5-015 To General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 8, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 8, 1945

Subject: World War II

To General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower

January 8, 1945 [Radio No. W-88777.] Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

For Eisenhower’s eyes only from Marshall.

General Macready1 of the British Mission brought me this morning a formal proposal from the British Chiefs of Staff for CCS [Combined Chiefs of Staff] action calling on you for a report as to your proposed plan of campaign following the suppression of the present German offensive and for the conquest of Germany. With this, for my eye only, was a discussion by the British Chiefs of Staff and their arguments regarding these matters: the fact, as they put it, that the original instructions of the CCS for primary pressure to be exerted against the Germans in the north towards Berlin had not been effectively carried out and on the contrary, judging by the number of divisions employed, etc., a major offensive effort had been launched from the Saar Basin south. They discussed the advisability of a single commander for the ground troops and proposed that at least the front be divided into two groups of armies only instead of three as at present. They feel that you have too many other pressing duties of supply, of political complexity, etc.; therefore a more concentrated direction of ground operations is required.

Macready, after discussing the matter with me stated that he would only present a brief of the British COS [Chiefs of Staff] discussions and would omit any reference to a single commander of ground troops and anything that possibly might be construed as a criticism.

In a radio yesterday we asked you to give us your views at the end of the week on the general situation. Under the circumstances I now think that we should have those here by Thursday night [January 11] so that there could be some discussion by the U.S. JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] before the combined meeting Friday afternoon.2

I am assuming, I think quite correctly, that this British paper stems from the Prime Minister’s visit to France and Montgomery’s evident pressures to get what he wants in the way of a larger command.3 I am familiar with his past efforts and I fully expected him to seize the present temporary assignment as a means to that end.

I see one weak point in our position which I should like you to think over and that refers to the command of the rear areas. Whether or not Lee is the right man does not answer the question. The trouble is, he is involved in both supplying the front and supplying himself. While the troops on the front suffer heavily and work with reduced numbers he has continued apparently to operate with plenty of fat meat.4 This awakens an inevitable suspicion in the minds of front line commanders as to the adequacy of the support they are receiving. We had exactly the same thing here, still have, though to a very mild degree at present, the continued suspicion by the Air Corps and the ground forces of Somervell’s people because the ASF is performing two functions, one for the Army at large and an overlapping one both in men and materiel, for itself. We have fairly well eliminated the most critical features of this, but only in the past ten days there was a proposal from the ASF to do away with the G-4 Division of the General Staff which happens to be the bulwark or reassurance for the remainder of the Army that their interests are impartially considered.

Somervell will talk to you about supply matters after he has had a brief chance to look over the ground and I told him to speak to you about Lear. The more I think of this the more it impresses me and Handy is of the same opinion, that Lear who is loyal, stern and drastic, and very soldierly, be made a deputy of yours for command of the rear areas with the head of the Supply Service subordinate to him.5

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. Lieutenant General Gordon N. Macready served as chief of the British Army Staff at the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington.

2. General Eisenhower replied on January 10 that “in order to concentrate north of the Ruhr all the forces needed for a successful invasion of Germany, we must have throughout the rest of the front a very firm defensive line which can be held with minimum forces.” By attaining the line of the Rhine River, the Allies could threaten the enemy at various points, forcing the enemy to disperse his forces, and make easier an invasion in the north. Unless the Allies held the Rhine substantially throughout its length, noted Eisenhower, “we have always to face up to the proposition that the enemy, protected by his very strong Siegried fortifications can concentrate swiftly for counter thrusts against our lines of communications.” In late October and early November, “Bradley’s directive called for him to make his principal effort toward Bonn-Cologne while his attacks in the south directed into the Saar Valley were to be definitely secondary to the northern attack with the object of drawing off enemy forces.” (Papers of DDE, 4: 2415-17.) “Our ultimate plan is to cross the Rhine north of the Ruhr in great force,” wrote Eisenhower. “From this we have never varied and the only differences in concepts of which I am aware involve the preliminary tasks that must be accomplished and the possible location of supporting attacks.” Future operations planned “(a) to defeat the enemy west of the Rhine and close the Rhine north of the Moselle; (b) to force the passage of the Rhine; (c) to advance east of the Rhine.” (Ibid., p. 2418.)

3. For previous information regarding Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery’s views on concentrating Allied power in northwest Europe under his command, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-542, #4-552, and #4-632 [4: 624, 636-37, and 720-21].

4. For information regarding Lieutenant General John C. H. Lee’s position to control the flow of supplies, see Marshall to Eisenhower, January 6, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-012 [5: 17-18].

5. Eisenhower replied on January 9 that he welcomed the arrival of Lieutenant General Ben Lear, who had been head of Army Ground Forces since July 1944. (Papers of DDE, 4: 2411.) For further information, see Marshall to Eisenhower, January 11, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-018 [5: 27-28].

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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 22-24.

Digital Downloads



, ,

Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 5-015

Rights: Public Information