The American Response: Military Policies and Plans, 1940-41
The policy of hemisphere defense merged from September 1940 onward with the broader policy of supporting the active opponents of Axis aggression. The two policies were complementary. Germany could not launch any major attack against the New World so long as Great Britain maintained naval superiority in the eastern Atlantic. To maintain that superiority, the British Navy had to be based on the British Isles. With the position of Britain much better assured than it had appeared to be during the dark days of June, the United States Government now considered it vital to bolster that position by supplying arms and other equipment to the maximum extent compatible with essential requirements of its own expanding Army and Navy. American officials also judged that a policy of strong and overt support of Britain would be the one best calculated to stay Japanese armed aggression in the Far East. By December the United States had decided to extend more open aid to China as well. In a pre-election speech on 26 October 1940, Secretary of State Hull summarized the new military policy in two simple terms: "One, to rearm to the utmost; two, to help the Allies with supplies." 1 As the Secretary subsequently acknowledged; by the end of 1940 the United States was "acting no longer under the precepts of neutrality, but under those of self-defense." 2
Secretary Hull had sound reasons for justifying the supply of arms to nations fighting Axis aggression on the ground of self-defense. The military and naval forces of the United States were far from ready in the fall of 1940 to carry out a policy of hemisphere defense. The Army, in fact, was not prepared to do much more than conduct a static defense of United States territory in the Western Hemisphere. Despite the Army's growing numbers, it had no large ground or air units ready for offensive employment in terms of either training or equipment. It would be many months before the Army could be ready to carry out the measures in defense of the hemisphere that a RAINBOW 4 situation-the collapse of Great Britain-would require.
Although the Navy was far better prepared than the Army for immediate action, national policy continued to dictate that the bulk of American naval strength remain in the eastern Pacific as a deterrent to further Japanese aggression. Construction of ships for a two-ocean Navy that could provide protection for both the Atlantic and Pacific fronts of the New World was just beginning. Until the United States could rely on its own forces to protect the Western Hemisphere from Axis aggression, the nation's leaders believed that its security depended on keeping the Axis Powers in check by supporting the armed forces of the British Empire and of China.
Emergency Expeditionary Force Plans
Under these circumstances there was little that the United States could hope to do to counter a movement of German forces through Spain toward the South Atlantic. Marshal Pétain's announcement on 24 October that Vichy France would support the Axis war effort against Great Britain had seemed in Washington to presage easy German access to French North and West Africa. Hitler's meeting with Franco had suggested the likelihood of Spanish collaboration with Germany as well. If assured of French and Spanish collaboration, the Germans could easily overawe or overrun Portugal and occupy strategic positions in the Portuguese as well as the Spanish islands. Once emplaced in French West Africa and on the Atlantic islands, the Germans-whether they had originally planned to do so or not-could launch an attack across the South Atlantic against the bulge of Brazil. This was the very danger that had so impressed American military planners in 1939, but which United States forces in the fall of 1940 were still virtually impotent to meet.
The United States was particularly concerned about the fate of the Portuguese Azores Islands. As early as March 1940 President Roosevelt had discussed the danger of German action against the Azores with the American minister to Portugal, then home on leave. A report to the President during June elicited the following opinion from Secretary of State Hull:
The attached letter . . . seems to involve naval and possibly military action on our part in preventing the occupation of the Azores by German, Italian, or possibly Spanish forces. For practical reasons I do not see that there is anything that this country can do, as much as we might like to.3
During July the Department of State instructed its representatives in Lisbon and Madrid to inform the Portuguese and Spanish Governments of the "deep concern" of the United States for the status of their island possessions in the
Atlantic.4 In August the German Foreign Office took note of negotiations between the United States and Portugal, concerning the Azores and guessed that they were being considered for a joint Anglo-American naval base.5 British proposals for combined Anglo-American operations in the Atlantic (in case the United States entered the war), drafted in June 1940 and discussed with the American naval representative in London during September, contemplated the occupation of the Portuguese islands by United States forces.6 As already noted, the joint estimate of 25 September held that an American entry into the Azores might be necessary if German forces moved into Spain and Portugal, and in October Army and Navy staff officers drafted a plan for a quick occupation of the Azores by an American force built around a reinforced division supported by a sizable naval squadron containing at least one aircraft carrier.7 Aside from considerations of policy, the obstacles to carrying out this plan were the lack of a division ready to undertake the task and the lack of available naval forces to support the operation.
A more feasible and realistic emergency expeditionary force plan evolved out of concern over the status of French possessions in the New World. Immediately after Pétain's announcement of 24 October, the United States sent a sharp warning to Vichy stating that any French connivance with Germany "would most definitely wreck the traditional friendship between the French and American peoples" and implying that such French action would justify American occupation of French possessions in the Western Hemisphere.8 This strong message offended the French, but it also helped to dampen their enthusiasm for collaboration with Hitler. The British had wanted the United States to take an even stronger stand: they wanted backing for Free French uprisings in French possessions in Africa as well as in the New World. The United States and Great Britain were both gravely concerned over the possibility that the Vichy French might permit units of their Navy at Dakar and at Martinique to join the Axis in operations against the British Navy. The United States went so far in November as to offer to buy two unfinished French battleships, one located at Dakar and the other at Casablanca, in order to keep them out of German hands. The Vichy Government rejected the offer, though it repeated its earlier pledge not to allow French naval forces to be used offensively against the British. As for France's New World possessions, the United States really preferred to let them alone
provided the agreement for maintaining the status quo, informally negotiated in August with Admiral Roberts, the French governor, could be maintained.9
Pending the receipt of satisfactory assurances from Vichy, the United States prepared to occupy Martinique and Guadeloupe. President Roosevelt in late October directed the Navy to draft a plan for an emergency operation, to be executed on three days' notice. The Navy drew up a plan calling for an assault on Martinique by a strong naval force (including two battleships and two carriers) but with only twenty-eight hundred marines as the landing force. The Navy asked the Army to be prepared to support the landing with two reinforced regiments totaling sixty-eight hundred men and to schedule them to sail from New York five days after the operation began. This plan assumed that the assault would meet with no more than token opposition. At this time there were between seven and eight thousand French soldiers and sailors on Martinique, and its principal port, Fort de France, had strong harbor defenses well supplied with ammunition. The Army planners therefore objected to the assumption of token resistance and urged that an expeditionary force of twenty-five thousand, properly trained and equipped, be readied before the United States undertook any operation such as that contemplated against Martinique. The War Plans Division assumed that the French, heartened by their success at Dakar the preceding month, would resist; it held that a defeat in the first American military operation of the war would have most serious repercussions in Latin America and might "destroy all progress in consolidating the Western Hemisphere made to date." The Army planners therefore recommended that the United States should first invoke the procedure for emergency occupation of European possessions prescribed at the Havana Conference and in the meantime maintain a tight blockade of Martinique and give the Army's 1st Infantry Division intensive training in landing operations in Puerto Rico.10
Both General Marshall and Secretary of War Stimson shared the doubts of the Army planners that an immediate operation against Martinique was feasible, and they also doubted its wisdom even if it were feasible. They feared that the Navy plan might result in a repulse comparable to the British-Free French fiasco at Dakar. Further, Mr. Stimson pointed out, precipitate American action might have a very harmful effect on the critical situation then pending in North Africa; it might, indeed, drive French Africa right into the arms of Germany.11 The Army nevertheless alerted the 1st
Division and requested its commander to formulate a plan for expediting its training and availability for emergency action. On 2 November General Marshall asked the joint Board to revise the earlier joint plan for a Martinique operation in order to provide an overwhelming force that would insure quick success, should an occupation become necessary.12
The Joint Planning Committee undertook the revision of the Martinique plan during November, and the 1st Division drafted a subordinate plan for establishing three task forces (A, B, and C), each built around one of its infantry regiments. Task Forces A and B numbered about five thousand men each, Task Force C about seven thousand. Only Task Force A had reached a state of training that permitted its assignment as part of the assault force in the projected Martinique operation; Task Force B might be used in a landing against lightly held Guadeloupe, and Task Force C constituted little more than an untrained reserve. This was all that the Army's best trained infantry division could contribute to an emergency expeditionary force at the end of 1940.13
Fortunately, from the point of view both of policy and of military readiness, no operation against Martinique had to be undertaken. The Navy had sent Admiral Greenslade, who had previously arranged the existing informal understanding with the French Governor, Admiral Robert, back to Martinique with instructions to negotiate a new agreement that would guarantee the maintenance of the status quo. Faced with the alternative of an American bombardment and occupation, Admiral Robert on 3 November accepted a "gentleman's agreement": the governor promised not to move any of the French naval vessels at Martinique except on two days' notice to the consul and the naval observer of the United States at Fort de France and then only for purposes of maintenance or (in the case of one small ship) administrative contact with the other French West Indian colonies; he promised also the continued immobilization of the airplanes and gold stranded on Martinique in June; finally, he promised to notify American representatives if the Vichy authorities proposed his replacement. In return, Admiral Greenslade agreed to continue the supply of essential foodstuffs and fuel to the French West Indies.14 With slight modifications, this agreement remained in effect until the summer of 1943, though on several occasions after November 1940 the
United States was to question the reliability of Admiral Robert and to prepare again for the forceful occupation of Martinique.
President Roosevelt in mid-November offered the French ambassadorship to Admiral William D. Leahy, then governor of Puerto Rico, and when Admiral Leahy reached Vichy in January 1941 he found the situation very different from the one that had so greatly alarmed the United States during October. On 13 December 1940 Marshal Pétain dismissed Laval from his posts of Vice Premier and Foreign Minister. Further, Pétain refused to attend the collaboration ceremony the Fuehrer had planned to stage in Paris on 15 December; instead, he sent a message to President Roosevelt reiterating his solemn promise that the French Fleet would be scuttled before it would be allowed to fall into German hands, and otherwise indicating his decision to avoid any active collaboration with the Nazis.15 With these assurances in hand, the President instructed Admiral Leahy to tell the Vichy authorities that American policy toward the French West Indies and French Guiana would continue to be the maintenance of status quo, so long as the United States was assured that "neither those possessions nor their resources will ever be used to the detriment of the United States or the American republics." 16
The hurried planning for an assault on Martinique had a beneficial effect on Army preparations for emergency operations, despite the indefinite postponement of the Martinique operation itself. In June the Army had arranged for the 1st and 3d Infantry Divisions on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, respectively, to receive special equipment for training in landing operations in order to prepare them for use as emergency expeditionary forces. The Army also hoped to train the two divisions in joint amphibious exercises with the Navy.17 Little had been done to carry out these arrangements before the Army started to plan the projected operation against Martinique. In October the War Plans Division had recommended to the Chief of Staff a broader plan, involving the establishment of an expeditionary corps on the Atlantic coast to consist of one Regular Army and two National Guard divisions with six supporting coast artillery regiments and necessary service units. Units of the corps were to be exempted from furnishing cadres for training other forces and were to be given equipment priorities. The requirements of the rapidly expanding Army made adoption of such an ambitious plan impracticable, and
General Marshall approved the exemption and equipment priority only for the Regular Army division and for one antiaircraft regiment. The 1st Division and the 68th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) Regiment were then earmarked for use in emergency expeditionary forces with these exemptions and priorities. The other units were to form the expeditionary force reserve.18
During the winter and spring of 1940-41, both the 1st Division on the Atlantic coast and the 3d Division on the Pacific managed to obtain landing equipment that permitted limited -amphibious training, though plans for joint training with Navy and Marine forces remained in abeyance. The general emergency expeditionary force plan that was developed during this period, based on RAINBOW 4, called for the reinforced 1st Division to be ready to engage in any landing operations that might be required in defense of the Caribbean area or Brazil; preparation of the reinforced 30th Infantry Division to relieve the 1st Division after it had been engaged, in order to free the 1st Division for a new operation; designation and preparation of the reinforced 44th Infantry Division as a defense force for Newfoundland; and continued amphibious training of the 3d Division on the Pacific coast as a nucleus for an expeditionary force to be dispatched if necessary to northwestern South America. While the Martinique project had acted as a spur to the development of this general plan, actual training of the many units involved continued to lag; in fact, until the summer of 1941, the 1st Division and its supporting units (a force numbering about 25,000) remained the only Army ground organization even relatively well prepared for action against armed opposition along the Atlantic front.19
New Definitions of National Policy
The nation's lack of readiness to take military steps to deal with Axis threats in the Atlantic, even those close to American shores, was paralleled by objections to using American naval power as an effective check to Japan's aggression in the Pacific. Prime Minister Churchill on 4 October 1940 suggested to President Roosevelt that he send a substantial detachment of the United States Fleet to Britain's Singapore base. His proposal met with
strong opposition from the admirals and from General Marshall, though Secretary of War Stimson urged the President to shift the bulk of the fleet to Singapore forthwith.20 Admiral Stark and his staff questioned whether the United States could continue indefinitely to rely on British naval power to maintain control in the eastern Atlantic. In any event, the Navy felt that if the United States had to undertake new military operations in the Atlantic area, it would have to move a substantial part of the fleet into the Atlantic to assure continued naval control there.21 General Marshall, believing as he did that "if we lose in the Atlantic we lose everywhere," wished to keep American naval strength in the Pacific available for a quick shift to the Atlantic in case the situation worsened.22 President Roosevelt apparently favored some sort of naval demonstration in the Pacific that would clearly indicate to the .Japanese that the United States Government had no intention of being bullied by them.23
The President and his advisers, though ignorant of the details of Axis war planning, had a fairly accurate appreciation in October 1940 of the dangers to the national security that loomed in the none-too-distant future. Nevertheless, they also realized that the nation's military and naval forces would not be ready to deal effectively with these dangers for many months to come. They knew, too, that a large majority of the American people were opposed to direct participation in the war, except in actual defense of Western Hemisphere territory. October 1940 also saw the climax of a Presidential election campaign in which both Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Willkie felt compelled to say that they had no intention of getting the United States into the war or of ever permitting American boys to be sent overseas to fight. Secretary of State Hull on the other hand, had the courage to speak publicly before the election of the dangers facing the United States, and of their logical consequences:
There can be nothing more dangerous for our nation than for us to assume that the avalanche of conquest could under no circumstances reach any vital portion of this hemisphere. Oceans give the nations of this hemisphere no guarantee against the possibility of economic, political, or military attack from abroad. Oceans are barriers but they are also highways. Barriers of distance are merely barriers of time. Should the would-be conquerors gain control of other continents, they would next concentrate on perfecting their control of the seas, of the air over the seas, and of the world's economy; they might then
be able with ships and with planes to strike at the communication lines, the commerce, and the life of this hemisphere; and ultimately we might find ourselves compelled to fight on our own soil, under our own skies, in defense of our independence and our very lives.24
The situation called for a new definition of national policy and for military planning in accordance with that definition. Army and Navy planners needed something more specific to act on than Mr. Hull's definition of American policy toward Japan, which was described in late November as a "policy of slowing Japan up, so to speak, as much as we could by fighting a rear guard diplomatic action, without doing it so stringently as to drive her to get her supplies by making an attack on the Netherlands."25
An Air Corps staff analysis in November 1940 stated that there appeared to be three national military policies in prospect, any one of which might be put into effect in the near future: Western Hemisphere defense; an offensive in the Far East; and an offensive in Europe, in association with Great Britain. It went on to state that "the uncertainty as to which National Military Policy will be put into effect and the wide disparity between the possible lines of action that may be undertaken make the acceptance of any one of these Policies by the military authorities, without the definite advice of the National Government, a matter of questionable procedure." But since the lack of any basic policy would lead to chaos, this analysis recommended that the Air Corps accept Western Hemisphere defense as the most probable and at any rate the most essential policy to guide its preparations. General Marshall approved the recommendation on 29 November 1940.26
The impetus for a new definition of national policy came from the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Stark. After discussing the war outlook with Secretary Knox in late October, Admiral Stark and his staff drafted a detailed analysis of the situation facing the United States. He stated his understanding of current major national objectives as the "preservation of the territorial, economic, and ideological integrity of the United States, plus that of the remainder of the Western Hemisphere; the prevention of the disruption of the British Empire, with all that such a consummation implies; and the diminution of the offensive military power of Japan, with a view to the retention of our economic and political interests in the Far East." In conclusion, Admiral Stark presented for consideration and decision by the President and
the War and Navy Departments four alternate courses of action. Plan A proposed that the United States concentrate its military effort on Western Hemisphere defense; the United States would continue to supply material aid to the allied forces opposing the Axis Powers, but even if drawn into open war its armed forces would send only small detachments overseas to assist the allies in the fighting. Plan B called for a full offensive by United States forces against Japan in the western Pacific, coupled with a strictly defensive posture in the Atlantic. Plan C envisaged full-scale offensives by American military forces across both oceans. Admiral Stark dismissed Plans B and C as impracticable, even though the latter was the only course of action that (if successful) would insure attainment of the major national objectives with which he had premised his analysis. Plan D contemplated a major offensive across the Atlantic while maintaining the defensive in the Pacific; initially, American participation would be principally naval, but eventually it would probably have to include action by a large ground force in a major offensive to be launched from African or western European bases. Although Admiral Stark recognized that the American people were at this time opposed to sending a large expeditionary force across the Atlantic, he concluded nevertheless that Plan D was "likely to be the most fruitful for the United States, particularly if we enter the war at an early date." Despite this conclusion, the Chief of Naval Operations recommended that "until such time as the United States should decide to engage its full forces in war," it should "pursue a course that will most rapidly increase the military strength of both the Army and Navy, that is to say, adopt Alternative (A) without hostilities." Whatever the decision, Admiral Stark believed it essential that Army and Navy officers be authorized at once to engage in secret staff conversations with British and Dutch military representatives to insure a unified and coordinated military effort "should the United States find it necessary to enter the war." 27
The Army planners concurred in general with Admiral Stark's analysis and conclusions, though they objected to his definition of major national objectives as being too broad to be sustained by the nation's existing military and naval strength. Instead, they proposed a definition of national objectives in the following terms:
a. Preservation of the territorial, economic, and ideological integrity of the United States.
b. Aid to Great Britain short of war.
c. No military commitments in the Far East.
d. Preparations for an eventual unlimited war in the Atlantic in support of Great Britain.28
The Army planners pointed out that the Stark memorandum ignored the possibilities of air action against the Axis Powers, and they also observed that Great Britain did not then control any land area from which a large-scale ground offensive could be launched against the enemy. The Army planners indorsed Plan D, modified to include intensive air support, as the best course for the United States should it enter the war on its own initiative. But, like Admiral Stark, the planners recommended that the War Department support Plan A-hemisphere defense-until such time as the United States decided to participate in military operations. They also recommended that the joint Planning Committee draft a revised version of the Stark memorandum for presentation by the joint Board to the President for decision .29 A few days later General Marshall asked the joint Board to prepare a "National Estimate" along the lines of the Stark memorandum. The President, after reading Admiral Stark's paper, had said that he would like to have the State, War, and Navy Departments draft a joint estimate. This led to the Navy's subsequent insistence that official Department of State approval of the joint Planning Committee's estimate, transmitted to the joint Board on 21 December, be secured before its submission to the President.30 In the meantime, Mr. Roosevelt had authorized secret staff conversations with the British, and Admiral Stark on 2 December invited the British to participate in staff conversations in Washington.31 The prospective Anglo-American conference provided an additional reason for clarifying the national and military policies of the United States.
The services had reason enough already to ask for a new definition of policy. The only current and approved joint war plan-RAINBOW 4-constituted the basis for the Army's existing Operations Plan and Concentration Tables. But this joint plan had been adopted in June 1940 and had been predicated on the probability of Britain's defeat and on the necessity of the
United States acting virtually alone in defending the Atlantic front of the Western Hemisphere. Since June Britain's prospects had greatly improved, though the British position was still far from being fully assured; on the other hand, Japan's intentions had become much more evident and ominous. The Army recognized that the existing RAINBOW 4 war plans were out of date and was engaged in revising them. What the Army and Navy really needed was a new joint war plan, one that would accord with the conclusions and recommendations of the Stark memorandum, as amended in the joint Planning Committee's estimate of December. In essence, the Army and Navy now anticipated the probability of a period of transition from a RAINBOW 4 to a RAINBOW 5 situation. The RAINBOW 5 concept called for establishment of a firm defensive position in the Western Hemisphere and maintenance of the defensive in the Pacific, and thereafter projection of American military power offensively in the eastern Atlantic in association with the forces of Great Britain. Almost no work had been done on the joint RAINBOW 5 plan, and yet it was the one most similar to the services' new estimate of the way the situation was most likely to develop.32
At the beginning of December 1940 it appeared to the Secretaries of State, War, and Navy that, unless the United States took more decisive steps to support Great Britain, the British might be doomed to early defeat. To combat the steady pounding of German air and sea attacks, Britain needed more airplanes and more escort vessels. The state of aircraft production in the United States would not permit any great increase in plane deliveries for some time to come, and the Secretaries had been informed even if the United States had wished to turn over more destroyers to England, the British did not have the crews to man them. To the three Secretaries, the only solution appeared to be direct naval participation in convoying goods to England.33 In an Army-Navy conference on 16 December called by the Secretary of War, Mr. Stimson, Mr. Knox, General Marshall, and Admiral Stark found themselves unanimously agreed "that this emergency could hardly be passed over without this country being drawn into the war eventually," and also "that the eventual big act will have to be to save the life line of Great Brit-
ain in the North Atlantic."34 Their agreement was precipitated by Admiral Stark's prediction that in view of its current rate of shipping losses Great Britain could not hold out longer than six months. They jointly agreed that the President should be urged immediately to "consider some method for our Naval cooperation in the convoying of shipping to the British Isles."35
President Roosevelt, during a West Indian cruise in early December, had reflected on the means by which the United States could increase its aid to Great Britain, and he returned to Washington on 16 December with a plan introduced in Congress on 10 January as House Resolution 1776, which became known after its passage two months later as the Lend-Lease Act.36 That the President had also thought deeply on the broad strategical problems facing the United States is evident from a letter he wrote to the High Commissioner of the Philippines, Francis B. Sayre, on the last day of 1940. "For practical purposes," he stated, "there is going on a world conflict, in which there are aligned on one side Japan, Germany and Italy, and on the other side China, Great Britain and the United States." While the United States was not involved in the hostilities, it had a very great interest in the fortunes of the nations with which it was aligned. Great Britain was on the defensive everywhere, not only in the North Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, "but wherever there is a British possession or a British ship-and that means all over the world." Current American help to the defense of the British Isles was not enough. "They are defended," continued the President, "not only by measures of defense carried out locally but also by distant and wide-spread economic, military, and naval activities which both diminish the vital strength of their enemies and at the same time prevent those enemies from concentrating the full force of their armed power against the heart and nerve center of the Empire." Since in the nature of things the British strategy had to be global, the American "strategy of giving them assistance toward ensuring our own security must envisage both sending of supplies to England and helping to prevent a closing of channels of communication to and from various parts of the world, so that other important sources of supply and other theaters of action will not be denied to the British." Within its means and by measures short of war, the President concluded, the United States ought to support the British everywhere, including the Far East where a southward
advance by the Japanese would certainly diminish Great Britain's chances of winning the war.37
A week later, the President in his annual message to Congress asserted, "the future and the safety of our country are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders," and "at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today." The United States, he said, had adopted a policy of all-out national defense, of full support to all nations resisting aggression "thereby keeping war away from our hemisphere," and of refusing to acquiesce in any peace dictated by aggressors or sponsored by appeasers.38 The third element in this definition of policy had a far-reaching implication: the British could avoid such a peace only by winning the war, and American observers were now convinced that Great Britain could not win the war unless it received far greater military support from the United States.
The Army and Navy presented their joint estimate of the situation to the Department of State on 3 January 1941 for official Department of State approval, in accordance with the President's wish expressed to Admiral Stark in November. Secretary Hull called the joint paper excellent and indicated his general agreement with it, but he did not want to give a formal blessing to what he called "a technical military statement of the present situation." General Marshall and Admiral Stark had to content themselves by leaving a copy of the estimate with Secretary Hull and affirming to him the necessity of a very definite statement of national policy upon which they could "base detailed plans for cooperation between our own Army and Navy and between the British and ourselves, if we should enter the war."39
President Roosevelt made the necessary decisions on national and military policy in two separate actions during January. On 16 January, at the conclusion of a lengthy conference with Secretaries Hull, Stimson, and Knox, General Marshall, and Admiral Stark, the President issued an oral directive. First, he stated that the Navy should stand on the defensive in the Pacific with the United States Fleet based on Hawaii and should not attempt to reinforce its Asiatic Fleet. Second, the President ordered the Navy to continue its Atlantic patrol and to prepare to convoy shipping to Great Britain. Third, he said "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." This part of the President's directive had the effect of increasing the Army's concentration on preparations for military operations in the Caribbean and toward the South Atlantic. Finally, the President stated that even in the event of sudden and simultaneous action by Germany and Japan against the United States, the nation should make every effort to continue the supply of war material to Great Britain .40
As a second step, the President ten days later approved a statement of national and military policy submitted to him by the joint Board. This statement, designed as a guide for the conversations that were to begin with British staff officers three days later, defined "the present national position of the United States" as follows:
(a) A fundamental principle of United States policy is that the Western Hemisphere remain secure against the extension in it of non-American military and political control.
(b) The United States has adopted the policy of affording material and diplomatic assistance to the British Commonwealth in that nation's war against Germany.
(c) The United States by diplomatic means has opposed any extension of Japanese rule over additional territory.
The statement also included an assertion, "the American people as a whole desire now to remain out of war, and to provide only material and economic aid to Great Britain." But "should the United States be compelled to resort to war" (the President's own phrasing), its broad military objective would be the defeat of Germany; if Japan should also enter the war, United States operations in the Pacific "would be conducted in such a manner as to facilitate the exertion of its principal military effort in the Atlantic or navally in the Mediterranean." Under all circumstances, the United States would need to maintain adequate military dispositions to "prevent the extension in the Western Hemisphere of European or Asiatic political and military power."41
The New Outlook Toward the War
In charting the course of American policy toward the war, the President and his advisers had acted in accordance with the existing state of public opinion. A large segment of the American people still seemed clearly opposed to military participation in the war, except in defense of Western
Hemisphere territory.42 This was recognized by General Marshall and Admiral Stark in the policy statement approved by the President on 26 January. One of the strongest proponents of material aid to Great Britain, William Allen White, late chairman of the Committee To Defend America by Aiding the Allies, could write in early January that he was against American convoy of ships, against sending American ships loaded with contraband of war into belligerent waters, and "bitterly opposed to our entrance into the war as matters stand now until we are attacked."43 Even those administration leaders who advocated the early establishment of a North Atlantic escort-of-convoy system acknowledged that it would first be necessary to rouse responsible public opinion in favor of it.44
The national policy decisions of January 1941 did not change the position of Western Hemisphere defense as the basic military policy. Hemisphere defense remained basic, but from January onward the nation's political and military leaders built upon it a superstructure of further plans and measures that they regarded as necessary to insure the security of the United States. After January 1941 the Army ceased to defend its manpower requirements, which were currently fixed at 1,400,000 men, on the ground of hemisphere defense alone. The last study that did so, written in January, noted that the current Army "defense objective" called for fifty-four groups of combat aviation, twenty-seven infantry divisions, four armored divisions, two cavalry divisions, and essential corps, army, and GHQ troops. "A fighting force of this size," it argued, "is barely sufficient to meet defense responsibilities and to provide limited task forces for the support of South or Central American Governments threatened by Fifth Column activities." Projecting augmentations of the Army to 2,800,000-man and 4,000,000-man totals, it defended them as possibly necessary "to conduct operations throughout the wide expanse of two continents."45 Such validity as this study had lay in the fact that the United States Army did not know what Hitler's real intentions were. The Chief of Staff, for example, found a sharp divergence of opinion within the Military Intelligence Division. One of its most trusted observers believed that Hitler would continue the Drang nach Osten and engulf the Soviet Union, that he would eschew conquests for which naval power was an essential, and
therefore that the United States need have relatively little fear of a direct German military advance toward the New World. Brig. Gen. Sherman Miles, the chief of G-2, disagreed with his subordinate. He thought "that Hitler's idea for a new order is a world order dominated by the Germans, linked with Japanese supremacy in the Far East." Hitler could not achieve that position without gaining control of the Western Hemisphere-"it must be a world conquest or nothing." General Miles added that his analysis did not imply the likelihood of a German attack on the Western Hemisphere during 1941 or even 1942.46
The United States Army had good reason in any event to continue to concentrate its attention on hemisphere defense plans and measures for many months to come. The initial. Army defense force for the first of the new British bases to be occupied, Newfoundland, did not depart until January 1941, and none of the other British bases received Army combat troops before April. Work on the projected military air routes in Latin America had hardly begun. Alaska remained almost defenseless. Even under the best of circumstances it was anticipated in January 1941 that the 1,400,000-man Army could not be properly trained and equipped until March 1942. To Secretary of War Stimson, the immediate outlook seemed somber indeed. The chance of losing Great Britain and the British Fleet still loomed very large. If the British Fleet were eliminated, Secretary Stimson believed that the Germans could project their air and naval power across the Atlantic to South America or even to Newfoundland; once established in these positions, they could launch air attacks against the Caribbean and the northeastern United States. Should Germany and Japan attack simultaneously, the United States would not be able to withdraw its naval strength from the Pacific to fend off the German attack in the Atlantic. And the Panama Canal, essential to fluidity of naval movement between the oceans, was itself vulnerable to sabotage and to surprise air attack .47 In the face of these circumstances and possibilities, while it behooved the United States to do all it could to aid Great Britain, it was also mandatory to push defense preparations in the Western Hemisphere as rapidly as possible.
In the Anglo-American military staff meetings, known as the American-British Conversations (ABC) and held in Washington between the end of January and the end of March 1941, the American representatives held fast to the political and military policies approved by the President during Janu-
ary. The report of these conversations, usually referred to by the short title ABC-1, concluded that in case the United States should be compelled to resort to war, it must in all eventualities maintain military dispositions that would prevent any Old World nation from extending its political or military power in the Western Hemisphere, the area of the world in which the United States had "paramount territorial interests." With hemisphere defense assured, the broad strategic objective of the United States, as of its associates, would be the defeat of Germany and its allies. The Atlantic and European area would be the decisive war theater, even if Japan embarked on armed aggression against British, American, and Dutch positions in the Far East.48
The ABC-1 report contained as an annex a "United States-British Commonwealth Joint Basic War Plan," which prescribed Atlantic and Pacific areas within which American military forces would have primary responsibility if the United States joined in the war. In the Pacific, the American area of responsibility would extend westward to include the Japanese home islands, but it would exclude the Philippines and other Far Eastern territories in the path of Japan's projected southward advance. Within this area, the Army's role would be almost wholly defensive, on a line extending from Alaska (including Unalaska but excluding the outer Aleutians) through Hawaii to Panama, and from thence down the west coast of South America. In the Atlantic, the American area would consist of the two western continents and adjacent islands (including Greenland), and most of the Atlantic Ocean west of longitude 30°. Within this Atlantic area, which corresponded roughly to the eastern limits of the Western Hemisphere as currently understood, the plan allotted Army ground forces the tasks of repelling enemy external attacks; supporting Latin American republics "against invasion or political domination by the Axis Powers by defeating or expelling enemy forces or forces supporting the enemy in the Western Hemisphere"; relieving British forces in the Dutch West Indian islands of Curacao and Aruba; garrisoning the new British bases; and building up forces for an eventual offensive against Germany. Army air forces would have the additional mission of aiding in destruction of Axis sea communications. Within the British area of responsibility in the eastern Atlantic, United States Army land and air forces would relieve the British in Iceland; Army air forces would be established in Great Britain for offensive operations against Germany; one rein-
forced infantry division would relieve British troops in Northern Ireland, and one reinforced infantry regiment would be sent as a token force to the United Kingdom; and American air and naval bases in the British Isles and elsewhere would be protected by Army ground and air detachments. The United States Navy, in addition, accepted responsibility for occupying the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, if those operations became necessary. The plan specified that the Army commitments in the British Isles and Iceland could not be undertaken before 1 September 1941.49
The ABC-1 report and joint War Plan gave the United States Army a general mission and specific tasks that included all of its existing plans and projects for hemisphere defense, and added thereto large-scale preparation for offensive operations against Germany together with several additional tasks not contemplated in existing Army war plans-the defense of Curacao, Aruba, and Greenland in the Western Hemisphere and of Iceland and bases in the British Isles in the Eastern Hemisphere. ABC-1 was the implementation of Admiral Stark's Plan A of November 1940, with provision for transition to Plan D as rapidly as circumstances required and permitted-the course of policy decided upon by the United States Government in the winter of 1940-41.
On the basis of ABC-1, Army and Navy planners proceeded to draft a joint RAINBOW 5 war plan, which they submitted to the joint Board for approval on 30 April 1941. The initial draft of the Army RAINBOW 5 Operations Plan, produced during May, projected Western Hemisphere Army deployment and garrison strength in numbers virtually identical with those provided in the existing RAINBOW 4 Operations Plan.50 ABC-1 and joint RAINBOW 5 in effect provided a long-range blueprint for the deployment and action of the armed forces of the United States-after their existing state of training and equipment had been substantially improved-in the event that the United States entered the war or continued along the road toward direct participation in the war.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Return to the Table of Contents
Return to CMH Online