Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943

By Richard M. Leighton; Robert W. Coakley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
Widening Commitments

During the summer and autumn before Pearl Harbor, the war spread into new areas and threatened to spread into still others. In June, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, it seemed as though the storm was moving away from the Americas. Most of the experts expected the Soviet armies to dissolve within three months, but even so this meant a welcome respite from the threat of a German invasion of the British Isles and of a German move through Spain into France's African possessions. Signs of the impending German shift to the East had led the President early in June to suspend the scheduled occupation of the Azores and to turn to the relief of British forces in Iceland -- a task that did not have to be executed in one stroke against opposition, seemed more feasible logistically, and offered justification for extending U.S. naval protection over parts of the vital North Atlantic convoy routes.1

But the German invasion of the USSR brought the Army no relief from the growing logistical burdens of strengthening and expanding its overseas establishment, and the prospect of having to undertake risky new overseas ventures remained. In the Far East, Japan, her hands freed by the war in the Soviet Union, moved promptly into southern Indochina, gaining positions for her eventual attack on Malaya and Singapore, now definitely decided upon. U.S. policy toward Japan immediately stiffened, and the Army presently found itself committed to an ambitious program, reversing previous war plans, of transforming the Philippines into a great bastion of American air power. On the other side of the world, the Iceland undertaking proved unexpectedly difficult,2 and July and August brought a sudden revival of the menace of a German incursion into northwestern and western Africa via the Iberian Peninsula. President Roosevelt, meeting Prime Minister Churchill on shipboard off Argentia, Newfoundland, in August, gave an unqualified promise that American forces would occupy the Azores, by invitation from Portugal, while the British simultaneously would seize the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, the last named to be turned over subsequently to American forces. As it happened, the German drive to the southwest failed to materialize, Portugal's attitude cooled, and the planned Anglo-American moves were not carried out. Nevertheless, the American

____________________
1
Msg, Stimson to President, 23 Jun 41, quoted in Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 303-04. (2) G-2 study, 11 Jul 41, title: Data for WD Strategic Est . . ., WPD 4510. (3) Conn and Fairchild, Framework of Hemisphere Defense, Ch. II, p. 82.
2
For details of the Iceland operation, see: (1) Stetson Conn and Byron Fairchild, The Defense of the Western Hemisphere: II; and (2) Joseph Bykofsky and Harold Larson, The Transportation Corps: III, Activities in the Oversea Commands (hereafter cited as Bykofsky and Larson, Trans III). Both are volumes in preparation for the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II.

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