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Memorandum for Mr. Harry L. Hopkins
August 29, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
Yesterday the President did not ask Admiral Leahy or myself for any proposal as to the form of reply he might send to the Prime Minister on Monday. Nevertheless I have thought it best to have a rough draft prepared of what we think might be sent to best safeguard our interests. It is attached hereto for such use as you see fit to make of it.
Last night I sent to General Eisenhower an appreciation of the President’s point of view with instructions to consider for his eye only, except his Deputy and principal planning officials, that until the message from the President went to the Prime Minister we could not consider any decision as having been taken by the President. It will interest you to know that in the acknowledgment of the message I found this morning that the Prime Minister had taken Eisenhower and Clark down to Chequers and they would not get back until tonight. My message was sent to Eisenhower there.1 You can see from this that he is very much under the guns.
I found out another interesting item from General Handy—that Major General Dewing2 who was for a time the British Army representative on the Washington Combined Chiefs of Staff set-up and is now General Eisenhower’s Aide, had insisted that Eisenhower should submit his review or criticism, termed comments, to the Combined Chiefs of Staff with which you are familiar. In other words quite evidently Dewing felt exactly as Eisenhower did, and apparently as a number of other British officers did, but have to be so guarded in their comments that we have no positive evidence of their views. I know you will treat this information about Dewing as most confidential because he would be ruined if it ever leaked out.
I hope you will use your influence to see that the President’s message gets off by Monday as the delays are fatal to the completion of plans and therefore directly affect the date for the operation.
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE PRIME MINISTER
I have considered carefully your numbers 136 and 139 in reference to the Torch operation.3 It is my earnest desire to start the attack at the earliest date when an adequate force to give reasonable promise of success can be embarked, escorted, and supported.
We are pressing our preparations to that end. The success of the operation during its first week is so dependent upon the attitude of the French that every effort must be made to minimize resistance on their part. All information now available to me indicates that there is much less probability of French resistance if the entire force making the initial landings is American. I have come to the conclusion that combined landings even if led by American troops will not suffice. Therefore, the troops used in the initial operation should be American except for British naval forces, air forces and shipping including combat loaders. I am convinced that, if this is done, and we are given a short period in which to exert the maximum American influence in the theatre, the operation can be further developed eastward by such British landings as are possible logistically. I realize that the initial landings will not be possible without full aid of British naval forces, air forces and combat loaders, which will tax your resources to the limit. In view of the Pacific situation and of the very critical operations now in progress there, I am convinced that U.S. naval forces other than those shown in General Eisenhower’s Outline Plan can not be secured for the Torch operation. Also it does not appear that our joint available naval resources can be extended beyond the support of two simultaneous landings.
We are not, in my opinion, justified in assuming the risks involved in a single line of communication through the Straits of Gibraltar. The continuous attrition of naval vessels and other shipping which will undoubtedly result from maintaining supply through the Straits subsequent to the landings cannot be accepted in view of our present limited resources and already over-extended lines of communications. Our future conduct of the war will be gravely jeopardized by such an increase in naval and shipping attritions. I do not agree that landings at Oran and Casablanca will certainly result in the Germans seizing Tunisia and possibly Algiers. Accordingly it is my opinion that the initial landings should be made at Oran and on the Northwest coast of Africa.
The directive to the Commander-in-Chief should prescribe that the attack will be launched at the earliest practicable date. The date should be consistent with the preparations necessary for an operation with a fair chance of success and accordingly it should be determined by the Commander-in-Chief.
This matter has been most carefully considered by me and by my naval and military advisors. I feel strongly that my conception of the operation as outlined herein must be accepted and that such a solution promises the greatest chance for success in this particular theatre.4
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. For Marshall’s message to Eisenhower, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-301 [3: 325-27]. Eisenhower and Major General Mark W. Clark had met with Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff. (Papers of DDE, 1: 511-13.)
2. Major General Richard H. Dewing.
3. For Prime Minister Churchill’s August 26 (No. 136) and 27 (No. 139) messages to President Roosevelt, see Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 1: 575-79.
4. Dated Sunday, August 30, 1942, the president’s final version, drafted by Harry L. Hopkins and edited by Roosevelt, is printed ibid., pp. 583-84. The president’s message set October 30 as the latest date for the landings, with the hope that they might be as early as October 14. He also recommended reexamination of their resources to see if it was possible to have a third landing at Algiers.
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. 327-329.