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Quote of the Day: December 27, 2011

Liveblogging World War II: December 27, 1941






3 P.M., DECEMBER 27, 1941.


British Officers

Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
Field Marshal Sir John Dill
Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Chief of Air Staff
Admiral Sir Charles Little, Joint Staff Mission
Lieut. General Sir Colville Wemyss, Joint Staff Mission
Air Marshal A. T. Harris, Joint Staff Mission
Brigadier V. Dykes, Director of Plans, War Office
Air Commodore W. F. Dickson, Director of Plans, At r Ministry
Captain C. E. Lambe, R.N., Deputy Director of Plans, Admiralty

U. S. Naval Officers

Admiral H. R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations
Admiral E. J. King, Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Fleet
Rear Admiral W. R. Sexton, President, General Board
Rear Admiral F. J. Horne, Assistant Chief, Naval Operations
Rear Admiral J. H. Towers, Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics
Rear Admiral R. K. Turner, Director, War Plans Division
Major General Thomas Holcomb, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps

U. S. Army Officers

General George C. Marshall, Commanding General of the Field Forces and Chief of Staff.
Lieut. General H. H. Arnold, Chief of Army Air Forces and Deputy Chief of Staff
Brigadier General L. T. Gerow, Chief of War Plans Division.

Joint Secretaries

Brigadier L.C. Hollis, R.M.
Colonel E.I.C. Jacob
Commander R.D. Coleridge, R.N.
Captain J.L. McCree, Aide to Chief of Naval Operations
Lt. Colonel P.W. Robinett, G-2, GHQ, U.S. Army
Major W.T. Sexton, Assistant Secretary, W.D.G.S.


ADMIRAL STARK presented a revised draft of ABC 4/1 to the Conference.

ADMIRAL POUND said that he understood the Report of the Joint Planning Committee had already been approved, and that he could not understand why a new draft was being submitted.

REAR ADMIRAL TURNER expained the changes. He said that copies of the changes had been furnished the British section, but that apparently they had not been able to see them before the meeting.

ADMIRAL STARK said that there were few changes. The greater part of the paper had been previously agreed to.

After some further discussion, it was agreed that the paper should be referred to the Joint Planning Committee for reconsideration by both sections and then resubmitted to the Chiefs of Staff at the next meeting.


ADMIRAL STARK brought up ABC 4/2, copies of which were distributed.

AIR MARSHALL PORTAL said that, with reference to the airplane allocations under this operation, he was horrified at hte large number of planes contemplated; he thought it would be a mistake to send uch a large number of planes to a theater of operations where they might not be utilized. He pointed out thta in allocating planes, the large strategy must be the primary consideration, rather than local requirements; that in the matter of Greece it was realized that there was an insufficient number of troops and planes, yet those available had been allocated despite the expectation that the force would be knocked down. Although this happened, the stratgic importance of this operation was great because it delayed the attack on Russia for two months. He urged that in making allocations, the figures be viewed in the spirit of economy, that is, the minimum number that it would be safe to have.

GENERAL ARNOLD said that he had also objected to the large number of planes allocated, and thought the paper should be again referred to the Joint Planning Committee for further consideration.

GENERAL MARSHALL agreed that the paper should be referred back to the Planning Committee. He pointed out, however, that this operation might result in the first contact between American and German troops. Success should not be jeopardized by failure to provide adequate means. A failure in this first venture would have an extremely adverse effect on the morale of the American people. In summing up, he said that this first operation, although in some respects a minor one, could not be treated in a routine manner.

It was agreed that the paper would be referred back to the Joint Planning Committee for reconsideration, in the light of the discussion which had taken place, and revised draft submitted to the Chiefs of Staff at the next meeting.


ADMIRAL STARK brought up WW/1, Joint American-British Strategy, which had been discussed previously.

REAR ADMIRAL TURNER said that the original British memorandum had not been fully agreed to.

ADMIRAL POUND said that the papers had been agreed to as the basis for our joint strategy, subject to some amendments which had been agreed to and to-the inclusion of a revised paragraph on air routes as proposed by General Arnold.

ADMIRAL STARK agreed with Admiral Pound.

It was agreed that the paper would be referred back to the Joint Planning Committee and a revised draft incorporating the agreed amendments and the revised paragraph on routes should be submitted to the Chiefs of Staff at the next meeting.


REAR ADMIRAL TURNER listed the various papers now in the hands of the Joint Planning Committee as follows:

(a) WW/1-- Grand Strategy.

(b) ABC-4/2-- Expedition to Northwest Africa.

(c)Diversion of Reinforcements in the Far East.

It was suggested that a definite statement of priorities should be presented to the Chiefs of Staff at the next meeting. In the meantime, the Joint Planning Committee was to concentrate on the directlve concerning the disposal of reinforcements en route to the Far East.


ADMIRAL STARK asked Admiral Pound if he cared to discuss the matter of unity of command for the Far East as proposed by General Marshall.

ADMIRAL POUND stated that he would like to get it clear in his mind what the United States means by unity of command, particularly how Naval matters would be dealt with.

GENERAL MARSHALL said that it would be impossible to choose anyone for supreme command who would have full technical knowledge of all services. He felt, however, that the matter of appointing a supreme commander would be bound up in the assumption that a man of good judgment would be selected; otherwise the whole project would be a failure. He felt that a man with good judgment and unity of command has a distinct advantage over a man with brilliant judgment who must rely on cooperation.

The whole matter, he said, rests on the consideration as to whether a directlve could be drawn which would leave the Supreme Commander with enough power to improve the situation and still not give him power to destroy national interests or to exploit one theater without due consideration to another.

He then read a suggested form of letter, (See Annex 1,) copies of which were distributed, of instructions to the Supreme Commander, which he stated was purely a form and a basis for further discussion concerning the Far Eastern area. Similar directives might be possible for other areas.

In urging the adoption of unity of command in the Far East, GENERAL MARSHALL said that the Associated Powers are opposed in that area by an enemy who has unity of command in its highest sense; that in light of the present conditions out there, any action whatsoever along this line would be an improvement. The situation in this respect could not be made worse than it exists at present.

ADMIRAL POUND asked, on the assumption that four countries were involved, and a Supreme Commander were chosen for instance, from Power X, who would be on his Staff?

GENERAL MARSHALL replied that, personally, he envisaged a small staff, one representative from each Government possibly, who would act as a sort of liaison officer with local forces. The commander would possess two mobile elements -- one, sea-going vessels and the other, bombardment aviation.

He said that at the present time the situation in the Far East is tragic; that General Brereton, who was the air officer in the Philippines, had left the Philippines with heavy bombers and had been able to establish some contact with local commanders in Borneo and had ended up in Surabaya, Java. The information from General Brereton has been the most heartening from the Far East in the past few days.

MARSHAL DILL observed, with regard to General Marshall's draft, that the restrictions on the commander were too great; that the proposition formed a good basis to work on, but the restrictions would make it very difficult for the Commander-in-Chief to exercise command.

GENERAL MARSHALL agreed that the restrictions were great, but stated that if the Supreme Commander ended up with no more authority than to tell Washington what he wanted, such a situation was better than nothing, and an improvement over the present situation.

AIR CHIEF MARSHAL PORTAL commended the paper for its realism; he observed that it separated a commander's resources in air defense and air offense, which indicated some of the problems of such a proposition. He stated that the primary consideration should be what is sound from a military point of view; that what might be gained by the military aspect of unified command might be lost by the necessity of political considerations. He asked if it would not be possible to give the commander a free hand, and to have all the political questions resoIved, say, in Washington, or, as an alternative suggestion, by a representative in the area, rather along the lines adopted by the British in the Middle East.

GENERAL MARSHALL said that political questions could be settled in Washington. He agreed that his paper had been drawn on realistic lines. He thought Air Marshal Portal was talking more in terms of idealism; that what be desired to do was to start something.

ADMIRAL STARK pointed out that under the provisions ofthe draft directlve, troops of one nation could not be moved out of its own possessions without approval of the home government. He felt that the restrictions were heavy, but realistic; and that it was better to have restrictions first and then remove them, than to fail in establishing the pr. inaiple.

AIR MARSHAL PORTAL pointed out that if the Supreme Commander desired to mdve the air forces of one of the elements of the command, he should know the capabilities of these forces, and that could only be accomplished by having a suitable liaison element.

ADMIRAL KING thought that it would be imposslble to get the idea of.a single Commanders-in-Chief accepted by the governments concerned unless the limitations were imposed. He suggested that the Chiefs-of-Staff Conference predate an outline plan for presentation to the Praline Minister and the President.

ADMIRAL POUND stated that he realized the urgency of coming to a decision in the matter, whatever it might be; and asked, on the assumption that unified command was recommended, how would the many details be workedout? He pointed out that there are a large number of details involved. He thought that it would be difficult to keep the staff of the Commander-in-Chief small for he would have to have representatives of the services of each nation to advise him. The British Chiefs of Staff agreed as to the urgency of getting to a conclusion on the question immediately.

During the discussion it was suggested that the broad outline be prepared and the details worked out later.


ADMIRAL POUND said that it might prove advantageous to the general scheme for reinforcing the Far East if these transports, when they had delivered the 18th British Division at its destination, could be-used for carrying additional reinforcements from the Middle East to the Far East. He asked whether such a proposal would be approved by the United States Chiefs of Staff.

ADMIRAL STARK said that these ships would be available for use as seemed best in the joint cause.

ADMIRAL POUND said that he did not ask for an immediate decision in the matter, but thought it best to draw attention to the possibility that such a request might be made.

The Conference adjourned at 4'30 p.m.