4-156 Memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 5, 1943

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

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

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


Command of British and U. S. Forces Operating Against Germany

With reference to the memorandum by the representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff, Mediterranean Command Arrangements, CCS 387, 3 November 1943, the U. S. Chiefs of Staff feel that operations in the Italian and western Mediterranean area are so closely allied to operations carried out from the United Kingdom as a base, that over-all control of operations from these two areas must eventually be centered in one commander.

The U. S. Chiefs of Staff now feel, in view of the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, and in particular, the situation which may develop from recent decisions concerning Turkey,2 that it may be desirable that command of all operations in the Mediterranean be vested in one officer. However, such an arrangement further complicates the question of unified direction of strategic air operations. Operations in the Mediterranean will influence the conduct of air operations from the U. K., particularly daylight bombing from the viewpoint of the reduction of losses, to such an extent that coordination of all efforts, particularly air, in the Mediterranean with those from the United Kingdom is essential.

The war in Europe has reached the stage where the necessity for command direction, in conformity with general directives of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, is clearly indicated. In matters pertaining to strategic bombing, it appears, in our opinion, immediately imperative. The rapidity with which decisions regarding air operations will have to be made demands command control as opposed to general directives or occasional direct action by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

The U. S. Chiefs of Staff therefore propose for the consideration of the British Chiefs of Staff that:

(1) A Supreme Commander will be designated for all United Nations operations against Germany from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, to operate under direction from the Combined Chiefs of Staff,

(2) An over-all commander for northwestern European operations will be appointed, and

(3) An over-all commander for southern European operations responsible for all operations in the Mediterranean be appointed.

The U. S. Chiefs of Staff further propose that the Supreme Commander be directed to carry out the agreed European strategy, and

(1) Be charged with the determination of the location and timing of operations;

(2) Be charged with the allocation for the forces and materiel made available to him by the Combined Chiefs of Staff; and

(3) His decisions on the above questions will be subject to reversal by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, or by his removal from command upon the proposal of one or the other of the two Joint Chiefs of Staff groups.3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), 384, Case 15, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. This document was initially drafted in the Operations Division, but Marshall made extensive changes. It was designated J.C.S. 567; Admiral King submitted a modification (J.C.S. 567/1) asserting that there was an even greater need for a Supreme Allied Commander for the Pacific theater. Both versions were discussed at the November 9 J.C.S. meeting.

2. At the Moscow conference of foreign ministers on November 2, the British and Soviet representatives had agreed to make immediate demands on Turkey to enter the war on the Allied side before the end of 1943 and to permit the Allies to use Turkish air bases. Roosevelt had indicated his agreement with these demands on November 4. (Foreign Relations, Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943, pp. 148, 151.)

3. On November 9, prior to that week’s J.C.S. meeting, Churchill—through Dill—had informed Leahy that he would “certainly never be able to accept responsibility” for the command arrangements Marshall was proposing. (Churchill, Closing the Ring, p. 305.) At the J.C.S. meeting that afternoon, Admiral Leahy reiterated his belief that a unified Allied command in south and west Europe was probably impossible to achieve just then. Moreover, he doubted the wisdom of placing upon one officer the responsibility for operations extending from Norway to Egypt and for functions which were being exercised by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. General Marshall, the meeting minutes recorded, believed that the reason the British were pressing for action on their proposal concerning unity of command in the Mediterranean (C.C.S. 387) “was that the Commander in Chief in the Middle East was undoubtedly receiving instructions as to operations that he should undertake in that area, and that when the British found themselves in difficulty, they found it necessary to appeal to General Eisenhower for additional resources to clear up the situation. GENERAL MARSHALL also said that if all of the Mediterranean areas were placed under one command, no doubt the British would soon press for executive control in that area, and pointed out that U.S. troops were rapidly approaching, if they had not already reached, the minority in the Mediterranean areas.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed to defer action on J.C.S. 567 and 567/1 and on C.C.S. 387 until the military leaders met in Cairo in late November. (Supplementary Minutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, November 9, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, JCS Minutes].)

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. 180-181.

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