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5-077 Memorandum by the United States Chief of Staff, March 30, 1945

1945
   
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 30, 1945

Subject: World War II


Memorandum by the United States Chief of Staff1

March 30, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret

COMBINED CHIEFS OF STAFF

PLAN OF CAMPAIGN IN WESTERN EUROPE

Reference: C.C.S. 805 Series

The United States Chiefs of Staff are not in agreement with the views of the British Chiefs of Staff expressed in C.C.S. 805 and 805/1.2

As to the procedure of General Eisenhower’s communicating with the Russians for the purpose of coordinating the junction between his advancing armies and those of the Soviets, this appears to have been an operational necessity in view of the rapidity of the advances into Germany.

The United States Chiefs of Staff are not in accord with the proposal of the British Chiefs of Staff to send a directive to the Chiefs of our missions in Moscow reference General Eisenhower’s message to Marshal Stalin. To discredit in effect, certainly to lower the prestige of a highly successful commander in the field does not appear to be the proper procedure. If a modification of his SCAF 252 is to be made, it should be communicated by General Eisenhower and not by the Combined Chiefs of Staff over his head.

General Eisenhower’s course of action outlined in SCAF 252 appears to be in accord with agreed major strategy and with his directive, particularly in light of the present development of the battle in Germany. The information we have is that General Eisenhower is deploying east of the Rhine and north of the Ruhr the maximum number of forces which can be employed. We now appear to have a development in which the northern effort is making good progress, while the secondary effort has, thus far, achieved an outstanding success which is being exploited to the extent of logistic capabilities. These efforts of the central and southern armies should quickly make it possible for the northern advance to accelerate its drive eastward across the north German plain.

The United States Chiefs of Staff consider that to disperse the strong forces which probably would be required to reach and reduce the northern ports before the primary object of destroying the German armies is accomplished, would seriously limit the momentum of a decisive thrust straight through the center. We are confident that his course of action will secure the ports and everything else mentioned in C.C.S. 805 and 805/1 more quickly and much more decisively than the course of action urged by the British Chiefs of Staff.

The battle of Germany is now at the point where the commander in the field is the best judge of the measures which offer the earliest prospect of destroying the German armies or their power to resist. Deliberately to turn to the region where the German resistance has appeared to be most successful and more or less abandon or seriously limit operations exploiting enemy weakness does not appear to be a sound procedure. General Eisenhower now has the enemy off balance and disorganized and should strike relentlessly with the single objective of quick and complete victory.

While the United States Chiefs of Staff recognize that there are important factors which are not the direct concern and responsibility of General Eisenhower they consider that his strategic conception is sound from the over-all viewpoint of crushing Germany as expeditiously as possible and should receive full support.

It is also the view of the United States Chiefs of Staff that General Eisenhower should continue to be free to communicate with the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Army.

The United States Chiefs of Staff propose that the following message be dispatched to General Eisenhower:

“The Combined Chiefs of Staff request you furnish them with an amplification of the views expressed in your SCAF 252.

“They further request that you delay in furnishing further details regarding SCAF 252 in response to message of inquiry to you from General Deane until you hear further from the Combined Chiefs of Staff.”3

The United States Chiefs of Staff are now of the opinion that in all probability the amplification of SCAF 252 will not cause a revision of their views as expressed in this paper.4

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Office of the Chief of Staff (OCS), ABC 384 Europe [August 5, 1943], National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. This document was circulated as C.C.S. 805/2.

2. Prime Minister Churchill and the British military chiefs were concerned that General Eisenhower had sent on March 28 a message directly to Marshal Stalin, bypassing high-level military and political channels. (For Eisenhower’s message [SCAF-252] to Stalin, see Papers of DDE, 4: 2551.) “The chief criticism of the new Eisenhower plan is that it shifts the axis of the main advance upon Berlin to the direction through Leipzig to Dresden, and thus raises the question of whether the Twenty-first Army Group will not be so stretched as to lose its offensive power, especially after it has been deprived of the Ninth United States Army,” wrote Churchill. “It also seems that General Eisenhower may be wrong in supposing Berlin to be largely devoid of military and political importance. . . . The idea of neglecting Berlin and leaving it to the Russians to take at a later stage does not appear to me correct.” (Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, pp. 460-61.) For more information regarding the British view, see John Ehrman, Grand Strategy, volume 6, October 1944-August 1945, a volume in the History of the Second World War (London: HMSO, 1956), pp. 131-38.

3. General Eisenhower had sent his March 28 message for Stalin directly to Major General John R. Deane at the U.S. Military Mission to Moscow. Deane then requested Eisenhower send him more information regarding his military plan. (Papers of DDE, 4: 2557-58.) Eisenhower sent an amplification of his views to the Combined Chiefs of Staff on March 31. (Ibid., 2568-71.)

4. When Marshall was asked in 1957 whether the Allies should have tried to capture Berlin, he replied, “No, I do not think we should have gone into Berlin at that time. . . . They [the Russians] had played a great part in the fighting and the wearing down of the German strength, and we had to take that all into careful regard. At that time, toward the close of the struggle, they were exceedingly sensitive, looking all the time for something that would indicate that the British and Americans were preparing to go off alone and to settle the thing in a way to their—British and American—satisfaction and to the disadvantage of the Russians.” Marshall concluded, “It is very much a Monday quarterback business, because all sorts of things have happened since those days and our relations with Russia at that time were quite different.” (Marshall Interviews, p. 416.)

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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 106-108.

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