Case History: Drafting the BOLERO Plan

The staff work which OPD was doing in the spring of 1942 not only fixed the patterns of Division organization and procedures but also concentrated the attention of American and British military planners on the main strategic issue of World War II. That issue was whether, when, and on what scale the United States and Great Britain should carry the war directly to Germany by invading northwest Europe. General Marshall emphasized this critical question in April 1942 by presenting a specific plan for concentrating American forces in the United Kingdom in preparation for an early assault across the English Channel. The President and the Prime Minister in turn approved this plan, to which the code name BOLERO was thereupon assigned. It was basically a statement of a general course of military action, what Army officers later usually called a strategic concept, designed for the defeat of Germany. It dominated Army planning until July, when it was pushed into the background for the sake of action in 1942—the invasion of North Africa. Afterwards, it remained a point of departure for most American and British strategic planning for the defeat of Germany until troops actually landed in Normandy in 1944. OPD officers helped evolve the BOLERO outline plan of April 1942, aided the Chief of Staff in convincing the British of its soundness, and took the lead in making concrete preparations to carry it out. Thereby they contributed a long-term unity and purposeful direction hitherto lacking in post-Pearl Harbor strategic planning and military operations. Aside from the importance which the plan for invading the Continent assumed in 1943 and 1944, the BOLERO episode in 1942 showed that General Marshall had found in OPD the staff he needed to assist him in thinking and acting on long-term as well as day-to-day problems of high command.

The Search for a Common Strategy

During the first six months of American participation in World War II, the immediate attention of the Army as well as the Navy was on the Pacific, where an aggressive enemy was making unexpectedly rapid gains. WPD and later OPD carried a heavy burden of staff work connected with setting up commands and deploying Army forces to help establish a defensive line in the Pacific and to help maintain sea and air communications with Australia.1 The line, Midway-Fiji-New Caledonia-Australia, was


definitely established only in June 1942 and scarcely secure until after the Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands) and Papua (New Guinea) Campaigns of late 1942. Nevertheless, some of the Army strategists were planning in early 1942 for the eventual offensive against Germany.

The ARCADIA Conference of December 1941-January 1942, which had accomplished so much in setting up the British-American Combined Chiefs of Staff system, had accomplished little in the sphere of strategy except to confirm officially in wartime the general principles of ABC-l and RAINBOW 5, mainly the "beat Germany first" idea. The President and the Prime Minister had directed that serious consideration be given to preparing for an offensive in North Africa, but the project was postponed and came to nothing during the first half of 1942 because the spectacular advances of the Japanese gave the Pacific area first call on American resources, particularly shipping. During the first few months of their common military effort, the United States and Great Britain were definitely on the defensive and were necessarily dealing with urgent military problems on a hand-to-mouth basis as these problems forced themselves one by one to the highest level for decision. In the critical fields of distribution and use of aircraft, troop deployment, and distribution of munitions, the Army in particular felt the need of a common standard by which to measure military enterprises against one another. In the frantic effort to build up Pacific defenses, the U. S. Navy recommended maximum reinforcement by Army units, especially Air units, in what the Navy had long considered to be its special area of responsibility. At the same time requests for lend-lease equipment came pouring in, particularly from Great Britain, the USSR, and China, whose urgent needs could not be disregarded. To Army officers it therefore seemed altogether possible that American equipment might be irrevocably scattered, the American training program crippled, and the ABC-1 and RAINBOW 5 principle of concentrating strength for the defeat of Germany abandoned in practice without ever being repudiated in theory.2

Many American and British officers on the high staff or command level must have made the same diagnosis. It was up to General Marshall to prescribe a well-considered remedy, and, as a matter for staff action, it was up to the senior officers in WPD and OPD to offer him one. They were quick to do so, being acutely aware that the Army desperately needed some master plan that would channel efforts of every kind toward some major strategic goal. In fact Army officers had to solve most of their problems in relation to the deployment schedules, which answered the key question of where troop units were going to be used. If a unit went overseas its equipment went with it and its supplies had to follow. Necessary readjustments in mobilizing, training, and equipping new units and finding supplies for old ones had to be made in the zone of interior. Thus the co-ordination of Army activities depended upon developing a deployment program. A comparatively long-range deployment program was essential to daily staff work in WPD and OPD, yet it was bound to be a delusion unless it was based squarely on firm assumptions as to the main direction, scale, and timing of future military operations. The planners began very early in 1942 to search for a sound basis for


their own staff work and to urge the general adoption of some common strategic plan.3

As General Gerow's deputy for Pacific and Far Eastern matters and, after 16 February 1942, as Division chief, General Eisenhower saw the problem clearly. In personal notes jotted down on 22 January 1942, he described it as follows:

The struggle to secure the adoption by all concerned of a common concept of strategical objectives is wearing me down. Everybody is too much engaged with small things of his own.

We've got to go to Europe and fight—and we've got to quit wasting resources all over the world—and still worse—wasting time. If we're to keep Russia in, save the Middle East, India and Burma; we've got to begin slugging with air at West Europe; to be followed by a land attack as soon as possible.4

Two days later General Eisenhower indicated that Colonel Handy, WPD's Plans Group chief, shared this point of view and that General McNarney, who only recently had returned from England, supported it: "Tom Handy and I stick to our idea that we must win in Europe. Joe McNarney not only agrees—but was the first one to state that the French coast could be successfully attacked. . . . We can't win by . . . giving our stuff in driblets all over the world with no theater getting enough."5 The idea took more definite form a few weeks later, immediately after the fall of Singapore, when General Eisenhower had become Assistant Chief of Staff, WPD. He wrote: "We've got to go on a harassing defensive west of Hawaii; hold India and Ceylon; build up air and land forces in England, and when we're strong enough, go after Germany's vitals."6 Again, three days later: "We've got to keep Russia in the war—and hold India!!! Then we can get ready to crack Germany through England." 7

WPD's principal planning officers promptly began to put their personal opinions, such as those which General Eisenhower set down in writing at the time, into the form of staff recommendations urging the necessity of agreeing on a definitive strategic concept for winning the war. They proposed that this strategy should indorse the pre-Pearl Harbor ABC-l and RAINBOW 5 concept of maintaining the strategic defensive in the Pacific and turning toward Europe as the decisive theater. But they recommended going beyond the general objective of preparing for an eventual offensive against the Axis Powers in Europe. Until there was agreement on a specific kind


of operation in a specific area with a specific though tentative target date, agreement on an eventual offensive would not prevent the continued dissipation of troops and equipment for defensive purposes. Planning officers urged that the United States and Great Britain concentrate at once on a first-priority effort to build up resources in the United Kingdom for an early cross-Channel invasion of northern France. The name BOLERO which was adopted for this plan was also subsequently used by Army officers to refer to the whole drive for a central strategic concept—in the Army, in the JCS system, and in the high policy sphere of agreements between the heads of government of the United States and Great Britain, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill.

Insofar as officers in the strategic planning staff of the Army were directly involved, the general military idea eventually incorporated in the BOLERO plan first arose in connection with an immediate problem under discussion in the JCS system, namely deployment of forces in the Pacific. The very first directive given by the U. S. Joint Staff Planners to their working subcommittee, the Joint U. S. Strategic Committee, authorized a continuing study of priorities for the "Strategic Deployment of Land, Sea, and Air Forces of the United States."8 This extensive project, initiated on 28 January, was hardly under way before it became apparent that Japanese advances were rendering obsolete most of the ARCADIA provisions for defense of the Southwest Pacific.9 Accordingly the Combined Chiefs of Staff called for a "comprehensive review of the strategical situation in the Japanese Theater of War (including the entire Pacific area) and the preparation of a combined plan for the forces of the United Nations in the area."10 On 11 February the JUSSC, since it already was studying American aspects of the problem, received a directive to satisfy the CCS request by rendering an early report on over-all deployment by the United Nations in the Japanese theater of war.11

The imminent collapse of the first line of Australian-British-Dutch-American defenses in the Netherlands East Indies area, hastily erected as a result of decisions at the ARCADIA Conference, demanded prompt action. Nevertheless, the question of reinforcing the Pacific area could be settled only in the context of strategy and deployment policy of the United Nations all over the world. The JUSSC submitted a draft report, 18 February 1942, which proved to be only the first in a series of papers reflecting fundamental differences of strategic opinion among American planners. Essentially the issue was whether to concentrate forces in Europe or in the Pacific. Disagreement on basic policy marked the studies and discussions at every stage of planning. By the time the issue was presented to the JCS for decision, the basic papers consisted of several JUSSC studies plus a strong recommendation by the JPS that an early decision was essential.12


Some of the language in the JUSSC studies indicated that invasion of Europe in 1942 was absolutely necessary to sustain Russia, was logistically possible, and should be launched at any cost to positions of the United Nations in the Pacific. The issue involved, in the first instance, the deployment of aircraft and the initiation of a major air offensive in Europe. The Air planner on the JUSSC, at this time Lt. Col. Haywood S. Hansell, Jr., was the principal spokesman for resolving the debate by attacking Germany as soon as possible.13 At the opposite extreme some of the planners, principally the Navy representatives, urged that the Pacific area be strongly reinforced "at the expense of executing a vigorous offensive against Germany with United States Forces," thus abandoning the ABC-l and RAINBOW 5 principle of concentrating strength in the European theater.14 Colonel Handy, the Army planner on the JPS committee, and the WPD planning officers who made up the Army section (ground officers only until March, ground-air subsequently) of the JUSSC, Col. Ray T. Maddocks, Colonel Wedemeyer, and Lt. Col. Jesmond D. Balmer, took an intermediate position. They recommended that reinforcements in the Pacific be restricted to the minimum calculated to be necessary for the defense of Australia and its Pacific lines of communications, and that the maximum effort be made to send troops to the United Kingdom for an early assault on Germany.15

While the JUSSC was still trying to resolve these differences of opinion among its own members, WPD undertook to consolidate its official view on the whole deployment issue in terms of strategic policy. By 28 February, six days before the JUSSC finally submitted its studies and recommendations to the Joint Staff Planners and two weeks before the whole problem was referred to the JCS, General Eisenhower prepared a formal study for the Chief of Staff setting forth WPD's conclusions and recommendations on world strategy as well as Pacific deployment. The argument followed the line which Colonel Maddocks and Colonel Wedemeyer were taking in the Joint U. S. Strategic Committee. The same argument, as well as a great deal of the language in this WPD study, reappeared again and again in basic planning papers of March and April 1942.

WPD's Recommendations on Strategy

The WPD study of 28 February 1942 presented an outline of world-wide strategic objectives from which a solution to strategic problems in the Southwest Pacific could be deduced. The views of the Division were set forth in three main postulates, all directly in line with strategic thought on which


American and British planners had agreed since ABC-1 was evolved:

[1] In the event of a war involving both oceans, the U. S. should adopt the strategic defensive in the Pacific and devote its major offensive effort across the Atlantic.
[2] We must differentiate sharply and definitely between those things whose current accomplishment in the several theaters over the world is necessary to the ultimate defeat of the Axis Powers, as opposed to those which are merely desirable because of their effect in facilitating such defeat.

[3] The United States interest in maintaining contact with Australia and in preventing further Japanese expansion to the Southeastward is apparent . . . but . . . they are not immediately vital to the successful outcome of the war. The problem is one of determining what we can spare for the effort in that region, without seriously impairing performance of our mandatory task.

In developing the first of these three points the memorandum which General Eisenhower prepared for the Chief of Staff first set out to demolish an argument which might plausibly be advanced against the principle of concentrating strength in the European theater. The memorandum pointed out that the "strategic axiom" of attacking the weaker force of a divided enemy did not lead to the conclusion that forces should be concentrated in the Far East, even though the European Axis was "stronger in total combat power" than Japan. According to Eisenhower's reasoning, Japan was at the time "relatively stronger" than Germany and Italy because of her geographical position and the greater force that the United Nations could bring to bear in Europe, at least as long as the Soviet Union remained in the war. This condition obtained primarily because it took three to four times as many ships to transport and maintain a force in the Pacific as across the Atlantic. Thus WPD's conclusion was that "logistic reasons, as well as strategic axiom, substantiate the soundness of the decision to concentrate against the European Axis."

Having asserted the second main postulate, the doctrine of the "necessary" as distinguished from the "desirable," General Eisenhower listed in his memorandum three objectives as "necessary" —always assuming that the "continental United States and Hawaii, the Caribbean area, and South America north of Natal" were secure:

a. Maintenance of the United Kingdom, which involves relative security of the North Atlantic sea lanes.
b. Retention of Russia in the war as an active enemy of Germany.
c. Maintenance of a position in the India-Middle East Area which will prevent physical junction of the two principal enemies, and will probably keep China in the war.

Next, he named as "things. . . highly desirable," even approaching the necessary:

a. Security of Alaska.
b. Holding of bases west and southwest of Hawaii.
c. Security of Burma, particularly because of its influence on future Chinese action.
d. Security of South America south of Natal.
e. Security of Australia.
f. Security of bases on West African coast and trans-African air route.
g. Other areas and bases useful in limiting hostile operations and facilitating our own.

Upon the basis of this memorandum, the WPD stand on minimum reinforcement of the Pacific and Far East inevitably followed. Its specific implications for the deployment of troops in the Southwest Pacific were developed at considerable length at the conclusion of the memorandum.

This presentation of long-established concepts led General Eisenhower to


introduce the strategic idea which was even then claiming the attention of the JUSSC and which was to prove central to American wartime planning for many months. In elaborating on what was meant by the "task of keeping Russia in the war," WPD urged "immediate and definite action," first "by direct aid through lend-lease" and second "through the early initiation of operations that will draw off from the Russian front sizeable portions of the German Army, both air and ground." More specifically: "We should at once develop, in conjunction with the British, a definite plan for operations against Northwest Europe. It should be drawn up at once, in detail, and it should be sufficiently extensive in scale as to engage from the middle of May onward, an increasing portion of the German Air Force, and by late summer an increasing amount of his ground forces."

The choice of northwest Europe as the invasion point followed from the fact that another of the three essential objectives—protecting the United Kingdom and the North Atlantic sea lanes—could be achieved concurrently with building up resources in the British Isles for the cross-Channel assault. Greater shipping economy thus could be effected than if another "'first priority' convoying" problem were created by establishing a "large force at any location other than the Northeast Atlantic." Indeed, WPD asserted, "The United Kingdom is not only our principal partner in this war; it offers the only point from which effective land and air operations against Germany may be attempted." 16

The imprint of this line of reasoning was clear in subsequent JUSSC papers on troop deployment, particularly the two comprehensive reports submitted to the Joint Staff Planners on 6 March 1942. The studies from the first had emphasized the importance of supporting Russia as the only one of the United Nations "actively and aggressively operating against Germany." This assistance was taken to include a "supporting offensive in 1942," an operation which could be based only on the British Isles, though there was no unequivocal statement that such an offensive in 1942 was possible. Nevertheless, the Joint U. S. Strategic Committee asserted: "If the war is to be won in Europe, land forces must be developed and trained which are capable of landing on the continent and advancing under the support of an overwhelming air force." To concentrate strength for this effort, the planners recommended strict "economy of force in other theaters." 17

The rather temperate statement of all these propositions reflected the middle-of-the-road policy which WPD had come to adopt as a result of further study and consideration on the part of its planners—a policy that broke away from earlier influences. Typifying the cautious stand of the Division, the Army Planner, Colonel Handy, explicitly refused to let emphasis on the critical importance of Soviet survival through 1942 lead to a flat declaration that "Germany would completely defeat Russia in 1942 unless we move all possible forces to the United Kingdom for an offensive this year." He also in effect


had warned against overvaluing the contribution which the United States could make to any operation in 1942, pointing out that the British would have to furnish the "bulk of the forces initially required for the land offensive" in 1942, and, consequently, that the movement of American troops to the United Kingdom would "influence the 1942 campaign only by permitting earlier employment of British Forces."18 This sober reflection represented a major qualification of the 1942 orientation of both the earlier JUSSC papers and WPD's 28 February memorandum.

Consequently the specific recommendations by the Joint Strategic Committee, based on detailed statistical calculations of troop commitments and the amount of shipping available, did not mention any particular time for the major offensive. They were:

(a) Make secure the territory of North and South America and their coastal communication.
(b) In cooperation with the forces of the British Commonwealth make secure the trans-Atlantic sea and air routes.
(c) Secure Australia, the island positions between Australia and Hawaii, and their sea and air communications with the United States.
(d) Exert pressure against the Japanese by operations of naval and air forces. . . .
(e) Give limited air assistance to the defense of the India-Burma-China area.
(f) Having arranged for the accomplishment of the above courses of action with minimum forces, exert a maximum effort in cooperation with the British in offensive operations against Germany.19

The planners estimated that during 1942, to accomplish the recommended tasks which required overseas movement of troops, a total of about 416,000 forces of the United States would be needed to secure the entire Pacific area (including Australia). The bulk of these forces of course would have to be supplied by the Army. For the entire Pacific, the Army strength required for 1942 was set at about 235,000 ground forces and 115,000 air forces, equipped with approximately 1,650 aircraft.20 To secure all other points outside the United States except Great Britain itself, forces totaling about 90,000, nearly all from U. S. Army ground or air units, were listed as necessary.

When these commitments had been met, the JUSSC originally calculated, shipping would be sufficient to move to the European theater:

By Air
(Aircraft) Ground
1 July 1942  50,000(700)  51,000
1 October 1942 114,000 (1,400) 191,000
1 January 1943 183,000 (2,300) 252,000

Since it had been agreed at the outset that a force large enough to cause a material diversion of German forces from the Russian front would amount to about 600,000 ground troops, supported by some 6,500 planes, the study concluded that the American "force available for the European Theater is not adequate immediately for a major offensive." Nevertheless the American contribution, the planners asserted, would be "adequate to assist effectively in such an offensive in the fall of 1942. . . . Their prospective availability should enable the British


to initiate an offensive even sooner." In fact, the JUSSC study had as an annex an outline plan for a British-American air offensive beginning in the last two weeks of July 1942, to be followed by an assault with ground forces six weeks later.21

Before the whole deployment issue reached the JCS, estimates of forces of the United States had to be revised in view of commitments made subsequent to the original JUSSC study. These commitments, involving the dispatch of two additional U. S. Army divisions to the Pacific and the diversion of ships for moving 40,000 British troops to the Middle/East, materially reduced the number of American forces that could be moved to the United Kingdom, especially in mid-1942. Revised estimates were as follows:

By Air
1 July 194240,000. . .
1 October 1942114,00066,000
1 January 1943183,000207,000

However, these changes merely emphasized the wisdom of Colonel Hendy's caution about overestimating the contribution which American troops could make to an invasion in 1942. The JUSSC did not alter its general strategic recommendations.22

WPD officially stood squarely behind the joint planning studies presented on 6 March, and continued to support them even after the revision of estimates of American forces that would be available in the European theater in 1942. The JUSSC, presumably in deference to WPD's reservations about the idea, had refrained from stating in so many words that a 1942 invasion was either possible or necessary. The main point of their studies was to urge immediate action to build up strength in the United Kingdom.

WPD's strategists were perfectly willing to see the planning wheels start turning with a 1942 invasion as the objective ahead, even though they went on record as warning that conditions might well "preclude the actual accomplishment of this effort in 1942." At least the major point of concentrating maximum strength in the European area would have been won. In addition, air operations from the United Kingdom would create a "not inconsiderable diversion of German effort from the Russian front," and, "by 1943, the United Nations should be in a position to launch an offensive of such magnitude that the decision can be gained." Thus the WPD planners were tending toward agreement with the strategic timetable originally set up by Major Wedemeyer in the WPD Victory Program study of September 1941. With this ultimate objective in view, therefore, WPD recommended: "The plans and preparations for an offensive of this nature should certainly be laid now and efforts made to crystallize a decision for their execution. . . . It is the only alternative that has been suggested to inaction, dispersion, minor decision, and a scattering of effort in a secondary theater."23


JCS Decision on Deployment Policy

Since the Joint Staff Planners committee was able to agree only that "an immediate decision for a definite course of action" was essential, it forwarded the earlier studies and the strategic issue implicit in them to the JCS with a recommendation that the JCS "at once decide on a clear course of action, and execute this decision with the utmost vigor." The amalgamated paper comprising Joint U. S. Strategic Committee studies and Joint Staff Planners conclusions reached the JCS as JCS 23, "Strategic Deployment of Land, Sea, and Air Forces of the United States." 24

The JPS reported the inability to reconcile differences of opinion among themselves and presented three mutually exclusive courses of action, each supported by some member of their committee. A middle-of-the-road course, which echoed General Eisenhower's 28 February study, was listed as the third of these alternatives. WPD planners had drafted the argument included in its support and recommended to General Marshall that it be approved by the JCS.25

The three alternatives were:

a. Ensure the security of the military position in the Pacific Theater by strong reinforcements . . . at the expense of executing a vigorous offensive against Germany with United States forces.
b. While Russia is still an effective ally, concentrate the mass of our forces for a vigorous offensive, initially from bases in England, with the objective of defeating Germany. Until Germany has been defeated, accept the possibility that the southwest Pacific may be lost.

c. Provide . . . forces in the South Pacific area considered by the Joint Strategic Committee as the minimum required for the defensive position and simultaneously begin to build up in the United Kingdom forces intended for offensive at the earliest practicable time.26

The issue of where the United Nations proposed to concentrate forces for its first major offensive was thus squarely presented. Implicit in any decision in favor of the third alternative, WPD's recommendation, was acceptance of the United Kingdom as the major offensive base. With very little recorded discussion the JCS agreed on 16 March 1942 that "of the courses of action available," it was "preferable" for the United States to restrict Pacific forces to the number allotted in current commitments and to "begin to build up forces in the United Kingdom."27 This decision on JCS


23 represented a clear preference for WPD's deployment policy in the Pacific, and, somewhat less conclusively, for the basic BOLERO concept of preparing an early offensive in Europe from the United Kingdom. The timing was still confused, and British agreement was yet to be won. But insistence on the need to concentrate forces for a large-scale offensive in Europe was beginning to act as a catalyst in forming a common British-American strategy for winning the war.

On the very day, 16 March 1942, on which the JCS approved the policy of limited deployment in the Pacific and concurrent preparation for a campaign in Europe, the British representatives in Washington presented for planning use a staff study that had been prepared in London in December 1941. It consisted of a tentative plan for landing British forces in the early summer of 1943 in the vicinity of Le Havre, France, "under conditions of severe deterioration of German military power." It flatly stated that the operations would have to be postponed unless the enemy already had been "weakened in strength and morale" before 1943.28 At General Marshall's suggestion, the CCS directed the CPS to reconcile this very modest British approach to an operation on the Continent with JCS 23, which recommended, by implication, an invasion of the Continent, at least by British forces, in 1942. Specifically, the combined planners were to report on both the possibility of landing and maintaining ground forces on the Continent in 1942 and the possibility of an invasion early in 1943.29 In effect this report would also serve as some kind of reconciliation between the early emphasis which WPD had been inclined to put on a 1942 invasion and WPD's later, more conservative emphasis on one in 1943. A CPS subcommittee, including the four OPD officers on the JUSSC, at once began work in an attempt to adjust the British-American differences on the timing of the European project.30

While this effort to reach an agreement on a plan to take the offensive in Europe was only beginning, OPD renewed its independent campaign to reach a "coordinated viewpoint" as to the major tasks of the war, particularly the task of building up an assault force in the United Kingdom. The Division drafted a study dated 25 March 1942 urging on the Chief of Staff the necessity of definitely deciding on the "theater in which the first major offensive of the United Powers must take place." Echoing the strategic ideas first expressed formally in General Eisenhower's study, OPD declared that the "principal target for our first major offensive should be Germany, to be attacked through western Europe." Only on the basis


of general acceptance of this objective as the "principal target of all United Powers" could sound production and deployment decisions be reached.31

The choice of theater was supported by a long list of reasons, for the most part previously suggested in one way or another. Since the lines of communications to England had to be kept safe regardless of the areas in which forces of the United States were deployed, a theater in western Europe would not necessitate a dispersion of air and naval protective forces. By using the shortest possible sea route, a large force could be maintained with a minimum strain on shipping. The early build-up of air and ground forces in Great Britain would carry sufficient threat to prevent Germany from complete concentration against the USSR. This route represented the direct approach by superior land communications to the center of German might. The forward base in England already had the airfields from which a large air force could operate to secure the air superiority essential to a successful landing. A major portion of the British combat power could be used without stripping the home defenses of the United Kingdom. Finally, this plan provided for attempting an attack on Germany while she was engaged on a number of fronts.32

The success of the plan for taking the offensive, OPD pointed out, depended on securing complete agreement among the CCS that the attack against Germany through western Europe constituted the eventual task of the United Nations. With such a plan, training and production schedules could be adjusted, overwhelming air support built up, ample ships and landing craft found, and combat strength husbanded. OPD planners so strongly felt the necessity of having a "target on which to fix . . . [their] sights" that they declared: "Unless this plan is adopted as the eventual aim of all our efforts, we must turn our backs upon the Eastern Atlantic and go, full out, as quickly as possible, against Japan!" Above all, OPD emphasized the "tremendous importance of agreeing on some major objective" for "coordinated and intensive effort." 33

The Bolero Plan

General Marshall needed no convincing on the desirability of securing a clear-cut strategic plan. He and Secretary Stimson immediately urged upon the President the project of concentrating forces for an invasion of Europe. The President approved the idea of developing a plan and clearing it directly with the British Chiefs of Staff in London.34 Thus approval was gained on the highest policy level for completing a staff enterprise that had been under way in OPD for several weeks.

When Colonel Hull set up the Future Plans Section of S&P in February 1942, he had assigned a new officer, Colonel Connor, the task of drafting future strategic plans for Europe.35 While Colonel Wedemeyer and his colleagues on the JUSSC were


debating the JCS 23 issue, Colonel Connor had discovered the conservative attitude Colonel Handy had adopted toward the possibility of an invasion of France in 1942. During the last week of March, while the subcommittee of the CPS was attempting to reconcile American and British ideas as to timing, Colonel Hull and Colonel Connor set the planning wheels in motion to assemble sufficiently detailed data to prepare the plan authorized by the President on 25 March. G-2 supplied estimates on British forces available for an invasion of the Continent and on the time of year for weather conditions favorable to a Channel crossing. G-3 and G-4 estimated the readiness for combat of major U. S. Army units, indicating the status of their equipment and training as of 15 September 1942 and 1 April 1943. Services of Supply submitted tables showing requirements and resources in shipping. Army Ground Forces listed the kind of units and total strength of a well-balanced ground component that could be made available for the offensive. Army Air Forces drafted their own outline plan for air operations in support of an attack to take place either on 15 September 1942 or on 1 April 1943.36

On the basis of all this information and in conformity with OPD's well-developed strategic ideas about an attack in western Europe, Colonel Hull and Colonel Connor drew up an invasion plan in outline, the first draft of which was ready on 27 March. Colonel Hull discussed it with Colonel Handy and General Eisenhower, the three officers weighing its merits as a concrete military project to carry out the strategy on which they all agreed. On 1 April they presented the plan to General Marshall, who at once gave it his wholehearted support, though recommending substantial changes in language that General Eisenhower and his two staff assistants promptly incorporated.37 Secretary Stimson and General Marshall took it to the President, who gave his prompt approval 1 April 1942.38 A few days later, accompanied by Harry Hopkins, General Marshall set out for London as a Presidential envoy to secure British approval of the common strategy which OPD had recommended. In the Chief of Staff's party was Colonel Wedemeyer, who had figured prominently in the Joint U. S. Strategic Committee planning which pointed the way to the BOLERO plan and who had been working in the field of long-range strategy and logistics ever since he helped draft the Victory Program in 1941. The American delegation arrived in the United Kingdom on 8 April 1942.39


The Marshall Memorandum, as the British called the American plan, outlined the objective, the timing, the combat strength, and the strategic advantages of operations in western Europe.40 First, it listed the principal reasons for launching the first British-American offensive in western Europe, the argument following the general lines WPD had drawn in its memoranda of 28 February and 25 March 1942. The selection of western Europe for invasion would "produce effective results" in less time than if any other theater were chosen. The "shortest route to the heart of Germany" passed through France. In this area alone could the necessary air superiority be achieved and the bulk of British air and ground forces be brought into action. The United States could "concentrate and maintain" a larger force in western Europe than any other area. There they could be employed in a concerted effort with British and Soviet combat forces. The western European front offered a "unique opportunity to establish an active sector" in the summer of 1942 through air operations and raids or forays. Finally, an attack on Germany through western Europe would "afford the maximum possible support" for the Soviet Union, "whose continued participation in the war is essential to the defeat of Germany."

The plan then presented OPD's often reiterated contention that a decision as to the major effort had to be made at once so that the United Nations could co-ordinate all "production, special construction, training, troop movements and allocations" for one main objective. The American proposal was to harness all plans and preparations to the "single end" of "an attack, by combined forces of approximately 5,800 combat airplanes and 48 divisions against western Europe as soon as the necessary means can be accumulated in England—estimated at April 1, 1943."

Three main phases in the execution of the plan were listed:

a.. Preparation, involving:
   (1) Immediate coordination of procurement priorities, allocations of material and movements of troops and equipment.
   (2) Establishment of a preliminary active front.
   (3) Development of preparations for possible launching of an "emergency" offensive [in 1942].
b. Cross-channel movement and seizure of beachheads between Le Havre and Bologna.
c. Consolidation and expansion of beachheads and beginning of general advance.

The preparatory phase constituted what shortly became known as BOLERO. The contingency mentioned as part three of the preparatory phase became known as SLEDGEHAMMER. The actual assault and consolidation, the second and third phases, became known as ROUNDUP.

In developing these ideas in detail, the OPD outline of operations stated that


concentration on BOLERO rested on four assumptions: The Alaska-Hawaii-Samoa-Australia line would be held with an increase in Pacific garrisons from about 175,000 to about 300,000 total strength. The American commitments of ground and air forces to Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, and the China-Burma-India theater would be met. The USSR would continue to contain the bulk of German forces. Axis strength in western Europe would remain approximately at the April 1942 level.

Under these conditions, the plan stated, the United States could furnish approximately one million men, including thirty divisions, and 3,250 combat aircraft for an invasion on 1 April 1943. If the British made available eighteen divisions and 2,550 combat aircraft, the combined force would be strong enough to establish air superiority and make a landing on a six-division front between Le Havre and Boulogne. One American airborne division and American and British parachute troops would be used to slow German reinforcements while strong armored forces, drawn from the six American and three British armored divisions assigned to ROUNDUP, "rushed in to break German resistance" and eventually to spearhead a general movement toward the port of Antwerp.

In indicating the strength necessary for the invasion, the plan noted that American troops would be equipped and trained in time for the operation but that shipping would be a critical factor requiring continuous attention to insure that troops reached the United Kingdom on schedule. It also called attention to the need for immediate "intensification of the construction program" to supply the 7,000 landing craft needed for the assault, a critical matter which had been occupying the attention of OPD for some time and which was to plague British-American planning throughout the rest of the war.41

Finally, the BOLERO plan provided in some detail a modified plan for the emergency invasion that might have to be launched in September or October 1942. This landing operation, SLEDGEHAMMER, would take place only if it should be absolutely necessary to prevent a collapse of Soviet resistance or if the German position in western Europe had become critically weakened.42 Whatever forces could be transported across the Channel would be used if SLEDGEHAMMER were launched, but landing craft would be sufficient to sustain only about five divisions, half American and half British, at any time in the fall of 1942. In any case, only three and one-half American divisions, including the North Ireland (MAGNET) force, could be shipped to the United Kingdom by 15 September 1942, and only about 700 American combat aircraft would be available.

Despite the attention given the SLEDGEHAMMER contingency, the only operational activity definitely scheduled for 1942 in the BOLERO plan was the inauguration of air attacks and minor coastal raids. In addition to being of some help to the Soviet Union, these attacks would "make experienced


veterans of the air and ground units." The plan dwelt on the advantage to be derived in the long preparatory phase by giving the troops in the United Kingdom intensive and specialized training from "fundamentals of technique in loading and unloading of boats" to "constant raiding of small task forces." The whole operational program presented in the BOLERO plan thus was pointed toward a major effort in 1943. The modified plan represented a concession to the earlier position, initially taken by the JUSSC and General Eisenhower, that a 1942 attack was possible and necessary. OPD did not alter the middle-of-the-road position it had subsequently adopted on this issue.

British Acceptance of the Marshall Memorandum

For almost a week, 9 through 14 April, the British Chiefs of Staff and planners and the representatives of the United States in London discussed OPD's plan for taking the offensive in Europe. In presenting and defending the plan, General Marshall was assisted by two OPD officers, Colonel Wedemeyer and Colonel Hull, who was present in London for most of the conferences although not a member of the official party. At the first meeting, 9 April 1942, General Marshall explained that the "reason for his visit was to reach a decision as to what the main British-American effort was to be, and when and where it should be made."43 These decisions were linked with the acceptance or the rejection of the BOLERO/SLEDGEHAMMER plan. General Marshall emphasized the necessity of arriving at a decision in principle as quickly as possible. Throughout the meeting the American representatives dwelt on the importance of maintaining the USSR as an effective fighting force in 1942 and of gaining combat experience for the U. S. Army.44

The American representatives explained that the flow of American troops and aircraft to the United Kingdom would not reach large proportions until the fall of 1942 because of shipping limitations and other American commitments. By 1943, however, considerable American forces would be available.

Colonel Hull explained that cargo ships were a limiting factor in 1942, but he felt confident that their production would approach the level of personnel shipping by April 1943. He pointed out that in the main plan the American planners had mentioned 1 April 1943 as a possible target.

Colonel Hull explained that in the opinion of the American planners, the necessity of providing the ground forces with a fighter umbrella would limit the area for the assault to the French coast opposite southeast England. He added, however, that the planners wished to leave the detailed plan of operations to the commander of the invasion force. In his summary of the contemplated build-up of American forces he stated that the most the United States could provide within the time for execution of the main plan would be thirty divisions.45 The American planners felt that about fifty divisions probably would be necessary to exploit fully the initial landing.46


In attempting to win British agreement to the BOLERO plan, the American representatives utilized the basic line of strategic argument developed during the previous two months. As Colonel Wedemeyer phrased it: "The United Nations must adhere to the broad concept of strategy, viz, that Germany is our principal enemy. . . . The dissipation of our combined resources . . . should be discontinued or at least held to a minimum in consonance with the accepted strategy of concentration on offensive operations in the European theater, with concurrently defensive operations in all others." 47 General Marshall summarized the U. S. Army planners' views that current American commitments to the Southwest Pacific, Middle East, and other theaters would be fulfilled but that calls for additional reinforcements would have to be carefully limited. He emphasized that it was essential for the United Nations to focus attention on the main project, offensive operations on the Continent, lest it be reduced to the status of a residuary legatee for which nothing was left.48

On 14 April 1942 the British Chiefs of Staff and the British Government formally accepted the Marshall Memorandum.49 They agreed with the American conception of concentration against the main enemy, Germany, as embodied in the plan, with one broad qualification.50 This was that necessary measures be taken to hold Japan and prevent a junction of Japanese and German forces. 51 With this understanding, entirely consistent with the strategic ideas on which OPD had based the BOLERO plan, the British agreed that concerted planning should begin immediately for a major offensive in Europe in 1943 and, if necessary, an emergency attack in 1942.52 The Prime Minister, in "cordially accepting the plan," predicted that the "two nations would march ahead together in a noble brotherhood of arms."53

Thus in mid-April 1942, the BOLERO plan became official British-American policy, designed to govern deployment and operations within the strategic framework established in ABC-l and at ARCADIA. Planners could set to work at once on the BOLERO phase, the build-up of resources in the United Kingdom. As General Marshall pointed out, however, hewing closely to the BOLERO line and avoiding further dispersions would


require great firmness. The Chief of Staff reported: "Everyone agrees . . . in principle but many if not most hold reservations regarding this or that."54

Such reservations, some of them affecting fundamental elements in the BOLERO concept, were the subject of continuous discussion and debate by British and American strategists until the very day in June 1944 when troops actually landed on the shores of northwest Europe. It was almost two years from the date of initial agreement in principle before the time was finally set. Nevertheless, American staff officers at the time felt that the United States and Great Britain had reached a basic agreement on the way to win the war and that they could proceed directly from the Marshall Memorandum to concrete preparations for defeating Germany in northwest Europe. As General Eisenhower noted upon General Marshall's return from London: "At long last, and after months of struggle by this Div [WPD and OPD]—we are all definitely committed to one concept of fighting! If we can agree on major purposes and objectives, our efforts will begin to fall in line and we won't just be thrashing around in the dark." 55

Machinery for Executing the Bolero Plan

Official approval of the BOLERO/ROUNDUP plan on 14 April 1942 enabled the Army planners to begin to carry out the basic strategic concept in day-to-day staff work. Army, joint, and combined administrative machinery for planning in detail the BOLERO build-up of men and resources in the United Kingdom soon began to function.

Even while General Marshall was still in London, OPD began to develop the BOLERO idea in terms of concrete U. S. Army preparations for the offensive. The production of landing craft and the deployment of American bomber forces to the United Kingdom were the two most critical elements in the whole scheme. Before the British accepted the BOLERO proposal, OPD had to relay detailed information on these subjects to General Marshall for use in convincing the British Chiefs of Staff of the feasibility of the plan. In response to instructions to "proceed vigorously in [the] matter of expediting and improvising landing craft," OPD informed General Marshall that Services of Supply was pressing for increased production, making arrangements through Navy procurement channels to meet estimated requirements of about 8,000 landing craft by April 1943.56 OPD also concurred in General Arnold's transmittal to London of a tentative plan for moving Army Air Forces units to the United Kingdom. One heavy bombardment group with thirty-five B-17's, and two pursuit groups with eighty aircraft each, were scheduled for shipment about 15 May 1942,57 thus beginning the Army Air Forces build-up for BOLERO.

On the same day that the British formally accepted the Marshall Memorandum, General Eisenhower proposed to General Handy (promoted from colonel as of 27


March) the idea of establishing a combined British-American master committee for detailed BOLERO planning.58 Its main task would be to make the complicated arrangements and schedules, especially the troop-shipping programs, necessary to mount a major operation from the United Kingdom. On his return from England, General Marshall indorsed this and several other measures which would facilitate the building up of BOLERO forces. For example, several officers from OPD were to be sent to England, one at a time, to work with the British Joint Planners, and an American corps commander was to be selected to report with his staff to OPD, where he could be "given opportunity to familiarize himself with all details at this end." 59 General Handy suggested to the joint and combined committees that a master committee for BOLERO be established in Washington, and on 28 April the CCS directed the formation of a subcommittee of the Combined Staff Planners to develop the BOLERO plan.60 This was called the BOLERO Combined Committee. It consisted of one U. S. Army Air Forces officer, two U. S. Navy officers, and one representative from each of the three British services,61 with Colonel Hull of OPD acting as chairman.

The principal BOLERO committee task, as set forth in its directive, was to outline, co-ordinate, and supervise all British-American plans for moving, receiving, and maintaining American forces in the United Kingdom. This planning included estimates of requirements and availability of troops, equipment, and facilities; allocation of American and British components of the total force; and study of shipping, port facilities, concentration areas, communication systems, time schedules, and naval escort for the movement of American troops to the United Kingdom.62 In order to facilitate the work of the BOLERO planners in Washington, a BOLERO committee was also set up-in London to secure information and make administrative arrangements concerning port capacities and other accommodations for the reception and maintenance of American forces and supplies. 63 As Colonel Hull pointed out at its first meeting, the main objective of the new committee in Washington was to act as a shipping agency empowered to adjust the BOLERO troop unit and equipment program in accordance with the possibilities for actual movement to the United Kingdom. The committee did not attempt to dictate the strategical plans for employing troops, a function which it considered to belong to the commander of the ultimate operation on the European Continent.64 But the initial mobilization and


movement phase of taking the offensive began with the organization of the BOLERO Combined Committee under Colonel Hull.

While helping to set up a special agency for combined work on BOLERO, OPD reorganized its Theater Group to mount the European offensive. It was at this time, the last week of April, that the European Theater Section was formed under the leadership of Colonel Hull. Very soon, in the words of Colonel Hull, it was "handling everything in connection with the BOLERO movement and the MAGNET forces.65 Colonel Hull and the officers under him worked in a dual capacity in OPD—serving for a time not only in the new section for controlling operational movements to the theater but also as planners in the Future Operations Section of S&P.66 Since it was thus a unified plans and operations command post for the Army, OPD's European Theater Section was able to co-ordinate War Department work on BOLERO, mostly concerned with the organization, training, equipping, and transportation of ground and air units, and to provide a link between the Army and combined BOLERO activities. At the same time, OPD was trying to coordinate planning in the United States with planning in the United Kingdom. On 10 May Col. Arthur S. Nevins, chief of the Strategy Section, left for London for temporary duty with the British Joint Planners. Colonel Nevins was the first of a long series of OPD officers (most of them from the Strategy Section) to serve in this capacity.

The final contribution OPD made to BOLERO was the time and experience of its chief, General Eisenhower, in negotiations with the British during May and June. On 23 May General Eisenhower, accompanied by Generals Arnold, Somervell, and Mark W. Clark (Chief of Staff, Army Ground Forces, shortly thereafter designated corps commander for the BOLERO force), went to the United Kingdom on behalf of General Marshall specifically to see what progress was being made on BOLERO.67 With General Chaney, then commanding general of the U. S. Army forces in the British Isles, General Eisenhower discussed such questions as the planning set-up for England, especially with respect to the tactical planning for the cross-Channel invasion assault, the composition of General Chaney's staff, consolidation of G-2 activities in England, and the timing of the arrival of the corps commander in England.68 With officers of the Plans Section of General Chaney's staff, he discussed their conception of the invasion. He conferred with British commanders who were employing large landing craft, watched landing craft in operation, and attended a large field exercise by the British to test their new divisional organization.69

In addition to outlining to the British Chiefs of Staff the American position on the command organization for ROUNDUP, as


explained to him by General Marshall before he left Washington, General Eisenhower discussed the general plan of attack. He viewed the whole question of combined operations and the type and employment of landing craft necessary for the operation with Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, British Chief of Combined Operations. General Eisenhower also took part in discussions with General Sir Bernard Paget, the British Commander of Home Forces, and talked with U. S. Army planners serving on General Paget's staff. He attempted to impress upon the British Chiefs of Staff General Chaney's complete authority to act for American forces in Europe and made arrangements concerning the special status of Colonel Nevins. Thus General Eisenhower made firsthand observations of the current status of the American and British military organization in the United Kingdom and of the current progress of planning for SLEDGEHAMMER/ROUNDUP, and became more familiar with British military commanders, planners, and Chiefs of Staff.

Upon his return to the United States on 3 June, General Eisenhower observed, without criticizing the ability of any of the officers in England: "It is necessary to get a punch behind the job or we'll never be ready by spring, 1943, to attack. We must get going!"70 Within a week General Marshall had selected the chief of OPD to provide the punch in preparations for BOLERO.71 General Eisenhower set out for London on 23 June 1942. His knowledge of General Marshall's views and his familiarity with concepts which had been embodied by OPD in the BOLERO plan were to prove useful to him as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations, in evolving the preparations and arrangements for SLEDGEHAMMER/ROUNDUP. Furthermore, as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations, he was able to exercise and put into effect some of the suggestions which he himself had advanced as a member of OPD. In a sense, therefore, General Eisenhower himself, the ex-Assistant Chief of Staff, OPD, provided one of the most important links between General Marshall's Washington command post and subsequent British-American military effort in the European area. There were major delays and many changes in strategic plans and operations before the BOLERO strategic concept reached its final fulfillment in the Normandy invasion of June 1944. Nevertheless OPD's span of activities in early BOLERO planning was indicative of the new role the Division was able to play in coordinating Army plans and Army operations as well as the contribution it could make to military planning and strategic decisions above its own and even above the Army's plane of authority.



Previous Chapter        Next Chapter

Return to the Table of Contents

Search CMH Online
Last updated 19 October 2004