4-172 To General Dwight D. Eisenhower, December 23, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 23, 1943

Subject: World War II

To General Dwight D. Eisenhower

December 23, 1943 Radio No. 5585 Washington, D.C.


For Eisenhower’s EYES ONLY from Marshall.

On arrival at the office this morning from Pacific trip I found your letter of December 17th regarding OVERLORD and Mediterranean assignments. I have also read your radio number 138 of December 19th.1 Arnold told me this morning of his conversations with you and with Spaatz and Tedder regarding transfers of Commanders and Staff Officers.2

I am seriously concerned over the developments in this matter. OVERLORD, largely because of Russian insistence has received in effect a guarantee; there remains however the serious problem of control of the Combined Air Forces for that operation in spite of inhibitions and the deep ruts of the Strategical Bombing Program, and the proper mounting as to time and materiel of ANVIL, particularly in relation to possible delays caused by Eastern Mediterranean Diversions. It seems to me that at this moment the tendency is to gut the Mediterranean Headquarters and leadership leaving a most complex situation to be handled by General Wilson.3 And what makes it more questionable in my opinion is this business of transferring from England to the Mediterranean those that you do not see clearly in place in the UK setup. I am referring to Eaker and to Devers. In my opinion Smith should remain in the Mediterranean at least until the middle of February purely because of American interests. The Prime Minister wished to have him made the Deputy Commander in the Mediterranean as well as Chief of Staff but I think it would be a questionable procedure, however convenient to you, to withdraw Smith from his present position until a much later date than now seems to be indicated.4 Morgan in London is a very capable officer and almost seems more American than British.5

I believe I was more disturbed over the pressure of Tedder and Spaatz to move Eaker to the Mediterranean because he did not appear at all particularly suited for that theater and I am forced to the conclusion that their attitude is selfish and not purely objective.

This message as indicated above in your EYES ONLY but I wanted you to get my thoughts before we go further into the details of these assignments.6

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 17, Item 28, National Archives and Records Service, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. In his letter, Eisenhower stated that he wanted Jacob L. Devers, commanding general of the European Theater of Operations since May 1943, to take command of U.S. forces in the Mediterranean. “It would appear that he will be superfluous in U.K.” Eisenhower also desired to appoint a single Allied ground forces commander, who would command American troops until the United States could form its own army group (to be commanded by Bradley). Under the Allied air forces commander, he wanted a single commander for all tactical forces and a single commander for all strategic bombing forces. (Papers of DDE, 3: 1604-5.) Message 138, written by Walter Bedell Smith, stated that in order to begin planning for ANVIL, Eisenhower desired to create a U.S. Seventh Army headquarters and that Mark Clark, current Fifth Army commander, would assume command of it after Rome had been secured. (Smith to Hull, December 19, 1943, Radio No. 138, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 17, Item 28].)

2. On his way back from Cairo, Arnold stopped in Tunis to talk with Eisenhower about air command reorganization. They agreed that Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz, deputy commander of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (M.A.A.F.), was the best choice to head the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe. Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, Eighth Air Force commander in England, would become head of the M.A.A.F., replacing Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, who would move to Britain to command all Allied air forces under Eisenhower. (H. H. Arnold, Global Mission [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949], pp. 475-76. The air forces reorganization at this time is discussed in Craven and Cate, eds., Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK, pp. 733-56.)

3. General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, commander in chief, Middle East, officially was to become commander in chief in the Mediterranean theater on January 8, 1944. Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers became Wilson’s deputy that same day.

4. When Churchill met with Eisenhower on December 12, he asked that Smith stay in the Mediterranean; when Eisenhower proved reluctant, Churchill asked that he stay at A.F.H.Q. for several weeks in order to help General Wilson get started. On December 19, Churchill proposed that Smith remain in the Mediterranean “a few weeks” before moving to Eisenhower’s new headquarters in England. (My Three Years with Eisenhower: The Personal Diary of Captain Harry C. Butcher, USNR, Naval Aide to General Eisenhower, 1942 to 1945 [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946], p. 458; Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 623.)

5. In his memoirs, Eisenhower said of Lieutenant General Frederick E. Morgan: “He was an extraordinarily fine officer and had, long before my arrival [in England in 1944], won the high admiration and respect of General Marshall. I soon came to place an equal value upon his qualifications. He had in the months preceding my arrival accomplished a mass of detailed planning, accumulation of data, and gathering of supply that made D-day possible.” (Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 230.)

6. In a lengthy reply dated December 25, Eisenhower defended his decisions regarding command changes. With regard to Eaker’s move, he said Eaker was “completely acceptable to me”; he was merely accommodating Arnold and Spaatz. Furthermore, he had “nothing whatsoever against Devers, and thought I was recommending him for an important post, particularly as I know that he would be acceptable to the British.” Moreover, he wrote, “I have no desire to emasculate” General Wilson’s staff; indeed, Wilson had said that he desired to bring in his own chief of staff and key personnel. On a subject that had but recently occupied much of Marshall’s time, Eisenhower noted: “At a meeting this morning in Tunis the Prime Minister definitely announced that he had completely abandoned any thought of activity in Turkey and the Aegean Sea. He desires to concentrate activities in this theater on an amphibious operation to drive the German back of the Rome line and then to prepare full-out for ANVIL.” (Papers of DDE, 3: 1611-14.)

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. 202-204.

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