Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943

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

CHAPTER XXV
Casablanca and the Strategic- Logistical Debate

TORCH not only failed to settle, but further unsettled, the fundamental issue of Anglo-American strategy -- the division of effort between the European and the Pacific-Asiatic wars-as well as the subsidiary division among the theaters of each of those wars. This was essentially a logistical problem, belonging to the realm of planning where final evaluations of logistical assets and liabilities enter into the formulation of strategy -- what Somervell's planners aptly referred to as "strategic logistics." The issue became more urgent as 1942 drew to an end, because the material means -- munitions, merchant shipping, naval escorts, and landing craft -- appeared likely to be more abundant in the months to come, offering the Allies their long-awaited opportunity to seize the initiative. But the prospect of relative plenty, while widening the range of alternatives, also complicated the problem of selection. The initiative could not be grasped and held without a long-range strategic program on the order of the short-lived BOLERO-ROUNDUP plan of the preceding spring. The staffs were no more able than they had been then to foresee with assurance the availability of critical resources a year or more in advance, and the uncertainty of their long-range estimates operated fully as effectively as the natural clash of competing views on strategy to prevent agreement on a single long-range program. Through the last four months of 1942 the effort to chart the course of coalition strategy for 1943 dragged on. At Casablanca, where the Allied political and military leaders met in January 1943, it reached a climax but not an end. Disagreeing not only on the basic division of effort but also on the sequence and timing of specific operations, the Allied chiefs were able to make no concrete decisions except those necessary to maintain the momentum that by now had been gained in all major theaters. Beyond these next steps, a broad pattern of strategy was outlined and certain operations were tentatively scheduled, but definite decisions were postponed.

Apart from the basic issue of over-all division of effort, three subsidiary logistical problems were involved in this long debate on strategy. The first grew out of the threat to the sea communications into and through the Mediterranean, which decisively influenced American views on proposed operations in that region. A second problem centered in the now familiar competition for shipping and escorts between the great build-up and "war econ

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