4-341 To Major General John R. Deane, April 11, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 11, 1944

Subject: World War II

To Major General John R. Deane

April 11, 1944 Radio No. WAR-21660-M-81 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

TOPSEC for Deane Moscow from The Joint Chiefs of Staff.1

The rapid advance of the Russian forces into Rumania, coupled with the developing situation in the Crimea, suggests the possibility that there might be some unfortunate contacts between U. S. Strategic Air Forces and Russian Air Forces. Recognizing the primary interest of the Russians in all that pertains to the conduct of the campaign in Rumania and over the Black Sea, we would like you to inquire of the appropriate Russian officials whether or not they would care to indicate where and when they did not desire activity by U. S. Strategic Air Forces.2

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-21660, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. General Marshall dictated this message.

2. Deane replied on April 17 from Moscow that he would see the Red Army deputy chief of staff, General Alexsey Antonov, sometime between April 19 and 21 concerning the coordination of air operations in the Balkans. The delay was necessary, explained Deane, as General Antonov was at the front and not immediately available. (Deane to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 17, 1944, In Log, p. 201-A, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Message Log].) General Marshall replied to Deane on April 18: “Our forces are now operating within 60 miles of each other and the hazard of American fighters shooting down Russian bombers is very real. I deplore the fact that you must wait until April 19 to 21 to attempt to adjust this matter because we may have an ugly incident on our hands and yet we must not stop our assaults on German communications in the Balkans if it can be avoided.” Marshall urged Deane to find a speedy resolution to the problem, adding that weather considerations combined with communication difficulties with the Russians might impede American bombing operations. (Marshall to Deane, Radio No. WAR-24648, April 18, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Deane responded on April 19 that a permanent solution to the problem was impossible due to the absence of senior Russian generals at the front, but that consultation with Major General N. V. Slavin, Red Army General Staff, had produced a temporary bomb halt-line (Constantsa-Bucharest-PolestiBudapest). Once General Antonov returned, Deane would propose that the Red Army accept American air liaison officers to be stationed with commands of the Red Army Southern Front. (Deane to Marshall, Radio No. 446, April 19, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected]. John R. Deane, The Strange Alliance: The Story of Our Efforts at Wartime Co-operation with Russia [New York: Viking Press, 1946], pp. 126-30.) Repeated American proposals to send liaison officers to field headquarters were denied by the Russian General Staff, who insisted that air activities must be coordinated in Moscow.

The potential “ugly incident,” of which General Marshall warned on April 18, occurred on November 7, 1944. As a result of the appearance on the map of two areas as identical and a lack of coordination between American and Russian forces, a squadron of American P-38s strafed a Russian troop column between Nis and Aleksinac in Yugoslavia, and they attacked nine Soviet planes. Twenty Russian automobiles with equipment were destroyed and casualties included the Russian commander Lieutenant General Kotov and two officers and three men. Three Soviet planes were shot down and two pilots were killed. Two American planes were shot down. The unusual combination of circumstances created an unavoidable accident that could not be foreseen. “However,” recalled Deane, “the chances of its occurrence would have been minimized had we had representatives with each of the Red Army front commanders who would have kept our Air Forces informed of Russian dispositions and troop movements.” (Ibid., pp. 131-34.) American apologies and the relief of the American squadron commander seemingly satisfied the Russians. American liaison teams thereafter joined Russian units in the field on an informal basis, although eventually Red Army headquarters in Moscow found out and ordered such American-Russian relationships immediately halted. In December 1944 Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker notified the Russians where the U.S. Army Air Forces were to operate, thereby putting the burden of preventing clashes on the Russians. “Thereafter we had little difficulty as far as our Balkan co-ordination was concerned,” wrote Deane, “because we adopted a firm policy of simply informing the Russians of our intentions and putting the responsibility on them of avoiding conflicts.” (Ibid., pp. 135-39. Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., Europe: ARGUMENT to V-E Day, January 1944 to May 1945, a volume in The Army Air Forces in World War II [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951], pp. 748-49.)

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. 399-400.

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