On the 11th March 1943 Churchill had written to Stalin with a long report on the situation of the British and American forces in the west. They were making progress in Tunisia where they were drawing more and more German troops away from Europe. They intended to move against Sicily next. The bombing war against Germany was being intensified. But there was no prospect of a ‘Second Front’, an invasion of occupied Europe in 1943.
The British fear, expressed by Churchill, was that any “premature attack with inferior and insufficient forces” would lead to a “bloody repulse”. The US had at first been enthusiastic for an attack on Europe in 1942. But the more the situation was studied the more it was realised that there were nowhere near enough men in Britain to make such an assault. Nor were any of the other pre-requisites for such an operation – such as air superiority, command of the seas and practical matters such as enough landing craft.
Stalin, of course, was not impressed and he wrote to Churchill on 15th March 1943:
Now as before I see the main task in hastening ofthe Second Front in France. As you remember, you admitted the possibility of such a front already in 1942, and in any case not later than the spring of 1943 There were serious reasons for such an admission.
Naturally enough I underlined in my previous message the necessity of the blow from the West not later than the spring or the early summer of this year.
The Soviet troops spent the whole winter in the tense fighting, which continues even now. Hitler is carrying out important measures with a view to replenish and increase his army for the spring and summer operations against the U.S.S.R. In these circumstances it is for us extremely important that the blow from the West should not be put off, that it should be struck in the spring or in the early summer.
I studied your observations, contained in the paragraphs 8, 9, and 10, on the difficulties of the Anglo-American operations in Europe. I recognise these difficulties.
Notwithstanding all that, I deem it my duty to warn you in the strongest possible manner how dangerous would be from the view-point of our common cause further delay in the opening of the Second Front in France.
This is the reason why the uncertainty ofyour statements concerning the contemplated Anglo- American offensive across the Channel arouses grave anxiety in me, about which I feel I cannot be silent.