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Memorandum for the President
July 10, 1942 Washington, D.C.
Subject: Latest British Proposals relative to Bolero and Gymnast.1
The memorandum under discussion is from the British Chiefs of Staff to the British Mission in Washington. It presents the view of the British Cabinet that the BOLERO or SLEDGEHAMMER operation in 1942 cannot be carried out unless there is a marked German weakening. It indicates the necessity for some other Allied action and hopes that we (the United States) will consider doing GYMNAST. It states that the British are investigating a Norwegian operation but so far it appears impracticable. This message was to be transmitted by the Prime Minister to the President.
The proposal means no BOLERO in 1942 and an inadequate and probably ineffective BOLERO, if any, in the spring of 1943.
It is also our opinion that under existing circumstances the effect of GYMNAST would be indecisive. Therefore, if we undertake the GYMNAST operation at the expense of BOLERO we would nowhere be pressing decisively against the enemy.
If the British attitude as to BOLERO must be accepted, it is our opinion that we should turn to the Pacific, and, using all existing and available dispositions and installations, strike decisively against Japan.2
The United Kingdom would be on the defensive with ground activities restricted to commando raids. We would reinforce the United Kingdom with Air but on a reduced basis from that now planned. However, the bombing attacks on the Continent could be continued and increased. Our ground forces in the United Kingdom would only include one or two additional divisions and there would be a very decided reduction in the proposed SOS installations. All shipping, planes and as much personnel as needed, thus released would be turned to the Pacific Area.
It is impossible to do BOLERO without full British support. Half-hearted measures will doom the entire enterprise to failure. The British must, of necessity, be a large part of the BOLERO undertakings. I believe that we should now put the proposition up to the British on a very definite basis and leave the decision to them. It must be made at once. My object is again to force the British into acceptance of a concentrated effort against Germany, and if this proves impossible, to turn immediately to the Pacific with strong forces and drive for a decision against Japan.
Admiral King and I have signed a joint memorandum to you regarding the foregoing.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 10, Item 53, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. General Marshall extensively edited Operations Division drafts, resulting in this version sent to the president.
2. As to whether the Pacific alternative course was a bluff, see Marshall Memorandum for Admiral King, July 15, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-255 [3: 276-77].
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. 271-272.