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Memorandum for the President1
June 23, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: American forces in the Middle East.
The matter of locating large American ground forces in the Middle East was discussed Sunday night.2 The desirability of the United States taking over control of operations in that area was mentioned. It is my opinion, and that of the Operations staff, that we should not undertake such a project.
The controlling reasons are logistical, serious confusion of command (further complicated by strong racial and religious prejudices), and the indecisive nature of the operation.
The leakage or wastage of strength logistically in operating in such distant theaters is tremendous. We are necessarily involved in the Southwest Pacific at 8,000 miles, the central Pacific at 3,000 miles, Alaska at 2,000, the Caribbean at 1,000, Greenland and Iceland at 2,000; we have the drain of the Ferry Service across Africa into the Middle East, and the lease-loan shipments to India for China. Now, if we undertake to support large forces in the Middle East, it is our opinion that we have denied the probability of assembling American forces of decisive power in any theater in this war.
The importance of the Middle East and a protected supply through the Mediterranean are evident. The influence on Italy of a North African frontier in the hands of the United Nations would be great, but it would be only an influence with the hope of gaining a foot-hold on the southern but indecisive fringe of the European continent. We would still be a long distance from Germany, with extremely difficult natural intervening obstacles.
You are familiar with my view that the decisive theater is Western Europe. That is the only place where the concerted effort of our own and the British forces can be brought to bear on the Germans. A large venture in the Middle East would make a decisive American contribution to the campaign in Western Europe out of the question. Therefore, I am opposed to such a project.3
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. Marshall added the following memorandum for President Roosevelt of the same date to this document. “The attached was prepared for your consideration before I had heard your comment this afternoon regarding Fellers’ last message, 1156. I would make this comment: Fellers is a very valuable observer but his responsibilities are not those of a strategist and his views are in opposition to mine and those of the entire Operations Division.” Marshall had attended the meeting of Roosevelt and Churchill with their military advisers at the White House the afternoon of June 23. At the meeting there was discussion of sending American reinforcements to the Middle East. (Arthur Bryant, The Tien of the Tide: A History of the War Years Based on the Diaries of Field-Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1957], p. 331; Foreign Relations, Conferences at Washington and Casablanca, p. 443.) Colonel Bonner F. Fellers, United States military attach