4-157 Memorandum for General Arnold, November 5, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 5, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Arnold

November 5, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Arnold:

I have gone over your attached paper and also had it examined by General Handy.1 The following are my views:

You propose vigorous organizational and operational steps for pressing the air war against Germany. Unifying the American strategic air forces in North Africa and the United Kingdom is certainly a step in the proper direction. However, at the moment I think it unwise to press the question of the unification of U. S. and British air commands until the more vital problem of unified command in the Mediterranean, as now proposed by the British Chiefs of Staff, and also the overall command in Europe problem, have been settled. If the decisions in these matters are made in accordance with our present views then the problems of unified air command and of overall air command will probably be settled automatically.

With reference to your general recommendations I believe that they are too detailed and technical to be included in a directive by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.2 Why not pass to your air commander and possibly to COSSAC and CinC, NATO [North African Theater of Operations], these principles in tactics and technique, which would insure their maximum impact on operations in a minimum of time?

With reference to your paragraph 2, our Planners have just completed a paper for presentation to both the Joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff dealing with the revision of the “Plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive”. If approved, this in effect accomplishes the ends recommended by you in paragraphs 2 a and b, as I understand it.3 The plans of the Commanders of the Strategic and Tactical Air Forces should provide for a maximum effectiveness and flexibility also, in the employment of the POINTBLANK forces during the assault phases of OVERLORD.

Your proposal in paragraph 3 concerning the Ninth Air Force4 is in conflict with the provisions of the proposed Air Annex to the Directive for the Supreme Allied Commander which is to be considered by the Combined Chiefs of Staff today. The Annex proposes the passage of the Ninth Air Force to the Supreme Allied Commander on December 15th.

The points raised by you in your paragraph 4 are intimately related to the problem of overall command of all Allied Forces operating against the European Axis from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.5 The first necessity, in my opinion, is securing the decision as to the question of unified command in the European Theater.

In view of what I have said above I do not think it wise to bring up this particular paper until we have gotten a decision regarding European command.

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. Arnold had sent Marshall “an outline of proposed changes in employment of the R.A.F. and the A.A.F. in England. If this reads O.K., and you agree, I propose to send it to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combined Chiefs of Staff for approval.” (Arnold Memorandum for General Marshall, November 3, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 9, Book 13].)

2. In Paragraph 1, Arnold recommended “that the Combined Chiefs of Staff agree that Allied Air commanders in operations against Germany be directed to apply the following principles in tactics and technique: a. Flexibility and coordinated employment of all Allied Air Forces will be emphasized in order to: (1) Seek out and destroy the German Air Force in the air and on the ground without delay. (2) Seek out and destroy German airplane factories and repair depots on the ground. b. Our Air Forces will be concentrated to attain absolute and complete destruction of selected objectives in the shortest possible time. c. Whenever necessary we must modify our aircraft and our armament quickly to keep ahead of the German Air Force in the changing pattern of the air war, by exercising increased alertness to new conditions. d. Fighter protection must be provided for our bombers whenever required. Planes must be modified wherever necessary for such operations. e. The defensive concept of our fighter commands and air defense units must be changed to the offensive. f. We must take advantage of all possible means to develop new and imaginative means and methods of waging air war. g. When conditions do not permit daytime precision bombing operations, Army Air Forces heavy bombardment units will be used against area targets to be selected, however, with direct reference to subsidiary effects of such area attacks from [on] the sources of strength of the German Air Force.” (Ibid.)

3. Arnold’s second paragraph stated “that the Combined Chiefs of Staff direct that a Joint Army Air Force—Royal Air Force Committee revise the objectives set forth in POINTBLANK toward the ends that: a. An overriding first priority be given to the early defeat of the German Air Force with emphasis upon short term effect of the sources of German air strength. b. The destruction of sources of German strength other than air strength be placed in second priority and that objectives in this category be selected on the basis of the short term effect of their destruction.” Point c recommended examining steps necessary to maximize the effectiveness and flexibility of air forces during the assault phases of OVERLORD. (Ibid.)

4. Paragraph 3 recommended “the establishment of an American Commander of a Strategic Air Force to include the Eighth Air Force (United Kingdom) and the Fifteenth Air Force (Italy). The Command of United States Army Air Force units (Eighth and Ninth Air Forces) in the United Kingdom remains in status quo until after the Ninth Tactical Air Force has crossed the Channel and is established on the Continent.” (Ibid.)

5. Arnold’s final paragraph (4) asked that “the Combined Chiefs of Staff direct that a study be prepared as to procedures to be followed toward the establishment of a Supreme Allied Air Command.” This command would be responsible for a list of operational and materiel problems. (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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 182-183.

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