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World War II Allied Military Conferences
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by Craig R. Scott, CG
Nine Allied military conferences were held between 1941 and 1945, primarily to enable American and British military staffs to coordinate their war plans, although later conferences would include their Russian counterparts. Ten volumes containing minutes, reports, maps, charts, messages, and other documentation were published by the Office of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The documents reproduced at Fold3 are those of Chief of Staff George C. Marshall.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) framework was set up following the Arcadia Conference in December 1941. The CCS was responsible for recommending a broad program of wartime requirements, drawing up general directives for policies governing weapons distribution, and settling priorities for overseas movement.
Many of these conferences were presided over by Roosevelt and Churchill. Early conferences were attended by members of Allied and Commonwealth countries when the concerns of their countries were discussed. Later conferences included Chiang Kai-Shek and Stalin.
A list of the conferences, with code names, locations, dates, and principal participants may be found in the NARA descriptive pamphlet for this series, available as a PDF file.
At the time of publication, the volumes were classified as “secret” or “top secret.” These volumes were declassified in 1973.
Images in each volume include a table of contents, lists of those present at each meeting, a summarized transcript of statements made by participants, a number of papers or exhibits presented, along with the decisions and reports agreed to by the two staffs. An index is found at the end of each volume.
At the beginning of each conference volume is a table of contents. Meetings were given numbers. Papers were given numbers. Note in this example, taken from the Trident Conference, that paper #220 deals with the Strategic Plan for the Defeat of Japan, which begins on page 31. (The page at Fold3 is #49 within this group of records because of un-paginated exhibits.)
Participant lists were created for meetings. Image 2 is a list of participants for the CSS 83rd meeting, Trident Conference, held on 13 May 1943 in Washington, DC.
Meetings were numbered, with minutes kept of each meeting. Image 3 is a page from the minutes of the 83rd meeting where General Sir Alan Brooke uses the terminology “reverse Dunkirk” to describe putting all available forces onto the Continent by any possible method. Brooke was Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1941 to 1946.
Papers were numbered. Image 4 is the first page of paper #220, which details the strategic plan for the defeat of Japan. The concept of Germany first, then Japan, is detailed in this document. Unremitting pressure against Japan, with the purpose of continually reducing her military power and attaining positions from which her ultimate unconditional surrender could be forced was the second strategic concept for the prosecution of the war.
As a result of the Trident Conference, a summary of conclusions of the CSS was printed. It includes a map of the areas of conflict, a statement of overall objectives, and the overall strategic concept of defeating Germany first and Japan second.
Charts are found in many of the reports. Image 6 is from the Trident Conference. It compares German fighter and bomber operational status and monthly production from late 1942 to mid-1943.
Using the collection
The Symbol conference held in Casablanca in January 1943 has two entries in the browse menu. The first is the conference between Roosevelt, Churchill and the CCS. The second is the conference between Roosevelt and the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Trident conference held in Washington and Algiers in mid-1943 also has two entries. The first is the conference in Washington between Roosevelt, Churchill and the CCS. The second is the conference in Algiers between Churchill, General Marshall, General Eisenhower, General Smith and the CCS.
The Sextant conference held in Cairo in November-December 1943 and the Eureka conference held in Tehran in November 1943 are both found together in the same volume. The Octagon conference held in London and Quebec in mid-1944 does not include Quebec in the browse menu, but the records of this conference are included in this entry.
Each volume contains an index at the end of the volume. It may be used to locate information about specific topics. Each volume contains a table of contents near the beginning of the volume. It may also be used to locate information about specific papers or minutes of meetings.
Related records in the UK National Archives are found in CAB, Records of the Cabinet Office, War Cabinet and Cabinet: Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee and Sub-committees: Minutes and Memoranda, 1942-1949. More can be learned from its online finding aid.
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Search or browse the Papers and Minute of Meetings of Principal Allied Military Conferences, 1941-1945 here.