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Editorial Note on U.S. Policy Prior to the First Quebec Conference
August 10, 1943
Meeting at noon on August 10, the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the Operations Division’s August 8 memorandum “Conduct of the War in Europe,” described in editorial note #4-076, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [4: 84-85], and Marshall’s meeting with the president on August 9. Marshall and King agreed that sending seven new United States divisions to the Mediterranean would be a mistake. For King this was because of the adverse effects the shipments would have on Pacific and Burma operations. Marshall thought that it would not only be a waste of shipping but, as the minutes note, “these divisions at best could not arrive in the area before June 1944 and would constitute in reality an expeditionary force available for use in the Balkans,” to which all United States planners were opposed. Eisenhower had already told Marshall that the existing resources in the Mediterranean area (forty-eight divisions by February 1, 1944) were sufficient to carry out the operations planned (i.e., occupation of Sardinia, Corsica, and southern and central Italy). (Minutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, August 10, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, JCS Minutes].)
While the Joint Chiefs were meeting, Secretary of War Stimson was at the White House reporting on his recent trip to Britain and North Africa and urging the president to “assume the responsibility of leadership” in pressing the British for the cross-Channel invasion rather than “pinprick warfare” on the periphery. Stimson also encouraged Roosevelt to select Marshall, “our most commanding soldier,” to lead the invasion. “General Marshall already has a towering eminence of reputation as a tried soldier and as a broad-minded and skillful administrator. This was shown by the suggestion of him on the part of the British for this very post a year and a half ago. I believe that he is the man who most surely can now by his character and skill furnish the military leadership which is necessary to bring our two nations together in confident joint action in this great operation. No one knows better than I the loss in the problems of organization and worldwide strategy centered in Washington which such a solution would cause, but I see no other alternative to which we can turn in the great effort which confronts us.” (Stimson to the President, August 10, 1943, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 44: 86-87].)
The president invited Stimson to remain when the Joint Chiefs of Staff arrived at 2:15 P.M. Marshall and King reiterated for the president their discussion regarding Europe in addition to surveying British-American relations concerning operations in the Far East and elsewhere. Roosevelt was ready, Stimson noted in his diary, to go “whole hog” in supporting the cross-Channel attack. “He was more clear and definite than I have ever seen him since we have been in this war and he took the policy that the American staff have been fighting for fully.” Roosevelt favored limited operations in Italy and an American commander for OVERLORD. “I could see that the military and naval conferees were astonished and delighted with his definiteness.” The president withdrew his suggestion to send seven new U.S. divisions to the Mediterranean. (August 10, 1943, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 44: 84-85]. Minutes of the Roosevelt-Stimson-J.C.S. meeting are printed in Foreign Relations of the United States, Conferences at Washington and Quebec, 1943, pp. 498-503.)
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. 86-87.