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To General Dwight D. Eisenhower
September 22, 1943 Radio No. 8400. Washington, D.C.
From Marshall for General Eisenhower’s EYE ONLY.
I have just been talking over with Dill your problems. He and I have much the same view at long range which I repeat to you for your private information. We are fearful that in a deliberate approach to the development of a secure position including the Port of Naples you will afford the other fellow so much time that he will be in a position to make things much more difficult in the matter of an advance to Rome or in preparations for any attempts on his part to secure a prestige victory. With air power and sea power on your side, however great the burden you are now bearing to get troops into Taranto, to Sardinia and to Corsica, have you considered the possibility of pausing in your 5th and 8th Army effort when you have Naples under the guns as it were and merely a matter of a week or two, and making a dash at the Rome area? Dill and I both anticipate that the delays involved in lack of shipping and in loading will be the answer to this suggestion. However, we feel that it might possibly be managed on a reduced basis if done quickly whereas a delay would permit such German preparations as to make an elaborately prepared landing an absolute necessity. We are aware of the problems such a proposal poses for you in your position of responsibility of what might happen and you should be brutally frank with me in your reply.1
I might say that both Dill and I feel that your Avalanche should have started earlier before operations in the toe which would have meant also before the Germans could have been so well prepared to meet you and that most of the toe and the boot might have fallen into your hands by gravity rather than as has developed. Your planners at Quebec had a different view and quite evidently you and Alexander had a different view but at long range it would seem that you give the enemy too much time to prepare and eventually find yourself up against a very stiff resistance.2
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Top Secret Message File CM-OUT-10556, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
1. Eisenhower replied the next day that “in spite of an earnest general conviction that speed and surprise should be sought and that landings behind the flanks would offer great results, we could not repeat not develop any possibility that offered even fair chances of success” given the strength of German forces in the area. Small landing forces “would be quickly eliminated.” Large forces had to be sustained across the beaches, in the absence of large, working ports, and “this means risks to shipping and misuse of landing craft for a prolonged period.” (Papers of DDE, 3: 1452-53.)
2. “I can not repeat not agree that the Salerno operation [AVALANCHE] could have logically preceded BAYTOWN,” Eisenhower stated, “although at one time I favored that sequence of events.” Allied advances south of Salerno had been made “with surprising rapidity, and they have had a profound effect on the general situation.” Eisenhower believed that when Allied troops took Foggia, German forces on the west coast would have to retreat. “I do not see how any individual could possibly be devoting more thought and energy to speeding up operations or to attacking boldly and with admitted risk than I do.” In closing, Eisenhower noted that Prime Minister Churchill had congratulated him for taking risks in Italy. (Ibid., pp. 1453-54.)
The Salerno beachhead had been secured by September 18. On the twenty-third, Allied forces launched a drive on Naples, entering that city on October 1. British troops occupied the Foggia area on September 27, but no general German retreat ensued. (Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, pp. 136-37, 164-65, 170.)
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. 136-137.