4-346 To Winston S. Churchill, April 13, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 13, 1944

Subject: World War II

To Winston S. Churchill

April 13, 1944 Radio No. WAR-22810 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

TOPSEC for General Eisenhower’s eyes only from General Marshall.

Please deliver the following message from General Marshall to the Prime Minister:

“I have been delaying answer to your OZ1895 until the receipt of the proposed directive from your COS. I now learn from Dill that in all probability no directive will be proposed until an answer from me has been made to your personal message.1

We appear to be agreed in principle but quite evidently not as to method. If we are to have any option as to what we can do when the time comes, preparations for ANVIL must be made now even though they may be at the partial expense of future operations in Italy after the beachhead has been joined to the main line. Unless this has been done, in our view there will be no option, whereas if preparations for an ANVIL are made Wilson will have an amphibious force available to carry out another and perhaps a less difficult amphibious operation than ANVIL should the circumstances at the time make the latter appear inexpedient.

Furthermore, the urgency of our need for these landing craft in the Pacific at this particular period is very great. We have established a momentum in that theater and possess a decisive superiority in naval and aircraft and also an adequate force of ground troops. It is an exceedingly serious matter to hamstring this force, as it were, through the lack of the landing craft to implement its operations. This would result in the loss of the acquired momentum which means so much toward shortening the period of the war in the Pacific. This sacrifice in the Pacific can be justified only with the assurance that we are to have an operation in the effectiveness of which we have complete faith.”2

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. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill communicated with General Marshall through Field Marshal Sir John Dill on April 12, 1944. Churchill was convinced that OVERLORD could best be supported by a maximum effort in Italy. He stated that as it was the mission of Allied Mediterranean forces to pressure the Germans to commit the maximum number of divisions to fronts not related to OVERLORD, to accomplish this the highest priority must be given in Italy to linking the Anzio bridgehead with the main front of the American Fifth and the British Eighth armies. Churchill argued that Allied operations in Italy had already had this effect, adding that German strength commitments in Italy had even adversely affected their activities in southern Russia. He was convinced that the decision to implement ANVIL could not be taken until the Italian front had been stabilized and the initial results of OVERLORD evaluated. (Churchill to Marshall, Radio No. OZ-1895, April 12, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Dill had attached to Churchill’s message a handwritten note to Marshall: “I expected a revised draft directive for Wilson from the British Chiefs of Staff today, but none has yet come.” (Dill to Marshall, April 12, 1944, ibid.)

2. On April 16 Churchill expressed his regret that landing craft would not be diverted to the Mediterranean theater from the Pacific, since there was no definite date commitment to ANVIL. Churchill insisted that maximum effort must be maintained in Italy, and he could not bring himself “to agree before hand to starve a battle or have to break it off just at the moment when success, after long efforts and heavy losses, may be in view.” He argued that perceptions of a lack of commitment by the Allied high command to a full-scale effort in Italy would have a negative effect on Allied morale on the Italian front and that without Pacific theater landing craft there would be no two-division lift for any amphibious assault to break an Italian deadlock or even for ANVIL. “Dill tells me that you had expected me to support ANVIL more rigorously in view of my enthusiasm for it when it was first proposed by you at TEHERAN.” But, Churchill explained, that was before the Allied offensive in Italy bogged down south of Rome. He returned to the point that, regardless of apparent lack of Allied success in Italy, the Germans were committing to Italy the divisions that ANVIL had been designed to remove from the front of OVERLORD. The war in Italy must be continued, Churchill argued. “Therefore it seems to me we must throw our hearts into this battle for the sake of which so many American and British lives have already been sacrificed, and make it like OVERLORD an all out conquer or die.” (Churchill to Marshall, Radio No. OZ-1985, April 16, 1944, ibid.)

On April 16 the British Chiefs of Staff informed the Joint Staff Mission in Washington that “the difference between the U.S. Chiefs of Staff and ourselves remains since we cannot possibly agree, here and now, that preparations for an ANVIL should have priority over the continuation of the battle in Italy after the bridgehead has been joined with the main battle line.” The British Chiefs of Staff added that without the addition of Pacific theater landing craft to the Mediterranean, “the possibility of ANVIL, as a supporting operation to OVERLORD, is terminated.” (British Chiefs of Staff to Joint Staff Mission, COS [W] 1284, April 16, 1944, ibid.) For further information, see Marshall to Churchill, April 18, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-361 [4: 423-24].

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. 404-405.

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