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To General Dwight D. Eisenhower
September 6, 1944 Radio No. WAR-26119 Washington, D.C.
TOPSEC to Eisenhower for his eyes only from Marshall.
This morning’s reports indicate that the progress of the forces from the southern Mediterranean has been more rapid than envisaged in Wilson’s MEDCOS 181 and even faster than appears to have been anticipated in your FWD 13853.
Your proposal for assuming command of ground forces advancing from the Mediterranean appears satisfactory. I think you should get Devers into group control as quickly as possible for several reasons related to French ambitions and Mediterranean complications.1 I doubt if you are proposing sufficient tactical air support for Devers’ command. The DRAGOON forces have already merged into the main effort of OVERLORD and are now the right wing of the great attack on Germany.2 There should be no improvisation in their support so long as needed resources are available. You may consider that you have adequate air support in the Ninth Air Force to supplement the one fighter-bomber group you propose be furnished from the Mediterranean. If not, there should be no hesitation in drawing more U S fighter-bombers from the Mediterranean where there are approximately 20 U S groups and some 1200 RAF planes of this type with the tactical air forces. Arnold agrees.
Somervell is examining, as a matter of urgency, your problem concerning the diversion of divisions through Marseilles to strengthen the right wing of your effort. I think this very important if only for the purpose of giving Patch a U S Army to match the French.
As to the matter of U S forces in Italy, I agree that we cannot make a decision now. If the campaign in Italy should move with the speed of Patch’s campaign or the one in northern France, we can better determine then on the future employment of the Fifth Army.
In view of the provisions of your directive, I suggest that you send the CCS at once a brief recommendation on your assumption of command of forces which have entered through southern France. Details should, of course, be left to arrangements between you, Devers and Wilson.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-26119, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. The German Nineteenth Army had withdrawn north much more rapidly than the planners of the southern France invasion had expected. By September 6, the Seventh Army troops were well north of Lyons, the point at which planners had agreed that Eisenhower’s headquarters should take control of those forces. The commander of the French forces, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny—dismayed at certain tactical proposals made by U.S. Sixth Corps commander Lucian Truscott and approved by army commander Alexander Patch, and determined that his forces would be united as an independent army, as agreed upon—unilaterally announced the formation of two French corps-level commands on September 3 and forced the Americans to modify their plans. (Clarke and Smith, Riviera to the Rhine, pp. 182-83.)
2. Elements of the Seventh Army’s French First Infantry Division and the Third Army’s U.S. Sixth Armored Division met on September 11, formally marking the physical union of the DRAGOON and OVERLORD forces. (Ibid., p. 223.)
3. Just after midnight on September 15, S.H.A.E.F. assumed operational control of all units coming from southern France. Simultaneously the Sixth Army Group became operational under the command of Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers. The U.S. units continued to be designated Seventh Army, while the French corps were combined under a new headquarters and called the First French Army.
Even before the landings, Devers had been concerned that the preponderance of French forces in the southern France operations might soon lead to political problems with the French government. To offset this imbalance of forces, he had proposed that the entire U.S. Twelfth Air Force and Fifth Army be transferred from the Italian campaign to southern France. This was politically and operationally impossible, however, so Devers sought to acquire the U.S. Fourth Corps from Italy. Mediterranean commander in chief Sir Henry Maitland Wilson blocked this move in early September, however, by convincing the C.C.S. and the J.C.S. that this would ruin any chance for success of the operations then under way in Italy. (Ibid., pp. 224-25.) Marshall agreed at the second Quebec Conference not to send troops from Italy to reinforce the Seventh Army; see editorial note #4-505, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [4: 580].
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. 574-576.