3-631 Memorandum for General Arnold, April 30, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 30, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Arnold

April 30, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Bombing out of United Kingdom.

What is your reaction to the proposal put forward by General Eaker yesterday?

Should we accept without qualification the full estimates?1

I am interested in the completeness with which we should accept their bad weather bombing prediction and technique; by this I mean do we immediately place full reliance upon this in making allocations?2

The tentative operational estimates given me by Wedemeyer yesterday would indicate that a major ROUNDUP is not possible until late in 1944. If this is so is the major bombing strength mandatory for the fourth period of their plan?

I am interested in what additional bombers we can start to Kenney or Burma commencing the end of August.

I am interested in what possible combinations might be made between the United Kingdom and Sicily or in other areas to insure uninterrupted air operations against Axis-controlled Europe.3

There is no doubt in my mind as to the over-all importance of heavy bomber operations out of the United Kingdom, the more so as the likelihood of cross-channel ground operations appears less probable in 1943. Naturally the British favor heavy concentration in the United Kingdom. Also it is normal for General Andrews and General Eaker to propose the most complete operation they visualize as possible of arrangement, especially in view of the outstanding accomplishments to date.

In making the allocations we must balance all these factors against the other theaters. We have given Eisenhower practically everything he has asked for within the capabilities of ocean shipping. We are now to consider to what extent, as regards Air, we do the same for Andrews. Our problem is complicated by the fact that we have been unable to carry out our general conception as to the concentration of force in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, we are confronted at the present time with a most serious issue as to the decision regarding post-HUSKY operations in relation to the Mediterranean. If a vacuum, as it were, is created in that theater, it will probably mean a serious prolongation of the war, and would preclude the timely concentration of ground forces in the United Kingdom to exploit favorable conditions for invasion.4

Under such circumstances to what extent should we go in allotting planes for an “all-out” bombing program from the United Kingdom in contrast to what would amount, on a percentage basis, to a very small increase of our air strength for the Far East-Pacific area.5

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. Major General Ira C. Eaker had delivered a Combined Bomber Offensive plan to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see note 2, Memorandum for the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, April 28, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-629 [3: 667-68]). General Henry H. Arnold replied that Eaker’s plan was the best possible employment of air forces available in England and was the logical precursor to an Allied ground invasion of Western Europe. The target system selected was the best combination possible to maximize the destruction of the German war effort, and Arnold believed that Eaker’s plan was logistically feasible. He recommended that the Joint Chiefs accept “without qualification” Eaker’s estimates, which he pointed out had the support of the Royal Air Force bomber command. (Arnold Memorandum for General Marshall, May 1, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 381).)

2. Arnold believed that Eaker’s estimates regarding the feasibility of bad weather precision bombing were accurate. Elements of Eaker’s command had already successfully experimented with Royal Air Force overcast bombing devices, and although Eaker had used six missions per aircraft a month as a base for his proposal, perhaps ten to fifteen missions might be possible with bad weather equipment. Bad winter weather would not, therefore, be a serious limiting factor to the Eighth Air Force’s operational campaign. (Ibid.)

3. General Arnold agreed that an Allied ground invasion of Western Europe might not be feasible until late 1944, and therefore, at the moment it was only necessary to supply Eaker with the 1,770 American heavy bombers required for the first three phases of his proposed campaign. The decision on the final phase, requiring 2,702 heavy bombers, could be deferred. Kenney’s Southwest Pacific air command and the Tenth Air Force in India had adequate aircraft to accomplish their respective missions and losses could be replaced from current production. Arnold believed that temporarily deploying heavy bombardment units from England to the Mediterranean theater did not work well. Experience had demonstrated that heavy bombardment units did not function effectively separated from their ground support commands. Any decision to temporarily deploy heavy bombardment units in another theater would necessitate first sending ahead all of their attached ground elements. (Ibid.)

4. The Combined Bomber Offensive was absolutely necessary for early victory, wrote Arnold; consequently Eaker should receive as much material and as complete support as had Eisenhower’s command in the Mediterranean. “I do not believe there is a more important task confronting us,” replied Arnold; it would be a great mistake to limit the Allied strategic bombing campaign. “It is quite probable that we will have to limit future operations of the 12th and 9th Air Forces to the North African, Mediterranean, Western Asiatic Area,” stated Arnold. “Perhaps the solution will be to use those planes for the mobile emergency force after HUSKY.” (Ibid.)

5. “The soundest solution is to support all theaters on the basis now agreed upon and maintain those forces at the present planned strength, supplying and making good their plane and combat crew losses,” replied Arnold. Sufficient reserves existed to meet emergencies. Arnold concluded that Eaker’s strategic bombing offensive against Germany should be implemented forthwith. (Ibid.)

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. 668-670.

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