifteenth Army Group, the combined Anglo-American headquarters in Italy—had submitted his “Review of Battle Situation in Italy” on October 21, and Eisenhower had transmitted the report to Washington and London as NAF-486 on October 25. Churchill published the report in Closing the Ring (pp. 243-47). Alexander noted that the relative strength of German and Allied forces in Italy had “changed greatly” since the September invasion, and “the Allied position is less favourable.” He especially did not want to lose the flexibility that Allied landing craft provided their forces. “We cannot afford to adopt a purely defensive role, for this would entail the surrender of the initiative to the Germans.” He asserted that the slow-down in the growth of Allied strength in Italy might permit the Germans to consolidate and take the offensive south of Rome. Eisenhower stated that Alexander’s report provided “a very accurate picture of the present tactical situation,” that further assault landings would be essential, and that it was “certain that more landing craft will be required for a limited time if we are to capture Rome in the near future and avoid a slow, painful and costly series of frontal attacks.” (Papers of DDE, 3: 1529.)

4. In his No. 471 of October 23, Churchill had said: “Personally I feel that if we make serious mistakes in the campaign of 1944, we might give Hitler the chance of a startling come back. Prisoner German General Von Thoma was overheard saying ‘Our only hope is that they come where we can use the army upon them’.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 556-57.) Lieutenant General Ritter von Thoma, commander of the Afrika Korps’ Ninetieth Light Division, had been captured by the British at El Alamein on November 4,1942, and was a prisoner of war in England. (I. S. O. Playfair et al., The Mediterranean and Middle East, volume 4, The Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa, a volume in the History of the Second World War [London: HMSO, 1966], pp. 84-85.)

Roosevelt did not use Marshall’s draft message, sending instead No. 396 (October 25), a brief note suggesting that the president might be amenable to a meeting with Churchill, that Stalin be asked to send Molotov to the meeting, and that the staff meetings begin November 20. (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 561.)

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. 166-167.

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