Early Interservice and International Staff Planning

The hurried mobilization of a big Army in 1940 and 1941 in some ways was a simple task in comparison with planning to use it in a big war, that is, a coalition war fought by large forces using all kinds of modern weapons and modern systems of communications. It was clear by the time of the fall of France in mid-1940 that, should the United States be drawn into war, American armed forces would have to engage in large-scale operations involving the close collaboration of air, sea, and ground forces with one another and with the armed forces of other nations. As soon as the United States reached a stage of military preparedness demanded by the approach of war, General Marshall found that many of his decisions on Army problems could not be made without reference to similar problems and decisions in the Navy. In the same way, both Army and Navy planning for the future came to hinge more and more on the military situation and the actual strategic plans of potential allies. In other words, nearly all of the most important decisions that had to be made in anticipating as well as in conducting such military operations could not be reached by the Army alone but had to be settled on a national or international plane of authority.

Making and carrying out the many decisions of this kind that materially affected the U. S. Army entailed a great deal of work by civilian and military staffs in Washington. Of these, WPD was only one and in fact one of the smallest. Yet in the Army the immediate influence of WPD grew steadily during the pre-Pearl Harbor period, if for no other reason, because its officers had become the principal support of the Chief of Staff in his strategic planning efforts outside the Army. The character of the impending conflict increased the importance of this part of WPD's staff work far beyond anything visualized in the 1920's.

In the process of military planning as of 1941, WPD might on its own initiative make a study and prepare recommendations bearing on the strategy that the Army ought to follow in the event of war. It was necessary to secure concurrences from the four other divisions of the General Staff insofar as their responsibilities were involved, and obtain the approval of the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War. Other agencies inside and outside the War Department, especially the agencies of the Navy Department, were at the same time making their own plans and recommendations. Many of these recommendations required early decision, especially those dealing with the training of troops and the procurement and distribution of munitions. All of them somehow had to be adjusted and readjusted to one another in order to formulate a national strategic policy and program, which


at the same time had to be co-ordinated with the plans of politically associated foreign powers, especially those of Great Britain. The Secretary of War and the Chief of Staff were the primary agents for the Army in the planning of national military policy. Of the War Department staffs which served them in one way or another and represented them in dealing with other agencies and with representatives of foreign powers, WPD shared most fully in their knowledge of strategic probabilities and best reflected their growing preoccupation with the development of Army units to meet the threat of war.

WPD officers had long maintained a liaison with most of the executive agencies, particularly with the State and Navy Departments. They sat on several interdepartmental committees, prepared reports and briefs for the use of the Chief of Staff in discussions outside the War Department, and when not sitting on these committees studied the deliberations of those who were working on such matters. The liaison was most imperfect, viewed in relation to the needs of World War II as they actually developed, but the principle of liaison existed. Moreover, the Army planners were able to carry on their work, not in isolation from conflicting or diverging ideas, but in an intellectual environment shared with planners in the State and Navy Departments. This association sometimes simplified, frequently complicated, and always was a conditioning factor in the Army's strategic planning.

Politico-Military Co-ordination

President Roosevelt, in order to determine national policy with respect to World War II, co-ordinated the ideas and work of the three agencies principally concerned—the State, War, and Navy Departments. He conferred with the three Secretaries of these departments in Cabinet meetings and at special "War Council" meetings at the White House attended by the Secretaries and the senior military advisers.1 The President kept the main strands of national policy in his own hands, and his Cabinet assistants advised him as individuals rather than as a body. In addition to attending meetings at the White House, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull began holding informal weekly conferences in 1940, but this "Committee of Three" was designed primarily to keep the civilian heads of the three agencies abreast of one another's and the President's problems rather than to help solve them.2

In April 1938 a Standing Liaison Committee was formed by the State, War, and Navy Departments. This committee was suggested by Secretary Hull, and President Roosevelt heartily approved the idea. In accordance with the President's wishes, the committee consisted of the Chief of Staff, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Under Secretary of State.3 In view of the Chief of Staff's role, WPD had to work on some of the problems before they reached


the Standing Liaison Committee, and by 1941 the Division was preparing briefs on issues about which it was "necessary to refresh the mind of the Chief of Staff" before liaison meetings.4 General Marshall very strongly supported the aim, not always but frequently achieved, of "having the State Department in joint plans so that our foreign policy and military plans would be in step." 5 National policies and interests involving the State Department as well as the armed services were usually described as politico-military affairs, and the committee's jurisdiction could not be defined more specifically. The Standing Liaison Committee dealt primarily with political and military relationships in the Western Hemisphere. It continued to meet until mid-1943, but its influence in general policy planning declined rapidly after the outbreak of hostilities.6

The President's dominant role in politico-military matters was absolutely clear. His public speeches, particularly during the early days when anti-Axis policy was being crystallized, nearly always marked the beginning of new phases in American diplomacy and military preparedness. The ideas in them often may have been advanced by almost anyone in his circle of official advisers, but the decision as to timing and phrasing was the President's own or at least was influenced only by some one of his personal, more or less anonymous White House assistants, among whom Harry L. Hopkins was prominent in quasi-military matters.7 Above all it was the President who had to calculate the political risks to which he felt he could afford to commit himself and the U. S. Government by any military action. These risks lay both in the field of foreign relations and in that of domestic public opinion. Ultimately the success of any strategic policy depended upon the confidence which the governments of friendly nations and the people of the United States placed in the Roosevelt administration.

Although General Marshall and WPD were continually studying military plans in the strict sense, the Army's besetting problems in the two and one-half years just before the United States entered the war centered rather in the mobilization of manpower and the expansion of industrial production. Neither of these subjects was of primary staff concern to WPD or of sole concern in the Army. They were political and economic problems of the first magnitude. The Congress had to solve the first one, as it did by the passage of the Selective Service Act in 1940 and by its subsequent extension. The President solved or tried to solve the second by the establishment of a series of executive agencies concerned with munitions production and economic stabilization. The National Defense Advisory Commission of 1940; the Office of Production Management created in January 1941, under William S. Knudsen and Sidney Hillman; and the Supply, Priorities, and Allocations Board set up in August 1941 under Donald Nelson, were the forerunners of the powerful War Production Board


finally established 16 January 1942 with Mr. Nelson as chairman.8

WPD had little to do directly with any of these agencies. Procurement was handled by the Army technical services, particularly the Ordnance Department, under the guidance of War Department G-4, and the Under (initially called Assistant) Secretary of War. This civilian official, Robert P. Patterson throughout Secretary Stimson's tenure, was responsible for "supervision of the procurement of all military supplies and other business of the War Department pertaining thereto and the assurance of adequate provisions for the mobilization of matériel and industrial organizations essential to wartime needs." 9 Nevertheless, military requirements recommended by the General Staff and especially the requirements contemplated in WPD's strategic planning were basic to industrial mobilization scheduling. Conversely, WPD's specific military proposals were always limited by the actual level of munitions production expected.

In like manner, military programs for equipping and training troops depended on the final distribution of munitions once they were manufactured. Here, too, the President controlled policy as to the sale of armaments to Great Britain and other anti-Axis Powers in 1940 and later the distribution of munitions and other supplies under the Lend-Lease Act of March 1941. At first he worked through the administrative machinery of the Treasury Department under Secretary Henry L. Morgenthau and later through the lend-lease administrative agencies successively headed by Mr. Hopkins, Maj. Gen. James H. Burns, and Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. The Secretary and Under Secretary of War, as well as the technical services and the G-4 Division of the General Staff, were deeply concerned with the foreign sales and lend-lease program.10 WPD officers occasionally became involved in planning the actual release of specific articles of military equipment, trying to assess the strategic importance of weapons and their use by foreign powers. Most of the proceedings in this matter, as in administration of national economic policy, were carried on outside the War Department.

In advising on military strategy, Army leaders stayed well within the limits set by the national policy, as announced by the President, of extending aid "short of war" to countries resisting aggression. Military preparedness, insofar as it fell within the jurisdiction of the War Department, was correspondingly restricted. Military leaders could not act on the assumption, which would have resolved many of their difficulties, that the national policy of the United States would eventually have to encompass war. With each new development they could only revise their calculations of the likelihood that the United States would be drawn into open hostilities in the immediate future and correspondingly revise their plans for disposing such forces as would have become available for strengthening the defenses of the Western Hemisphere and outlying bases of the United States. The basic premise on which WPD, during 1939,


1940, and 1941, studied the risks of hostile action which the United States obviously was running, was set down in July 1940: civilian authorities should determine the "what" of national policy, and professional soldiers should control the "how," the planning and conduct of military operations.11

As the President put the country more and more on a war footing, the views of the Army more and more corresponded with, and in turn influenced, national policy. Increasing popular awareness of the gravity of the crisis caused a steady trend in the direction of military preparedness. The appointment to office in mid-1940 of Secretary of War Stimson, well known to be a staunch proponent of American preparedness and resistance to aggression, marked the seriousness of the situation and helped subsequently to insure a strong cabinet presentation of the Army's views. At the suggestion of Mr. Hopkins in April 1941, Maj. Gen. Stanley D. Embick, Army elder statesman, and General Marshall entered into a series of discussions at the White House designed to "begin the education of the President as to the true strategic situation—this coming after a period of [the President's] being influenced by the State Department." Even then, General Marshall noted, Army planners had to recognize and adjust their thinking to the fact that the President was governed by public opinion as well as by professional military opinion.12 Whether or not the State Department approved of the Army's "education" of the President in early 1941, by the end of November Secretary of State Hull informed the President, Secretary Stimson, and Secretary Knox that, as a result of Japanese intransigence, the "safe guarding of our national security" was "in the hands of the Army and Navy." 13

Joint Board Machinery

The importance of the more strictly military problems of co-operation between the War and Navy Departments had been recognized long before the advent of World War II. In July 1903 the two secretaries established a joint board for "conferring upon, discussing, and reaching common conclusions regarding all matters calling for the cooperation of the two services." The initial membership comprised four Army and four Navy officers designated by name rather than office. The board took on considerable importance in Army-Navy affairs for a time, particularly under the sponsorship of President Theodore Roosevelt, but gradually declined in prominence until in 1914 President Wilson issued oral orders for suspension of its meetings.14

After World War I the Secretaries of War and Navy reorganized the institution, formally named the Joint Army-Navy Board but still usually called simply "The Joint Board," and ordered it to hold meetings to "secure complete cooperation and co-ordination in all matters and policies involving joint action of the Army and Navy relative to the national defense." The membership of the Joint Board was reduced to six in number, designated by office rather than name: the Chief of Staff, the director of the


Operations Division (G-3), the director of the War Plans Division, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, and the director of the War Plans Division of the Office of Naval Operations.15 After its reinstitution the Joint Board remained in operation continuously with mission unchanged. The composition of the board, however, changed twice. In 1923 the Deputy Chief of Staff, whose position had been set up by the Harbord reorganization in 1921, replaced the G-3 representative for the Army. In July 1941, in view of the increasing importance being attached to the air forces of both services, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Air (General Arnold) and the chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics of the Navy were added.16 A co-ordinating secretary for the board was supplied alternately by the two services, the Army furnishing a WPD plans officer for this position in the immediate pre-Pearl Harbor period.17

In July 1939 the President put the Joint Board on a new administrative footing by directing it to exercise its functions under the "direction and supervision" of the President as Commander in Chief as well as under that of the two secretaries. The same order transferred to Presidential supervision the Joint Economy Board, which was concerned with administrative organization; the Joint Munitions Board, which coordinated the procurement of Army and Navy munitions and supplies; and the Aeronautical Board, which attempted to adjust policies on the development of aviation by the two services.18 The Joint Board became increasingly active in 1940 and 1941, making exploratory studies of almost every aspect of common Army and Navy interest and arriving at some far-reaching policy decisions in this field. It completed a number of joint strategic plans which brought together and defined general and specifically interservice elements in Army and Navy plans for identical operational situations. With the establishment of the Joint Intelligence Committee on the eve of Pearl Harbor, the Joint Board system was developing some of the character of a rudimentary interservice high command.19 For a few weeks thereafter it attempted to function as such, making operational recommendations to the President concerning immediate military actions necessary as a result of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Throughout its existence the Joint Board was not a staff agency but simply a committee to make recommendations in the interests of interservice cooperation It


was unlikely to reach conclusions on matters on which the Army and Navy were diametrically opposed. Its rulings had only the force of the authority which its members and their civilian department heads chose to exercise independently in their respective agencies except in the most important or urgent cases, upon which it was possible to get formal approval by the President. The Joint Board continued to exist on paper throughout the war, and on occasion it met to deal with issues that were considered unfinished business left over from prewar Army-Navy deliberations.20 In theory it merely made a temporary transfer of its responsibilities when the members of the Joint Board and its subordinate committees began conducting their business in the parallel system set up under the Joint Chiefs of Staff early in 1942.21 As long as the board remained operative, WPD (or OPD) was represented on it by its chief, and acted as the War Department agency for carrying out Joint Board decisions.22 The existence of the Joint Board and WPD's connection with its work provided the essential precedents in Army experience for interservice planning organization and technique in World War II.

An integral part of the Joint Board organization after 1919 was a Joint Planning Committee, organized to "investigate, study, and report" on matters before the board. Originally the committee was intended to consist of three or more members from WPD and three or more members from the War Plans Division of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.23 After the Joint Planning Committee had dropped far behind in its work because of the steadily increasing volume of national defense plans that had to be drawn up in 1939 and 1940, it underwent a reorganization in personnel and in operating method. In May 1941 the Joint Planning Committee was reduced to two permanent members, the Assistant Chief of Staff, WPD, and the director of the Navy War Plans Division, both of whom also sat as members of the Joint Board. Thus reduced in size, the committee was authorized to assign work to a new, permanent Joint Strategic Committee, "composed of at least three members of the Army War Plans Division and the Navy War Plans Division, whose primary duties would be the study and preparation of joint basic war and joint operations plans." In addition, whenever it saw fit, the committee could appoint working committees from the two divisions. Actually, the reorganization amounted to recognition that the Joint Planning Committee would be a device whereby the work of the Army and Navy planning staffs could be utilized and to some extent directed by the Joint Board for interservice co-ordination.24 This approach


proved sufficiently adaptable to provide the pattern for the planning committees set up under the Joint Chiefs of Staff early in 1942.

International Military Collaboration

If interservice staff cooperation had its weaknesses in the pre-Pearl Harbor period, systematic military collaboration on the international plane was even less in evidence. Coalition warfare has usually been marked by a considerable reserve between the military staffs of nations perhaps only temporarily allied, and the United States was not even at war until the end of 1941. Under this circumstance the degree of liaison established with one power, Great Britain, was a remarkable achievement. It paved the way for the British-American combined staff system of World War II, a unique accomplishment in co-operative effort by the military staffs of two great sovereign powers.

Initially American relations with Great Britain, as with other nations, were maintained exclusively through diplomatic representatives, with military attachés functioning primarily as foreign intelligence reporters for the Army. Special military missions were sent to some of the Latin American countries but for the most part these dealt with either training technique or intelligence. In 1941, when lend-lease became a major political and military factor in the relations of the United States with friendly nations, several missions with Army members in control were sent to various countries at war with Germany and Japan. But the President handled lend-lease under his own authority, and he dispatched civilian personal representatives, such as Mr. Hopkins, Averell H. Harriman, and Laughlin Currie, as well as military missions, to supervise initial, basic negotiations with Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China, the principal recipients of American assistance. Until Pearl Harbor, therefore, the Army had very little to do with international negotiations even when they affected American military plans and capabilities. Although this circumstance did not necessarily result in the adoption of policies unwise from a military point of view, it greatly limited the field in which Army planners were free to recommend strategic policy, especially Army policy which was interrelated with the distribution of American munitions.

A special situation existed with regard to British-American military relations, particularly important because many of the strategic objectives of the two nations were identical or could be reconciled. The President's sympathetic semipersonal correspondence with Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill in the United Kingdom's darkest days, the post-Dunkerque transfer of obsolete American arms to Great Britain, and the 1940 exchange of American destroyers for bases leased in British territory in the Western Atlantic, all served to establish an extraordinarily cordial association between the heads of the two governments in 1940 and 1941.25

In more narrowly military matters, the Army and the Navy began early in 1941 to take the lead in staff liaison with the British.


The services were permitted to do so partly as a result of the mutual British-American political confidence which had been established, and partly because the President himself wished to avoid any appearance of committing the United States to a military course of action before Congress had declared war. Conferences in January, February, and March, generally known as the ABC-1 conversations, were the first of the formal British-American strategic discussions, and they were conducted under the auspices of the armed services rather than those of the State Department. American interests were represented by a committee of U. S. Army and Navy officers, two of whom were WPD planners.26 Related conversations, specifically concerning the Pacific and the Far East and including Netherlands as well as British representatives, were conducted in Singapore on a similar plane, though with less success, by Army and Navy officers on duty in the Pacific. These international staff conversations did much to give shape to American strategic thinking in 1941. They were briefed and analyzed for General Marshall by WPD, which attempted to bring its planning into line with the military thinking of potential allies either by promoting the U. S. Army point of view or modifying it in the interests of acceptable compromise.

As a result of the successful conference between the British and U. S. representatives early in 1941, a method for continuous exchange of staff ideas came into existence. The United States dispatched observer groups of Army and Navy officers to Great Britain to provide systematic liaison with the British military leaders in London. On their part, the British established a staff group in Washington, the British Joint Staff Mission, to represent the three armed services of Great Britain. Originally termed simply a military mission but later for purposes of secrecy publicly called the "Advisors to the British Supply Council in North America," it was set up in June 1941 under the leadership of Admiral Sir Charles J. C. Little, Lt. Gen. H. C. B. Wemyss, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur T. Harris.27 WPD acted as the War Department liaison agency with the British mission in all matters concerning Army ground or air plans, operations, organization, and supply.28 It coordinated all Army work relevant to British-American discussions and advised the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War on British studies and recommendations.29 This arrangement for dealing with British-American military affairs in Washington established the ground work for a system of international staff and command coordination The extent of cooperation achieved between the two countries under this arrangement was demonstrated by the August 1941


conference between the President and the Prime Minister. American officers, including a WPD planner, and the chiefs of the British armed services discussed common strategy while the civilian representatives of the two great anti-Axis Powers were agreeing on the political and social principles, set forth in the "Atlantic Charter." It was from this working liaison between American and British military staffs that the Combined Chiefs of Staff structure developed after Pearl Harbor. The close identification of WPD with the British Joint Staff Mission foreshadowed the prominent role its successor agency would play in later British-American planning deliberations.



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