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To General Dwight D. Eisenhower
September 14, 1944 [Radio No. OCTAGON-31] [Quebec, Canada]
Top Secret for Eisenhower’s eyes only from Marshall.
You will receive from the Combined Chiefs of Staff the new directive for control of the strategic bombers in Europe, placing them under Arnold and Portal with Spaatz and Harris as executives.1 In discussing this matter in the conference meetings Arnold and I had clearly in mind your needs and the points in your messages FWD 13605 to me and FWD 13657 to Arnold. The British urged on us the difficulties of control by you due to your headquarters being in France and the operating headquarters in England which must of necessity exercise control over the actual strategic bombing operations. Also they made the point that the land operations of OVERLORD have now progressed so that the bombers can probably return to strategic missions for a great part of their effort. The British stated further that you should not be made responsible for the strategic efforts distant from the army fronts. Finally it was apparent that one of the critical matters was the problem of control and use of the RAF Bomber Command in view of the restricted uses for which it is suitable and for other reasons.
Arnold and I concluded that the best solution was to accept the British proposal and include adequate guarantees that you would receive on simple demand all the help you wanted and when you wanted that help. I believe that this object is accomplished by the unqualified provisions that (a) the strategic bombers give you promptly the assistance for which you ask, and (b) the strategic bomber commanders have responsibility for coordinating their operations with your tactical air forces. The directive leaves the priority of targets as you have established them. Spaatz will be told to consult you in connection with shifts of priorities. Arnold will expect you to make immediate recommendations when you consider changes in priorities should be made.2
Arnold has read this message and agrees.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur T. Harris had been commander in chief, Bomber Command, since February 1942; his U.S. Army Air Forces opposite number was Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz. On strategic bomber control, see Ehrman, Grand Strategy, 5: 513-15.
2. In his memoirs, Eisenhower commented: “They set up an arrangement whereby the strategic bombers were to be directly subordinate to the Combined Chiefs of Staff through the medium of a combined agency set up in London. From my own viewpoint, this was a clumsy and inefficient arrangement, but so far as our operation was concerned it made no difference whatsoever. This was because a paragraph was inserted in the directive which gave the demands of the supreme commander in Europe priority over anything else that the strategic bombers might be required to do. With this safeguard and unequivocal authority, I had no objection to the new arrangement regardless of my opinion of its awkwardness. Spaatz protested bitterly at the new command system for the strategic bombers until I showed him that it made no difference to me.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1948], pp. 307-8.)
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. 583-584.