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Editorial Note on Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting
July 14, 1942
At the July 14 meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marshall had read President Roosevelt’s July 14 message notifying the chief of staff that he, Admiral King, and Harry Hopkins were to travel to London to settle the issue of a 1942 operation and that the president was opposed to the Pacific alternative. Brigadier General Albert C. Wedemeyer, chief of the Operations Division’s Strategy and Policy Group, noted that “a general discussion followed in which it was indicated that unquestionably the President would require military operations in Africa. The relative merits of operations in Africa, in Northwest Africa, and in the Middle East were discussed. All agreed to the many arguments previously advanced among military men in the Army and Navy that operations in the Pacific would be the alternative if Sledgehammer or Bolero were not accepted wholeheartedly by the British. However, there was an acceptance that apparently our political system would require major operations this year in Africa.” (Roosevelt to Marshall, July 14, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 381 BOLERO]; Wedemeyer Memorandum for General Handy, July 14, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 5, Item 1].)
Roosevelt had returned to the White House from his Hyde Park home on the morning of July 15 when Secretary Stimson arrived for an unscheduled talk on the merits of BOLERO. The president insisted that he supported BOLERO but that he did not like the tenor of the July 12 memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see editorial note #3-252, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [3: 272-73]), as it reminded him of “taking up your dishes and going away.” After the secretary of war departed, the chief of staff came in to talk to the commander in chief. Later that day Marshall reviewed his meeting for Secretary Stimson, who recorded in his diary that the general “evidently had had a thumping argument with the President and thought that he had knocked out the President’s lingering affections for first Gymnast and then Middle East.” Marshall insisted that defensive operations by the United States in the Middle East would delay Allied landings in Europe until 1944, give Germany a year to recuperate from the current fighting, and imperil Allied positions in the Pacific and Asia. By concentrating on the Pacific and preparing for a later invasion of Western Europe, the Allies would at least be able to take the offensive in an important theater. (July 15, 1942, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 39: 170-72].)
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 275-276.