War, Cooperation, and Conflict: The European Possessions in the Caribbean, 1939-1945

By Fitzroy André Baptiste | Go to book overview
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7
ABC-1 and the Atlantic-Caribbean Sea Frontier

The Destroyers-Bases Agreement of September 2, 1940, was another link in a process of Anglo-American strategic collaboration that dated back to the Staff Conversations of 1938-1939. Nonetheless, the course of the war at sea in late 1940 and into 1941 was disturbing to both countries. By the end of 1940 British, Allied, and neutral shipping losses averaged 400,000 tons a month. That monthly rate was maintained for the first quarter of 1941.1 Moreover, Britain was running short of cash with which to pay for the munitions to prosecute the war against the Axis powers. Those factors made the need for further aid from the United States all the more critical. It was not long in coming.

With Roosevelt's reelection out of the way, Churchill wrote the president on December 8, 1940, putting the case for urgent United States financial aid to Britain. Roosevelt's response was his famous "Arsenal of Democracy" address of December 29, 1940, to the people of the United States which set the stage for the passage of the so-called Lend-Lease Act on March 11, 1941.2 This legislation was soon followed by a document on global strategy known as ABC-1, prepared by British and American planners in Washington. These two developments represented significant steps by the United States toward joining with Britain against the Axis powers.

As Tracy Kittredge has shown, two important reports, one British and the other American, on strategic options formed the immediate background to ABC-1. The British report was handed to the first sea lord in early September 1940 by a committee headed by Admiral Sir Sydney Bailey, a high-ranking Admiralty officer. The so-called Bailey Committee report formed the basis of a fresh round of talks on war planning in London during September and October 1940 with a visiting team of United States special advisers sent by Roosevelt. The team was headed by Admiral Robert L. Ghormley, assistant CNO.

The second strategic assessment was a memorandum on National Defense Policy presented to Roosevelt by Admiral Stark, CNO, in November 1940. It advanced the so-called Plan Dog concept, that

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