4-076 Editorial Note on Mediterranean Strategy, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: World War II

Editorial Note on Mediterranean Strategy

July-August 1943

While British and United States leaders had agreed at the TRIDENT Conference (Washington, May 12-25, 1943) that after Sicily was conquered operations in the Mediterranean theater would be subordinated to the buildup for the cross-Channel invasion of France, Prime Minister Churchill was particularly anxious that the Allies not lose any opportunities to close the ring around Germany. In late June, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed that they and their military advisers should meet in Quebec City in September. In mid-July, however, due to the success of Allied arms in Sicily and the possibility of an early Italian surrender, the prime minister urged the president to move the conference’s starting date to August 14. Churchill was determined that the Allies increase their efforts in Italy and occupy the peninsula at least from Rome south; thus consideration of PRICELESS (post-HUSKY operations in the Mediterranean) was of increasing importance.

George Marshall was not opposed to seizing a favorable opportunity for securing an important port in the event of an Italian collapse, and on July 16 he suggested to Eisenhower that Allied Force Headquarters planners study the possibility of an additional landing in the Naples area. But the chief of staff did not intend that this action should signify a change in the basic orientation of Allied strategy or allocation of resources from that approved at TRIDENT—specifically that seven experienced divisions, four American and three British, be withdrawn from the Mediterranean after HUSKY for use in OVERLORD. (Garland and Smyth, Sicily and the Surrender of Italy, pp. 435-37.) “As the QUADRANT Conference drew near,” an official U.S. Army history has stated, “General Marshall and his staff were convinced of the need for a showdown with the British” over strategy. (Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1959], p. 211.)

On August 8 the president and each officer instructed to attend the Quebec Conference (designated QUADRANT) received a Marshall-approved memorandum prepared in the Operations Division describing the basic choices confronting the United States delegation regarding the European war. The document emphasized the Allies’ failure since the spring of 1942 “to concentrate their forces and to hold to decisions,” citing the deleterious effects North African operations had had on the buildup for OVERLORD. “The allocation of additional forces to the Mediterranean is uneconomical and assists Germany to create a strategic stalemate in Europe.” The choice facing the conferees, the paper stated, was between “attempting a decisive effort from the Mediterranean,” which did not “offer an opportunity for decisive military action against Germany,” and reaffirming and sticking to the decision made in London in April 1942, in Casablanca in January 1943, and in Washington in May 1943 to strike across the English Channel. (Foreign Relations of the United States, Conferences at Washington and Quebec, 1943, pp. 467-72; see also Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, pp. 176-79.)

President Roosevelt called Marshall to the White House on August 9 to discuss the forthcoming conference and the Operations Division’s memorandum.

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. 84-85.

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