The Shift Toward the Offensive

The Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December. As soon as news of the attack reached Washington, the Army and Navy put the RAINBOW 5 war plan into effect against Japan. On 8 December Congress declared war on Japan, and on the same day the Army and Navy directed subordinate commanders to prepare to carry out RAINBOW 5 tasks against Germany and Italy as well, since there were indications that the European Axis partners were about to declare war on the United States. Germany and Italy finally made their declarations of war on the United States on 11 December, and Congress responded the same day with a unanimous vote for war against them. Formal invocation of RAINBOW 5 in the Atlantic area followed.

Thus by 11 December the United States was fully in the war, and for its own national security and salvation the nation was in the war to win. Congress quickly removed all restrictions on foreign service, and the Army immediately abandoned its plans for releasing the National Guard, other Reservists, and selectees. The Victory Program estimates of September had charted the hard course ahead-an all-out mobilization of manpower and material resources. From the beginning the armed services were determined to strike at the enemies' main forces overseas as soon as possible and to carry out the basic RAINBOW 5 principle of beating Germany first. How soon the nation could concentrate on the execution of these fundamental military objectives was not clearly seen in the days immediately following the Pearl Harbor attack and the almost simultaneous Japanese strikes against the Philippines and southeast Asia.

The Reaction to Pearl Harbor

The Japanese in one stroke had upset the balance of naval power in the Pacific, a balance that had hitherto assured the relative invulnerability of the American position in the eastern Pacific. Relying on the defensive superiority of the United States Fleet and the seeming impregnability of Oahu, its mid Pacific base, the administration since 1939 had encouraged the location and


expansion of major military aircraft factories on the Pacific coast. Now the aircraft factories, and key naval installations more vital than ever in view of the exposed position of Oahu, were open to the threat of Japanese carrier attacks. To the southward, little had been done before 7 December to protect the Panama Canal against a naval air attack launched from the Pacific. The Japanese had used six carriers in their strike against Oahu, and for the moment it appeared perfectly feasible for them to make further use of carriers in strikes against the exposed Pacific front of the continent.

The imbalance in Pacific naval power threatened briefly to alter the fundamental American strategy of supplying munitions to the nations fighting Hitler. There was talk on 8 December of enacting legislation that would divert all lend-lease appropriations to United States forces. The next day Mr. Stimson pointed out to 'the President "that our ability hitherto to fulfill the Lend-Lease program had depended upon our ability to rely upon the former defense of the west coast by the Navy and Hawaii." Now, he added, the United States must build its continental defenses on a new basis.1

The Army had enough trained manpower to deal with the immediate situation, but not enough equipment. Therefore, all lend-lease and foreign contract shipments of munitions were stopped on 7 December 1941, and for a month thereafter the United States released to its military associates only those items for which its own armed services had no immediate need.2  On or after 7 December, for example, the United States seized 479 military aircraft and 798 airplane engines belonging to the British Government and later paid $80,000,000 for them.3  By such expedients, and by temporarily diverting aircraft from training, the Army built a 54-group combat air force almost within the month of December. Similarly, many Army ground force units received unexpected allotments of equipment that made them ready at least for defensive deployment. During December a great many of the newly equipped Army ground and air units were rushed to the defense of the Pacific coast. By the end of December the Navy had also redressed its defensive strength in the eastern Pacific, primarily by shifting three battleships and one carrier the same vessels moved to the Atlantic the preceding May-from the Atlantic to the Pacific Fleet. These measures and the clarification of the military outlook permitted resumption of foreign aid shipments in early January 1942.

The military outlook had appeared much grimmer in the second week of December when the War Plans Division prepared its first strategic estimate of the war situation. This estimate considered that Japan had already gained


undisputed control of the western and mid-Pacific regions, and that the Japanese were in a strong position to dispute control of the eastern Pacific. On the other side of the world, Germany appeared to be stabilizing its position on the Soviet front and could thereafter release a hundred divisions and the bulk of its air force for operations in western Europe and Africa. The Soviet Union had already made known its intention of remaining neutral in the Pacific conflict, and War Plans suggested the possibility of a Nazi-Soviet negotiated peace in the near future. In the immediate future the planners anticipated the probability of intensified German air activity in the North Atlantic, including the possibility of air raids along the Atlantic coast of the United States, and they believed a German occupation of French North and West Africa more likely than a German drive against the Middle East. The occupation of Africa might be abetted by the increasingly subservient attitude of Vichy toward Germany. If Germany also obtained the remnant of the French Fleet, it could follow up the African operation with a military strike across the South Atlantic.4

In the Pacific, as General Gerow observed on 9 December, the Dutch East Indies appeared to be the prime Japanese objective, but Japan could most readily insure their capture and retention by occupying Oahu, or at least by containing and neutralizing America's Hawaiian outpost. The War Plans Division therefore anticipated the probability of a new Japanese attack on Hawaii and of a Japanese move to secure a base in the Aleutian Islands. Besides making raids on shipping to the east of Hawaii, the Japanese might also stage air attacks against exposed military objectives (especially the aircraft factories) on the Pacific coast and against the Panama Canal. A forecast by General Headquarters along these same general lines emphasized the peril to the Canal and the necessity of reinforcing Army airpower in the Panama area to permit effective reconnaissance of Pacific waters.5

Beyond these rather pessimistic analyses of the real possibilities of the war situation, Army estimates and plans of early and mid-December 1941 were influenced by a series of false alarms of impending enemy attacks and by a strong suspicion that the Axis Powers were acting in accordance with a closely coordinated plan of operations. Typical of the former was the report, telephoned personally by General Marshall to Fourth Army Headquarters on 12 December, that a Japanese force including an aircraft carrier had been sighted off the California coast north of San Francisco and that it might at-


tack at any moment.6  The President had voiced his belief in Axis cooperation in an address to the American people on 9 December. After stating that Germany had incited Japan to attack the United States, he continued: "We also know that Germany and Japan are conducting their military and naval operations in accordance with a joint plan."7

The European and Asiatic Axis partners in fact did not coordinate their military operations either before or after Pearl Harbor. Indeed, the Japanese attack came as a complete and somewhat unpleasant surprise to Hitler who, far from inciting Japan to war on the United States, was still hoping to keep the latter out of full participation in the conflict. Since July the Nazis had been egging on the Japanese to attack Siberia instead of southeast Asia. Nor did the Tripartite Pact require Germany to declare war on the United States after the Pearl Harbor attack. Japan was the obvious aggressor, and therefore the pact did not apply. Hitler decided to declare war (and Mussolini automatically followed suit) primarily because he feared that if Germany did not Japan might consider its Axis alliance a dead letter. On the same day that they declared war, the Germans announced the terms of a new Axis pact, which stated that the three partners would conduct the war "in common and jointly" and that none would make a separate peace or armistice without the others' consent. Beyond this, the only known coordination of German and Japanese operational plans was an agreement on a demarcation line through the Indian Ocean to divide their spheres of submarine activity. The lack of Axis military coordination seemed "almost incomprehensible" to Germany's Washington military attaché when he learned of it on his return to Berlin in May 1942; and, amidst the stress of December 1941, American officialdom was frankly and properly incredulous that such could be the case.8

Looking at the situation with the knowledge available as of 12 December 1941, the War Plans Division recommended the following program of Army action during the immediate future:

1. Take all possible steps short of jeopardizing the security of Continental U.S. and the Panama Canal to reinforce the defenses of Oahu.
2. Take immediate steps to establish in Northeast Brazil sufficient forces to deny this area to Axis forces.
3. Take all practical measures to increase the security of the Panama Canal.


4. Provide sufficient properly equipped forces for Defense Commands to insure the security of important areas and facilities on the coasts of the Continental US
5. Provide necessary reinforcements for Alaska and our Atlantic bases in the Western Hemisphere.
6. For the accomplishment of the above, utilize any equipment or supplies now available or being produced in the US for whatever purpose, curtailing aid to our associates as necessary.
7. Immediately initiate all-out effort to accomplish the overall production program now contemplated for the ultimate defeat of our enemies.

Three days later General Headquarters drafted a similar but somewhat more specific "basic strategical plan," recommending three preparatory stages before the Army launched any large overseas offensives. During stage one, the Army's major task would be to secure the nation's Pacific and Atlantic defenses-along the line Alaska-Hawaii-Ecuador in the Pacific and the line Newfoundland-Bermuda-Brazil in the Atlantic. The Pacific defense line would require (in order of priority) reinforcement of Hawaii, the Panama. Canal defenses, and Alaska and establishment of "a secure southern flank in the general area of Guayaquil, Ecuador." First priority along the Atlantic front would go to reinforcement of Caribbean defenses and to establishment of American forces in Brazil. Following these moves the Army would reinforce Newfoundland, Bermuda, Greenland, and Iceland in that order. During the second stage, the Army would concentrate on building a highly mobile reserve (primarily of aircraft and of airborne troops) in the continental United States, capable of being moved rapidly to any threatened point along the defensive perimeter established during stage one. During the third stage the Army and Navy, having established a secure defensive position, would prepare the large land, sea, and air forces required for major offensive operations.10

In revising its current estimate of the situation on 18 December, the War Plans Division incorporated certain general observations on strategy contributed by General Embick two days earlier, and summarized the overseas reinforcement measures then under way. The planners' analysis of the situation, including the potentialities of enemy action in the Atlantic and Pacific, remained unchanged. Though reporting and recommending continuation of the effort to reinforce the Philippines, the revised estimate otherwise urged immediate action only within the defensive perimeter previously outlined. It accepted General Embick's conclusion:


The entire national life of each of our enemies has been organized for years in preparation for the present war. We and our allies are still in the early stages of such preparation. In consequence for each it is essential that we avoid any and all commitments that will dissipate our present limited resources without assurance of adequate return, that we accept as the first essential the security of the home citadel, and that we proceed at maximum speed to the development of the war machine which the potential of the nation permits.11

The Army was not in fact free to adopt and follow any such orderly course of defensive and then offensive preparation as that advocated by the War Plans and General Headquarters staffs, though in succeeding months it did deploy forces in the Western Hemisphere to the approximate limits proposed in the mid-December recommendations.12  The President and his principal War Department advisers-the Secretary of War and the Chief of Staff had necessarily to look at the situation from a broader point of view than that of the Army planners. They had to consider political as well as strictly military factors in determining the course of Army action. They had also to weigh Army views against those of the Navy and against those of the nations associated with the United States in fighting the Axis. Possibly the most important factor in modifying the immediate outlook after Pearl Harbor was a growing realization that the Japanese attack was not part and parcel of a coordinated plan of the Axis nations to loose all their fury in the direction of the United States. During December it became increasingly evident that the United States could secure its position with a lesser defensive deployment than earlier supposed, and begin at once to consider military operations overseas that would prepare for the larger offensives to come.

Planning for the Offensive

It appeared for a few days in mid-December that the first offensive operation of United States forces might develop in the West Indies against Vichy-controlled Martinique and the French naval vessels harbored there. Since June 1940 it had been American policy to maintain the status quo of France's New World possessions so long as they were not used in any way to assist Axis operations in the Atlantic. On 10 December the War Plans Division received a report from the Navy that the French aircraft carrier Bearn might be getting ready to leave Martinique. Army authorities (Secretary Stimson, General Marshall, and General Gerow) decided this must not happen. The


Bearn was the only aircraft carrier possibly available to the European Axis Powers for operations in the Atlantic, neither the German nor Italian Navy possessing any. Even though it was not in fighting trim after eighteen months' internment and Martinique reportedly had only ten planes in condition to fly, Mr. Stimson told Secretary of State Hull that he would consider the Bearn's escape a catastrophe. Mr. Hull apparently agreed, for he promised to question Vichy at once on its intentions, and without waiting for an answer he told the Army and Navy to go ahead and capture or sink any French naval vessel that tried to leave Martinique. The Navy of course was to take the lead, but the Army Caribbean commander was ordered to support whatever action the Navy took.13

All of this happened on 10 December. On the following day Ambassador Leahy sought assurances from Marshal Pétain and Admiral Darlan not only about Martinique and its naval vessels but also about the French Fleet generally, French Africa, and continued French neutrality in accordance with the 1940 armistice terms. Vichy promised not to alter its policy on any of these points. Three days later, after delivering President Roosevelt's acknowledgment of these assurances, Ambassador Leahy requested that Vichy disarm the French possessions in the New World and permit American officers to supervise their disarmament. He also offered American protection to the disarmed colonies. The French Government turned down these requests, thereby leaving the French possessions in status quo, but it did authorize their governor, Admiral Robert, to renew in writing the informal agreement of November 1940 to maintain the status quo. On 17 December Admiral Robert signed a confirmation of the earlier Robert-Greenslade agreement and delivered it to Rear Adm. Frederick J. Horne of the United States Navy.14

Pending the signature of Robert-Horne agreement, the Navy and Army had closely patrolled Martinique with ships and planes. The Washington planners reviewed the existing joint plan for the occupation of Martinique and Guadeloupe and proposed that the Army forces for that purpose be strengthened by additional planes and by airborne troops. The idea behind the revised plan was to "use a strong force, no bluff, and hit them with everything at once" if Admiral Robert rejected a surrender ultimatum-for which a one-hour time limit was suggested. The commander of the Caribbean Defense Command would have much preferred this solution to the problem.


G-2 was as suspicious of Admiral Robert after the new agreement as before and urged that the French West Indies at least be kept under the closest scrutiny. On the other hand, the Department of State and the Navy accepted the assurances of Vichy and the written pledge of Admiral Robert in good faith, though the Army and Navy continued their sea and air patrol of Martinique.15

On 24 December, one week after the conclusion of the Robert-Horne agreement, a small incident occurred that had serious implications and repercussions. The Free French seized the little islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, situated off Newfoundland's southern coast. This action not only violated the general status quo understanding with Vichy so recently reaffirmed, but also it violated pledges given by General Charles de Gaulle and by the British Government that no such move would be made without American consent. Secretary of State Hull took great umbrage at this incident, but neither President Roosevelt nor Prime Minister Churchill would back up Department of State demands that the Free French be evicted and the status quo restored. American public opinion, starved for "good" war news, had greeted this small and bloodless action with enthusiasm. The French admiral who made the seizure refused to leave, and the President felt that the United States could not "afford to send an expedition to bomb him out.16 Unquestionably, this affair had an adverse effect on the chances of securing French connivance in an unopposed Anglo-American entry into North Africa; it also helped to make General de Gaulle persona non grata to the American Department of State for the remainder of the war. Of equal significance, from Secretary Hull's viewpoint, was the fact that the seizure violated both American policy and the Havana agreements of 1940. The Department of State had consistently maintained that if and when protective occupation of European possessions became necessary, it must be undertaken by forces drawn from the American republics and not by Old World belligerent forces. Any such action also required the approval of the other American nations. If Mr. Hull on the one hand seemed to magnify the incident out of all proportion to its true dimensions, the President and Prime Minister on the other showed no real understanding of the underlying principles at stake or of the practical consequences of General de Gaulle's highhanded action. 17


Before the Martinique question was resolved, President Roosevelt had asked the service chiefs for their recommendation with respect to an immediate protective occupation of the Azores, either invited or uninvited. General Marshall and Admiral Stark advised him that the protection of Atlantic shipping required keeping the Azores out of German hands, and that this was still considered an American and not a British responsibility. At the urging of the War Plans Division, the service chiefs made no differentiation between the forces needed for a peaceful operation and a hostile one, holding that any force dispatched ought to be prepared for the worst. The initial combat landing force would have to number twenty-seven thousand men, and afterward it would need to be replaced by a holding force of thirty-two thousand. Since this operation would place a severe drain on available merchant shipping and on the Atlantic Fleet, the President was further advised that the Azores project could be undertaken only if all United States forces were withdrawn from Iceland, and then only with the understanding that convoys and the other Atlantic garrisons would have to get along with considerably less naval protection while the Azores operation was in progress.18

The Navy, in particular, was reluctant to embark on a new Atlantic operation such as an Azores expedition, since its great concern centered on redressing its position in the Pacific and especially on securing the Hawaiian Islands against a new Japanese attack. General Marshall subscribed to the Navy's statement on this point:

Unless every possible effort is made, and every suitable available resource of weapons and shipping is devoted to the restoration of the safety of the Hawaiian Islands, the United States may suddenly face a major disaster through the loss of those Islands to Japan. Not only would this be a terrible political blow, but we would at once lose our power of taking an offensive against Japan, without which the war may at best become a stalemate.19

Indeed, the Chief of Naval Operations on 11 December had urged that the Army put all of its available resources into the reinforcement of Hawaii, to the virtual exclusion of other overseas reinforcement. Admiral Stark, insisting that the islands were "in terrible danger of early capture by Japan," asked the Army to rush upwards of one hundred thousand equipped men with appropriate air support to Hawaii, both to reinforce Oahu and to permit the strong garrisoning of three of the other major islands. In response General Marshall, though acknowledging the strategic importance of Oahu, insisted that the Panama Canal and the Pacific coast must have a higher priority in reinforcement; he also pointed out that even if the military equipment and


shipping were available for a Hawaiian reinforcement as large as that proposed by Admiral Stark, the Navy was in no position to guarantee their safe passage to the islands. Oahu nevertheless did obtain large Army ground and air reinforcements during December and January.20

On the same day that the Marshall-Stark memorandum stressing the vital importance of Hawaiian reinforcement went to the President — 14 December — Mr. Roosevelt, with the support of Secretary Stimson and General Marshall, decided to attempt reinforcement of the Philippines. General Marshall gave the task of seeking ways and means of carrying out this decision to Brig. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had just reported for duty in Washington. In figuring ways and means General Eisenhower worked closely with Brig. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, the chief of G-4, and within the week their thought and energy helped to set in motion a line of military action of world-wide rather than Western Hemisphere dimensions .21

A convoy of Philippine-bound reinforcements sailing westward from Hawaii at the moment of the Japanese attack had already been diverted to Australia in the hope that it or some of its contents might be able to proceed from thence to the Philippines. On 17 December General Marshall approved General Eisenhower's recommendation that an American military base be established in Australia as a position from which the Philippines might be supported. The rapidity of the Japanese advance was to block most of the planned reinforcement of the Philippines even from Australia, but the base established there soon became the focal point of American efforts to contain the southward Japanese advance. It was assumed at the outset that Australia would be primarily an air base, but in December 1941 there was no transpacific air route over which to send Army bombardment planes to Australia, though a new route out of Japanese reach was in the making.

In consequence, the air route via northeastern Brazil and across the South Atlantic and Africa suddenly acquired vital importance. Developed during the preceding six months as an air ferrying and supply route to the Middle East, until February 1942 it was the only air route and the only quick supply route to the Far East. It therefore became urgently necessary to keep Brazilian and African airfields out of German reach. In Brazil, the Army had to be


content for the moment with stationing small Marine detachments at three key airfields.22  If feasible, the best way to protect this new life line to the Middle and Far East would have been to block German penetration into Africa by getting there first. The Assistant Secretary of War for Air, Robert A. Lovett, after discussing the South Atlantic situation with his chief on 17 December, in writing urged:

The Northeastern shoulder of South America and the Western bulge of Africa are absolutely essential as take-off and landing points if we are to get aircraft to the Middle East, Russia and the Far East. There is increasing evidence of German design against Spanish Morocco and of collaboration with the French in Morocco and Algeria. Any German penetration of the West Coast of Africa would be a grave threat to our ability to accelerate the termination of the war . . . . I respectfully recommend that the protection of the Western bulge of Africa and this essential air route be moved up to the highest priority classification.

General Arnold promptly indorsed Mr. Lovett's recommendation.23  Mr. Stimson was persuaded that the saving of western Africa was second in importance only to "the primary question of saving the British Isles and winning the Battle of the Atlantic"24

Thus by 18 December, the day the Army received British proposals for an agenda to guide the Anglo-American (ARCADIA) conference soon to begin, Army authorities were already taking a broader view of the war situation across the Atlantic as well as across the Pacific. They were beginning to think in terms of a limited projection of American military power across both oceans in the immediate future.

In preparation for the ARCADIA meetings, the Army and the Navy had to reassess the war situation, redefine their strategic objectives, and decide on both the immediate and the long-range courses of action most likely to achieve those objectives. The war outlook remained gloomy enough, though not so grim as it had appeared in American eyes during the first week after 7 December. Japan's overwhelming naval and air superiority in the Far East made it seem probable that the Japanese could capture Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, cut off Chinese communications with India, and gravely threaten Australia and New Zealand and their communications with the United States. General Marshall and Admiral Stark believed that even as the Japanese swept southward they had the means to make continued raids on the Hawaiian Islands a probability, and devastating raids on Alaska, the Pacific coast, and


the Panama Canal distinct possibilities. In the Atlantic area, German and Italian forces had been routed in eastern Libya after a hard battle begun in mid-November, and were still falling back toward Tripoli. The Germans were also reported to be withdrawing ground and air forces from the Eastern Front, where Soviet arms had finally checked the German advance. Neither of these setbacks, in the view of the Army planners, had materially weakened Germany's position; rather, they held that the Germans possessed such powerful land and air forces -that for the time being their position in Europe was secure against any major attack. Germany's future course of action, the planners believed, might be either to renew the advance toward the East (both in the Soviet Union and in the Mediterranean area) in order to join hands with Japan, or to stabilize in the East and undertake the invasion of Great Britain. Whichever course the Germans chose, they could be expected "to occupy the Iberian Peninsula and the West Coast of Africa and continue operations in the Atlantic in order to interrupt British and American air and sea communications with the Middle and Far East." General Marshall and Admiral Stark agreed on the likelihood of a German advance into French North and West Africa and, coupled with this, an intensified campaign by Axis submarine and surface raiders against Atlantic shipping. "We can expect," they advised, "the frequent appearance of submarines on the coasts of North and South America"-a forecast soon to be validated .25  But there was also a real danger in overestimating enemy capabilities. In urging Secretary of War Stimson to advocate offensive action wherever possible, Assistant Secretary of War McCloy observed:

The initiative Germany gained in Western Europe forced Great Britain on the defensive, which, until the recent Libyan campaign has been the theme of British strategy since that time. The naval blow dealt the United States by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor has produced a somewhat similar view by the naval and military authorities of the United States. Japan, Germany, and Italy, each operating on interior lines, are rapidly encircling the Western Hemisphere, and unless immediate offensive action is undertaken by the United States the war will eventually result in a total defense of this hemisphere.26

General Marshall and Admiral Stark in their recommendations to the President carefully distinguished between what it was essential and what it was desirable to do in the immediate future. The United Kingdom and Iceland had to be held at all costs, and the maintenance of Anglo-American sea communications in the North Atlantic was essential to a continuance of the war effort. In the Pacific, they thought it essential to hold Hawaii and con-


tinue the operation of a strong fleet from there, since in their opinion the Hawaiian Islands constituted the only position from which the United States could eventually launch offensive operations against Japan. In Asia, Great Britain had to keep control of India in order to prevent the juncture of Axis forces. If possible, the Soviet Union had to be kept in the war since "Russia alone possesses the manpower potentially able to defeat Germany in the field." These were the essentials. The desirables included holding or gaining control of all other strategic areas threatened by the Axis Powers. For example: "The Atlantic Islands (Azores, Cape Verde, etc.) should not pass into enemy control. The Middle East and French and Italian North Africa, if firmly in the hands of the Associated Powers, would constitute a position from which the United States and the United Kingdom could employ offensive action against Italy, Spain, and France, and thus indirectly against Germany."27

The basic difficulty of the United States in choosing an immediate course of action, as the planners saw it, was that the Army could not "at this moment employ any large forces outside the Western Hemisphere because of shortages in equipment, ammunition, and shipping."28  Because of the first two shortages, the Army still had only one division in the United States ready for immediate active service overseas. While the Army could complete the relief of British troops in Iceland, or dispatch an expeditionary force to the Natal area, or the Azores, or the Cape Verdes, or reinforce the Philippines or Dutch East Indies, because of the shipping shortage it could not execute "more than one, or at most two, of these operations simultaneously."29  From this point of view the Army planners, though acknowledging the high desirability of establishing American control in French West Africa, could not see how it could be done in the near future. If the Germans wished, the War Plans Division believed, they could during the winter of 1941-42 put as many as fifty divisions with air support into African operations and gain control of the entire coast from Tripoli to Dakar. Current plans for an American occupation of Dakar and the Cape Verde Islands called for a total force of 171,000 men, and the planners held that it would be impossible to prepare a force of that magnitude for movement overseas before the summer of 1942.30

On 21 December, the eve of the ARCADIA Conference, President Roosevelt met with his principal Army and Navy advisers to receive their estimates


of the war situation and to discuss the recommended courses of action. The President and his advisers tentatively decided to complete the relief of British Army forces in Iceland and to send at least two divisions to Northern Ireland in order to release British troops for the defense of England and Scotland. In the southern Atlantic, the Dakar-Cape Verdes project was to be given first priority in Army planning, the Azores project was to be "subordinated," and the possibility of landing in North Africa was "to be studied." No further ship transfers from the Atlantic to the Pacific Fleet were to be made. In the Pacific, this meeting confirmed the establishment of an American base in Australia and the necessity for securing communication with it across the Pacific.31

The ARCADIA Decisions

The Anglo-American conference began with a meeting between the President, the Prime Minister, and their political advisers on the evening of 22 December and continued through the final White House conference on 14 January 1942.32  At their initial meeting, the President and the Prime Minister decided to push two projects that were to dominate the discussion at the ARCADIA staff conferences. One involved sending four partially trained and equipped American divisions to Northern Ireland, where they would relieve three fully trained British divisions for service elsewhere. The other project was for an Anglo-American occupation of French North Africa (Morocco and Algeria), to be undertaken with French acquiescence as soon as the British Libyan offensive approached French Tunisia. The President's enthusiasm for these two operations reflected his desire to have the American people understand their full commitment in the Atlantic war at a moment when American attention was focused on the Pacific. The first increment of American troops began to move to Northern Ireland in January 1942, and in the same month additional United States Army replacements were sent for the relief of the marines and British troops in Iceland. The Iceland relief was completed by midsummer, but the Ireland movement never reached the dimensions contemplated. For various reasons, the North Africa scheme (GYMNAST) proved completely abortive for the time being, despite recognition that it was the project "of the first strategical importance in the


Atlantic area."33  The anticipated German drive through Spain into northwestern Africa never materialized; instead the Germans used such planes and arms as they could divert from the Eastern Front to reinforce Rommel's Africa Korps, thereby staying the British offensive and then (late January 1942) driving the British back toward Egypt. The British also suffered disastrous naval losses in the Mediterranean during December 1941. Whatever disposition French (and possibly Spanish) authorities may have had to cooperate with the United States and Great Britain vanished, and GYMNAST had to be shelved.

Anglo-American decisions on other projects included an acceptance by the United States of its ABC-1 commitment to relieve British troops protecting the Dutch West Indian islands of Curacao and Aruba, vital for the war effort because of their large oil refineries. American troops relieved the British in February 1942. The British assumed responsibility for occupying the Azores as well as the Canaries, if either operation became necessary, while the United States accepted responsibility for occupying the Cape Verde Islands off French West Africa and on the flank of the vitally important South Atlantic air route. The Dakar project (for a large-scale landing against opposition) also remained a possibility for United States forces, but since it was assumed that it would involve much larger forces than GYMNAST it was now considered impossible to launch the operation before the autumn of 1942. Irrespective of other projected operations in the Atlantic area, the United States Army still wanted to put a sizable protective force into northeastern Brazil, and the conferees agreed this plan should be kept alive as a United States responsibility.34  The rapid Japanese advance into Malaysia during and immediately after the ARCADIA meetings made the initial plans for the defense of that area relatively meaningless and helped also to frustrate an American design to get the Soviet Union into the Far Eastern war and to use Siberian airfields to bomb Japan.35  Indeed, except for the extensive American reinforcement of the Hawaii-Australia line of communication and the large build-up of the new United States base in Australia, the actual deployment of the United States Army forces during most of 1942 corresponded more closely with the perimeter defense concept postulated by the War Plans Division and General Headquarters in mid-December than with the more ambitious offensive ideas advanced during the ARCADIA meetings.


This first great Anglo-American conference of the war nevertheless had a profound and lasting significance beyond its immediate military decisions. In at least three directions the ARCADIA meetings made a notable contribution to the ultimate victory of the United States and its associates in the war. In the first place, they confirmed the basic strategy outlined in the ABC-1 agreement of early 1941. Germany was recognized as the predominant member of the Axis triumvirate, and the Atlantic and European area as the principal war theater. Therefore, despite Japan's rampage in the western Pacific, it was agreed "that only the minimum of force necessary for the safeguarding of vital interests in other theatres should be diverted from operations against Germany."36  Secondly, the conference approved the establishment of a combined Anglo-American staff organization in Washington to integrate strategic planning of the two nations. This move had the almost equally significant but somewhat unintentional result of establishing the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff (Army, Army Air, and Navy). An even more significant step was the creation of the first unified theater command. Though the Australian-British-Dutch-American (ABDA) Command, organized in Malaysia under British General Wavell, proved short-lived, it set the precedent for the unified commands in the Mediterranean and western Europe that directed Anglo-American forces to victory.37  Finally, the President and the Prime Minister took the lead in drafting the United Nations Declaration, signed on New Year's Day 1942 by the representatives of twenty-six nations fighting the Axis and pledging their mutual cooperation, the full employment of their resources in the war, and their agreement not to make a separate peace or armistice.38  Collectively, these decisions and actions meant that the United States, Great Britain, and the rest of the newly christened United Nations were henceforth not going to fight the Axis aggressors alone and defensively, but together and offensively in every theater of the war.



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