4-234 Memorandum for Admiral Leahy and Admiral King, February 9, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 9, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Admiral Leahy and Admiral King

February 9, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]



You have both seen my personal message to Eisenhower in response to his to me, and this morning his reply (W-10786) to my message.1 His reply still leaves in the air the question as to the sufficiency of landing craft. If there is enough for a five-division lift with a two-division follow-up and also for a two-division ANVIL lift, he is in favor of ANVIL on that basis. He agrees with us as to its importance in connection with OVERLORD.

The issue then at the moment is the capacity of the landing craft to be available for a May 31st OVERLORD operation.

General Handy and General Smith conversed over the telephone yesterday afternoon. It there developed that the differences between London and Washington as to the capacity of the available craft hinged on a question of the personnel lift of LSI (L’s). Combined planners in Washington figured a total personnel lift of 34,000. London planners figured 20,160. This difference, it develops, followed from the London planners assuming only two trips of these boats from the combat loader whereas the Combined planners in Washington figured a third trip.

There was a further difference in bases of calculation regarding U.S. combat loaders. London planners calculated on a total of 960 men per vessel in order to permit unloading in two trips. U.S. calculations are based on 1400 and Navy advises that landing boats are sufficient for unloading in two trips. Smith has been so advised.

It is these differences that have complicated the entire matter and have brought about the request of the Prime Minister for the American Chiefs of Staff to go to London.2

In connection with the lifts for OVERLORD, Smith pointed out that it was not merely seven divisions of approximately 15,000 men each, but seven divisions plus supporting troops which give a divisional calculated basis of 25,000 each. However, we follow the same basis of calculation here so there is no difference of result regarding this factor.

Smith further stated that delay in OVERLORD to May 31st might make more LST’s available. Handy tells me this is being discussed with the Navy.

Smith stated that Eisenhower was strong for ANVIL and they were in agreement that ANVIL might help in avoiding the critical periods which Smith said would be between D plus 3 and D plus 7, again around D plus 15 and D plus 20 and finally D plus 30.

Smith reported that one airborne division plus one regimental combat team (Air) can be lifted on D-day.

Smith further stated that in regard to their request for seven additional fighter squadrons, their biggest need was for two or three very long range fighters.

There was another conversation with Smith this morning during which he explained that the British position on LSI (L’s) was based on the opinion that to hold these vessels for three trips might prove too costly from enemy action. Our people feel that considering “all out” character of the operation we should accept this hazard. Admiral Cooke states that we might find that duration of tide would have some bearing on matter.

In brief, at the present moment the differences between London and Washington regarding the OVERLORD-ANVIL operations boil down to a more or less technical Naval question involving a difference of 14,000 troops out of a total desired for OVERLORD of 176,000 (assault and immediate follow-up elements). There is also a difference regarding 1,000 vehicles out of a total of 20,000.

Considering the circumstances as outlined above, the pressure of the Prime Minister for us to go to London, the urgent necessity of an immediate decision, and the fact that in the end we should support Eisenhower’s views (now that he is fully aware of our views and our feelings in the matter), I now propose (Arnold is in agreement) that we send the following message to Eisenhower and the British Chiefs of Staff:

As a result of an exchange of communications between General Marshall and General Eisenhower and several telephone conversations between General Handy and General Smith, a mutual understanding appears to have been reached as to the facilities available for OVERLORD and ANVIL. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff now propose that the issue be finally decided in a conference between General Eisenhower as the representative of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff to abide by that decision.

I further propose that General Hull of the Operations Division and a Naval officer familiar with all the facts regarding landing craft (capacity and technique) be sent to London immediately to assist Eisenhower, in a purely advisory capacity, regarding the issues which now seem to dominate the matter.3

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. See Marshall to Eisenhower, February 7, 1944, and note 2, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-232 [4: 271-72].

2. Churchill had sent a message to President Roosevelt on February 6 that questions had arisen since the meetings at Cairo which “require direct consultation. Could you send your Chiefs of Staff over here, or at any rate General Marshall, in the next few days? . . . I am sure the time has come for a further talk on the highest staff level. The OVERLORD Commanders-in-Chief must know where they stand and every day counts.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 705.)

3. Major General John E. Hull and Rear Admiral Charles M. Cooke, Jr., arrived in London on February 12 for a week of conferences that began the next day. (For a discussion of the various landing craft issues debated at the meetings, see Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 169-72.) See Marshall to Eisenhower, February 21, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-265 [4: 313-14].

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. 273-275.

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