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To Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower
August 28, 1942 [Radio No. R-166] [Washington, D.C.]
For General Eisenhower’s eyes only.
This message is for your private information and is not to be disclosed to anyone other than selected US members of your staff until the President has communicated his decision as indicated herein to the Prime Minister.
I have just completed a conference with the President. He is informing the Prime Minister that reply will be made to his TORCH messages in a few days, probably Monday.1 The President appears to have definitely repeat definitely decided that the initial operation must be a purely American one except for British naval forces, air forces and shipping, including combat loaders. Presumably the operation would necessarily be restricted to Oran and Casablanca. British troops are not to come in until at least a week after our landings. The President believes that if he has a week after we land he can arrange matters with the French so that there will be no complications to landings of British troops later. He feels that joint landings even though led by American troops will not suffice. The President is apparently unwilling to accept the hazards of a single line of communications through Gibraltar. He does not accept the British argument that the action indicated will mean the loss of Tunisia and possibly Algiers to the Germans. He also is impressed with the necessity from the U.S. viewpoint for the safeguarding of the South Atlantic. This consideration should not at any time be communicated to the British. The President is convinced that naval resources are not repeat not sufficient for the support of more than two landings. The President pictures the landing of some eighty thousand men in the two assault convoys and thinks such a number would be necessary to his political purposes.
I am convinced that the President has fully made up his mind as outlined above and that he intends to dictate that procedure.
The purpose of this message is to forewarn and to allow you to do such advance planning as is practicable under the circumstances. I caution you again that all the information contained herein must be communicated only to selected U S members of your staff until the President actually takes the decision and communicates it to the Prime Minister.
My first impression is that the Oran force will have to be made up in the main from American troops now in the British Isles and transported by British combat loaders. The Patton force augmented in accordance with the availability of combat loaders and other shipping will furnish the Casablanca force. The British air and naval forces provided by your outline plan will undoubtedly be required.
I am preparing a draft of a message from the President to the Prime Minister for submission to the President tomorrow, August 29 though he proposed preparing his own draft and did not request one from me.2 I would welcome your comments immediately, particularly as to the earliest date the operation as indicated herein can be launched and your rough estimate of what the British might do in the way of utilizing all the combat loaders and the necessary escorts to make the second move, that to the east of Oran.3
Document Copy Text Format: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 5, Item 9, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. Marshall had lunch at the White House on Friday, August 28, followed by a 2:00 P.M. conference with the president, attended also by Admirals William D. Leahy and Ernest J. King and Lieutenant General Henry H. Arnold. For Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill’s August 26 and 27 messages to President Roosevelt regarding TORCH, see Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 1: 575-79.
2. For Marshall’s draft see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-302 [3: 327-29].
3. On August 29 Eisenhower answered that October 25 was the earliest date for the attack but then wrote the next day that the first week of November was the earliest estimated date. (Papers of DDE, 1: 511-15.) “First of all the British will be greatly disturbed by the failure to include Algiers in the proposed assault,” replied Eisenhower. “They believe that Algiers is the softest spot, from our viewpoint, in the whole region and that its capture will have a profound effect throughout the theater whereas the taking of any other place might not be so effective.” As to British ability to stage an attack on Algiers, Eisenhower concluded that “if we use all British combat loading vessels to attack at Oran, the British themselves cannot attack at Algiers and to the eastward of that place until the combat loaders have gone back to England, reloaded and returned to the Mediterranean. Since the route the convoys are compelled to follow requires eighteen days for one way passage, it is obvious that any attack at Algiers would have to follow the one at Oran by at least six to seven weeks.” This estimate was based on the French not capitulating. (Ibid., pp. 511-13.)
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. 325-327.