1-155 Memorandum for the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, February 10, 1919

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 10, 1919

Memorandum for the Assistant Chief

of Staff, G-31

February 10, 1919 [Chaumont], France

Study of possible advance of American Troops into Germany.


The base of any plan for the possible advance of American forces deeper into German territory must, of necessity, include a general assumption as to the plan of action of the other allied Armies. Under existing circumstances this assumption must be formulated without consulting non-American authorities and can be only a carefully considered guess as to what we believe would be agreed to by all concerned.

If the main purpose of the operation is to gain control of the heart of Germany, that is the region of Berlin, without the necessity of occupying the country generally, the economical and expeditious plan would be to occupy all the North Sea and Baltic ports and to base expeditions on Hamburg and Stettin for a concentric advance on Berlin. The Elbe and Oder rivers would afford excellent facilities for supply. The region bounded by Bremen-Hanover-Brunswick-Magdeburg-Berlin-Stettin could be effectively held by a moderate sized force owing to long stretches of river line and short lines of communication. The present line of the Rhine could then be held as a defensive front with a much reduced force.

Assuming that the occasion for a deeper advance into Germany develops too rapidly to permit of moving troops around to the North Sea and Baltic ports, or that for other reasons a general advance from the present line of the Rhine is considered necessary, the following study is submitted regarding the possible participation by American troops.


The present deployment of the allied forces along the frontier should normally determine their order of battle during the advance and should tend to limit the choice of their respective zones of action.

The Topography of Western Germany (See Map A attached)2 considered with reference to the location of the present bridge heads, the frontiers of Holland and Austria, the sea boundary to the north including the Kiel Canal, the course of the Elbe River and the location of Berlin, leads to the following conclusions:

(a) The allied initial advance would be conducted on a broad front in a north-easterly direction from Mulhausen to Wesel. A smaller force based on Bremen and Hamburg would effect a junction with the main advance.

(b) The right of the line would be refused from Lake Constance to Leipzig; the left would be advanced until contact was gained with the Baltic Sea in Mecklenburg Bay; the center would rest along the line of the Elbe River, unless the occupation of Berlin became necessary, in which case the left would be further advanced to Stettin.

(c) The ports from Emden to Dantzig would be occupied, and the supply of the center and left of the Armies would ultimately be based upon the ports to the north and would be facilitated by the navigable rivers Weser and Elbe.


(a) The present American bridge head is too restricted to serve as a suitable base of departure. It extends 32 kilometers along the Rhine and just excludes important roads and railroads. The base of departure should cover the strip from Bonn to the river Lahn, both inclusive, a distance of 62 kilometers. The inclusion of Bonn should not interfere with the British as their main columns would probably advance through Hanover and Munster. The inclusion of the Lahn River should not interfere with the French as there remain to the South numerous routes of advance for their forces.

The axis of the American advance would probably be the line Coblentz-Cassel-Helmstedt-Stendal, an air-line distance of 380 kilometers.

The extent of front to be occupied by American troops at the conclusion of the first stage of the advance (i.e., along the Elbe River), depends upon many factors. However, after a study of the entire front to be held it is believed that the American Army would probably be called upon to cover a front of at least 100 kilometers, and the logical portion appears to be that between Wittenberg and Schonebeck (10 kilometers south of Magdeburg.)

The proposed zone limits are indicated in Map A attached. This zone includes two through railroad lines and sufficient through roads to permit of a well regulated advance.

(b) Salient Features of the Terrain.

The zone from Coblentz to Cassel (160 kilometers air line) is rugged, heavily forested country with roads and railroads following circuitous routes. At Cassel the first of a serious of river lines is encountered. The Weser is a navigable stream from Munden to its mouth. The Fulda and the Werra prolong its course to the south and are less of an obstacle.

The general character of the country remains unchanged for the next 100 kilometers east of the Weser. The river Leine intersects the zone before the plain of the Elbe is reached, but is too small to be considered an obstacle. It becomes navigable at Hanover.

South of Brunswick and west of Halbestadt lie the Hartz mountains, covering a rough, forested area blocking 60 kilometers of the width of the zone as it debouches into the low land. In the event of well organized hostile resistance, this region could be developed into a serious obstacle to our advance and would probably have to be turned by an enveloping movement to the north.

The plain of the Elbe presents no particular obstacle, except for the heavy forest areas east of Brunswick. (See memorandum of A.C. of S. G-2 on rivers, hereto attached and marked “B”.)

(c) Enemy Resistance.

The amount of resistance to our advance which the enemy might be able to offer is entirely problematical and would depend primarily upon the state of mind of the population. In any event he would be forced to operate with practically no airships and would be seriously hampered by lack of motor transport and rail rolling stock. His supply of heavy and light cannon, and minenwerfers, machine guns and rifles, appears to be sufficient for the extent of the Western front on which he would be operating.

The memorandum of the A.C. of S., G-2 hereto attached and marked “C” presents a study of the possibilities of the extent of the hostile resistance which might be encountered.

It appears reasonable to conclude that, in proportion to the frontage and assuming prompt replacements, a moderate sized force equipped with a few heavy guns and a full allotment of light guns, airships and transport, should be able to break down and through the enemies most determined resistance. The police of the country passed through presents another problem which would make heavy demands on our forces unless the complete disarmament of the population could be effectively assured, which seems entirely possible.


The base of departure is 60 kilometers in breadth. The final frontage to be covered is 100 kilometers. Under existing conditions the advance could be initiated with 1 division for each 20 kilometers of front or 3 divisions in first line. A minimum of 4 divisions would be required on the final front of the advance. The first line divisions should be followed by 2 divisions in second line, two days march (30 kilometers) in rear. One more division should follow the third line, three days march (45 kilometers) in rear of the second line. Truck transportation capable of transporting all the foot troops of one division should be available in rear of the second line. In rear of the third line one division should normally be available for each 100 kilometers of depth, to provide garrison troops.

One division would be required to man the line of communication.


1. When advance had reached Cassel.

1st line………………………3 divisions } 2 army corps.

2nd line …………………….2 divisions }

3rd line ……………………..1 division } 1 army corps.

Garrison troops ………...1 division }

7 divisions & 3 army corps.

2. When advance had reached the line of Elbe.

1st line……………..………4 divisions } 2 army corps.

2nd line ……………..……2 divisions }

3rd line …………..……….1 division

Garrison Troops ………..2 divisions 1 army corps.

Communication troops 1 division

10 divisions 3 army corps.

The foregoing is a moderately large force when considered in addition to the necessary corps and army troops, S.O.S. detachments, and possible garrison troops to be left in our present zone west of the Rhine. However, it is about the maximum that would appear to be necessary, and in the event that the advance was made largely because of Bolshevik disturbances, without fear of encountering large organized units of the German Army, the number of divisions could be reduced to 8 and possibly to 6.


Coblentz is the logical point for the advance base of the invading army.

Whether it would be supplied from our S.O.S. in Central France or from Rotterdam would depend entirely upon the availability of the latter point. At the present time Rotterdam appears to be available.

Between Coblentz and Cassel extends one of the most efficient rail lines in Germany, which continues beyond the latter point to Gottingen and there heads north via Hanover for Hamburg. This line would serve as the supply line for the Army until it cleared the Weser. Thereafter Cassel could be organized as the advance base, drawing its supplies from Bremerhaven or Bremen by utlizing both rail and water transportation lines.

Once the Allied lines had cleared the Elbe, the supply of the most advanced divisions could be assured via that river from Hamburg.

G. C. Marshall, Jr.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I) (RG 120), Records of General Headquarters (GHQ), Operations Division Reports (G-3), National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. Brigadier General Fox Conner.

2. The three appendixes attached to this memorandum are not printed. These were: “A. Philip’s Large Scale Strategical War Map of Europe, Central and Eastern Area. B. Memorandums from G-2 regarding Rivers and the Hartz Mountains in proposed zone of advance for American Army into Germany. C. Memorandums from G-2 regarding Strength and Armament of German Army.”

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 175-178.

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