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To General Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 23, 1943 Radio No. 138 Washington, D.C.
For General Eisenhower’s Eyes Only from General Marshall.
BIGOT HUSKY. Reference message number 118 from Chief Of Operations Division to your planning staff dated April 18.1 At present stage of discussion here a serious complication with an even more serious operation hazard with reference to enemy air attack on convoys in moonlight, has been created by proposal from your theater that operation must be carried out on moonlight night to facilitate employment of parachute troops. It seems to me we may be jeopardizing entire affair because of expressed desire of parachutists. General Lee2 feels that while the moonlight condition is desirable it is not mandatory.
Please let me have your personal view.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-9576, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. Marshall brought the proposal for modified HUSKY to the attention of General Eisenhower’s headquarters on April 18. The Operations Division in Washington suggested that Eisenhower’s staff consider launching HUSKY earlier than the proposed July target date, both to deal with the possibility of a continued successful German-Italian defense in Tunisia and to achieve surprise in the Sicily landings. A move against Sicily before German-Italian defeat in North Africa might even hasten victory in Tunisia and prevent the experienced Afrika Korps from participating in the defense of Sicily. Marshall also suggested that Eisenhower’s headquarters should be ready to mount HUSKY earlier than originally planned in the event of an early German-Italian surrender in Tunisia.
Marshall’s office saw the difficulties in an accelerated HUSKY, which might not be mounted before June 15, in terms of landing craft availability, secure passage of the Sicilian Straits, and in the relative training levels of the assault forces. Modified readiness was acceptable in order to achieve strategic surprise. Marshall believed that even a modified HUSKY launched as late as June 15, however, compromised the objective of surprise. He urged Eisenhower’s headquarters to develop “improvisations or short cuts” to move the Mediterranean campaign forward. (Chief O.P.D. to Chief Planning Group, HUSKY, April 18, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, 381].) For a continuation, see Marshall to Eisenhower, April 27, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-626 [3: 664-65].
2. A pioneer parachutist, Major General William C. Lee had been commander of the 101st Airborne Division since its activation in August 1942.
3. “Unless there is moonlight during the parachute attack the transport aircraft will not find their dropping zones,” Eisenhower replied on April 24. “This is a task requiring highest skill and it is a mandatory requirement of the air force rather than the parachute troops.” Fully aware of the disadvantage of moonlight, Eisenhower emphasized that “Admiral Cunningham’s opinion is that in view of the heavy scale of air attack under which the enemy will be held the possible menace of air attack by moonlight can be accepted in order to provide the conditions which the army and air regard as essential to success.” (Papers of DDE, 2: 1100.)
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 661-662.