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OCTAGON


Photograph of OCTAGON participants

National Archives. Via ww2db.com

OCTAGON was the seventh major wartime diplomatic conference between Roosevelt and Churchill, held in Quebec on 12-16 September 1944. The conference was primarily concerned with the fate of postwar Germany but also included discussions of British participation in the Pacific War.

The most controvesial aspect of the conference was the Morgenthau Plan, which endorsed the complete deindustrialization and dismemberment of postwar Germany. The plan was leaked to the press and caused a furor. It was heavily emphasized in German propaganda and had a profound influence on the German population, most of whom concluded that it left Germany with no better alternative to resisting to the bitter end. It likely had a similar effect in Japan, Germany's partner in the Axis alliance.

Churchill pushed for a Western advance from Italy towards Vienna to preempt Soviet control of central Europe. This proposal overlooked the tremendous military difficulties of forcing the mountainous Ljubljana Gap and was rejected by the conference. Churchill also pushed for a campaign to recapture Singapore, which the Americans were inclined to bypass. The recapture of Singapore would have helped restore British prestige in the Far East but would have done little to speed the defeat of Japan, and the Americans were uninterested in anything that appeared to be directed towards preserving Britain's colonial empire.

Churchill offered to send the bulk of the British Fleet to the Far East once Germany was defeated, and was surprised and insulted that King was rather cool to the offer. King disliked and distrusted the British, was confident the Americans could wrap up the war on their own, and was likely not anxious to give the British the opportunity to claim any significant role in the victory. However, his officially expressed concern was that the British Fleet lacked a sufficient fleet train and could overtax the already badly stretched American logistics in the western Pacific. King was overruled by Roosevelt. As events turned out, the British Pacific Fleet did in fact impose a significant logistical burden on the Americans, but proved useful in the final kamikaze battles, where the armored British aircraft carriers proved much less vulnerable than the wooden-decked American carriers.

References

Morison (1959)

Roberts (2009)

Smith (1985)



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