4-290 Memorandum for General Handy, March 14, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 14, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Handy

March 14, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]


I have read Hull’s memorandum and think that it had best be handled by your sending a copy to Devers.1

However, I am inclined to the view that Hull does not make sufficiently clear (assuming he believes what follows) the great danger, if we do not do ANVIL, of finding our forces in Italy blocked by comparatively few German divisions and a large number of divisions from southern France, from Italy, and from the Balkans concentrating against OVERLORD. Dill is very fearful that this will happen and so am I, if we permit our effort to be boxed up in Italy where the geographical situation and the character of the terrain would permit the Germans to play us a scurvy trick to the great disadvantage of our principal effort in the war—OVERLORD.

I feel that the people in Italy are, through the natural reactions of people in a difficult military situation, restricted in their view to that locality, and that the OVERLORD people are apt, in view of the serious resistance they must expect in the first month of their landing, to similarly overlook the adverse possibilities that would flow from the abandonment of ANVIL or rather the confinement of our operation to Italy.

I am a little in doubt as to whether Hull’s memorandum, as now written, will make a sufficiently clear picture to Devers to justify sending it, because to a certain degree, it is bound to irritate him to read a statement by a visitor with which he does not entirely concur.2

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 John E. Hull of the Operations Division, having recently returned from Algiers, informed General Marshall of the situation in Italy and the prospects for ANVIL. Hull admitted that while the stalemated situation in Italy made the preparation of ANVIL difficult, there should be no thought of abandoning ANVIL. He added that ANVIL retained for the Allies a measure of strategic flexibility, that OVERLORD might need the assistance of troops in southern France, and that divisions could be more profitably employed there than in Italy, where “there are no further important strategic objectives.” Hull told Marshall that Allied efforts in Italy should concentrate on closing up the Anzio bridgehead with the main Italian front, but after that forces currently in Italy should be sufficient to maintain the Allied position. He suggested that if Rome could not be taken with the forces available, then a reevaluation of Allied objectives in Italy would have to be considered.

Hull believed that the great danger presented to the Allies by an abandonment of ANVIL was that the Germans, aided by the difficult terrain, would be able to contain the Allied advance in Italy with a few divisions. With the threat of a second invasion removed, the Germans would be able to reinforce their front in northwestern France with divisions from Italy, southern France, and the Balkans. Hull said that ANVIL would result either in a rapid advance across southern France against minimal opposition or force the Germans to commit reserves to contain ANVIL’S post-landing advance that could have been employed against OVERLORD. He concluded that since ANVIL was almost entirely an American-French effort the American planning staffs should take the lead in putting ANVIL in motion, and that all resources not needed to close the gap between the Anzio bridgehead and the main Italian front should be immediately allocated to ANVIL (Hull Memorandum for the chief of Staff, March 14, 1944, NA/RG 165 [ODD, Exec. 9, Book 16].)

2. Major General Thomas T. Handy sent Hull’s memorandum to Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers on March 15. Handy informed Devers that he believed that Marshall “is in general agreement with the thoughts expressed in Hull’s memorandum. I think what General Marshall fears more than anything else is that we may face a situation in Italy where our forces are contained by 6 to 8 German divisions, while the rest of the German forces are sent to France.” (Handy to Devers, March 15, 1944, ibid.) For further discussion of ANVIL, see Marshall to Eisenhower, March 16, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-296 [4: 348-50].

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. 341-343.

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