Chapter 9: Prior Claims Versus BOLERO, April 1942
The work done on the BOLERO plan in Washington during the spring of 1942 was an exercise as useful in its way as maneuvers and rehearsals by troops in training. It was excellent practice for the planners to try to fit the next movements of men and equipment to the British Isles into a long-range program running well into 1943. But it was still an exercise. Outside the War Department no one was much disposed to decide current questions in accordance with the effect on operations in 1943. Four cases of great importance came up during April in which expectations created by established American policies conflicted with projected requirements for concentration in the British Isles. They involved conflicts between (1) the defense of the Middle East and AAF plans, (2) the claims of China and British-American plans, (3) the Soviet lend-lease program and War Department plans, and (4) the defense of the Pacific “line” Hawaii–Australia and BOLERO. The outcome of these conflicts, largely dependent on highly unpredictable military developments, was so uncertain that long-range planning by the military staffs necessarily remained exploratory and controversial, in spite of the agreement in principle on concentration in the British Isles.
The Defense of the Middle East
The support of the British position in the Middle East was the least well defined of the prior claims on American men and matériel that existed at the time of the beginning of BOLERO planning. In March the President had so acted as to support the British without sending American forces there. While renewing the understanding that the British should retain full responsibility for the Middle East, he had supplemented lend-lease commitments by agreeing to put at their disposal tonnage sufficient to move 40,000 troops for reinforcing the Middle East command and had agreed to send two American divisions to the Southwest Pacific so that an Australian and a New Zealand division might remain in the Middle East.1
What the United States must directly contribute to the defense of the Middle East remained uncertain. The War Department had left in statu quo the missions—North African. Iranian, and Russian set up in the fall of 1941 to supervise the moving, storing, and transfer of lend-lease supplies and equipment in the Middle East. The heads of these missions were dissatisfied with the help received from the British authorities
on whose co-operation they depended, with the limitations of the small staffs under them (mainly civilian technicians), and with the facilities and the local labor at their disposal. The solution was to send then service troops trained and equipped to do the job.2
There were two objections to this solution, both of which had been raised soon after Pearl Harbor, when General Maxwell of the North African mission had requested U.S. service troops for the Middle East. One objection, which had been decisive at the time, was the lack of troopships. The other was based on reasons of policy—American combat forces were not due to be sent to the Middle East, and the War Department, therefore, should not send service troops, since service troops should go only to “areas where they will eventually come under the control of a theater commander of our own combat forces.”3 The War Department had refused Maxwell’s request, although it had not entirely ruled out the possibility of favorable action later in the year.4 Both General Somervell (then G-4) and Col. Henry S. Aurand (Defense Aid Director) had concurred, although they believed that the War Department should adopt only on a temporary basis the policy of not sending service troops to the Middle East.5 General Eisenhower had agreed with them, remarking:
It seems foolish to put a lot of expensive equipment into a place and then let it deteriorate because of lack of maintenance. If translated into ship-tons we’d probably find it cheaper to provide tech. maintenance units than to ship more material.6
Eisenhower’s advice, during the emergence of March, was to do everything possible to help the British except to send combat troops:
For many reasons the combat units in this region should be British, but our interest in the whole matter is such that we should give the British every possible encouragement and assistance in building up the defenses now. For example, I would go as far as to strip American mechanized units down to bare training requirements, and to find every, possible pursuit and bomber airplane that could be dispatched to the area without damaging our ability to expand, provided only the British will guarantee to have the trained units there to operate this equipment effectively.7
The reasons why the British Empire should continue to furnish the combat units in the ‘Middle East were many. Two of the most obvious and most serious were not discussed formally. One was that some American observers distrusted the competence and the tactical doctrine of the British
command in Egypt.8 To commit inexperienced American combat troops to the Libyan front would be to risk serious public criticism should they stiffer heavy casualties or should they be involved in a major defeat. A second reason was that American forces stationed in other parts of the Middle East would be replacing Empire forces whose duties were not only to defend but also to occupy the territory, and would thereby become involved in highly controversial questions of British Middle Eastern policy.
These reasons applied mainly against sending ground forces, and for, the time outweighed the one strong reason for sending ground forces—economy in the use of shipping. The United States by sending divisions direct to the Middle East could achieve a net saving in the use of shipping by reducing movements from the United States to the British Isles and from the British Isles to the Middle East, thereby not only cutting miles-per-ton but also eliminating one series of loading and unloading operations and decreasing traffic in the dangerous waters of the northeastern Atlantic. In March Admiral King therefore raised the question of sending American divisions to the Middle East, and Sir John Dill took it tip with General Marshall.9 Marshall opposed the move as a further dispersion of American forces. He also objected to intermixing American forces in a predominantly Empire theater, observing that it would be hard to arrange for their supply and command. Marshall objected also to the alternative, suggested by Sir John Dill, that U.S. troops should defend the Syria line, replying that this would take too long.10
But at the same time, in response to British requests, Marshall offered to send American air forces to Egypt—five groups, the planes to come out of British allocations, the United States furnishing personnel and auxiliary equipment.11
General Marshall explained his position to the President. He spoke of the “disastrous consequences” of the loss of the Middle East, which would allow German and Japanese forces to join in the Indian Ocean. He went on:
Agreements with the British, prior to December 7, have always placed the Middle East in the sphere of exclusive British responsibility. However, the critical nature of the present situation is such that I have already informed Sir John Dill that the War Department stood ready to assist. in every practicable way, in improving Middle East defenses.
He noted that the United States could help with personnel, but not with planes. He concluded:
Of course, the meat of the situation is the necessity of meeting our responsibilities in the Southwest Pacific, the reinforcement of Alaskan defenses, and, above all, the gathering of air power in England.12
Secretary Stimson took strong exception to General Marshall’s willingness to concede so much to the defense of Egypt. He thought the opening declaration on the consequences of the loss of the Middle East
to be an “overstatement” and regretted that Marshall had committed the War Department to do everything possible to help in the crisis. On the project of sending air forces to the Middle East he remarked, “I don’t see how we can do any of this.” On the concluding paragraph listing the other American tasks, he remarked, “This should have been put first.” Secretary Stimson himself ended by saying:
The Middle East is the very last priority of all that are facing us. We have foreseen for months that the British would be howling for help here that we really should not give them—and I think now is the time to stand pat.13
To equip American air units with British planes for employment in a British theater, as Marshall had offered to do, presented a way out of an impasse in combined planning—the irreconcilability of scheduled plane allocations to the British and the projected expansion of American air forces. At the end of the ARCADIA Conference General Arnold had agreed with Sir Charles Portal, the British Chief of Air Staff, on a tentative schedule of allocations to the British from American production of 1942.14 But by March Arnold was intent on reducing allocations to the British. These allocations and the requirements for the expansion of American air forces, added to other estimated requirements (principally Soviet lend-lease schedules and commitments to the Pacific) gave a total far exceeding expected American production. According to Arnold, the effect of satisfying the British would be to cut by more than one half the projected expansion of American air forces.
He contended that deliveries to the British could be cut back since they already had relatively large reserves.15
Early in April, when Marshall’s proposal to concentrate American forces in the British Isles was under discussion in London, Secretary Stimson himself took to the President General Arnold’s case for reducing plane allocations to the British. On 9 April he reported:
I showed the President the charts showing the present allocation of the pooled production of the U.S. and U.K., and he seemed much impressed by the fact that the U.S. was getting so little of the production. He asked if our Air Corps knew what the British were doing with all of their allotments. I told him that I did not think that we knew ... I left the charts with him and also the memorandum with tabs.16
Three days later the Secretary wrote to the President an eloquent presentation of General Arnold’s case. He owned that he himself had not understood how long it took to complete the training of air forces for combat and how costly it was to slight the later stages of training, in which specialized units were developed, using the equipment they
would use in combat and dealing with situations resembling those they would actually meet in combat. The Secretary therefore urged on the President the need for reallocation, and stated in general terms the policy that seemed to him required by the proposal Marshall and Hopkins had taken to London:
The sum and substance of this is that, unless we art, to court disaster in our corning efforts of “holding” and “striking” during this year of crisis, we must at once lend our major effort to accumulating and training the Air Forces which we have planned for the purpose of holding our vital indispensable key positions and striking the blow which we hope will save Russia. Not an hour can be spared. Not a plane can be unnecessarily given away. We are so far behind that it will require Herculean efforts to catch up.17
The project of sending air groups to Cairo had meanwhile been held in abeyance.18 Finally, as a result of the negotiations in London, the project was dropped, partly in order to send reinforcements to the Tenth Air Force—to help meet the incursion of the Japanese in the Indian Ocean—and, more generally, in order to go ahead with the BOLERO plan, which was due to absorb all available American air units.19 General Marshall’s proposal to concentrate American forces in the British Isles thus entailed the disappointment of British expectations in the Middle Fast that he himself had encouraged. It reopened, moreover, the very question of strategic policy that his offer of air units had beers intended to settle, at least temporarily-the question of allocations of planes to the British.20
Anglo-American Collaboration and the Support of China
General Marshall’s readiness to collaborate with the British in the defense of the Middle East and India—an essential condition of British co-operation in mounting an offensive from the British Isles—was extremely difficult to reconcile with the development of the program of aid to China. The difficulty became conspicuous at the beginning of April when the minuscule Tenth Air Force was diverted to the mission of bombing the Andaman Islands, recently seized by the Japanese as a further move into the Indian Ocean. During early April the danger in the Indian Ocean became evident, with the appearance of a strong Japanese naval force which conducted air raids on Ceylon and against the Indian coast and sank two British cruisers 1 the Dorsetshire and Cornwall) and an aircraft carrier (the Hermes). On April 14 General Marshall sent word from London that the British Chiefs were greatly concerned and “most urgently” required, American naval assistance
and American air units, particularly bombers, in the Indian theater. The consequences, should the Japanese succeed in extending naval control into the Western Indian Ocean, would be disastrous for the Allied position in the Middle East. Marshall directed Eisenhower and Arnold to inform Admiral King and send him “its quickly as possible your appreciation and it proposed reply.”21
The War Department reply, read and approved by the President, agreed that the British did need everything they requested. but indicated that the Ignited States could not then send so much. The Navy could not release any major fleet unit for use in the Indian Ocean, but Admiral King was willing to use the aircraft carrier Ranger to ferry pursuit planes across the Atlantic. The planes could be assembled en route, then flown off to land on the west coast of Africa and follow the ferry route to India. The Army Air Forces had no planes available for transfer to India or the Middle Fast, but there were in the United States planes allotted to the British—including bombers whose departure for England had been held up by the congestion of the north Atlantic ferry route—that could be diverted at once. The message proposed alternative plans to use the bombers to bring the Tenth Air Force to full operational strength at once, or to ferry them to India (with American crews) and turn the planes over to the British on arrival. The War Department pointed out that there was some doubt in Washington whether there were trained British pilots and crews in India to operate the planes tinder the second alternative. The message concluded:
We desire to remind you that the Tenth Air Force has been assigned to General Stilwell with an original purpose of supporting his operations. Since this diversion of the Tenth Air Force to another mission will adversely affect the Chinese situation and Stilwell’s operations we deem it especially important that no attempt be made to divert any of the airplanes required to keep the AVG at full operational strength and that former assurances to the Generalissimo and Stilwell in this regard be adhered to.22
General Marshall decided in favor of reinforcing the Tenth Air Force with planes allocated to the British and placing it under the strategic: direction of the British for operations in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, at the same time attempting to placate the Chinese Government by giving first priority, so far as pursuit planes were concerned, to building up the AVG.23 The War Department so notified General Stilwell, adding an explanation to be given the Generalissimo:
The Naval situation in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean has deteriorated seriously in the past few days and the threat against Calcutta and the Eastern coast of India is critical not only to India itself but to our future ability to assist China. We deem it of transcendent importance to establish speedily sonic air protection along this coast to avoid risk of destruction of the British
Eastern Navy, which would open tip northeast India to invasion and permit the enemy to cut air communications into China.24
Stilwell, who had not been consulted, protested the decision in view of its probable effect on the Chinese Government, which had had a series of disappointments, including the news that the Doolittle mission would be carried out as planned, in spite of the objections of the Chinese.25 The real problem, which was vet to be explained to the Chinese, or indeed to Stilwell himself, was not that British requirements in the Middle East and India—as was strategically necessary—took precedence over commitments to China, but that even the minimum British requirements could scarcely be n-:et if the United States and Great Britain were to carry out General `Marshall’s proposal for the concentration of forces in the British Isles. If the primary effect of the BOLERO plan would be to leave very precarious the British position in the Middle East and India, its secondary effect would certainly be to leave nothing but token forces available to support China.
At this point Chinese suspicions and discontent in the face of British-American military collaboration at last emerged in full force in the form of a message from Chiang Kai-shek to T. V. Soong in Washington, which Soong sent to the President via Mr. Hopkins.26 The burden of the complaint was that the disposition of American forces and—even more important-the distribution of American munitions were worked out by the United States in close collaboration with the British, without consulting the Chinese, and, moreover, without giving the same consideration to commitments to China or the demands of China that was given to commitments to the Soviet Union and demands of the Soviet Union. The text of Chiang’s telegram to Soong read as follows:
With what has been happening lately. I am afraid you could no longer avoid having a frank Heart-to-heart talk with the President, which I am sure he will not misunderstand. As you know. I have to fight continually against demoralizing doubts on the part of my officers, who concluded that American attitude towards China is in essence no different from that held by other nations, that both in the all-important matters of joint-staff conferences and war supplies, China is treated not as an equal like Britain and Russia, but as a ward.
The President has consistently shown himself to be the one great friend of China, and I may say on our part we have been loyally responsive. We have placed Chinese armies under American command. and we have shown every readiness to support American policies, sometimes even against our own judgment. All that we have and all that we are, we truly and unreservedly contribute to the cause of the United Nations.
What a contrast this is to the attitude of the British and Russians who, whenever it concerns their own interests, will not make concessions in the general interest, so that to this day they will not concede to the United States the direction and the location of the Supreme Military Council. The result of this noncooperation is that there is in existence no organization to formulate and execute over-all strategy, and every country looks to its own immediate interests, so that the Axis is successfully imposing its grand strategy. What a difference there is between our attitude towards the United States and that of Britain and Russia
If in future the Anglo-American joint staff is not enlarged to include China, and China
is kept out of the Munitions Assignments Board. then China would be just a pawn in the game. Gandhi told me when I visited India: “They will never voluntarily treat us Indians as equals: why, they do not even admit your country to their stall talks.” If we are thus treated during the stress of war, what becomes our position at the peace conference? You must insist that we have our own stand, and we have our own independent position to uphold.27
The long commentary that Soong wrote for the President to accompany this message made the same points. He concluded:
Finally, the Generalissimo feels himself entirely out of touch with the main decisions of strategy, which profoundly affect China’s future. Whether an offensive will start from Australia, whether it is considered feasible to hold Burma, what steps are taken to protect the Indian Ocean route, what air forces will be sent to India. Burma and China. on all these vital questions his role is that of an occasional listener. Also, be it remembered it is from these decisions of strategy that stems the question of allocations of munitions.28
In this conclusion Soong hit the vital point of the whole issue. The development of effective British-American collaboration on strategic plans, begun at General Marshall’s instance during the ARCADIA Conference and leading to the adoption of his proposal for concentration of American and British forces in the British Isles, was entirely contrary to the desires and interests of the Chinese Government. Whatever Soong may then have known of the BOLERO plan—and he was generally well informed about current developments in Washington—the plan would unquestionably entail the postponement of am’ American efforts to help China on a sufficiently large scale to prevent the further deterioration of relations with China. It remained to be seen whether the President would accept this consequence.
The Soviet Lend-Lease Program
A third conflict between previous commitments and the new strategy developed in the War Department had to do with the Soviet lend-lease program. In the First ( Moscow ) Protocol of October 1941 the United States had undertaken to deliver to the Soviet Union each month through June 1942 given quantities of supplies. After the attack on Pearl Harbor the American armed forces had taken over critical munitions and ships, including those allocated to the Soviet Union under the Moscow Protocol.29 The President had tried to put a stop to the diversion of munitions allocated to the Soviet Union and had warned that any deficits would have to be made up by 1 April.30 This was easier said than done.31 How critical the shipping shortage was, the President himself was forced to recognize at the ARCADIA Conference, at the end of which
he reluctantly consented to the diversion of seven cargo ,ships allocated to the Soviet lend-lease program, in order to move supplies and equipment to the Southwest Pacific.32 Finally, in the middle of March 1942 he flatly insisted that the commitments to the USSR he met. He directed that Mr. Nelson of the War Production Board get materials “released for shipment at the earliest possible date regardless of the effect of these shipments of any other part of our war program.”33 At the same time he Instructed Admiral Land of the War Shipping Administration that “the meeting of the Russian Protocol must have a first priority in shipping.”34 As a result of these orders, shipments to the Soviet Union rose in March to more than 200,000 short tons and in April to nearly 450,000 short tons, as against about 375,000 short tons shipped between October 1941 and March 1942, bringing the cumulative total to over 1,000,000 tons. This was still only about half of what the United States had undertaken to export by the end of June.35
To meet the June deadline while bringing the Pacific garrisons to authorized strength would require an intensive effort, rigidly restricting other projects. But the temporary effect was of far less concern to the War Department (and to the Navy Department) than the long-range effects of the President’s intention, which he announced soon thereafter, of renewing American commitments to the Soviet Union on the same basis for the period July–December 1942.36 In his directive to the Secretary of War, he wrote:
I understand that, froth a strategical point of view, the Army and Navy feel that aid to Russia should he continued and expanded to maximum extent possible. consistent with shipping possibilities and the vital needs of the united States, the British Commonwealth of Nations and others of the United Nations. I share such a view.37
The War Department did indeed believe in continuing and expanding aid to the Soviet Union, but only insofar as it would not interfere with preparations to open a “new front in Europe.”38 Marshall soon had occasion to point out the limitation on lend-lease aid that was implicit in this view of strategy.
The projected invasion of the Continent could be expected to affect, first of all, allocations of critical equipment needed by units undertaking advanced training—especially planes. Of all critical items they
were in greatest demand by foreign governments and by American commands overseas. Of all the Army training programs, moreover, the program for training air units was by far the most exigent in its demands for extended advanced training with precisely the equipment the units would use in combat. Allocations to the Soviet Union were Involved only indirectly in Arnold’s recommendations at the end of March. He contended himself with observing that any increase in allocations to the Soviet Union “should be met by an even further reduction in commitments to the British,” in order to obtain the net reduction he considered to be necessary.39 Secretary Stimson agreed with Arnold that the immediate step to be taken was to cut allocations to the British, on the ground that they already had reserves beyond what they needed for operations or could use in training. But he concluded his recommendations on policy with it sweeping statement that specifically included allocations to the Soviet Union:
All requests for planes for areas not essential to our own plans must be refused. The time is past for all gift, of planes—all gifts of planes based upon sentimental or good will development purposes. The time may even soon come when we will have to determine whether more effective, efforts to save Russia ill he made through our own air force; rather than through the planes turned over to her air forces.40
At the end of the month Marshall made the same point. In the course of discussion by the JCS on the allocation of planes as between the United States and Great Britain, he stated that “while no change should be made in delivery of planes in accordance with existing protocol, the number of planes to Russia would have to be drastically reduced, if not altogether stopped, by August or, at the latest, in September.41
The problem Was by no means peculiar to the development of air power nor equally serious for all aspects of the air program itself. The most critical issue of all at the tune was the allocation of transport planes. The settlement of this issue would therefore constitute a test case. Transport planes had not been listed in the Moscow Protocol, but ice November 1941 Soviet representatives had requested 600 transport planes over a six-month period, later reducing the number to 400, and finally asking for an immediate allocation of 100 and 25 a month thereafter.42 At the beginning of April the Munitions Assignments Board found it necessary to review proposed allocations of transport planes for the rest of 1942.43 The War Department submitted to the Munitions Assignments Committee (Air) the Army’s requirements as estimated by the AAF.44 Having measured these and other requirements against expected production, the Munitions Assignments Board acceded to the Soviet request to the extent of allocating twenty-nine transport planes to the Soviet Union for May and June. Arnold
was “emphatically opposed” to this action, and on his initiative the JCS requested the CCS to disapprove it.45 The JCS pointed out that the number of transport planes available was “entirely insufficient to meet urgent and pressing needs,” and that it was then and had “for some time been impossible to assign more than a very few transport airplanes to the important mission of training parachute and air-borne troops. which constitute an essential component for the contemplated U.S. effort.” The JCS concluded:
To meet the training, requirements for and to have in combat the 200 transport airplanes in August and the 400 transport airplanes in November, which have been allocated for the main effort. and to provide. in addition, the essential minimum requirements of the U.S. Ferrying Command. Air Service Command, and for overseas arias where the U.S. Army Air Forces are operating, will require every transport plane that is now available or that can be provided by the entire U.S. production.46
On 21 April the CCS considered the recommendation. The question was evidently one of a conflict between military and political considerations. In the discussion by the CCS, Rear Adm. John H. Towers, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, “stressed the importance of making at least a small allocation to Russia in view of the political considerations.47 Sir John Dill observed that in case no transport planes should be allotted to the Soviet Union, “it would be necessary. to give a very well-reasoned explanation.” Marshall agreed that “a very carefully phrased reply would have to be made. He observed that “the operational effect of such a small number of aircraft in Russia would be small although the political effect might be considerable. For the projected cross-Channel invasion, on the other hand, even small numbers of planes were, at the time, of first importance. Marshall explained:
The next three months were the critical ones and it As essential not to cut down training facilities. During his visit to England he had seen exercises carried out by British airborne formations and the number of aircraft available [to U.S. forces] for this important form of training (17) [transports] was hopelessly inadequate.
After considering the statements of General Arnold and General Marshall, the CCS agreed to countermand the order of the Munitions Assignments Board.48
The subject was not closed. Before the CCS had considered the JCS recommendation, Admiral Towers had proposed, in a memorandum to Admiral King, that the recommendation should “be held in abeyance and the subject be again brought up before the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Admiral Towers’ principal points were that the MAB had acted in complete awareness of the military and political implications, that what Art old had wanted the CCS to do wags to “repudiate a firm agreement” simply to benefit the Army, and that CCS action was in any event useless, since Mr. Hopkins, as an. individual, will get the President to overrule any such decision of the Combined Chiefs of Staff.” The memorandum concluded with the postscript, “There are many other transports in hands of Air Force that
could be assigned to parachute troop training.”49
On the day following the CCS decision Admiral King forwarded Admiral Towers’ memorandum to General Marshall, noting: “I am impressed with the above presentation-and think you should know of it.”50 On 27 April Marshall replied at considerable length. On the assumption that Admiral ‘Powers was “not fully informed” of the BOLERO plan, Marshall explained that a critical weakness in the initial proposal made to the British had been the lack of planes to transport parachute troops, airborne infantry, and gliders, and that future allocations would not serve to train units for the invasion “in view of the time schedule under which we are directed to operate.” On the basis of AAF estimates he analyzed United States needs and showed that allocations fell short by 379 planes. He concluded:
In the circumstances I can no more agree to the diversion of additional transport plane equipment to Russia, while charged with a primary responsibility for the preparation of a major offensive, which will require an heroic effort if launched in 1942, than you could approve the diversion of your ships from naval task forces forming for operations in the immediate. future. Neither of us can be expected to fight a war and still give away our weapons beyond some reasonable point. As far as I am concerned, we have passed that point in aircraft.51
At the same time Marshall also submitted to the President a full explanation of the critical need for transport planes, accompanied by a statement of his views on lend-lease shipments to the Soviet Union. He believed that shipments to the Soviet Union should be increased “in every practicable way,” and hoped in particular to furnish the Red Army “with greater strength in mechanized , items.” But he reiterated his belief that whatever help the United States might send, “the greatest service to Russia will be a landing on the European continent in 1942, and we must not jeopardize that operation or risk the sacrifice of the troops engaged by scattering the vital matériel required for what we know will be a hazardous undertaking.” He therefore recommended “that we undertake no commitment involving the provision of transport airplanes for Russia.”52
Marshall had also to counter a proposal, which had been made to the JCS by the American members of the Munitions Assignments Board, that, in lieu of military transports from current production, the United States should transfer to the Soviet Union a “reasonable number” of transports from commercial airlines.53 Marshall and Arnold were both opposed to this proposal, and the JCS accordingly disapproved it.54 According to AAF, about fifty planes could be taken from the commercial airlines without disrupting services essential to the war effort.55 The Army was reluctant to originate a proposal to take over transports from commercial airlines. However, as Marshall recognized, Soviet representatives “resented
the large civil air services still running.”56 If the President should then decide to reduce those services, it was logical, in view of the large deficit expected, that the Army should get the planes withdrawn. Marshall therefore recommended to the President that “all transport planes of the U.S. Commercial airlines be immediately earmarked for Army use,” being left “in their present status until required for military operations.”57
The President replied that he “fully” appreciated the needs of the Army, but could not See why, if the Army and Navy needed planes, It was enough simply to earmark commercial transports for future military use. He asked just how many commercial transports there were in the United States and that they could do, observing: “The old expression ‘pigs is pigs’ should be translated into the modern terms ‘planes is planes.’”58 The Secretary of War thereupon undertook to see what further reductions could be made.59
Although not satisfied with the Army’s cautious approach to the question of commercial transports, the President was apparently satisfied that the Army’s need for transport planes was critical.60 On 1 May Brig. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith circulated among the members of the JCS a proposed draft of a letter for Hopkins to use in informing the Soviet ambassador that the United States would not furnish transport planes to the Soviet Union as requested, and explaining why. The explanation was the same that General Marshall had written to Admiral King and to the President, except that it was not accompanied by definite figures, it did riot allude to British doubts, and it dwelt even more oil the interest of the Soviet Union in foregoing equipment essential to an early Invasion of the Continent.61 On 7 May Marshall learned that Hopkins had acted. although he had not used the letter offered by the JCS, but instead had made the explanation himself, orally, “preferring to handle the refusal by personal contact.”62
The Immediate Reinforcement of the Pacific
During April, while raising the question of the eventual subordination of the Soviet lend-lease program to the BOLERO plan, the War Department also restated and defended the thesis that BOLERO schedules should take precedence over any new commitments of Army forces to the Pacific. The debate began on 29 March, four days after the War Department project for concentration
in the British Isles had gone to the President. when Admiral King sent to General Marshall a protest over the allocation of Arm aircraft to the Pacific:
In my opinion the strength of the air forces planned to be sent to Australia, to the South Pacific, and to the Hawaiian Islands is inadequate to implement surely and effectively the strategic concept on which the detailed plans are based.
He objected specifically to the idea of relying on the diversion of the bombers assigned to Generals MacArthur and Emmons in case of an attack in the South Pacific. He was dubious of support from either source—from MacArthur since he was independent of Navy control, front Emmons since he was too far away and needed to keep all his bombers in Hawaii. Admiral King therefore recommended that “at least one heavy bomber group should be assigned to the South Pacific Area in addition to all aircraft planned by J.C.S. 23.”63
The essential difference between Admiral King’s view of Pacific strategy and the War Department view was that he proposed to “implement surely and effectively” the aim of holding the line Hawaii–Australia, whereas the War Department insisted on stopping at half-way measures that might or might not slow down a Japanese thrust enough to give the United States time to react. Admiral King did not repudiate the general idea of concentrating large American forces against Germany, but only the idea—the key to the War Department plan of commencing to do so while the issue In the Pacific was still in doubt. He held that the needs of the Pacific. “although possibly smaller than those of Europe,” were “more urgent in point of time,” and therefore recommended not only that the Army assign one group of heavy bombers to the South Pacific but also that
... movement of Army units, and particularly air forces, to positions in the Pacific be given priority over movements to Europe and to the Indian Ocean and Middle East Theaters.64
The War Department reply came a few days later after the President had decided to send Hopkins and Marshall to London. The War Department stood by its earlier figures on deployment and the reasoning behind them, and cited in support the President’s “tentative decision” in favor of initiate concentration in the British Isles, thus giving notice that the War Department, as was to be expected, meant to appeal to that “decision” in order to close off further debate on deployment to the Pacific.65
The President, however, had already reopened the debate by asking the JCS to re-study the “adequacy of defenses of the Fiji Islands and Caledonia, concerning which the governments of Australia and New Zealand were no less uneasy and dissatisfied than was the Navy Department. The JCS. in order to be able to comply with the President’s request, initiated a review of Pacific deployment as a whole.66 From the beginning, the Army and Navy planners faced the prospect of a deadlock on the point in JCS 23 to Admiral Kirtz had objected—the allocation of bombers to the South Pacific. A special joint subcommittee, the senior planners. and the JCS in turn
reviewed the arguments.67 At each stage they ran into flat disagreement. Navy representatives insisted on the need to station bombers at the strong points on the lines of communication. Army representatives argued that bomber forces should be shifted to these point, when it appeared necessary, from Hawaii and Australia. They acknowledged that this course involved greater risks, but repeated the argument that the risks must be accepted in order to go ahead with plans for a bomber force in the British Isles.68
A month of study and fruitless debate ended, early in May, with a deadlock. Admiral King then submitted to the JCS a formal restatement of his objection to the Army views. He pointed out that the Japanese were free to attack wherever they pleased and stated his belief that they would do so in such force that it was far from certain that the American defenses would “hold.” He then referred to the earlier Japanese exploitation of the weakness of Allied forces “spread out too thin,” urging that we must not commit the same error in the Pacific Ocean Areas.” He concluded:
Important as the mounting of BOLERO may be, the Pacific problem is not less so, and is certainly the more urgent—it must be faced now. Quite apart froth any idea of future advance in this theater we must see to it that we are actually able to maintain our present positions. We must not permit diversion of our forces to any proposed operation in another theater to the extent that we find ourselves unable to fulfill our obligation to implement our basic strategic plan in the Pacific theater, which is to hold what we have against any attack that the Japanese are capable of launching against us.69
The JCS could agree only to submit the disagreement to the President.70
Meantime the issue had become still broader. While the JCS had been disputing, the President had taken under consideration claims of the Australian Government and of General MacArthur. They had for some time been representing a large-scale Japanese attack on Australia as imminent.71 Late in April Prime Minister Curtin of Australia reopened with Prime Minister Churchill the subject of the return of Dominion forces to Australia. Specifically, Mr. Curtin proposed diverting to Australia two British divisions (one of them an armored division) due to be sent to India “until such time as the 9th Australian Imperial Force Division and the remainder of the 6th Division are returned.” He also transmitted a proposal that the British send
an aircraft carrier to add to MacArthur’s naval forces and a request for additional shipping on the run from Australia to the United States.72
What gave these proposals a peculiar character was Mr. Curtin’s explanation that he was presenting them at the request of MacArthur. The British Prime Minister sent them to the President, expressing curiosity to know whether the President or his Pacific War Council had passed on them and whether MacArthur had “any authority from the United States for taking such a line.” Though Churchill ruled out these proposals as unsound, on the ground that India was in greater danger than Australia, he considered them to be “none the less a cause of concern when put forward on General MacArthur’s authority.”73 The President, too, was concerned, being somewhat uneasy (as Admiral King reported) over the use Curtin had made of MacArthur’s opinions.74
The War Department, called upon to comment on Churchill’s message, suggested that the proposals be taken as coming—as earlier ones to the same effect had come—from Mr. Curtin, on his own responsibility, and offered the explanation that in Melbourne it. might seem natural and proper to present them as MacArthur’s estimate of what was needed to meet the situation with which they were jointly preoccupied. It had been assumed in Washington, to be sure, that MacArthur, since he was operating under the direction of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, would transmit his recommendations to Washington. The War Department had in fact lately received from him a request for aircraft carriers, and had told him that they were “not now available.” But the War Department had received no request for snore transpacific shipping nor for the British divisions destined for India. MacArthur to send all such requests to the War Department proposed to tell CCS, who would then bring tip for consideration by the CCS an involving British forces. This point having been cleared up, the British Prime Minister might rest assured that “any request reaching you from Mr. Curtin is made upon his own responsibility.75
The proposed message, drawn up by the War Department, was acceptable to the President, so far as it went. He only added that, if Churchill liked, he would himself urge Curtin not to press for the release of the Australian divisions.76 The President had to do rather more to satisfy MacArthur, who took very ill the War Department statement of policy governing his relations with Curtin.77 As he observed, it seemed “to imply some breach of frankness” on his part. General MacArthur explained that he had not outlined except to the War Department his own ideas on grand strategy. but when asked, had given Curtin his own opinion on specific questions connected with the defense of the Southwest Pacific, in the belief that it was his duty to
do so and “for [no] other purpose” than Curtin’s personal information. He assured General Marshall, “I have no idea of bringing pressure to bear through any channels open to the Australian Government in order to support indirectly any views that I may hold.” He disclaimed all responsibility for their being put to any such use and, told General Marshall “Our government should pay no attention to anything attributed to me except that which I communicate to there over my own signature.” Finally, he offered what amounted to a justification, on grounds of policy, of the views that he had expressed in ‘Melbourne on the need for additional reinforcements. He pointed out that he could hardly continue as an Allied commander without the confidence of the Australian Government, which was—and long before his arrival had been—preoccupied with the security of Australia.78
The President, to whom Marshall referred the message (as he normally referred messages from MacArthur treating of grand strategy or policy), wrote a long conciliatory answer, to show that he understood and accepted MacArthur’s relations with the Australian Government. He began:
I have seen your telegram No. 151 of May third to George Marshall and I want you to know that I fully appreciate the difficulties of your position. They are the same kind of difficulties which I am having with the Russians, British, Canadians, Mexicans, Indians, Persians and others at different points of the compass. Not one of them is wholly satisfied but I am at least succeeding in keeping all of than reasonably satisfied and have so far avoided any real rows.
After this disarming statement of his approach to strategy, the President explained on what basis he was making his critical decisions:
In the matter of grand strategy I find it difficult this Spring and Summer to get away from the simple fact that the Russian armies are killing more Axis personnel and destroying more Axis matériel than all the other twenty-five United Nations put together. Therefore, it has seemed wholly logical to support the great Russian effort in 1942 by seeking to get all munitions to them that we possibly can, and also to develop plans aimed at diverting German land and air forces from the Russian front.
The President acknowledged that MacArthur would “feel the effect of this,” but went on to assure him that the United States would (a) send him “all the air strength we possibly can,” (b) “secure, if possible.” the Pacific, lines of communication, and (c) strike “as often as possible” against Japanese communications. He dwelt especially on this last point, on the cumulative effect of destroying Japanese ships and planes in preparation for later operations.
The President at the same time commented on the relations between Curtin and MacArthur, He declared that one of the problems, in trying to some extent to keep everyone satisfied, was to “avoid any future public controversies” between Churchill and Curtin, and asked for MacArthur’s help:
I see no reason why you should not continue discussion of military matters with Australian Prime Minister, but I hope you will try to have him treat them as confidential matters and not use them for public messages or for appeal to Churchill and me.
In respect to the case at hand, he declared his hope that Australia would leave its troops in the Middle East. At the War Department’s suggestion, he pointed out that the release and replacement of these troops would take so much shipping as to
reduce the strength of the British forces in the Middle East by 60.000. He concluded with a graceful reference to his dependence, as in this case, on MacArthur’s fulfillment of his peculiar two-fold mission: “I well realize your difficult problems, and that you have to be an ambassador as well as Supreme Commander.”79
The Presidents message invited a reply, not only by its tone throughout but also in specific, terms:
I wish you would let the have your personal guess on whether Japan will continue large operations against India and Ceylon or will stop at approximately the Calcutta line. Also, as to whether an all-out attack will be launched against Australia or New Zealand.
MacArthur replied at length to these questions, restating his objections to the theory of concentrating for an attack in Europe and estimating his additional needs. He began with his estimate of the situation, concluding that the soundest course for Japan on a to attack southward, securing its position in the Pacific, before attempting an large operation against India. Allied forces in the Pacific, in order to meet this attack, should not only take adequate defensive measures but should also prepare to take the offensive, or at least to threaten offensive action, at the “earliest possible moment.” The United States in so doing would accomplish two things--”meet the demand of the immediate strategic situation” and “satisfy American public opinion by providing an adequate effort in the only theatre which is charged exclusively to the United States.” He then proceeded to adapt to the support of this view the President’s reason for approving the BOLERO plan—the urgent treed of supporting the Soviet Union. Since it was not practicable to send enough direct aid to the Soviet Union. a “second front,” he agreed, was necessary. He concluded: “That front should be in the Pacific theatre. Nowhere else can it be so successfully launched and nowhere else will it so assist the Russians.” Just as Marshall had argued that an attack on the Continent would relieve German pressure, MacArthur argued that a second front in the Pacific would relieve Japanese pressure, permitting the Soviet ally “either to utilize his Siberian resources in direct Support of his European front or to join his allies in the Pacific attack.” This course of action would protect not only Australia but also India, and more effectively. in his belief, than India could be defended in the Indian Ocean. Finally, he repeated, a second front in the Pacific “would have the enthusiastic psychological support of the entire American Nation.
General MacArthur then proceeded to explain what he needed, in addition to what he was already to get, in order even to defend the huge area of his responsibility. It was somewhat more than Prime Minister Curtin had proposed—three “first class” divisions from the United States, two aircraft carriers, and an increase from 500 to 1,000 front-line planes, together with personnel and matériel to keep the air units constantly at full strength.
MacArthur concluded his rebuttal by rejecting, as inappropriate to the case the strategy, mentioned by the President, of wearing down the Japanese by destroying
their planes and ships. Even though the military potential of Japan was in some respect diminishing, it was in other ways growing—as a result of the conquest of rich areas—and, what was far more important, the issue during the coming months would be decided not by Japanese potential, but by Japanese “strength at the point of application of power,” at which the United States was weakest:
At that point, as has always been the case since the beginning of this wear, she has the advantage in both numbers and quality of troops. Due to her unchallenged command of the seas she is able to concentrate on a chosen objective and overwhelm the defenders through superiority of means although the actual numbers of the forces she utilizes may not be large.80
Thus, early in May the President had to reckon with the objections to the BOLERO plan of General MacArthur as well as those of Admiral King. To carry out the plan as General Marshall envisaged it would require the President to overrule the two senior American officers that were preoccupied with strategy in the Pacific.