Foreign Policy and the Armed Forces

Military power, which comes into being through advance planning and prolonged preparation, asserts influence in either of two ways. It can be employed actually, in war. Or its assertion as a potential can be effective: the nation's mere possession of military power ready for exertion provides visible support for the nation's expression of views on foreign affairs, and that often is enough to make the expression persuasive. Thus a foreign policy which has a respectable basis in justice and morality is strengthened if it has also a respectable basis in physical force. To go one step further, a nation's diplomatic officials can assert a bold foreign policy with confidence only when the nation possesses military power sufficient to enforce that policy if need be: "Who wills the end must will the means." It follows that if a nation does not have at hand the military power sufficient to support its declarations of a foreign policy, however defensible on grounds of justice and morality, it cannot be bold in asserting such a policy, or even confident in determining it.

This was the situation in which the United States found itself in the late thirties, when there was a frequent desire to make a strong assertion of foreign policy but small ability, as measured by a military force-in-being, to do any such thing. Belated appropriations for strengthening of the sea, ground, and air establishment, although larger than they had been in 1932, were still small as absolute sums and even smaller as related to the mounting expenditures by other powers. The equipment for which the appropriations were made would not, in General Craig's words, "be fully transformed into military power for 2 years." 1

The fact that the nation's military potential could not be asserted for several years could have been little more apparent to American foreign-policy makers than to their observant counterparts in other lands. It was weak in the very years when Germany and Japan were growing stronger and becoming more defiant of world opinion and international rights. The increase of these twin perils, attended by the noisy but less alarming Italian war spirit, was rapid. The threat of


their ultimate breach of world peace, as well as of their ultimate impingement on American interests, was such as to stimulate in official Washington expressions of American opposition to military demonstrations by all three totalitarian powers. As early as Japan's 1931 Manchurian venture the State Department expressed disapproval of Japanese action, 2  but in that case the effect of a note unaccompanied by a show of arms or even a possibility of an effective show of arms was negligible, as Japan's subsequent aggression in China demonstrated. As the decade advanced and the threats of a fully militarized Japan and Germany became more frequent and more far-reaching, President Roosevelt repeatedly expressed the nation's hostility to dictatorship and militarism, most dramatically in his "quarantine speech" in Chicago on 5 October 1937.3  From time to time Secretary of State Cordell Hull gave evidence of his own concern not only over the foreign threats but over the doubtful ability of the United States to counter them effectively. As early as 22 January 1935 he had sent to the President a copy of a current State Department memorandum on the Far East: "We should speed our efforts toward possessing a navy so strong that no other nation will think seriously of attacking us." He later heard that the President "expressed surprise that I should be 'plugging' for a bigger navy." 4

Mr. Hull's general concern was for the maintenance of the dignity and authority of the United States in the international concert. His particular and pressing concern late in the decade was for the position of the United States with regard to the Latin American nations, protection of which from European aggression had been regarded as an American responsibility from the days of President Monroe. Those southern nations had come to feel, with varying degrees of contentment, that they could count upon support of the United States against any European aggression; they would have to count upon that support because their own individual powers of resistance were incapable of coping with large-scale attack.

Their hospitality to mass immigration had placed in some of these lands large colonies of Germans and Italians, among whom of late years there was a pronounced degree of Nazi and Fascist sentiment. Mussolini's and Hitler's successes brought from some of these emigrants expressions of approval and


kinship, and these in turn were echoed appreciatively in Rome and Berlin. In the State Department and elsewhere there were assertions that, given the opportunity and the support of arms and leadership, one or more of these transplanted colonies would in time start an Axis-inspired protest against an existing government of Latin America (the pattern designed and executed in the Sudetenland in 1938) ; that it soon would find an occasion for local rebellion; and that it thus would provide in the American hemisphere a ready-made bridgehead for intervention and later full-scale invasion from Europe. This, it was reasoned, could lead to a military occupation which, once established, would be far more difficult to dislodge than to have prevented in the first place. Of the local Nazis' hopes and intentions there were rumors sufficient to make American diplomatic agents uneasy and thereafter to arouse in the State Department anxiety over a military coup that might be close at hand, and against which there was in 1938 no implemented plan of protection. 5

Army Planners' Advance from Principles of Passive Defense

The War Plans Division of the General Staff, like the corresponding division of the Navy, had reckoned with this possibility as with military possibilities in other sections of the globe, primarily with relation to the security of the United States and its interests direct and indirect. Such procedure was routine. There were "Blue," "Orange," and other "color plans" (so designated) to cope with possible enemies ("Orange," for example, signifying Japan). But in the case of the undermanned and under-equipped Army, these plans were far from realistic, and hence were little more than Staff studies. This theoretical approach was inescapable, in view of the weakness of forces which would be available on war's sudden arrival. Most of the plans defined ultimate offensives, but with awareness that they would require forces that would be available only long after war should start. This meant that comprehensive planning, which is the only planning of importance, had made far less headway in the Army than in the Navy. The latter had an impressive force-in-being-the U. S. Fleet, which was continuously at sea in some phase of operational training. That the Army in contrast had at this period no means of employing expeditionary forces with promptness is apparent in the study (Chapter II) of Army strength


present or quickly available. The slow efforts to build up that strength, by 1938, were not firmly pointed in the direction of any particular antagonist or any particular theater, save for defensive operations in the Pacific and at the Panama Canal approaches. As a result of its current weakness in men and materiel the Army itself was committed to a narrow conception of its potential, and as late as 1937 and 1938 there were strong expressions of Staff adherence to a policy of "passive defense" in the first phase of any conflict, dictated by the inadequacy of men and materiel for a vigorous counteroffensive. It was enunciated in annual reports and in cautious instructions upon the mission of the air arm.6 In retrospect, Col. J. W. Anderson of WPD summarized the matter thus:

Until the enunciation of a policy of hemisphere defense, peace, pacificism and economy over a period of twenty years had forced the War Department to accept a military mission which contemplated a passive defense of the Continental United States and our overseas possessions. Such a mission is only consonant with the stone-wall defense of complete isolation.7

It was the boldness and aggressiveness of Germany and Japan that eventually sufficed to reveal to Washington eyes a threat to such fundamental American policies as the Monroe Doctrine, free trade, the rights of small nations, and, at last, to self-preservation. Professional planners of Army and Navy were concerned over Pacific threats, but it was, rather, a belief that continental security itself was threatened which stirred an interest in the preparation of a more dynamic defense, that is, a defense which would start far from United States frontiers and would afford protection to the entire hemisphere. Hemisphere defense by its nature called for a considerable increase in strength and also in spirit. As later described within the General Staff, the change which this brought about was a radical one:

Under the policy of hemisphere defense we have formulated for the Army a new mission that recognizes the importance of the initiative in war and visualizes an early need for more than passive defense. Under this policy we have set our mission as the defense, not of our territory alone, but cooperation in the defense of the entire western hemisphere. This mission requires the provision of means with which we can deny the enemy bases


from which he might launch military operations against us or any of the democratic nations of this hemisphere. This policy is designed to reduce to a minimum the likelihood of accepting war upon our own territory.8

Secretary Hull Provides the Initiative

But this change, however much it may have been desired by the General Staff planners, recognized by them as sound military policy, and anticipated in their long-range planning activities, was not established as a national policy through the direct assertion of the General Staff or the Army. If it was even advanced by the Army in argument to the point of persuading the President, the available record is barren of evidence to prove it. An impulse of considerable potency was provided, rather, by the State Department. The occasion was the recent disclosure by American observers that Axis nations were offering the services of military training officers to certain South American nations, the implications of which led the Department to arrange a conference with operating (rather than policy-making) representatives of War and Navy Departments for 10 January 1938.9  Interdepartmental conferences at this level had long been conducted as a matter of routine. At this meeting there was agreement that there should be a re-examination of American policies with regard to aiding the military establishments of Latin American nations, and in succeeding months, on 12 February and 12 March, the State Department presented its views on this subject at greater length while making its own study of what the Fascist and Nazi agents were currently engaged in doing in Latin America. But these exchanges among the departmental representatives produced no clear definition of a possible policy. In order to obtain a directive that would produce such a policy Secretary of State Hull in April addressed a formal letter to President Roosevelt proposing the creation of a standing committee made up of the second-ranking officers of State, War, and Navy Departments for continuous liaison. "The Committee would be charged with the study of coordination and liaison both at home and abroad of the three departments concerned, and of the Foreign Service and


the two combatant services. Matters of national policy affecting the three departments would also be taken up and discussed by the Committee." 10

Mr. Hull's suggestion was "heartily" approved by the President 11 and was put into effect with one alteration, whereby the War and Navy Department members were not the civilian Assistant Secretaries but the Chief of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations.12  This arrangement brought into liaison with the State Department men whose professional qualifications could provide maximum value. Thus early in 1938 was created the only formal mechanism then extant for current co-ordination of the military, naval, and diplomatic arms of government. Although the record leaves small doubt that it came to pass through the initiative of Mr. Hull rather than the military and that the subject matter of the discussions was chosen by Mr. Sumner Welles rather than his military colleagues and was largely concerned with "good-neighbor" promotion, there is interest in a post-factum memorandum upon those interdepartmental relationships which the Standing Liaison Committee was expected to improve. It states that at some time prior to his becoming Chief of Staff General Marshall urged upon Admiral William D. Leahy the importance of

. . . having the State Department in on joint plans so that our foreign policy and military plans would be in step. He [General Marshall ] mentioned this to Admiral Leahy in connection with the Rainbow Plan. Admiral Leahy seemed to think it unnecessary. [Chief of Staff Craig voluntarily provided the State Department with a copy of that plan on 6 May 1939, the day of its approval.] . . . At a subsequent meeting he [General Marshall] again brought up the subject and very definitely stated that he could not go along with the past practice of not informing the State Department as to Army and Navy joint plans . . . . Since Admiral Stark and General Marshall have been respectively Chief of Naval Operations and Chief of Staff a point has been made of acquainting Mr. Welles, Under Secretary of State, with war plans, and the three have taken plans and other matters of vital import to national defense to the President for his approval.13


The memorandum suggests that at the outset the liaison was neither completely trustful nor completely effective. It did not gain appreciably in effectiveness. The record of meetings of the committee indicates that the initiative came generally from the State Department, whose representative assumed the chairmanship. The meetings were irregular, about once a month. The principal anxiety at the outset was for the security of the Panama Canal, an abiding concern of Army and Navy which now were doubtless gratified to find the anxiety shared by the State Department, but the steps proposed for increasing the Canal's security were not impressive. In general Under Secretary Welles' other suggestions were of procedures that should build up swifter and surer interdepartmental liaison and lead to acceptable programs for the advancement of Pan-American relations. In the former category were suggestions for admission of foreign service personnel to the war colleges; for a more effective interchange of information at home and abroad; for a more studied selection of attaches and mission chiefs in "unimportant" areas. In the other category of external relations were suggestions to the Army and Navy chiefs for closer relations with all Latin American nations including those in which the military was dominant; for the tender of military missions at low cost to counter similar tenders from Germany and Italy and acceptance of Latin American missions to the United States; for admission of Latin American officers to the U. S. Military and Naval Academies and air schools; for more frequent visits to South and Central American nations by the naval and air fleets.14 These were obviously not major considerations of foreign policy.

As the war quickened in Europe in mid-1940 the Liaison Committee broadened its discussions. Actually, however, it became less important, for two reasons. With the coming of Henry L. Stimson to the War Department more and more leadership in foreign policy discussion was asserted at the Secretarial level. Even before that the increased activity of the Joint Board, which in July 1939 had been instructed to report direct to the President as Commander in Chief rather than to the Secretaries of War and Navy, had reduced the necessity for the Joint Board's chief members to conduct any discussion of military policy in the Liaison Committee. The Joint Board was now engaged in planning of its own, far surpassing in importance its previous "color" planning, and obediently reporting to the President.


A Start at Combined Planning with Britain

Early in 1937 both Army and Navy chiefs had recognized the frailty of certain of their existing Basic War Plans, particularly those dealing with possible developments in the Pacific where the -increasingly aggressive policies of Japan compelled appraisal. On 17 March 1937 the Joint Board restudied the current draft of Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan Orange of 1928, particularly its requirements for the U. S. Fleet in the Pacific, in the light of recent events, and also its requirement of an Army expeditionary force which in 1937 was nonexistent. On 16 November 1937 it approved the recommendation of General Craig, then Chief of Staff, to rescind that obsolete plan and prepare a substitute.15  An early draft of a substitute by the Joint Planning Committee was set aside and on 19 January 1938 two distinguished authorities on Pacific matters, Maj. Gen. Stanley D. Embick and Rear Adm. (later Admiral) J. O. Richardson, were directed to make a further Pacific study. This led to a new Orange Plan accepted by the joint Board on 21 February and approved by the Secretaries of War and Navy a week later.16 It was to implement this plan that the Navy proposed a 20 percent increase, which the President recommended to Congress and which in May 1938 was adopted. The identical facts that at this time impelled Army and Navy to reexamine their joint planning also induced the Navy to look into its relations with the British Navy, whose responsibilities in parts of the Pacific Ocean were no less than those of the U. S. Navy and whose co-operation in a Pacific War was consistently envisaged in U. S. Navy planning. A community of interests in certain realms had been recognized for years by the two naval services. There were aspects of rivalry, which at the 1921-22 Washington Arms Conference had made each Navy particularly alert to guard its own strength ratio against the other as well as against the Japanese and lesser fleets: to an extent this rivalry had been present as well at the Geneva and London Conferences that followed. But there were also co-operative aspects whose mutual benefits in 1917-18 remained unforgotten; among responsible individuals, rather than in official compacts, there was a continuing assumption that new troubles would bring new cooperation Nothing better illustrates this than the dispatching of Capt. (later Admiral) Royal E.


Ingersoll to London in December 1937 for private and "purely exploratory" conversations at the Admiralty upon those prospects of cooperation which the new Orange Plan was definitely to take into consideration. Captain Ingersoll was the current chief of the Navy WPD and his orders were given him by the Chief of Naval Operations, then Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William D. Leahy, but he received instructions from Mr. Roosevelt in person.17  The fruit of his journey was an "agreed record" of 12 January 1938 which provided mutual assurance that waters of the British Commonwealth would be available for U. S. vessels and U. S. waters would be available for British vessels "in the event of the two fleets being required to work together in a war against Japan . . . . The serious problem which would arise if Germany was hostile was referred to." It was a nonbinding exploration of "what we could do if the United States and Great Britain were to find themselves at war with Japan in the Pacific," 18 to and, although an exclusively naval venture, it was an important step in the renewal of Anglo-American planning relations affecting sea, ground, and air forces alike which would come to a formal and much more effective stage three years later with the "American British Conversations" of early 1941. That only the two Navies were immediately involved is due to two facts: (1) navies were still commonly regarded in both nations as the first lines of defense and (2) in both nations the forces-in-being were dominantly naval. But it is of interest to note that the substance of this first conversation of early 1938 and immediately ensuing discussions within the joint Board was of the Pacific and, as will be seen, of the larger strategy of the Atlantic-not primarily of the Western Hemisphere itself.

It must therefore be recognized that neither in terms of the objectives set forth in Secretary Hull's letter to the President nor in terms of specific achievements immediately attributable to it did any striking success attend the labors of the Liaison Committee. Its consultations, rather, provided information upon which the three department chiefs were able to act. Its written records as kept in the Office of the Chief of Staff faded to an end in 1943 when a new secretary failed to make any more entries.19  It had not been at all the National Defense


Council that its friends may have hoped it would become, but, rather, a liaison aid for higher authority. It had met infrequently or not at all during many periods of crisis. It had no permanent secretariat to press its suggestions to accomplishment. It discussed little except Latin American relations, whereas in late 1939 and 1940 the Joint Board was discussing the need for a fully developed national defense and the pressing need for greater coordination of foreign policy and military policy in other and more worrying areas.

Hemisphere Defense a Factor in Rearming

On the other hand it is not true that the Liaison Committee was a failure. One cannot justly point out that a disproportionate amount of the committee's discussions in 1938 and 1939 dealt with Pan-American considerations without adding that often in that period both the Army and Navy planners were most uneasy over the prime need for hemisphere defense, and admission of their anxiety was made to Congress. In early 1939 the Army War College (ideal for the purpose because it was already set up with qualified personnel for conducting an intensive study of any project) was called on for a secret study of the force needed to protect Brazil from Axis machinations. General Marshall, then Deputy to General Craig, the Chief of Staff, explained to the War College commandant the "urgent need of two such studies" (the other being on Venezuela) and impressed on him the secrecy as well as the urgency of the inquiry. Special quarters were accordingly set aside for the War College committee's labors, almost unknown to the War College outside the small committee's own membership and little known even within the General Staff itself. In ten weeks a report that won the thanks of General Craig was provided. It called for creation of a Hemisphere Defense Force of 112,000 men as soon as possible, its concentration for training as a unit, the provision of special equipment for its projected Latin American operations, and the simultaneous acquisition of shipping sufficient to transport it as a unit. 20  Anxiety about the security of Latin


America, far from subsiding quickly, was increased the next year when the fall of France and the threat to Britain aroused fears that the fleets of those nations might be used by Germany for trans-Atlantic operations. The pressure to lend United States aid to South American nations was reduced eventually by realization that new military equipment was needed by them less urgently than by Britain and by the forces of the United States.

It must be remembered that in 1939, and for some time afterward, there was at hand no reliable prophet who could say that our first defensive blows of the war would be struck, not in the vicinity of Panama but in the shipping routes of the North Atlantic, and that our commitment to war would be brought about not near the Canal nor in the Atlantic, nor even by Hitler and Mussolini, but in the mid-Pacific by the hand of Japan. The committee discussions did indeed stress what proved to be the wrong peril and for that reason may seem to have diverted the attention of War and Navy Departments to some extent from the areas where time proved the threats to be more substantial, and from long-range planning activities that would have been more fruitful. But those surmises are upset by the Joint Board records, shortly to be referred to, which show that Army and Navy were not in fact diverted from the larger planning job. Even the attention paid to hemisphere defense was by no means wasted. It helped materially to provide an escape from the old idea of "national" defense and a basic change in concept from passive defense to a dynamic defense designed to go into action before the enemy could launch his attack, and this was a vital change. In this respect, although not in all others, the first Rainbow Plan, which came into being in 1939, constituted an epochal advance over the old "color" plans.

The danger in Latin America was in fact a possibility in 1939, and it must have seemed a probability in the dark days of mid-1940 when France had fallen and Britain was in jeopardy. It is arguable that, had the peril of Latin America been ignored, one of the critical areas might have been there. As late as 24 May 1940 there was a warning from London that 6,000 Nazis loaded aboard merchant ships were possibly headed for Brazil, there to be joined by the crews of other German merchantmen in harbor and employed by Nazi elements in Brazil as a means of seizing the government.21 It was to cope with such a coup


and its possible sequels that the President on 25 May directed the Chief of Naval Operations to devise plans for the moving of 10,000 troops to Brazil by air, to be followed by 100,000 to be transported by sea. In two more days the Navy drafted the "Pot of Gold" plan for that purpose, involving ultimate use of 4 battleships, 2 carriers, 9 cruisers, and 3 squadrons of destroyers. A Joint Planning Committee memorandum of 8 July 1940 contemplated seizure of French islands in the Caribbean in the event of certain developments, and the Havana Conference of Foreign Ministers in July 1940 nervously set about a strengthening of the Americas by diplomatic means.22  These events of mid-1940 suggest how substantial was the threat to hemisphere security in the mind of the American high command. Even so, it is clear that the General Staff did not concentrate wholly on that peril. Rather, it did all its planning with a consciousness that, whatever the threats in Latin America, the sources of the threats were in Europe. Thus much of what passed for hemisphere defense planning was in reality a planning for defense against the Axis. It was manifest in the Liaison Committee discussions and, more fruitfully, in the preparation of programs for increasing land, sea, and air forces. It was manifest, too, in Rainbow Plans 1, 4, and 5, all of which assumed that certain Latin American nations would be associated with the United States in such a war as those plans contemplated.

One other point is significant. Politically in that day it was wiser to ask Congress for support in defending the South American approaches to the Canal than in providing resistance to Hitler elsewhere: it was more visibly a "defensive" measure. Political values were not limited to those affecting American domestic affairs either: there were political considerations that affected relations with South American nations as well, and of them the State Department was naturally aware. At the end of 1938 the twenty-one members of the Eighth International Conference of American States at Lima, Peru, adopted a "Declaration of American Principles" and reaffirmed their "decision to maintain and defend them against all foreign intervention . . . ." 23  As late as the spring of 1941, the fusion of political and military concerns in that area was shown in a communication from General Marshall to the Secretary of War, proposing financial assistance to faraway Paraguay. He wrote: "The State Department considers it politically desirable to assist Paraguay by financing improvements to its principal airfields . . . .


Strategic considerations also make this desirable," some of the Chief of Staff's advisers having told him that the best air route, all considered, to reach southern Brazil and Uruguay would be via the upper west coast route, crossing the middle Andes and Paraguay. 24

It would be difficult to find in Secretary Hull's original suggestion and its sequels more stimulation to Army and Navy activity than has been mentioned. Munich itself provided its own stimulants to action, leading to continuous study in the planning sections of both services, spurred by their respective chiefs, by the President himself in his pressure for increased munitions, and by simple observation of Europe's rapid drift toward war. The work of the individual armed services led to and in turn was quickened by the discussions of their common problems in the Joint Army-Navy Board.25 For the first time in years this mechanism for interservice coordination began functioning vigorously.

The Role of the Joint Army and Navy Board

The Joint Board, which until creation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1942 was the co-ordinating element for Army and Navy, and hence of great potential influence in the making of foreign policy itself, had long suffered from the same causes that weakened the Army during the twenties and thirties. It was at best an imperfect instrument for decisive action because it was designed for consultation, not command. Its decisions were made unanimously or not at all, which meant that many were made not at all. But the 1937 decision to rescind the old Orange Plan against Japan illustrates that, as a Pacific war became more threatening and Army's problem involved Navy's and vice versa, the anxieties of the Chief of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations necessarily affected them in their joint relations as well as in their individual capacities, and the discussions that each held with his own staff assistants were carried over into their discussions in the joint Board. Munich's consequences increased the anxieties over possible involvement with the Axis. In November 1938 the board instructed its joint Planning Committee (the two services' planning chiefs and their first assistants) "to make exploratory studies and estimates as to the various practicable courses of action open to the military and naval forces of the United States in the event of (a) violation of the Monroe Doctrine by one or more of the Fascist


powers, and (b) a simultaneous attempt to expand Japanese influence in the Philippines.26   The studies were to assume that Germany, Italy, and Japan would be joined by alliance, and that non-Fascist European nations would remain neutral so long as their own colonies in the Western Hemisphere were unmolested.

The explorations by Army and Navy planners began promptly. By January 1939 Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Frank S. Clark and others had completed a draft which, as stipulated by the instructions, recognized the alignment of America's eventual enemies, and likewise expressed doubt of active British support until British trade or territory should be affected. This early draft by Army members also denied, rather surprisingly, that loss of Guam or the Philippines involved anything which America now recognized officially as vital American interests:

If the American government and people had so considered, they would never have consented in the Washington Conference to put the security of those possessions in pawn to the mere good faith of Japan, which even in 1922 was not on an irreproachable plane. If they had so considered, the Japanese denunciation of the Washington treaties would have instantly been followed by the impregnable fortification and garrisoning of the Philippines and Guam. If they had so considered, the Philippine Independence Act would never have been passed . . . . Whether right or wrong, they have successively undermined the possibility of successful defense by the Army and Navy of these possessions.27

But the draft recognized also that even though defense of the western Pacific would prove impossible, there might be a public demand that it be attempted. The inability to defend both oceans simultaneously was stated, and-impressively enough when one considers the traditional emphasis on Pacific defenses the Army's first draft recognized that the nation's greater interest was in the Atlantic and Caribbean.28 It is of interest to note in the approved study several bold harbingers of what would be firmly stated as a national policy a great deal later:

In the event of such a concerted aggression there can be no doubt that the vital interests of the United States would require offensive measures in the Atlantic against Germany and Italy to preserve the vital security of the Caribbean and the Panama Canal. If this is done it will be necessary to assume a defensive attitude in the Eastern Pacific . . . .

Active aggression by Germany and Italy would appear to be possible only if the United States naval forces are inextricably committed to operations in the Western Pacific . . . .


If following an initial Japanese aggression, the United States should remain in a strategic state of readiness, refraining from an advance into the Western Pacific, the fascist powers could not and would not undertake active aggression against South America . . . .

If the United States on the other hand should decide to undertake offensive operations by a Western Pacific advance, she must take due cognizance at all times of the situation and its potentialities in the Western Atlantic in regard to German and Italian activities . . . . 29

The planners' analysis in early 1939 of Japanese capabilities and possible intentions is of special interest by reason of certain prophetic remarks. The committee believed that concerted action by Germany, Italy, and Japan would force the United States to defend the Western Hemisphere and thus make impossible an American offensive in the Pacific for a period; that Japan would seek domination of the western Pacific, and the capture of the Philippines and Guam; that, to facilitate that program, Japan would attempt first to neutralize the United States Fleet, and probably would attempt to "damage major fleet units without warning, or probably attempt to block the fleet in Pearl Harbor." 30

The draft shows the extent of Army agreement at that time with State Department fears for Latin America. An accompanying report from Brig. Gen. (later Maj. Gen.) George V. Strong of WPD reveals that on the issue of Pacific commitment the Army and Navy members of the Planning Committee parted company:

Army members . . . consider that an advance to the Western Pacific does not properly come within the scope of hemisphere defense; that it would be an extremely costly undertaking [requiring Army participation far beyond that envisaged by the Navy] and that the benefits to be derived therefrom are in no wise commensurate with the time, effort and cost involved.31

General Strong urged that there be a policy decision by the President, particularly one which would determine the support that might be expected from other democracies. No Presidential decision was immediately forthcoming but the need for mutual support between the United States and Great Britain would soon be urged by other voices. In May 1939 the British Admiralty sent a Planning Staff officer to Washington to discuss with U. S. Navy officers the disposition of the two fleets in the event of war and, according to British recollection, elicited from Admiral Leahy, then Chief of Naval Operations, "personal" views upon cooperation should the two nations be involved in war with Germany, Italy, and Japan. In sum, the Navy's professional chief was understood in that


event to be contemplating U. S. naval control of the Pacific and a sharing of Allied control of the Atlantic and Mediterranean.32

The Growing Strategic Importance of the Airplane

While the Joint Board's studies continued, there was in progress a related study of air force matters that necessarily impinged on the two-ocean defense issue. This air study had been preceded by a memorandum which the Assistant Secretary of War wrote on 14 October 1938 to the Chief of Staff, suggesting a reconsideration of airplane requirements.33  The issue shortly became engulfed in the air expansion program demanded by the President (see Chapter V) but by the end of winter the role of air power was so much in controversy within the Army that on 23 March 1939 General Craig, then Chief of Staff, named a board to study the ever-recurring problem. For present purposes references to the board will be only those touching on the major war policies then being considered by the Joint Planning Committee, but some remarks by Col. J. W. Anderson of WPD are of profound interest in their prophetic character:

We should be prepared for prompt and limited operations requiring Army troops in the mid-Pacific, in the Caribbean, and in Central and South America. Some of these operations, unless they are to be undertaken at tremendous ultimate cost, must be planned in advance and executed with the utmost dispatch. They cannot await the perfection of our stonewall .

. . . there should be recognized the possibility of a requirement for the prompt dispatch of a small but representative force to Europe, notwithstanding the military undesirability of such action.34

If early needs were met, he continued, the need for large armies might be averted, and this possibility raised the question of using aviation "in an active and aggressive defense involving operations beyond our own territory," which in turn raised the question of bases and this, in turn, "the question of our policy of national defense." He found that all considerations called for "an active and aggressive defense" by both ground and air troops seeking to "(1) deepen our defensive zone around vital areas; (2) preclude enemy seizure of important strategic areas; (3) establish advanced operating bases for our Army and Navy." 35  These considerations apparently impressed General Marshall, who


now had succeeded General Craig as Chief of Staff, for his suggested changes in the Air Board report (all of them accepted by Secretary Woodring) include an emphasis on the "wise strategic location of our Air Bases" as an accompaniment to "adequate radius of action of our airplanes" for the protection of America's vital installations. His 1 September 1939 memorandum to the Secretary of War notes that "the report establishes for the first time a specific mission to the Air Corps, and provides for its organization upon functional lines . . . ." A few days later, on 15 September, the Air Board's approved report was circulated through the Army by The Adjutant General. Like the Joint Board's Planning Committee report of 6 May 1939, and in pursuit of the air requirements which had been stated only a few weeks earlier in Rainbow 1 (August 1939), the Air Board report pointed the way to formulation and statement of a new military policy in a rapidly changing world.36

Revised Interest in Ground Force Development

In approximate synchronization with these policy studies by Joint Board and temporary Air Board and the continuing pressure for Navy expansion such as the bolder policy would call for, there was under way a new study of the Ground Forces' need for augmentation, a need which such a foreign policy unmistakably would emphasize. Instructions for the study had been given by General Craig as Chief of Staff to WPD in early November 1938, and on the last day of that month a report, several times revised, was ready to be given to the Assistant Secretary of War as an aid to him in arguing for heavier purchases of materiel. It noted the new programs for naval and air expansion and observed that these alone would not meet the nation's defense needs; in particular, that ground force augmentations were necessary in Panama, "keystone in the defense of the Western Hemisphere"; that there was danger of American involvement "in a major war that will require the dispatch of large expeditionary forces to South America or other areas" in order to seize and hold critical outposts.37  On 10 December 1938, after a discussion at the White House that failed to supply a firm directive,


Assistant Secretary Louis Johnson reminded the Chief of Staff that during coming months the Army would probably have to defend an augmentation program "made necessary by the unsettled and critical conditions of world affairs [which] will, in all likelihood, cover a period of several years." 38  as With that prolonged need in mind, General Craig directed a new study of the Army's mission and its size requirements, entrusting it to a board made up from the Staff Divisions. Its report on 28 December inevitably called for increases in personnel that should make possible the early creation of infantry divisions existing then only on paper.39  Shortly afterward General Marshall (then Deputy Chief of Staff) and WPD worked out a program for five trained, equipped divisions, and a start toward four others. Undiscouraged by the President's refusal to recommend personnel increases to the required extent, the Staff continued to regard this as the eventual first step in augmentation.40  In a statement for guidance of the Army planners who would have to develop the augmentation program, and defend the inevitable request for more funds, General Marshall said:

Dictator governments are arming heavily and penetrating economically and politically in Central and South America. Japan is establishing a "new order" in China and has been informed that we will have something to say about this "new order." These activities emphasize the possibility of this nation becoming involved in war in the Atlantic, in the Pacific, or in both these areas.41

A Staff report went further with the suggestion of peril to hemisphere defense:

Violation of the Monroe Doctrine by European powers is not beyond the realm of possibility. Such violation will probably not occur as a sudden, overt act but will take the form of a step-by-step development. Before military force replaces diplomatic negotiations, hostile nations may be firmly established in the Western hemisphere in areas that threaten not only our national interest, but such vital areas as the Panama Canal as well.42


The Joint Board Initiates the Rainbow Plans

To return to the affairs of the Joint Board, whose members as individuals were of course prime movers in these other gropings toward a new policy and in preparations to support it: the preliminary study by Colonel Clark, lately mentioned, and summaries of certain long-considered views of the Navy's WPD with regard to war in both oceans, led in May 1939 to a rapid exchange of letters and memoranda among WPD, the Chief of Staff, the Navy's Planning Division, and the Chief of Naval Operations.43  These exchanges led, in turn, to the Joint Board's conclusion that the common Army-Navy policy that had been consistently recognized as a necessity now had to be actively implemented. The board therefore authorized its Joint Planning Committee to produce five basic war plans in line with certain military and political stipulations, which themselves assumed the existence of a policy not greatly differing from that suggested in the remarks of Colonels Clark and Anderson. Joint Army-Navy War Plan 1 (better known as Rainbow 1) reached a fair stage of development on 27 July 1939 and on that day was submitted to the Joint Board. There it was studied and somewhat revised, and thereafter-in line both with propriety and with the President's specific order of 5 July 44  that the Joint Board make its reports direct to him as Commander in Chief-laid before Mr. Roosevelt, who gave it oral approval on 14 October 1939.

Unlike the earlier Joint War Plans, Blue, Orange, and others, each contemplating war with one nation, the five new plans contemplated the probability of war against more than one foe and in more than one theater. It was for this reason that the board abandoned the single-color nomenclature of Red, Blue, and so forth, and gave the new plans the appropriate code names of Rainbow 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. In brief, the five plans may be summarized as follows:

1. To prevent violation of the Monroe Doctrine, and to protect the United States, its possessions, and its sea trade.
2. To carry out No. 1, and also to sustain the authority of democratic powers in the Pacific zones.
3. To secure control of the western Pacific.
4. To afford hemisphere defense, through sending U. S. task forces if needed to South America, and to the eastern Atlantic.
5. To achieve the purposes of 1 and 4, also to provide ultimately for sending forces to


Africa or Europe in order to effect the decisive defeat of Germany or Italy or both. This plan assumed U. S. cooperation with Great Britain and France.45

The first four plans were eventually set aside. Numbers 2 and 3 (never fully developed in detailed planning) were formally canceled by the joint Board on 6 August 1941, by which time the recognition of Germany as the principal foe made this cancellation obligatory. Although formal cancellation of Numbers 1 and 4 did not take place until 4 May 1942, much that they contemplated, such as the taking over of British bases (by the old-destroyer transfer of 3 September 1940) and the progressive use of Atlantic sea patrols, was in effect long before Pearl Harbor. Rainbow 1 and 4 were rendered obsolete by the fact that their major premise was not fulfilled-that is, Britain's naval power was not neutralized, and hence American's problem of hemisphere defense was not thus magnified. Contemporaneously with the American-British Staff Conversations (ABC) of early 1941, Rainbow 5 was expanded into War Department Operation Plan, Rainbow 5, and War Department Concentration Plan, Rainbow 5, (and corresponding programs of naval responsibility). This grand composite was the basic plan in readiness when war actually came in December 1941, the program having been continuously restudied and amplified in the light of coordination with British plans. By that time it specified the exact activities contemplated for protecting coasts and bases and for offensive operations overseas, but it had been modified little in fundamental concept since its drafting.46

The "Phony War" Gives Way to "Blitzkrieg"

The outbreak of the war in Poland on 1 September 1939, startling to the public, confirmed in many respects the expectations of military observers. The quiet that fell upon Europe immediately after the conquest and partition of Poland, and that was prolonged through the winter of the "phony war," lulled the fears only of the uninformed, but the uninformed were numerous.47 It was on 23


February 1940 that General Marshall, arguing before skeptical members of the House Appropriations Committee, reminded them: "If Europe blazes in the late spring or summer, we must put our house in order before the sparks reach the Western Hemisphere." 48

In April it did blaze, and in May it blazed so high that again there were expressions of rising concern over Western Hemisphere security. On 21 May the Chief of Staff, was given an unsigned memorandum, presumably from the Secretary of the General Staff, reading: "In view of the present world conditions it is believed that this country should take immediate steps to acquire British and French possessions in the Atlantic." This early suggestion of a measure ultimately achieved in effect by the destroyers-for-bases transaction brought no recorded action, but the memorandum bears a notation "Chief of Staff has seen." 49  On 22 May, the day after the victorious Germans reached the English Channel, Mai. (later Lt. Gen.) Matthew B. Ridgway with other WPD members submitted to the Chief of Staff a memorandum on National Strategic Decisions, occasioned chiefly by the German triumph in France.50  It noted the old and new menaces to the United States, including Japanese attack and Nazi-bred revolts in South America with actual Nazi invasion of South America now rendered more likely by the Allies' disaster. It pointed out that dispersal of American forces to all the points endangered-the Far East, the Western Hemisphere, and the European theater-was out of the question, and that there must be a decision on which area was of first importance. Decision was needed on what the Army must be prepared to do and what it would be able to do within one year. The maximum effort that America could exert, Major Ridgway felt, would comprise "conduct of offensive-defensive operations in South America in defense of the Western Hemisphere and of our own vital interests; such limited offensive operations in Mexico as the situation may require; possible protective occupation of European possessions in the Western Hemisphere; and the defense of Continental United States and its overseas possessions east of the 180th meridian." 51 This, it will be noted, accepted as tolerable the loss of Wake as well as Guam and the Philippines. On the following day General Marshall reported having shown the memorandum to the President, Admiral Stark, and Under Secretary Welles, the first two "in


general agreement . . . and specifically Mr. Welles. They all felt that we must not become involved with Japan, that we must not concern ourselves beyond the 180th meridian, and that we must concentrate on the South American situation." 52

On the following day, 24 May 1940, accordingly, the Joint Planning Committee received instructions from the Chief of Staff and Chief of Naval Operations to prepare plans "for occupying Allied and Dutch West Indies and American possessions, to prevent such from falling into the hands of Germany by surrender or cession." On the next day the President asked the naval and military chiefs to have plans prepared for support of the Brazilian Government and for prevention of revolts in Brazil inspired by the Axis. Two days later the draft of Joint Army and Navy Plan, Pot of Gold, prepared for this purpose, was submitted to them. On 28 May the Navy WPD gave to the Chief of Naval Operations the larger plan (of which Pot of Gold was an implementation) for occupation of Allied areas in the hemisphere. In this the War Department WPD was in general concurrence,53  and, upon adoption, this became known as joint Army-Navy War Plan 4 (Rainbow 4). After two more days the Joint Board considered this draft of the plan of action to cope with the situation in the Western Hemisphere which would follow defeat of Great Britain and France, agreeing that "the date of the loss of the British or French fleets automatically sets the date of our mobilization" of the National Guard. So urgent was this project, with France nearing its military collapse and the British preparing to move back across the Channel with all celerity, that deliberations were completed in ten days and on 7 June the Joint Board adopted the plan. It was approved by the Secretaries of War and Navy on 13 June. The rapidity and gravity of military events on the English Channel-watchfully observed in Italy and Japan as well as in Washington-were a constant spur to new and quick decisions. Several, such decisions were made by the Navy Department for, as previously noted, it was the Navy that was much more nearly prepared for action and hence capable of taking it. Late in May Capt. (later Admiral) Alan G. Kirk, then the U. S. Naval Attaché in London, with advance approval from the Admiralty, recommended to his superiors the assignment of officers as observers with British fleet units, and the action was agreed to.54  While not


immediately related to much more important agreements that followed, the step is suggestive of increasing receptivity to cooperative suggestions: for this the disturbing state of British affairs and its effect on American prospects must have had some responsibility. On 14 June, when in fact Rainbow 4 was already approved, Captain Kirk advised his superior: "In my view safety of United States would be definitely in jeopardy should British Empire fall, and would expect Italo-German combination to move swiftly in South American and Caribbean areas . . . safety of Canal seems paramount." Mr. Churchill, writing as a "former naval person," had already resumed his correspondence with President Roosevelt, making his initial request on 15 May 1940 for "the loan of 40 or 50 of your old destroyers" among other things, and on 20 May accepting a temporary repulse of his suggestion (via Lord Lothian, the British Ambassador) but restating the hope that would in fact be gratified later in the year.55  As the scope of disaster in France increased, the British War Cabinet and Chiefs of Staff Committee increased their discussions of American relations and on 15 June the Admiralty named a special committee, headed by Sir Sidney Bailey, to review the form of American aid to be sought, the possible areas of British and American operations and the two fleets' responsibilities in those areas, the preferred policy of cooperation, and the techniques of imparting information to United States authorities.56  It was five days later that the British authorities informed the U. S. Naval Attaché of their intention to propose informal conversations either in London or Washington between the American and British staffs.

Japan's Imperial Aims Encouraged

The completeness of France's defeat meantime was arousing anxieties not only about the immediate future of Europe and, in America, that of the Western Hemisphere, but about that in the Far East as well. On 17 June 1940, when the despairing Marshal Pétain asked his German conqueror for armistice terms, observers in Tokyo who had for months been aware that Japan was engaged in troop-training exercises in Formosa and near Hainan expressed their suspicion of what these units were being trained for. From the U. S. Embassy in Tokyo


came a warning that "Soviet and British attaches here are speculating with regard to possible Japanese invasion of Indo-China in event of capitulation of France." 57  Within WPD there was a further suspicion that such an invasion might be preceded by a Japanese assault upon the Panama Canal or upon the naval base at Pearl Harbor. This surmise, not far in principle from the ultimate reality of December 1941, was laid before the Chief of Staff by General Strong, acting chief of WPD, and led to General Marshall's sudden order, transmitted to Army commands both in Hawaii and in Panama, for an immediate alert of the defensive organizations "to deal with possible trans-Pacific raid, to greatest extent possible without creating public hysteria or provoking undue curiosity." 58  The alert in Hawaii (to be discussed in Chapter XIV) continued for months without an official explanation of its immediate cause.

It was apparent however that the rushing events in Europe might stimulate much more than Japanese ambitions. General Marshall discussed several possibilities that day, 17 June 1940, at a staff conference attended by the chiefs of his WPD, G-3, and G-4 divisions:

. . . We may suddenly find Japan and Russia appear as a team operating to hold our ships in the Pacific. If the French navy goes to Germany and Italy, we will have a very serious situation in the South Atlantic. Germany may rush the South American situation to a head in a few weeks.

Are we not forced into a question of reframing our naval policy, that is [into] purely defensive action in the Pacific with a main effort on the Atlantic side? There is the possibility of raids .... The main effort may be south of Trinidad with action north thereof purely on the basis of a diversion to prevent our sending materiel to South America. This seems to indicate that we should mobilize the National Guard.

. . . Should not Hawaii have some big bombers? . . . It is possible that our opponents in the Pacific would be four-fifths of the way to Hawaii before we knew that they had moved. . . 59

The closing conjecture, it developed on 7 December 1941, was a one-fifth understatement, and several of the other conjectures never were fulfilled. But the remarks of 17 June 1940 are impressive as marking the Chief of Staff's acceptance of his advisers' reasoning on the priority in importance of an Atlantic war which might come, even though the President did not enunciate it until much later. It would appear that the Navy's emphasis up to now on


operations in the Pacific was due to the long-standing assumption that the British-French Navies would provide reasonable security in the Atlantic. Without that assumption, first emphasis had to be on Atlantic needs. In neither the Army nor the Navy command was there doubt that war involvement was close. The uncertainty was, rather, over the quarter in which the United States would first become involved and over the means and methods of response. Hence the necessity not of one but of all five Rainbow plans to meet varying contingencies, and the further necessity of knowing much more of British plans. To the Joint Board's direction (7 June 1940) to its Joint Planning Committee to develop both Rainbow 3 (for war against Japan) and Rainbow 5 (for war against the European Axis) 60 were soon added more immediate instructions, from the President himself, for the guidance of both Army and Navy in their planning. On 13 June Mr. Roosevelt asked that the intelligence chiefs of Army and Navy examine certain assumptions which he submitted and consider the conclusions to be drawn from them, as to the probable course of the war. The intelligence chiefs sought advice from the planning sections of the two Departments and on 26 June there evolved a considered reply which Colonel Clark, of the Army WPD, and Capt. C. J. Moore, of the Navy (senior members of the JPC), tendered to General Marshall and Admiral Stark.61 By that time, however, it had been effectively superseded by a joint effort on the part of General Marshall and Admiral Stark to get from Mr. Roosevelt clear instructions for their own guidance, necessitated by the disasters then being inflicted upon the western Allies by Germany.

The extreme gravity with which WPD was then viewing Britain's plight is shown by a 17 June memorandum from General Strong, recommending that three radical revisions of current policy be considered with Admiral Stark, prior to discussing them at the White House. These proposals were for (1) a purely defensive position in the Pacific involving "non-interference with Japanese activity in the Orient"; (2) no further commitments for furnishing materiel to the Allies, in "recognition of the early defeat of the Allies" and of the "probability that we are next on the list of victims of the Axis powers and must devote every means to prepare to meet that threat"; (3) immediate mobilization of the national effort for hemisphere defense, including increase of the


Regular Army, early mobilization of the National Guard, marked increase of munitions production, preparation for "protective seizure" of British and French colonies in the New World, and military aid to Latin America.62  General Strong's bold recommendations were not accepted. What actually went to Admiral Stark for consideration on that same day, 17 June, was a much longer and more exploratory discussion of three more moderately stated alternatives that the President would be asked to consider. These were (1) to maintain a strong position in the Pacific and, in order to do so, "to avoid any commitment elsewhere"; (2) to make every effort "including belligerent participation" to sustain Great Britain and France in the European war; (3) to initiate operations "to prevent or overthrow German or Italian domination or lodgment in the western hemisphere." 63

The Joint Estimate of 22 June 1940

Although the gloom apparent in General Strong's expressions lessened as day after day passed without new threats of an invasion of Britain, both Army and Navy chiefs had responsibilities that needed guidance more substantial than mere hope for the future. Using the milder of the two 17 June memoranda as a basis for discussion, they devoted ensuing days to a study of the military prospect. By 22 June they came to agreement on the draft of a "Basis for Immediate Decisions Concerning the National Defense," which they felt necessary for the conduct of national defense, but which necessarily would have to be made by the President as Commander in Chief. 64 This proposal General Marshall and Admiral Stark together presented to the President, whose oral comments were hastily jotted down by General Marshall and later furnished to the chief of WPD. Suggestions can be summarized as follows:

First, the location of the U. S. Fleet, then based at Pearl Harbor. General Marshall and Admiral Stark agreed that if the French Fleet should pass to


German control, the major portion of the U. S. Fleet should be transferred to the Atlantic.

(In General Marshall's notes the President was quoted as saying, "Yes- but decision as to return of the fleet from Hawaii is to be taken later.")

Second, the continuing question of arms to Britain. The Chiefs believed that "to release to Great Britain additional war material now in the hands of the armed forces [large lots of reserve small arms and artillery had been released after Dunkerque] will seriously weaken our present state of defense and will not materially assist the British forces." They recommended that the United States make no further commitments of this sort. They also recommended against commercial producers' acceptance of any munitions orders which would retard the American forces' procurement.

(Mr. Roosevelt said, "In general, yes," but in extending his remarks made material qualifications. The Army and Navy "would continue to search over our material to see if there was something" to release; "decision . . . would have to depend on the situation"; if "a little help" seemed likely to carry Britain through the year "we might find it desirable from the point of view of our defense to turn over other materiel . . . ." Commercial orders would be accepted as long as materiel could be employed to block Germany and "without seriously retarding" Army and Navy procurement.)

Third, the defense of the Western Hemisphere. The Chiefs believed it might involve occupation of British, French, Dutch, and Danish possessions in the Western Hemisphere (including islands of Atlantic and Pacific) excepting always Canada and Newfoundland. This would be done in time to prevent cession of these possessions to Germany through a treaty.

(Mr. Roosevelt excepted the Falklands, possibly because of Argentina's claim to those islands, and specified that the occupation should be only "after consultation with, and if possible in agreement with the other American Republics." He thought the international date line might mark the westward limit of occupation.)

Fourth, and also with regard to hemisphere defense, the occupation of other strategic positions in the Caribbean and in Latin America "in accordance with the agreements now being completed with the American Republics."

(The President phrased it "when the agreements . . . provide therefor.")

Fifth, American support of existing governments. The Chiefs recommended that this be undertaken only on a widely publicized request from the country


concerned and only when U. S. forces could be spared for that purpose. Nothing could be undertaken south of Venezuela before December 1940 save through immediate mobilization and an effective draft act.

(The President approved with only one wary addition- that this policy would stand "on a day-to-day basis.")

Sixth, arms for Latin America. The Chiefs recognized the impossibility of any excess for this purpose, save for rifles and machine guns for which there could be no ammunition before March 1941, and recommended only credits for such purchases should the possibility improve.

(The President, with a breezy comment, approved such aid as would not hamper the American rearming program.)

Seventh, economic adjustments with Latin America which would recognize that losses were a proper charge to national defense.

(The President approved without change.)

Eighth, a speed-up of arms production at home. On this the Chiefs recommended a longer working week and establishment of two-shift and three-shift operations until more workers should be trained. They recommended mechanical education for many of the unemployed.

(Here they ran into a stone wall. The President stated that until the unemployed were more largely at work he would not alter the existing five-day week. He wished the arsenals and manufacturers to be pressed into this training work. If that failed, other means would be tried.)

Ninth, a speedup also of manpower. The Chiefs proposed immediate enactment of a selective service act "along the lines of existing plans, to be followed at once by complete military and naval mobilization."

(The President changed "complete" to "progressive," and he indicated his dislike for the draft plan itself, outlining "at considerable length" his own views. At that time he wished a year of some sort of service for the government by each youth at 18, or on graduation from high school. Some would be in Army and Navy, or in production work in arsenals and factories, or in mechanical training, others in the Civilian Conservation Corps or an equivalent. All should be "in camp" for such a period. Of this Presidential project no more was heard. The Burke-Wadsworth bill for selective service, already prepared and introduced on 24 June without initial support from either White House or Army, was employed only to produce military manpower.)

The as June proposals plus the 24 June memorandum to General Strong were thereupon worked over by Colonel Clark and Captain Moore, the Joint Planning


Committee, who had previously considered the President's 13 June inquiry. On 27 June General Marshall and Admiral Stark laid before Mr. Roosevelt a second "Basis for Immediate Decisions Concerning the National Defense," now carefully rephrased.65 It recommended for the immediate future: (1) a defensive position by the United States; (2) nonbelligerent support of the British Commonwealth and China; (3) hemisphere defense, including possible occupation of strategic bases on the soil of Allied Nations' western colonies in case of those nations' defeat; (4) close cooperation with South America; (5) speeding of production and training of manpower, including a draft act and "progressive" mobilization; and (6) preparation of plans for the "almost inevitable conflict" with the totalitarian powers, to assure concerted action with other nations opposing Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Resultant Policy Conferences with Great Britain

British readiness at this season for concerted planning in advance of involvement in the war has already been mentioned, as indicated by the naming of the Bailey committee on 15 June and the prompt proposal to initiate Staff conversations. Lord Lothian, the British Ambassador in Washington, with a recollection of the fruitful services of Admiral William S. Sims, USN, as a Special Naval Observer in London in 1917, suggested to President Roosevelt in 1940 the sending of another senior American admiral, and the idea so impressed the President that he discussed it with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and Admiral Stark. On 12 July they proposed Rear Adm. (later Vice Adm.) Robert L. Ghormley, the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, who was already fully informed on naval planning. The selection was approved and, with the Navy engaged in preparing detailed instructions for Admiral Ghormley's guidance, the President determined to send in addition, but for a briefer period of duty, a representative of the Army.66 The selection fell upon General Strong, who was similarly qualified through his detailed knowledge of Army planning, and shortly thereafter Maj. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, commanding general


of the GHQ Air Force, was added, a fact which showed recognition of the large part that aviation would play in the proposed discussions in London. The three received oral instructions from the President on the subjects about which they would confer, and sailed for England on 6 August aboard the S. S. Britannic on what was supposed to be a secret mission; two days later the ship's radio picked up a news broadcast announcing the mission.67

Although it was well understood on both sides that the ensuing London discussions would deal with many matters of joint Anglo-American planning and possible cooperation, particularly on the part of the two fleets, the meetings were referred to officially as those of "The Anglo-American Standardization of Arms Committee." The American visitors, now joined by the U. S. Naval Attaché, Captain Kirk, and the U. S. Military Attaché, Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Raymond E. Lee, made clear that they were present as individuals, not an organized mission, and that their powers were limited to discussion and recommendations.68 Even so, the importance that the British attached to their visit is suggested both by the composition of the British group, which included Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord, General Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Cyril L. N. Newall, Chief of the Air Staff, and by the candor with which Sir Cyril discussed the relationship of arms production to strategy:

. . . In our plans for the future we were certainly relying on the continued economic and industrial cooperation of the United States in ever-increasing volume .... [They] were fundamental to our whole strategy.69

The British Chiefs of Staff had already presented at length their conception of future strategy in the war in great detail 70 and, now replying to insistent questioning about various theaters and particularly about British commitment in the Far East, admitted that, important as was Malaya, they were not ready to support Singapore at the cost of security in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean.71 It was an admission which was bound to influence American thinking of strategy in the Orient. General Strong at this same meeting referred to the bases for these informational exchanges and then made a suggestion of which more would shortly be heard, to the effect that


. . . it had been agreed in principle between the British and the United States Governments that a periodical exchange of information would be desirable. He thought that the time had now come when this exchange of information should be placed upon a regular basis. He outlined several methods by which the sources of information at the disposal of the United States might be placed at the disposal of the British Government. 72

The Coordination of Arms Production and Supply

The exact extent to which these London discussions of "standardization of arms" contributed to Staff knowledge of munitions is not determinable from the records consulted, but General Strong returned to Washington with well-formed ideas on the relationship of arms and strategy. On 23 September the Chief of Staff gave oral directions to WPD for a report on this rapidly mounting problem. Study to that end had been under way for weeks, and consequently on 25 September WPD presented its ten-page memorandum, which discussed munitions problems against a background of strategic considerations including those lately considered in London. Actually it was the fruit of work by a group made up not only of the WPD staff, but also of Col. James H. Burns of the Assistant Secretary's Office, the Assistant Chief of the Air Corps, and the Navy members of the Joint Planning Committee.73 It estimated the current munitions situation, and came to grips with the main purpose, which was to point out, in the words of Section III: "Necessary additions to the national policy covering release of munitions and production capacity to Great Britain and other nations." With the Draft Act newly passed and the first elements of the National Guard moving off to camp in that month, the staff was conscious of the large problems of future materiel, as well as those of the new personnel. The WPD staff members' long memorandum accepted without demur that the war's first threat and chief demands would be in the Atlantic, recognized also (with powers of discernment which would be proved two days later) that trouble in the Pacific was near, and set forth the policy of keeping the Pacific operations secondary to those in and near the Atlantic.

It recognized, as a first consideration, that all three Axis powers (Japan had long before signed with Germany an anti-Comintern agreement and on 27 September was to announce her formal acceptance of affiliation with Germany


and Italy) might open hostilities with the United States in order to counter the continuing United States opposition to them. Germany and Italy could not do so immediately, but it was pointed out that Japan's expanding self-confidence and aggressiveness might soon lead that nation into action which would require the United States to choose between armed opposition and modification of its Far East policy. Should Gibraltar ultimately be lost and Dakar thus opened to the Axis, the resultant exposure of South America might require diversion of a part of the United States Fleet to the Atlantic, weakening the existing defense against Japan. It was "well recognized that it would be imperative . . . to anticipate . . . action [if clearly necessary to block a German move against South America-] by the preventive occupation of . . . air fields and ports . . . ." It was recognized that in the event of the Iberian Peninsula's being drawn into the Axis orbit, the Azores, Canary, and Cape Verde Islands-if not immediately occupied by British or United States forces-would be taken by Axis forces as operating bases.74 That these events were not immediately likely did not bar General Strong (the group's spokesman) from feeling that "a part of the responsibility of the United States should be to be prepared to meet the worst possible situation." Likelier than the contingencies named, General Strong felt, were (1) an intensification of existing German infiltration into South America, aimed at upsetting governments "which we have undertaken to support," and (2) a resultant acquisition of bases for German naval raiders in the western Atlantic.

As to the Pacific prospect, it was pointed out that there could be no assurance that Japan would not shortly move against the Dutch East Indies or the Philippines or Guam, especially in view of the American embargoes on exports to Japan, and in the event that the American protests should be regarded as bluff. Within the near future, then, the United States might be confronted with a demand in the Far East for a major effort for which, WPD gave warning, "we are not now prepared and will not be prepared for several years to come." Along with this realistic discussion of Far East realities were further advices on the Atlantic. Thus, if it developed that the British Fleet might be lost, "from that very day the United States must within 3 months securely occupy all Atlantic outpost positions from Bahia . . . to . . . Greenland." And "at any time . . . the United States may be required to fulfill its commitments for the employment of . . . forces to prevent German-inspired upsets of Latin-American Govern-


ments." And "in order to safeguard our own security the United States may at any time, even before collapse of the British fleet, need to occupy preventively Dakar and the Azores." 75  For all or any of these measures the military was not ready, because of insufficient numbers of trained men and insufficient munitions for their equipment. The supporting evidence, in terms of men and percentages of supplies on hand, was incorporated in the memorandum.

Priority of Interest in Europe or the Far East?

It is not clear whether Mr. Roosevelt actually read in full this long and careful discussion, but its recommendations implicit or explicit evidently were communicated to him in one way or another. The influence of the reasoning is discernible long afterward in 1941 plans, some of which were carried out (as in the case of cautious restraints in diplomatic negotiations with Japan, and the garrisoning of the Atlantic outpost bases), some of them abortive (as in the case of the possible dispatch of an expeditionary force to South America, and the occupation of the Azores that was at one time scheduled). The influence of Army insistence upon priority of interest in the Atlantic, voiced on so many occasions in 1940, was now affecting the Navy as well. It was manifest on 5 October, at a meeting of the Standing Liaison Committee (at which General Strong was present) when Mr. Welles read a message from Prime Minister Churchill to the President requesting that an American naval squadron be sent to Singapore. In the ensuing discussion of the Far East situation there was agreement that no squadron should be sent, lest it precipitate Japanese action against the United States, Admiral Stark observing that "every day that we are able to maintain peace and still support the British is valuable time gained," and General Marshall that this was "as unfavorable a moment as you could choose" for provoking trouble. The Chief of Staff went further than his naval colleague in favoring withdrawal of the Marine garrison from Shanghai, on the ground that it was "inconceivable" that an attack on them could be avoided. He confessed that his views were probably at variance also with those of his civilian chief, Secretary of War Stimson, and on returning to the War Department informed the Secretary of what he had said.76 But if, on this occasion, General Marshall was not able to convince his naval colleague in all matters,


Admiral Stark was in agreement on the basic policy of recognizing Germany as the principal foe and Japan as one to be fully disposed of at a later time. Opposing the dispatch of a squadron to Singapore, Admiral Stark on this occasion was reported as saying that "the vital theater was the eastern Atlantic, and the western Pacific a secondary one." 77 This was the conclusion to which it was felt the Strong memorandum of 25 September should have impelled the President-if the President had examined that carefully prepared document. The minutes of the Liaison Committee meeting of 5 October continue:

General Strong inquired about the estimate of the situation which had been drafted as a basis for formulating policy. He doubted if the President had ever read it, and asked that Mr. Hull make him read it. It was of the greatest importance to get coordinated on an estimate of what the situation is and use it as a basis for action to be taken. Mr. Welles promised to take it up and see if he can get action by the President.78

Apparently he got none, for one month later, on 4 November, Admiral Stark drafted for presentation to the Secretary of the Navy a new estimate "of the world situation primarily from a naval viewpoint, presented' for the purpose of arriving at a decision as to the National Objective in order to facilitate naval preparation . . . ." 79 This communication, a copy of which was sent to General Marshall to permit a full agreement by Army and Navy upon suggestions destined to reach the President, is of interest on more than one count. In it, one concludes from the related documents, was the suggestion from which sprang the idea of high-level Staff conversations with the British, coming about a few weeks later, the exact inception of which, oddly, does not appear in currently available records. It will be remembered that during the London meeting on arms stabilization the previous August General Strong had felt that the forces' "exchange of information should be placed upon a regular basis." In mid-October, too, Lord Lothian revived the proposal for Staff conversations, this


time on a "comprehensive" basis, 80 and two days later in London Admiral Pound spoke to the same purpose in a conversation with Admiral Ghormley who, unlike his Army shipmates in the August voyage, had remained in London as a Special Naval Observer. There was no immediate result; possibly because this was at the height of the 1940 election campaign (in which both Presidential candidates had asserted no Americans would go abroad to fight).

A Firm Proposal for Anglo-American Military Coordination

On 12 November, shortly after Election Day, however, Admiral Stark's draft of November was prepared as a formal memorandum to the Secretary of the Navy. It recited Navy judgments on the approaching war, so basic and so detailed that Admiral Stark sent copies not only to General Marshall but to Admiral Ghormley in London and to Admiral Richardson, then commanding the U. S. Fleet in the Pacific.81 The memorandum outlined the world situation and America's relationships to it, and then considered four possible plans: (A) limiting American activity to hemisphere defense; (B) directing primary attention to Japan, and secondary attention to the Atlantic; (C) directing equivalent pressure in both theaters; (D) conducting a strong offensive in the Atlantic, and a defensive in the Pacific. Of necessity, for immediate needs, neutrality (Plan A) was advocated, but for the future it was Plan D- or"Plan Dog" in the service lingo-for which Admiral Stark argued. As "a preliminary to possible entry of the United States into the conflict" he recommended that "the United States Army and Navy at once undertake secret staff talks on technical matters" with the British in London, the Canadians in Washington (creation of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense Canada-United States was announced on 18 August 1940), 82 and the British and Dutch in Singapore and Batavia, "to reach agreement and lay down plans for promoting unity of allied effort should the United States find it necessary to enter the war." 83


In the meantime Lord Lothian had made another trip to London where Admiral Pound repeated his view that there should be conversations in Washington with the War and Navy Department Staffs. As later recounted:

The British representatives would consist of a small party which would easily pass unnoticed in the stream of missions, observers, and other officials.

Lord Lothian returned to Washington and at the end of November, the President agreed to staff talks in Washington at the earliest possible date. The sudden death of Lord Lothian caused some delay but the British representatives to go to Washington were officially appointed. 84

From the two countries' naval chiefs, then, rather than from the Army chiefs came the pressure that produced the full-dress American-British Conversations (ABC) of the following winter. Years afterward, during the Pearl Harbor inquiry by Congressional committee, General Marshall testified that "Admiral Stark brought up the proposition and I acquiesced. He arranged the meeting." 85

Admiral Stark's original communication of 4 November, cited above, is of further interest. It provided a new spur for reaching a decision on national policy-although not one, it developed, in exact accord with Admiral Stark's views, for his memorandum, referred by General Marshall to WPD, encountered stout opposition. The Acting Chief, Colonel Anderson, disagreed basically with Admiral Stark's statement of national objectives, thus summarized: (1) preservation of the territorial, economic, and ideological integrity of the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere, (2) prevention of the disruption of the British Empire, (3) diminution of the offensive military power of Japan, with a view to retention of American economic and political interests in the Far East. The WPD doubted the ability of the United States to sustain all three objectives simultaneously, and proposed, rather, a recognition of the following objectives: (1) identical with the first of Admiral Stark's proposals, (2) aid to Great Britain short of war, (3) making no military commitments in the Far East, and (4) preparing for an eventual unlimited war in the Atlantic in support of Great Britain. Colonel Anderson continued:

WPD concurs in the opinions expressed: that should Britain lose the war the military consequences to the United States would be serious; that her situation is precarious; that she needs the assistance of strong allies to win; that military success on shore is the only certain method of defeating the Axis powers . . . .

It is believed that United States intervention in support of Great Britain must initially be restricted to reinforcement of the blockade, the establishment of a strong offensive air


force in England with a possibility of extending air operations into the Mediterranean area via French West or Equatorial Africa. If the United States is prepared to sustain such action over a period of years, the chances of success are considered very good. However, piecemeal action before we are fully prepared might well result in serious reverses.86

Both the Stark estimate and the WPD comment were sent to the President on 13 November and on 18 November the Joint Planning Committee, on instructions from Admiral Stark and General Marshall, applied itself to the draft of a statement of national defense policy that could be accepted by both Army and Navy and also could meet Presidential approval.87 The Navy, feeling the need for interim planning as well as the more distant discussions, now was seeking a statement as soon as possible, and on 22 November Admiral Stark in a memorandum to the Chief of Staff indicated in a sentence the reason for the Navy's pressure: "Over here we are much concerned with the possibility of having a war on our hands due to precipitate Japanese action." His view on that day was that, while the President had asked for a joint estimate of the situation by State, War, and Navy Departments, it would be better (presumably with a view to speed) for War and Navy to agree on an estimate which then would be submitted to the State Department.88 However, at the following day's meeting of the Liaison Committee he "thought the War and Navy Departments should get the views of Mr. Hull and Mr. Well's before proceeding with the detailed study." Concurring with this view, Mr. Welles expressed his own anxiety that the National Defense Advisory Commission was already discussing a possible embargo against Japan; he felt that any such discussion should be "correlated with the War and Navy Departments' estimate." 89

The Navy meantime was pushing ahead with its own interim operating plans without waiting for agreement on a policy statement, and was encountering Army opposition, expressed in a 27 November memorandum from General Gerow to the Chief of Staff. 90 Two days later General Marshall informed Admiral Stark: "The War Department cannot fully subscribe to the strategical concept of the war or the opinion set forth in the plan. A serious commitment in the Pacific is just what Germany would like to see us undertake . . . ." He suggested


. . . readjusting war plans on the basis (1) that our national interests require that we resist proposals that do not have for their immediate goal the survival of the British Empire and the defeat of Germany; and (2) that we avoid dispersions that might lessen our power to operate effectively, decisively if possible, in the principal theater-the Atlantic. Such a basis might provide

a. that our naval threat should be continued in the Pacific so long as the situation in the Atlantic permits.

b. that, so far as Malaysia is concerned, we should avoid dispersing our forces into that theater. We should, however, assist the British to reinforce their naval setup in the Far East by relieving them of naval obligations in the Atlantic. This would provide a more homogeneous force for Malaysia and would, in effect, concentrate rather than disperse our naval establishment.91

On that same day in an answering memorandum Admiral Stark expressed disagreement with the Army views. More significantly, he also gave vent to his concern over the immediate future in an explosive declaration: "Should we become engaged in the war described in Rainbow 3, it will not be through my doings, but because those in higher authority have decided that it is to our best national interest to accept such a war." 92 It was apparent to him that American defense plans in either ocean could not be made without a fuller knowledge of probabilities. In particular he felt that the Joint Planning Committee needed information to assist in the preparation of Rainbow 5, which was to be a thoroughgoing plan for full Army-Navy coordination in the event of war. In this same memorandum of 29 November therefore he presented another suggestion to General Marshall. "I consider it essential," he wrote, "that we know a great deal more about British ideas than we have yet been able to glean." 93 Apparently he did not yet know how fruitful had been his earlier suggestion for a high-level discussion with the British, but on 2 December, when General Marshall was replying approvingly to the Stark suggestion, a report came to General Gerow that the British would in fact shortly send to America officers for a secret staff conference. 94

In order to have America's military policy fully clarified in advance of that event the Planning Committee on 21 December made its own report to the Joint


Board in the form of a study plus the draft for a joint memorandum to the President from the Secretaries of State, War, and Navy.95  It faced "the possibility that we may at any moment become involved in war" despite a national wish for peace. It summarized the Army-Navy argument for prior concern in the Atlantic thus: "Our interests in the Far East are very important. It would, however, be incorrect to consider that they are as important to us as is the integrity of the Western Hemisphere, or as important as preventing the defeat of the British Commonwealth. The issues in the Orient will largely be decided in Europe." After surveying alternative courses of conduct the committee therefore proposed recommendations from the three cabinet members as follows:

1. A rapid increase of Army and Navy strength, and abstention from steps which would provoke attack by any other power.
2. A decision not willingly to engage in any war against Japan.
3. If forced into war with Japan, restriction of Pacific operations so as to permit use of forces for a major offensive in the Atlantic. Acceptance of no important Allied decision save with clear understanding as to common objectives, as to contingents to be provided, as to operations planned, and as to command arrangement.96

The committee's opinion was that if the draft met the views both of the joint Board and of Mr. Welles, it would receive formal concurrence of the Liaison Committee as such, and then be forwarded via the three Secretaries. (General Marshall withdrew his own suggestion that the recommendations should go, rather, direct from joint Board to the White House.) When the matter came to Mr. Hull's attention on 3 January the Secretary, while impressed by the whole report, felt that the recommendations were of a technical military nature outside the proper field of his Department. He listened to the argument that the purpose of the recommendations was to set up a policy approved by all three Departments, rather than by the military alone. He did not commit himself, but on the original text of the report, over the initials "GCM" is a notation that, following a Stimson-Hull conference, "it was agreed that the three Secretaries should meet each Tuesday re National Defense matters." 97


Mr. Roosevelt's Strategy Statement of 16 January 1941

This agreement was at once the effective superseding of the Liaison Committee meetings, and the long-postponed creation, in far more potent form, of a liaison of the three Departments of State, War, and Navy on defense matters. It can be conjectured that the views of the three Secretaries, and the substance at least of the military's recommendations for a clarification of policy, soon reached the White House, for on 16 January the President summoned to the White House the three Secretaries and with them the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff. In a memorandum to Brig. Gen. (later Lt. Gen.) L. T. Gerow of WPD the next day General Marshall summarized proceedings as follows:

Yesterday afternoon the President had a lengthy conference with the Secretaries of State, War and Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff of the Army. He discussed the possibilities of sudden and simultaneous action on the part of Germany and Japan against the United States. He felt that there was one chance out of five of such an eventuality, and that it might culminate any day.

The President then brought up for opinion and discussion a number of phases of the matter:

What military and naval action we should take in that emergency; he mentioned the "Rainbow" plan and commented on the fact that we must be realistic in the matter and avoid a state of mind involving plans which could be carried out after the lapse of some months; we must be ready to act with what we had available.

He discussed the publicity we might give our proposed courses of action-in relation to the Philippines, fleet, continuation of supplies to Great Britain, etc.

He devoted himself principally to a discussion of our attitude in the Far East towards Japan and to the matter of curtailment of American shipments of war supplies to England. He was strongly of the opinion that in the event of hostile action towards us on the part of Germany and Japan we should be able to notify Mr. Churchill immediately that this would not curtail the supply of materiel to England. He discussed this problem on the basis of the probability that England could survive six months and that, thereafter, a period of at least two months would elapse before hostile action could be taken against us in the Western Hemisphere. In other words, that there would be a period of eight months in which we could gather strength.

The meeting terminated with this general directive from the President:

That we would stand on the defensive in the Pacific with the fleet based on Hawaii; that the Commander of the Asiatic Fleet would have discretionary authority as to how long he could remain based in the Philippines and as to his direction of withdrawal- to the


East or to Singapore; that there would be no naval reinforcement of the Philippines; that the Navy should have under consideration the possibility of bombing attacks against Japanese cities.

That the Navy should be prepared to convoy shipping in the Atlantic to England, and to maintain a patrol off-shore from Maine to the Virginia Capes.

That the Army should not be committed to any aggressive action until it was fully prepared to undertake it; that our military course must be very conservative until our strength had developed; that it was assumed we could provide forces sufficiently trained to assist to a moderate degree in backing up friendly Latin-American governments against Nazi inspired fifth column movements.

That we should make every effort to go on the basis of continuing the supply of materiel to Great Britain, primarily in order to disappoint what he thought would be Hitler's principal objective in involving us in a war at this particular time, and also to buck up England.98

It was with this statement of foreign policy in mind that the Chief of Staff and his assistants now set about Army planning on a somewhat more assured basis. On 29 January 1941, with the British Staff on hand, there were initiated the two nations' Staff Conversations, ABC-1 and ABC-2, which lasted until 27 March, riveted Army and Navy firmly to Rainbow 5, and established an understanding of what British and American elements alike would regard as their respective missions in the event of war.99


page updated 13 March 2003


Previous Chapter        Next Chapter

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online