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TRIDENT


Photograph of TRIDENT conference participants

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. Via Atkinson (2007)

TRIDENT was the third major wartime diplomatic conferences between Roosevelt and Churchill, following the Casablanca conference (SYMBOL) of 14-24  January 1943. TRIDENT was held in Washington on 12-27 May 1943. Opening on the same day that the Axis forces in North Africa surrendered, the conference was primarily concerned with the thorny issues of future Mediterranean strategy and the northwestern Europe invasion, but the conference also approved an increase in the tempo of operations in the Pacific. It was probably the most rancorous of the major wartime diplomatic conferences.

The British planners under Brooke were convinced that any attempt to land in northwest France in 1943 would run a grave risk of catastrophe. The fundamental problem was that the Germans had excellent communications across western Europe and could concentrate troops against a landing faster than the Allies could hope to reinforce their beachhead. The American planners under Marshall were convinced that only a landing in northern France could be decisive and that no resources should be wasted elsewhere. Ultimately, the resolution of this dilemma would come through the massive application of air power, which shattered the French rail network and decisively hindered the German ability to concentrate, and deception, which kept the Germans guessing where the main landings would come even after the Normandy invasion. However, in retrospect, these preconditions for a successful invasion could not have been satisfied in 1943. Furthermore, Hitler's insistence on no retreat meant that the operations in the Mediterranean in 1943 did far more damage to the German Army than they had any right to.

The discussion on Pacific strategy got off to a bad start when it became clear that Wavell and Stilwell strongly disagreed with each other and with the U.S. Army's chief logistics officer, Brehon Sommervell. Stilwell pushed for ANAKIM, an amphibious assault on Burma intended to clear the way for supplies to reach China along the Burma Road. The British, who would have to supply almost all the forces for the assault, were unenthusiastic. They were even less enthusiastic over a proposal to attack Burma from Assam, with its miserable communications and infrastructure. The proposal for a land offensive was dropped in favor of an air campaign against Burma and air transport of supplies to China. Approval was also given to King's plans for a Central Pacific offensive, with the Gilberts and Marshalls as the initial targets. This came at the expense of fewer resources for the Southwest Pacific.

References

Atkinson (2007)

Roberts (2009)

Smith (1985)



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