4-321 To General Dwight D. Eisenhower, March 25, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 25, 1944

Subject: World War II

To General Dwight D. Eisenhower

March 25, 1944 Radio No. WAR-14078 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

TopSec for General Eisenhower personal and eyes only from General Marshall.

In the discussion yesterday regarding the proposed directive covering OVERLORD-ANVIL-Italy, we proposed that once the beachhead and the 5th Army front have joined, the major concern in the Mediterranean is to prepare for a later ANVIL, July 10th as the target date, and that Rome would not be considered a primary effort to the disadvantage of the proposed ANVIL. Dill indicated the British would view this with concern because of the political importance of Rome.1

Our view is that the chances of the Germans holding and fighting on a broad front are greater south of Rome than north of Rome. Also Wilson’s appreciation of what he could do in joining up the bridgehead by May 15th and taking Rome by June 15th, reflects so pessimistic a view that it weighed heavily in our consideration of the importance of making Rome an immediate objective.2

What we are afraid of is the Germans instituting an economical delaying action up to the Pisa-Rimini line, reasonably secure in the knowledge that we are not set for operations elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

We have recommended to the British Chiefs of Staff that to meet your requirements for OVERLORD there be transferred from the Mediterranean to the UK 26 LST, 40 LCI (L), 1 LSH (Bulolo), 1 LSE and 1 LSD. All of these craft except 12 LST to arrive by April 30th, the remaining 12 LST to arrive by May 15th. We have also recommended the transfer of 3 U.S. Fighter Groups and 7 British Spitfire Squadrons.

In all of this, understand that our proposal for July 10th ANVIL involves diverting to the Mediterranean, landing craft due to leave for Pacific in late May and June in order to provide at least a two-division lift for ANVIL. We will not make this diversion which means a serious delay in the Pacific with the possibility of losing our momentum unless some sizable operation of the nature of ANVIL is on the books. The importance of Rome in comparison to this other factor appears to us to weigh light in the balance.

Suggest you keep in contact with British Chiefs of Staff rather than wait until they have again come to a conclusion regarding our proposal of yesterday.3

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-14078, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. The Combined chiefs of Staff met in Washington on March 24, 1944, where they discussed ANVIL in reference to the situation in Italy. Field Marshal Sir John Dill suggested that the capture of Rome would have important psychological effects, and that if the Germans made a major effort to defend the city then increased commitments to the Italian front would have the same effect as ANVIL, that is, the diversion of enemy forces from the OVERLORD front. According to the minutes of the meeting, Dill believed that “the operation proposed against the south of France in July had certain attractions but, he felt, it was debatable whether this was right either politically or militarily.” (Supplementary Minutes of the Combined Chiefs of Staff Meeting, March 24, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, CCS Minutes].)

2. General Marshall stated during the meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff on March 24 that General Wilson’s time estimates for the capture of Rome “were unduly pessimistic.” Admiral King pointed out that General Wilson’s latest statements indicated that the forces he considered necessary to take Rome would preclude even the possibility of a delayed ANVIL. (Ibid.) Wilson had submitted to the British Chiefs of Staff his view that he continue the battle in Italy to capture Rome and its airfields, thereafter “to concentrate on intensive operations up the mainland of Italy.” He advised that ANVIL be canceled. (Wilson to British Chiefs of Staff, MEDCOS 73, March 21, 1944, NA/RG 165 [ODD, Exec. 10, Item 52b] .)

3. Eisenhower responded on March 27, informing Marshall of the position adopted by the British Chiefs of Staff. They agreed that there was “no particular geographical location, including Rome,” that should have higher priority in the Mediterranean theater before operations designed to create “maximum support to OVERLORD.” In Italy current operations should be directed toward the union of the Anzio beachhead and the main Italian front. There was general agreement that in the Mediterranean about early July 1944 the Allies would launch an amphibious two-division assault with follow-up divisions in support of OVERLORD. Eisenhower suggested that final decisions depended in some measure on German actions. If the Germans elected to move north and institute delaying action up to the Pisa-Rimini line, then the strongest possible ANVIL must take place. If the Germans attempted to hold their present position south of Rome, however, then the British felt that more Allied commitment to an Italian ground campaign would be needed and the decision respecting ANVIL would have to be delayed until the situation in Italy stabilized. He had read to the British Chiefs of Staff Marshall’s proposal to divert landing craft from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, only if a strong ANVIL operation was planned. Eisenhower told the chief of staff that, from his viewpoint, the only reason the British Chiefs were reluctant to agree to Marshall’s proposal was “the fear that there might be a situation existing in the Mediterranean around early July which would indicate some other place than that generally proposed for ANVIL as the best for launching the projected operation, but they fully agree that a sizeable amphibious operation will be essential.” Eisenhower reminded the British that ANVIL could possibly be executed solely with French divisions provided with Allied naval, air, and logistical support. (Papers of DDE 3: 1792-94.) The British Chiefs opposed making a commitment to a definitely planned ANVIL because the German situation might change by July. They suggested waiting until early June to review the situation. (Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, pp. 424-25. For discussion of this phase of the ANVIL debate, see John Ehrman, Grand Strategy, volume 5, August 1943-September 1944, a volume in the History of the Second World War [London: HMSO, 1956], pp. 245-59.)

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. 374-376.

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