Toward an Entangling Alliance: American Isolationism, Internationalism, and Europe, 1901-1950

By Ronald E. Powaski | Go to book overview

The Grand Alliance 1941-1943

The ARCADIA Conference, December 1941-January 1942

Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill invited himself to Washington to discuss strategy with the president and his advisors. This first Washington Conference, code named ARCADIA, extended from December 22, 1941, to January 14, 1942. Churchill's primary fear--that in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack the United States would concentrate its energies on the defeat of Japan--was quickly relieved. The Americans reaffirmed the decision of the ABC-1 Report to defeat Germany first. The British were also assured that U.S. military production would not be diverted from Britain to equipping the American armed forces. Nevertheless, an acute shortage of shipping, combined with German submarine attacks on ships destined for Britain, would be a major problem in the first two years of the war.1

The major area of disagreement concerned the proper strategy for defeating Germany. As in the ABC-1 Report, the British wanted to ensure American military involvement in northern Africa in order to defeat German and Italian forces under the command of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, which were threatening the Suez Canal, Britain's lifeline to the oil of the Mideast and her Asian empire. Driving the Axis from Africa, Churchill believed, would "close the ring" around Germany and would make possible an invasion of Europe in 1943. The Continent could be invaded, he argued, at several points, including the Balkans, Italy, and finally France--but only after Germany had been sufficiently weakened by Allied aerial bombardment and blockade. Following this strategy, he believed, the Germans could be defeated by late 1943 or early 1994.2

However, the American military, led by Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, vehemently opposed U.S. participation in a North African campaign. They insisted that only an invasion of France, which they believed should take place as soon as possible, would give meaningful relief to the hard-pressed Soviets. "We would be guilty of one of the grossest blunders of history," argued General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the head of the War Plans Division of the War

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