4-480 To General Dwight D. Eisenhower, August 17, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 17, 1944

Subject: World War II

To General Dwight D. Eisenhower

August 17, 1944 Radio No. WAR-82265 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

For Eisenhower’s eyes only from Marshall.

Reference your personal and confidential report to me, CPA 90228, August 17:1

The plans outlined appeal to me as sound. I was very glad to be advised of your plans against the Pas de Calais with the airborne forces. I had felt that the vicinity of Rouen was the first point indicated but that in view of the movement of German divisions from the Pas de Calais towards the Seine and the gradual evacuation of the Falaise-Mortain pocket, the better operation would be in the Pas de Calais area and for a double purpose, to suppress the robot activity and to establish our people well in rear of the German right.

In surveying the matter here particularly the present disposition of German troops so far as known and having in mind the tremendous psychological impact it appeared that a landing in rear of Dunkirk was the ideal point and that the Dunkirk beach defenses could probably be stupefied by continuous air bombardment to permit the airborne troops to take the port from the rear without heavy losses or delays. This would give you a harbor for the buildup of a sizeable force in rear of the German right and would greatly facilitate the deployment of the divisions arriving in England. However you have your more accurate knowledge of the German dispositions and your own deployments on which to base a decision. Our G-2 people do not feel that the Paris-Orleans German assembly has the capability for a counterattack.

Another matter: Tremendous publicity was given throughout the U.S., press and radio, and particularly editorial, to the creation of an American

Army Group under Bradley, your movement to France and your assumption of direct command of the American Group. The recent statement from your Headquarters that Montgomery continues in command of all ground forces has produced a severe reaction in the New York Times and many other papers and I feel is to be deplored.2 Just what lay behind this confusion of announcements I do not know but the Secretary and I and apparently all America are strongly of the opinion that the time has come for you to assume direct exercise of command of the American contingent. I think you will have to consider this matter very carefully because the reaction here is serious and will be, I am afraid, injected into the debates in Congress within the next 24 hours.3

The astonishing success of the campaign up to the present moment has evoked emphatic expressions of confidence in you and in Bradley. The late announcement I have just referred to has cast a damper on the public enthusiasm.

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-82265, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. Eisenhower had reported on the Falaise-Mortain Pocket, the likelihood that the Germans were assembling for a counterattack on the Paris-Orleans front, and the operations in Brittany. He also discussed the next airborne operation, first to help the Allies get across the Seine River, or more likely one in the Pas-de-Calais area. “Seizure of that area would of course practically eliminate the present fly bomb [V-1 rocket] activity and I am convinced it would have the most tremendous moral effect, favorable for ourselves and adverse for the enemy.” (Papers of DDE, 4: 2071-72.)

2. At the opening of Operation COBRA on July 25, Eisenhower had announced that U.S. forces in France were to be regrouped under Omar Bradley in the Twelfth Army Group. This group became active on August 1, and thereafter Field Marshal Montgomery, commander of all Allied ground forces in France, channeled his orders to the U.S. armies through its headquarters. This news was not released to the press, however, until a mid-August error by a censor permitted reporters to announce the activation of Twelfth Army Group and that Bradley and Montgomery were equal in authority. On August 16, officials at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in London denied this latter statement, but they did not note that it would become true on September 1, when Eisenhower would assume direct command in the field. Some British newspapers deplored this as a demotion for Montgomery; some newspapers in the United States responded with criticism of the command arrangements, asserting that the British controlled the Allied forces in France and that Eisenhower was a figurehead. (Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1954], pp. 261, 263-64.) Since August 1, the Bureau of Public Relations had been telling correspondents, off-the-record, that Bradley and Montgomery were on the same level, each reporting independently to Eisenhower. The bureau requested a clarification of the command situation. (Surles to Walter Bedell Smith, Radio No. WAR-82113, August 17,1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, TS Message File (CM-OUT-82113)] .)

3. He and Bradley were “somewhat taken aback that our plans for initial, transitional and the ultimate command systems are apparently not understood by the War Department,” Eisenhower replied on August 19. “It seems that so far as the press and the public are concerned a resounding victory is not sufficient; the question of ‘how’ is equally important.” Eisenhower insisted that command arrangements had been carefully planned for many months, that he was “directly responsible for approving major operational policies and principal features of all plans of every kind,” that Montgomery had been “placed in temporary charge of the coordination of ground operations” because of his “experience and seniority,” and that communications, congestion, and shipping problems were the chief reasons necessitating the present command transition period. (Papers of DDE, 4: 2074-77.)

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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 550-551.

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