Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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General Dwight D. Eisenhower to General George C. Marshall, 14 September 1944

As the Normandy Invasion progressed, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces General Dwight D. Eisenhower reported regularly to General George C. Marshall, the Army's chief of staff in Washington. After three months of fighting, he already found it necessary to discourage British efforts to rush to take Berlin ahead of Soviet forces. Eisenhower rightly anticipated that his troops faced at least one more major battle before they could overcome the desperate German resistance.

I think that by forwarding to the Combined Chiefs of Staff periodic appreciations as well as copies of principal directives you are kept fairly well acquainted with our situation. The fact is that we are stretched to the absolute limit in maintenance both as to intake and as to distribution after supplies are landed.

From the start we have always known that we would have to choose, after breaking out of the original bridgehead, some line which would mark a relative slackening in offensive operations while we improved maintenance facilities and prepared for an offensive operation that could be sustained for another indefinite period. At first it seemed to me that the German would try to use some one of the number of lines available to him in France on which to make a rather determined stand, but due to the decisiveness of our victory below the Seine I determined to go all out in effort and in risk to continue the drive beyond the German border, up to and including the Rhine before we began the process of regrouping and re-fitting.

While this was going on [British Commander Field Marshal Bernard] Montgomery suddenly became obsessed with the idea that his Army Group could rush right on into Berlin provided we gave him all the maintenance that was in the theater—that is, immobilize all other divisions and give their transport and supplies to his Army Group, with some to Hodges. Examination of this scheme exposes it as a fantastic idea. First of all, it would have to be done with the ports we now have, supplemented possibly by Calais and Ostend. The attack would be on such a narrow front that flanking threats would be particularly effective and no other troops in the whole region would be capable of going to its support. Actually I doubt that the idea was proposed in any conviction that it could be carried through to completion; it was based merely on wishful thinking, and in an effort to induce me to give to 21st Army Group and to [U.S. General Omar] Bradley's left every ounce of maintenance there is in the theater.

As opposed to this the only profitable plan is to hustle all our forces up against the Rhine, including Devers's forces, build up our maintenance facilities and our reserves as rapidly as possible and then put on one sustained and unremitting advance against the heart of the enemy country. Supporting this great attack will probably be subsidiary operations against the German ports on the left and against his southern industrial areas on the right.

I have sacrificed a lot to give Montgomery the strength he needs to reach the Rhine in the north and to threaten the Ruhr. That is, after all, our main effort for the moment. The great Airborne attack which will go in support of this operation will be Sunday the 17th, unless weather prevents. It should be successful in carrying Montgomery up and across the Rhine; thereafter it is absolutely imperative that he quickly capture the approaches to Antwerp so that we may use that port. The port facilities themselves are practically undamaged and we have there ample storage for bulk oil, something that we critically need.

Le Havre will be developed for utilization by U.S. forces.

During the early and middle summer, I was always ready to defer capture of ports in favor of bolder and more rapid movement to the front. But now approaches the season of the year when we can no longer afford this, especially in view of the resistance the German is ready to offer in Fortress defense, as demonstrated both at St. Malo and at Brest. Every day I thank my stars that I held out for anvil in the face of almost overwhelming pressure. Marseilles may yet be a Godsend to us.

My own belief is that, assuming continuation of the Russian pressure at its present scale, we will have to fight one more major battle in the West. This will be to break through the German defenses on the border and to get started on the invasion. Thereafter the advance into Germany will not be as rapid as it was in France, because we won't have the F.F.I. [French Forces of the Interior] in the German rear, but I doubt that there will be another full-dress battle involved. The big crash to start that move may prove to be a rather tough affair.

Recently Spaatz received a message from Arnold suggesting the desirability of moving a lot of our heavy bombers to France immediately. This is simply beyond the realm of feasibility at the moment. Big bombers can still operate effectively from England and we need every ton of space and every bit of port capacity to get in the things that the ground troops and their shorter range air support units require. This will continue to be true for an indefinite period.


Further Reading
Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, KS; printed in Joseph Patrick Hobbs, ed., Dear General: Eisenhower's Wartime Letters to Marshall (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971), 202–203. Reprinted with permission of the Eisenhower Library. .
 

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