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Home arrow Law arrow Humanizing the laws of war : selected writings of Richard Baxter
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I. Constitutional development

The Combined Chiefs of Staff and unified commands during the Second World War

As the result of decisions reached at the Arcadia Conference in January 1942, the British and United States Governments established the Combined Chiefs of Staff as a principal agency for combined military planning by the two countries.[1] When this group sat in Washington, as it normally did, it consisted of the United States Chiefs of Staff and representatives of their British counterparts. However, when the United States Chiefs of Staff were in London or attended the major war-time conferences,[2] it was possible to bring together all of the principal members of the body. The Combined Chiefs were assisted by a number of combined international committees, having responsibilities in such varied areas as intelligence, staff planning, logistics, and civil affairs. Although the agency became charged with overall responsibility for the military planning of the United Nations, it never included more than United States and British representation. Co-ordination with other members of the United Nations was secured through consultation with representatives of their armed forces and through the body known as the ‘Military Representatives of Associated Powers’.[3] That the Combined Chiefs of Staff, a body informal in its inception[4] and somewhat non-representative in character, should have succeeded as well as it did is largely attributable to the close collaboration of Great Britain and the United States and of their principal officials, to whom the Combined Chiefs in effect served as an integrated chiefs of staff organization.

Anglo-American co-operation in the strategic direction of the war had its counterpart in the field in unified international commands. The first of these, the ill-fated A.B.D.A. Command in the South-West Pacific under General Wavell, was a victim of the adverse fortunes of war.[5] Eventually, highly successful unified commands were established in the principal theatres of the war—in South-East Asia, the South-West Pacific, the Pacific, the Mediterranean, and in Europe. The

Combined Chiefs of Staff exercised varying functions with respect to these, the United States being charged with principal responsibility in the Pacific and China and Great Britain with a similar function in the Near and Far East, excepting China. Over these areas, the Combined Chiefs of Staff exercised only general jurisdiction, but in the case of the Atlantic-European Area, direct strategic control was vested in that body.[6] The directives from the Chiefs of Staff to the principal field commanders were terse and could hardly be called charters for the field commands. A typical one, designating General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, set forth his task, his command relationships, logistical responsibilities for his forces, and his relationship to United Nations forces in other areas and included a schematic representation of the chain of command.[7] Reports of operations were in turn furnished to the Combined Chiefs.[8]

The combined commands in the field were unified only for operational purposes, and administrative and logistical support remained a national responsibility except as otherwise provided by specific arrangements. The essential military requirement of unity of command was fulfilled by the appointment of a single commander, assisted by a single staff, which was only incidentally representative of the nations furnishing forces to the command. The complete integration on the command level in the field contrasted with the structure ofthe Combined Chiefs of Staff, in which plans could be arrived at only through the unanimous decisions of the American Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff or, in the case of matters of high political and military import, by the President and the Prime Minister. Below the level of the theatre or major force in the field, the forces were national in character, unified with one another by reason of a combined command.

Military co-operation through the Combined Chiefs of Staff was paralleled in the economic realm in a number of combined boards, established to deal with various areas of economic and logistical planning and organized in much the same fashion as the Combined Chiefs.[9] They included the Combined Raw Materials Board, the Combined Shipping Adjustment Board, the Combined Production and

Resources Board, the Combined Food Board, and the Combined Munitions Assignment Boards, only the last of which was under the control of the Combined Chiefs of Staff.[10] The Pacific War Council exercised certain advisory functions with respect to the war in the Pacific[11] but never assumed any great importance. But organs such as these were only incidentally concerned with the conduct of military operations.

  • [1] Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (N. Y. 1948), p. 27; Cline, Washington Command Post: TheOperations Division (1951), in United States Army in World War II, p. 100.
  • [2] The statements issued at the conclusion of most of the principal war-time conferences alludedspecifically to the participation of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. See Joint Statement by Prime MinisterChurchill and President Roosevelt, 24 August 1943 (following the Quebec Conference), in D.S.B., 9(1943), p. 121; Anglo-Soviet-American Communique, 1 November 1943 (following the MoscowConference), in ibid. p. 307; Declaration by President Roosevelt, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, andPrime Minister Churchill, 1 December 1943 (following the Cairo Conference), in ibid., p. 393;Declaration of the Three Powers, 1 December 1943 (following the Teheran Conference), in ibid.,p. 409.
  • [3] Cline, op. cit., pp. 101—3.
  • [4] The Combined Chiefs of Staff were established and held their first meeting in Washington inJanuary 1942, but their Charter was not approved by the President of the United States until April ofthat year and apparently never received the formal approval of the Prime Minister (Cline, op. cit.,p. 101, n. 34).
  • [5] The initials A.B.D.A. referred to the American, British, Dutch, and Australian elements inthe command. For a description of its organization and establishment, see Morison, The Rising Sunin the Pacific: 1931—April 1942 (1948), vol. iii of History of United States Naval Operations in WorldWar II, pp. 271—9. The laboriously written directive to General Wavell is in striking contrast to laterdirectives establishing the jurisdiction and functions of theatre commanders. General Eisenhowerwrote of this directive: ‘For the first time we had the concrete task of writing a charter for a supreme commander, acharter that would insure his authority in the field but still protect the fundamental interestsof each participating nation. We found it necessary to go painstakingly into rights of appealand scope of authority in operations and service organizations. Procedures to be followed ifmajor differences should be encountered were a matter ofconcern. We had not yet come toappreciate fully the nature of an allied command.’ (Op. cit., p. 29.)
  • [6] Cline, op. cit., pp. 101-2.
  • [7] Directive to Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, issued 12 February 1944, inReport by the Supreme Commander to the Combined Chiefs of Staff on the Operations in Europe ofthe Allied Expeditionary Force, 6June 1944 to 8 May 1945 (G.P.O., 1946), p. vi. Cf. Directive by thePrime Minister to the Supreme Allied Commander South-East Asia, 23 October 1943, in Report to theCombined Chiefs of Staff by the Supreme Allied Commander South-East Asia 1943—1945 (H.M.S.O.,1951), p. 226, which is illustrative of the delegation of responsibility by the Combined Chiefs of Staffto the national chiefs of staff. Paragraph 1 of the directive states: ‘. . . you will be responsible to theBritish Chiefs of Staff whom the Combined Chiefs of Staffhave authorised to exercise jurisdiction overall operational matters in your Command and to issue all directives to you. ’
  • [8] In addition to the reports cited in the preceding note, see, e.g., Report by the Supreme AlliedCommander Mediterranean to the Combined Chiefs ofStaffon the Operations in Southern France, August1944 (G.P.O., 1946) and Report by the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean to the CombinedChiefs of Staff on Greece, 12th December 1944 to 9th May 1945 (H.M.S.O., 1949).
  • [9] The typical board was made up of a representative of the British Government and a representative of the United States Government, each of ministerial rank, although its day-to-day activities wereusually entrusted to the deputy of each. The board would be assisted by an executive officer and acombined secretariat and by a number of joint committees.
  • [10] Rosen, The Combined Boards of the Second World War: An Experiment in International Administration (1951); Katz, ‘A Case Study in International Organization’, in Harvard Business Review, 25(1946), p. 1.
  • [11] Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (1948), pp. 515—16. The Pacific WarCouncil was the political counterpart of the Military Representatives of the Associated Powers.
 
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