World War II: Allied Conferences


Figure 1.--President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met Placentia Bay, Newfoundland to make crutiual decisions about World War. America had not tet been drawn into the War. The Atantic Charter they agreed to would be the defuitive statement of Angolo-Americab goals. They attended church services on Sunday under the big guns of 'HMS Prince of Wales'. Both the Presuident and Prime-Minister discussed the service beforehand. Churchill chose his favorite hymn, 'O God Our Help In Ages Past', which was sung first. Roosevelt chose "Eternal Father Strong to Save". They also sang 'Onward, Christian Soldiers'. It was a emotional point in the developing relation between Churchill and Roosevelt and through them Britain and America which in only 4 months would launch the great allied effort to save Western Civilization.

Both the Allies and the Axis held a series of conferences to plan strategy and work out cooperative actions. The Allied conferences are better known in part because the Allies cooperative effort was much more involved than the Axis effort. The Allied conferences began in earnest with the meeting of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Placencia Bay and the signing of the Atlantic Charter (August 1941). The Allied conferences also were important in developing war strategy and cooperative efforts, but also helped shape the future of Europe after the War. Both the Allies and the Axis held a series of conferences to plan strategy and work out cooperative actions. The Allied conferences are better known in part because the Allies cooperative effort was much more involved than the Axis effort. The Allied conferences began in earnest with the meeting of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Plavencia Bay and the signing of the Atlantic Charter (August 1941). The Allied conferences also were important in developing war strategy and cooperative efforts, but also helped shape the future of Europe after the War. A Some of these conferences included other allies, includig the Soviets, but the Anglo-American consultations were central to the war in the west. The achievment of the alliance are very extensive and include victory in the North Atlantic, the key victory of the Western Allies. As a result the last two conferences, especially Yalta have proven to be very controversial. The Axis also had conferences, but they never approached the detailed cooperation and planning of the Allied conferences. As a result the last two conferences, especially Yalta have proven to be very controversial. The Axis also had conferences, but they never approached the detailed cooperation and planning of the Allied conferences.

Washington Conference (March 1941)


Atlantic Charter (August 9-12, 1941)

President Roosevelt and Primeminister Churchill met aboard the Prince of Wales on August 9-13, 1941 at Placentia Bay. The Prince of Wales had been badly mauled by Bismarck in May. It was to be sunk by a Japanese aerial attack in December. Roosevelt and Churchill issue the Atlantic Charter. The two were war time allies. Britain had weathered the worst that the NAZI Luftwaffe could throw at it. America and Britain were fighting the U-boats in the North Atlantic to keep Britain alive. It was clear that America would soon be drawn into the War. America had already played an important role in keeping Britain alive and the two countries were the only hope of the occupied European and in fact Western civilization itself--threatened by the evil tide of NAZI tyranny. The two leaders, the two most important men of the 20th century, agreed to a simple, but elegant eight-point statement of their aims and today still stands as the central credo of the Atlantic Alliance.

Eden in Moscow (December 16-20, 1941)

Anthony Eden, British Foreign Minister, went to Moscow after the NAZI invasion which was the second step (after the Atlantic Charter) in organizing the grand alliance that would defeat Hitler (December 16-20, 1941). At the time, The Germans were still only a few miles from Moscow, although the Red Army had launched its counter-offensive and the Germans were retreating. Many had thoughtv that the NAZI legions would be in Moscow by this time. But the Red Army held and was in the priocess of delivering a massive blow on the Whermacht that would end ant real hope that the Germans had at winning the War. At the time that Eden arrived, the battle was still bing fought andtghe demensuins if the German losses were not yet clear. What was clear is that Hitler's objective of smashing the Sioviet Union in a quick summrr chmosign had failed. Stalin proposed a secret understanding that would guarantee the Soviet Union the territory obtained in the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact. [Roberts, p. 45.] It was Stalin's vision about the post-War order. His other demands were relatively modest--military bases in Finland and Romania. Both counties at that time were participating in the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union, Finland as a co-beligerant and Romsnia as an Axis ally.

Churchill in Washington (December 22, 1941-January 14, 1942)

Churchill and Roosevelt met for the first time since World War I at Placentia Bay where they forged the Atlantic Charter, a vision for the post-War world (August 1941). At the time, Churchill was still trying to draw America in the War. President Roosevelt because of the resistance of the American people. Pearl Harbor had changed everything. America and Britain were now finally war time allies. Now Churchill wanted to sit down with Roosevelt and plan out the Allied war effort. Within only a few weeks of Pearl Harbor, Churchill was without a real invitation, threading his way through the U-boat infested North Atlantic to meet with the President. Churchill arrived just before Christmas (December 22). He woud be over the next 3-weeks surely the most remarkable house guest in White House History. It was a dark time for America and Britain. The Pacific Fleet has been smashed at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had begun the conquest of the Phillippines and Singapore. Two great British bsttleships had been lost defending Singapore. Most of Europe was in the cold hands of the the NAZI dictatorship. The full extent of the Red army offensive before Moscow was not yet apparent. Americans were increasingly realizing that their sons and husbands were going to have to fight in another world War. Churchill fundamentally changed is approach. His advisters suggested thst he contibue to treat the President and the Americans gingerlly. Churchill saw it differently. Sir Allan Brooks, Chief of the Imperial General Staff recalls how Churchill with a 'wicked leer in his eye' turned on one of his cautious advisers and exclaimed, Oh! That is the way we talked to her while we were wooing her; now that she is in the harem we talk to her quite differently!" [Weintraub] The two stayed up late into the night, smoking and drinking, discussing their ideas as to how to procecute the War. Elenor was rather put out by the primeminister, coming to view him as a house guest who overstayed his welcome and who was not a good influence on her husband. He planned to stay a week, but did not leave until January 14, 1942. The trip including a 2-day trip to Ottawa and a week stay in Palm Beach, Florida. Resources were still very limited and the threats great. Churchill helped light the national Christmas Tree. He then spoke to Congress, highlighting his American ancestry and recoungting how thge British beat back the vaunted Luftwaffe during the Blitz. Roosevelt took him to Mount Vernon and the church where President Washington and Confederate genrral Robert E. Lee had worshiped. The White House had never seen anyone quite like Churchill and probably never will. But by the time that Churchill departed, the Alliance forged at Placentia Bay was now set in motion as the vast resources of the United States began to be mobilized and thrown along with those of the British into the fury of battle managed by two remarkable war leaders. The result was surely the most important alliance in human history.

Arcadia Conference (December 1941-January 1942)

The meetings between Roosevelt and Churchill in the White House were just the tip of theciceberg of thge unfolding Anglo-American allisnce. Also underway were associated meetings of cabinet officers and military chiefs. This overall effort was code named "Arcadia," meaning a place offering "peace and simplicity." Churchill and their advisors faced daunting military hallenges from the Axis powers. The War up to this time had been a steady string of Axis victories. The Battle of Britain (July-September 1940) was a rare Allied victory. The first major NAZI defeat unfolded just before the Arcadia Conference. The Red Army stopped the Wehrmacht before Moscow (December 1941). The Allies and Soviets, now represented a coalition with superior industrial and material resources. Churchill stayed in the White House and conferred with President Roosevelt. Building on theircorrespondence and the Atlantic Charter the two men oversaw the creation of the cloeset and most important military alliance in history. Hitler solved the immediate problem, the fact that America was attacked by Japan. Germany was the greatest danger, but Pearl Harbor might have made it difficult for the United States to focus on the war in Europe. Fortunately Hitler solved this problem by declaring war on the United States (December 11, 1941). Churchil certainly stirred up the White House. He and the President would stay up late into the night smoking and drinking. Elenor was rather put out by her house guest. Even so the result was perhaps the most impprtant World War II confference. A Joint Chiefs was created (January 9). Roosevelt and Churchill signed the Declaration of the United Nations. High level consulations took place between American and British military commanders (January 14-24). They began the planning to create an Allied coalition and war strategy. The level of cooperation from the outset far exceeded anything ever attempted by the Axis. The key decession that the two countries would create a combined military structure to run the war and the focus would be on NAZI Germany. This reaffirmed the decession reached in Anglo-American staff conversations at the Washington Conference (1940). Operations in 1942 would have to be primarily defensive, and buttressing the British in North Africa was to have a high priority. The Allies hoped to commence substantial offensive operations in Europe by 1943. The military chiefs began the discussions that led to the invasion of North Africa--Operation Torch. They completed arrangements for already announced movement of American forces to relieve British forces in Iceland and Northern Ireland. While the priority was to be on the defeat of NAZI Germany, the military didcussed American reinforcement of the South Pacific and established a combined Allied command for Southeast Asia. The Combined Chiefs held a series of meetings followed Arcadia to implement the decession taken. More than 20 meeting occurred in 1941 and early 1942. The meetings addressed issues like force deployments to the Europe and the Pacific, command arrangements, and the allocation of shipping and supplies. A priority matter was the American buildup in the British Isles.

Modicum Conference (April 1942)

Europe or Germany First was a policy independently arrived at by both the British and Americans. The British were concerned that the Pearl Harbor attack would cause America to focus on the Pacific rather than Europe. The British were actually surprised that America continued to see NAZI Germany as the primary threat and thus should be treated as the primary threat. Adm. King was more interested in the Pacific, but President Roosevelt and Gen. Marshall were steadfastly focused on Europe First. And the reasons for it were obvious. Japan had a relatively small economic base. World War II -- world economy It was Germany that had the industry and technology capable of winning the War. Notice that only 6 months after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military was permanently crippled at Midway (June 1942). Defeating the Germans was a far greater undertaking, taxing the combined best efforts of Britain, America, and the Soviet Union. While the British were surprised that Pearl Harbor did not shake America’s Europe First determination. Among the Allies, a major problem emerged when the Americans (Marshall, Hull, Hopkins, and Wedemeyer) arrived in Britain for the Modicum Talks (April 1942). [Roberts] These were the follow up talks when Churchill rushed to Washington after Pearl Harbor (December 1941). Modicum was the first nuts and bolts discussions between the American and British militaries. Marshall proposed three war winning operations: 1) Bolero, 2) Sledgehammer, and 3) Roundup. The British saw Bolero as absolutely vital. Bolero was the effort to cram as many American troops in Britain as the island could hold. In early 1942 it was still not clear that the Red Army would hold. And the British saw the Americans in Britain as their best defense against the Germans. They saw Sledgehammer and Roundup, however, as ill advised, even reckless. These were Marshall’s vision of an early cross-Channel invasion. The problem for the British was that if they openly rejected Sledgehammer and Roundup, the Americans might back off from Bolero and decide that their troops and material could be better used in the Pacific.

Churchill in Moscow (August 1942)

Churchill flew to Moscow to confer with Stalin. It was at a very critical point of the War. The British had been pushed back to El Alemaine, only a few miles from Alexandria and the Suez Canal. The Afrika Korps had been stopped there, but it was not yet clear or how long. The German Summer offensive had proven very successful nd the 6th Army ws approaching Stalingrad on the Volga. All of the Ukraine was in German hands. Stalin was focused on one thing--a Second Front. He pressed Churchill for a cross-Channel invasion of France. Churchill did not nake a firm commitment, but left a strong indication that the Allies would strike in 1943.

Casablanca Conference (January 14-23, 1943)

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. The Conference followed the great British victory at El Alemain (August 1942). The Soviets had surrounded the German 6th Army in Stalingrand which was about to surrender. The Americans had checked the Japanes in the Pacific (Midway and Guadacanal). And the Torch Invasions had suceeded beyond expectations in securing French North Africa except for Tunisia. Stalin was invited, but was unwilling to leave Moscow. 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. The Allies were in essemce seizing control of the conduct of the War for the first time. Thus the Conference dealt with hw to employ the steading increasing Allied military resources. And here 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 Whrmact 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 and the Germany First group. e 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. American at the time had feployed 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 sketical 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. 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 gonalong with Roosevelt, especially because he got what he wanted, the go ahead with Mediterranean operations. General Albert Wedemeyer, with the War Plans Division assessed Casablanca, "We lost our shirts ... we came, we listened and we were conquered."

Moscow Conference


Washington Conference--Trident (May 15-25, 1943)

Churchill returned to Washington for another meeting with Roosevelt. The principal participants were Roosevelt and Churchill and their military chiefs of staff. In attendance were Generals Wavell, Chennault, and Stilwell from the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater. They were better prepared than at Casablanca. The final decesions on the Mediterranean also needed to be made. The Americans had been prepared to resist Mediterranean diversions. During the sessions, Alexander signaled from Tunis that the Allies were "masters of North Africa's shores". Churchill's talks of a Balkans campaign also was a factor in the Americans conceding Sicily and the invasion was set for July. No commitment was made for Italy, but the invasion would flow from the results of Sicily. The Americans who had been pressing for a cross-Channel invasion obtained British consent, but only for 1944. The date was tentatively set for May 1, 1944. Churchill also agreed to an Allied supreme commander.charged to prepare Overlord--the cross-Channel invasion. British reluctance probably avoided a military disaster. The Allied certainly were not prepared in 1942 and even in 1943 were probably not prepared to confront the Wehrmacht in force. British and American success in North Africa played a major role in preparing the Allied forced that stormed Normandy in 1944. It was in North Africa that they learned the basics of modern warfare. The Allies also reaffirmed their commitment to the strategic air offensive which was proving costly. The British also consented to an expanded Pacific operations and how to assist China. After successes at Guadacanal and New Guinea, the United States was preparing to open a vast new front in the Central Pacific.

Quebec Conference--Quadrant (August 14-24, 1943)

Roosevelt and Churchill with their military staffs met again, this time in Quebec. Each of the British dominions played important roles in the War. The Canadian Navy was very small at the onset of the War, but was rapidly expanded and played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic. Canadian forces after the Conference played a major role in both D-Day and the campaigns in France and the Low Countries. Marshal came to Quebec unwilling to accept any further diversions from the cross-Channel invasion. After Sicily news of Italy's impending surrender meant the The possibility of knocking out an Axis partner and opening a front in a country bordering the Reich. This again helped to diluted the American commitment to focus on France. Eisenhower was authorized to pursue a limited campaign in southern Italy whose purpose was to divert resources. The Allies would advance further than Marshal had intended. But Quadrant would prove to be the last time Churchill would attempt to divert a focus on France. The Allies agreed the Supreme Comander would be American. But Churchill was not yet willing to agree to a definative date. The Allies did decide that the cross-Channel invasion (Overlord) would be the principal offensive operation in Europe during 1944. The tentative target date was kept at May 1. They accepted the basic plan developed by the combined Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC). The Allied agreed to begin planning for an invasion of southern France to follow Overlord. The Allies approved U.S. plans in the Pacific and agreed to shift forces from Europe to the Pacific after the defeat of Germany. The participants invisioned the defeat of Japan about 12 months after the defeat of Germany. The Americans were right about the Balkans, the geography was not appropriate. Italy is debateable, some say it served the German purposes better than the Allies. [Keegan, p.349.] Churchill was, however, right about the fact that the Allies were not prepared and the Wehrmact not sufficently weakened in 1942 and 43 for a cross-Channel invasion to be assured of success. As much as he antagonised Marshal and other U.S. Army commanders, this was a very important contribution he mae to the eventual Allied success. It would be a much better prepared American Army that would enter France in 1944 to confront the Wehrmacht.

Cairo Conference (November 22-26, 1943)

The Cairo Conference was the first World War II Conference focusing on the Pacific War against Japan. The meeting held in Cairo was attended by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Generalisimo Chaing Kaishek. The decessions reached were published as the Cairo Declaration. The participants reached a primilary understanding on how to treat the areas that had been seized by Japan. Okinawa and Taiwan were to be returned to China. Korea was to be made an independent country. After the Cairo Conference, Roosevelt and Churchill traveled on to the Tehran Conference.

Tehran Conference (November 28-December 1, 1943)

The Big Three (Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill) met for the first time at Tehran (November 28 through December 1, 1943). The Conference was held after the ballance of power had clearly shifted, turing the tide in the War. The Soviets had destroyed the German 6th Army in Stalingrad (February 1943) and defeated a massive German armoued force at Kursk (July 1943). The Western Allies had destroyed the Axis armies in North Africa (May 1943), seized Sicily (July 1943), and forced the Italians to seek peace and invaded Italy (September 1943). They had also defeated the U-boat fleet and launched the strategic bombing campaign against Germany. Roosevelt and Churchill had developed a close relationship. This was the first meeting with Stalin. the conference was held in Tehran, Iran because the ever-suspicious Stalin did not want to travel far from the Soviet Union. Stalin pressed hard on the Second Front. The principal decession reached was that the Western Allies committed to a 1944 invasion of northern Europe to open the long-awaited second front in the West. Stalin was suspicious that the Western Allies were allowing him to face the Wehrmacht alone so as to bleed Russia. It is understandable that he would think that. The Western Allies had been deplaying the invasion for 2 years. But perhaps more importantly this was the precise strategy he had adopted in reverse when he signed the Non-Agression Pact with Hitler which launched War. Stalin complained that a Supreme Commander for the invasion had not yet been appointed. Other commiments included support for Yugoslav partisans. The participants also urged Turkey to enter the War. Stalin agreed to enter the Pacific War against Japan once the NAZIs had been defeated. It was alo agreed to persue close military cooperation. A separate protocol pledged the three countries, which had moved into Iran to keep it out of NAZI hands, to Iran's independence. Stalin proposed shooting 50,000 German officers after the War. Churchill was visablt shocked, but Roosevelt apparently was not.

Yalta Conference (February 4-11, 1945)

The Yalta Conference was held in the Soviet Crimea, territory liberated from the NAZIs. An ever warry Stalin refused to leave the Soviet Union. As a result, a very sick Roosevelt had to make the long journey. The Big Three (Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill) met February 4-11) in the summerpalace of Tzar Nicholas II. The War in Europe had reached in climatic phase. The Red Army in the East had reached the Oder River and was preparing for an assault on Berlin. The Soviets now held all of Poland. The Red Army was the largest military force in Europe with 12 million soldiers in 300 divisions. The Allies in the West had defeated the last German offensive in the Ardennes and were driving toward the Rhine on Eisenhower's broad front. The Allies had a force of 4 million men in 85 divisions. The Allies had a massive air force which had devestated German industry and communications. The Yalta Agreement reached by the three leaders established the basis for the joint occupation of Germany and the establishment of democratic governments in the liberated countries. The Soviets agreed to a friendship pact with China. The three also agreed to establish the United Nations. Yalta is the most controversial of the World War II conferences. Some historians see Yalta as the beginning of the Cold War. The Yalta agreement included Soviet demands for reparations from Germany, for Poland to the Curzon line, for three seats in the United Nations, for territory in the Far East including Outer Mongolia, south Sakhalin Island, the Kuriles. After the War, Stalin did not honor the pledge to permit democratic elections in the liberated countries. As a result, Roosevelt was criticized for acceptng these demands. Right wing groups accused him of "selling out", in some cases the same people who had ealier opposed his efforts to prepare America for war. . Roosevelt was undeniably in poor healt at the conference, He in fact fied of a cerebral hemorrhage only 2 months later. While his declining health must have affected his performance at Yalta, the simple matter was that it was the Red Army that had liberated Eastern Europe and was the stringest military force on the Continent. The Allies had nor real way of preventing Stalin from drawing borders in the East and establishing repressive governments. Roosevelt told Adolf Berle after the Conference, "I didn't say the result was good. I said it was the best I could do." Roosevelt hoped that the new United Nations would be able to resolve the issues emerging at Yalta. [Dallek] This was as we now know an unrealistic assessment, but it was the only viable alternative availavle to both Roosevelt and Churchill in light of the reality of Soviet military power.

Potsdam Conference (July-August 1945)

The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin. The Conference was held from July 17 to August 2, 1945. It was a conference of the Big Three (the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The participants proved to be quite different than those at the other major World War II conferences, incliding Yalta held a few months earlier. Stalin still represented the Soviet Union. Fresident Roosevelt had died after Yalta and was replaced by the new president--Harry Truman. Churchill was at the beginning session was replace as prime minister by Clement Attlee, who had replaced him after a general election. The Conference was held after the NAZI surrender (May 1945). The primary order of business was how to administer occupied Germany as well as the post-War order, peace treaties, and the huge problems created by the War. The primary importance concerning the Pacific War was that Stalin secretly pledged to enter the War by August 15. President Truman informed Stalin of the atmoic bomb. Because of Soviet espionahe, he already knew. The Conference issued a declaration demanding that Japan immediately surrender or face "prompt and utter destruction". The Japanese did not respond. Some Japanese officials actually thought the Potsdam Declaration showed the success of their policy of bleeding the Americans. Although the Potsdam Declaration called for unconditional surrender, there was language providing for Japan eventually rehoining the community of nations. Also and perhaps more impotantly, the Soviet Union did not sign the Declaration.

Sources

Dallek, Robert. Franklin Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy.

Roberts, Andrew. Masters and Commanders.

Roberts, Geoffrey. "Stalin and foreign policy," in Melvyn P. Leffler and David S. Painter. Origins of the Cold War: An International History., pp. 42-57.

Keegan, John. The Second World War (Penguin: New York, 2005), 607p.

Weintraub, Stanley. Pearl Harbor Christmas (2011), 224p.






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Created: 6:10 AM 6/20/2005
Last updated: 10:03 AM 12/19/2017