World War II: Allied Conferences--Casablanca Conference (January 14-23, 1943)

Figure 1.--.

The Casablanca Conference was the first of the great Allied mid-World War II conferences involving the heads of state (Churchill and Roosevelt). The meeting of Roosevelt and Churchill and their military staffs occured after a fundamental shift in the military situation. Stalin was invited, bu refused to leacve the Soviet Union.


The Casablanca Conference was the first of the great Allied mid-World War II conferences involving the heads of state (Churchill and Roosevelt). Stalin was invited, but refused to leve the Soviet Union. Also involved were the Free French leaders--Henri Giraud and Charles de Gaulle. The two were, however, not on speaking term and had to be coaxed to even shake hands.

Shift in the Military Situation

The meeting of Roosevelt and Churchill and their military staffs occured after a fundamental shift in the military situation. The Conference followed the great British victory at El Alemain (August 1942). The Soviets had surrounded the German 6th Army in Stalingrand which was being destoyed in Staligrad Kessel. The Americans had checked the Japanese in the Pacific (Midway and Guadacanal). Iprovements were being made in the North Atlantic, but here the tide had not yet turned. And the Torch Invasions had suceeded beyond expectations in securing French North Africa except for Tunisia.The Allies were in essemce seizing control of the conduct of the War for the first time.

Anglo-American Divisions

There there was a major disagreement between the Americans and the British. General Marshal had from the beginning wanted to focus on a cross-Channel invasion of France as the shortest route to Germany and victory. Churchill did not disagree with the logic of this, but bekieved that the Wehrmacht was just too strong. He remembered the horific battles of World War I like the Somme and did not want to attempt the invasion until success was assured. He almost certainly was correct that the Americans did not yet appreciate the strength of the Wehrmacht and the challenge of a cross-Channel invasion. He was, however, himself wrong with his assessment of the 'soft underbelly' of the Axis. The British came to the Confrence much better prepared than the Americans. Churchill's problem was that the Americans had alternatives. There was both the Pacific School advanced by Adm. King and the Germany First group led by Marshall and firtuntely President Roosevelt. Churchill was concerned that if he did not agree to a cross-Channel invasion in 1943, the Americans would focus on the Japanese in the Pacific. The United States at the time had deployed about equal fotces in the Pacific (under MacArthur) anbd Europe (under Eisenhower)--about 350,000 men each. Churchill wanted to follow up Torch with Sicily and an effort to knock Italy out 0f the War. Churchill knew he could not convince the Americans to postpone the cross-Channel invasion. But he also knew what the Americans did not yet fully preceive that a commitment to Sicily and Italy would mean that the resources would not be available for a 1943 invasion. Churchills' persuasiveness was aided by the fact that the Britih came to Casablance with a single position and a much more prepared staff. They has a signals ship which put them in touc. The British proved to be what one historian describes as 'masters of words'. Here it was not just Churchill, but the British generals as well, especially Air Chief Marsahal Sir Charles Portal. [Keegan, pp. 317-19.] Chuurchill got what he wanted, the Torch Armies and Montgomery's 8th Army would be allowed to press on to Sicily. Churchill also managed to convince Roosevelt to postpone the cross-Channel invasion until 1944, but agreed to organize a combined staff to prepare for the invasion. Roosevelt and Churchill agreed that the next target would be Sicily in an effort to knock Italy out of the War. They also agreed to launch a combined strategic air offensive against Germany. The Casablanca Directive ordered the approsach of around-the-clock bombing, the Americans by day and the British by night. The British were skeptical about day-light bombing, but deferred to the Americans. The American 8th Force was ready in Britain for the offensive, but would find the British were correct.

British Advatages

Dill Roll


General Albert Wedemeyer, with the War Plans Division, and confirmed Anglophobe assessed Casablanca, "We lost our shirts ... we came, we listened and we were conquered."

War Strategy

As a result of the Allied victory, the suscussions were no longer about how to save off defeat, but how to defeat the Axis powers, especially the Germans. And for the first time the specter of a Soviet collapse was no longer a major concern. Thus the Conference dealt with how to employ the steading increasing Allied military resources. And the Americans and British despite their differences

Unconditional Surrender

Roosevelt announced the Allied demand for 'unconditional surrender'. He never explained how he reached the decession to do this. There appears to have been some staff discussion, but it does not seem to have come from staff planning. Roosevelt made the announcement without clearing it first with Churchill. Roosevelt seems to have concluded that World War II was in part due to the Allies failure to occupy Germany after World War I. He was determined not to repeat that mistake. Churchill had some misgivings, but decided to go along with Roosevelt, especially because he got what he wanted, the go ahead with Mediterranean operations.


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Created: 3:43 PM 1/17/2018
Last updated: 3:43 PM 1/17/2018