Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Cairo Conference was a summit meeting attended by British prime minister Winston Churchill, U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, and others. The focus of the deliberation was the prosecution of World War II in the Pacific theater. Roosevelt also informed Churchill that General Dwight D. Eisenhower had been selected to lead the invasion of France.

Summary of Event

While gains made by the Germans and Japanese in the earlier years of World War II were still evident in mid-1943, the war’s momentum had begun to shift in favor of the Allies. In the east, the Soviets stood firm against the Germans, and the British and Americans were preparing to launch an invasion of Italy. While the crisis in the west continued, it was tempered by solid achievements against the Axis Powers. This change emboldened the Allies in their planning and permitted them to address the crisis in Asia and the Pacific, where Japan was waging a war against China, the United States, and Great Britain. [kw]Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific (Nov. 23-30, 1943) [kw]Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific, Cairo (Nov. 23-30, 1943) [kw]Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific, Cairo Conference and (Nov. 23-30, 1943) [kw]War in the Pacific, Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses (Nov. 23-30, 1943) [kw]Pacific, Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the (Nov. 23-30, 1943) Cairo Conference (1943) Cairo Declaration (1943) World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];Allied planning meetings Cairo Conference (1943) Cairo Declaration (1943) World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];Allied planning meetings [g]Africa;Nov. 23-30, 1943: Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific[01000] [g]Egypt;Nov. 23-30, 1943: Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific[01000] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Nov. 23-30, 1943: Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific[01000] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Nov. 23-30, 1943: Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific[01000] [c]World War II;Nov. 23-30, 1943: Cairo Conference and Declaration Addresses War in the Pacific[01000] Churchill, Winston [p]Churchill, Winston;World War II diplomacy[World War 02 diplomacy] Chiang Kai-shek Eisenhower, Dwight D. [p]Eisenhower, Dwight D.;World War II Mountbatten, Louis (first Earl Mountbatten of Burma) Roosevelt, Franklin D. [p]Roosevelt, Franklin D.;World War II diplomacy[World War 02 diplomacy]

In November, 1943, U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill—who had previously agreed to meet with Soviet premier Joseph Stalin in late November at Tehran, Iran—agreed to meet in Cairo, Egypt, with Chinese Nationalist president Chiang Kai-shek (also known as Jiang Jieshi) to discuss the planning and prosecution of the war against Japan in Asia and the Pacific. While planning the war in the Pacific was the stated purpose of the Cairo Conference, both Roosevelt and Churchill had other concerns that were of great importance to each leader. Roosevelt wanted to prepare for the Tehran Conference with Stalin and Churchill; he recognized that Stalin’s main interest was the timetable for the Anglo-American invasion of France, because that action would draw German troops away from the Eastern front with the Soviet Union. Churchill supported that offensive but was concerned that necessary assets not be taken away from the Italian campaign, which had been launched earlier in the fall of 1943. He wanted to secure Rome before diverting the resources necessary for the planned invasion of France in 1944.

Churchill arrived at Alexandria, Egypt, on HMS Renown on November 21, 1943, and then flew on to Cairo; he was at the airport in Cairo to welcome Roosevelt when the president arrived the next day. Preliminary discussions were held on November 22, 1943, when Roosevelt and Churchill met for two sessions; in addition, Churchill met with Chiang Kai-shek, who urged the western Allies to launch a major offensive in Southeast Asia.

The Cairo Conference, codenamed Sextant, offically opened on November 23, 1943, with its initial session being focused on Asia. Chiang Kai-shek urged that a massive offensive against the Japanese be launched through Burma. Churchill supported this proposal and argued that the Japanese had overextended themselves. The Allies had more than 325,000 troops that they could deploy for the operation, which would be intended not only to eliminate the Japanese presence but also to distract Japanese troops from China and their occupied islands in the Pacific. British general Louis Mountbatten was to command this primarily British offensive. Roosevelt was supportive but not enthusiastic about the operation.

Later on November 23, Churchill and his daughter Sara took Roosevelt to see the Sphinx. The second session of the conference opened late on the morning of November 24; the topic was Europe, specifically Operation Overlord Operation Overlord , the planned invasion of France. Roosevelt dominated this session and repeatedly stated his concern that the integrity of Overlord could be placed at risk by focusing too many resources on the operations in the Mediterranean, World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];Mediterranean campaign particularly in Italy. The Italian campaign had bogged down in recent weeks and showed no signs of a quick victory. Churchill saw Italy as the “soft underbelly of Nazi Europe” and argued that victory was at hand and only needed firm resolve and additional resources. He also urged that the Allies carefully look at the potential gains that successful operations in Greece and Turkey would produce. Roosevelt’s aides wondered if Churchill was still thinking of correcting his blunder at Gallipoli in 1915.

Roosevelt recognized the value of Mediterranean operations against the Germans, but he was focused on the planning for Operation Overlord and the postwar relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. Roosevelt announced that General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was present, would command Overlord. Thursday, November 25, was Thanksgiving Day, and Roosevelt hosted Churchill and others present for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. On the same day, the British Chiefs of Staff formally proposed a comprehensive Mediterranean offensive in Italy, the Aegean Islands, and Greece, as well as a campaign that, with Turkish support, would recover all of Turkey.

On November 26, Eisenhower—who in addition to his other commands was the supreme Allied commander in the western Mediterranean—announced support for British Mediterranean strategy. He argued that it should be sustained with the limited resources available and that the hierarchy of priorities should be first Italy and then the Aegean, followed by more eastern advances. In fact, Eisenhower and the American Chiefs of Staff did not think that the Mediterranean offensive would be as successful as Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff argued; the Americans envisioned a high level of violence with little gain. They believed, however, that the operation would occupy and divert a significant number of German troops, which was important to Operation Overlord’s success. The British saw through the American position and realized that Roosevelt was supporting Stalin’s interests as well as expressing American policy.

The Cairo Conference ended without any clear decision on the Mediterranean offensive. The American and British diplomats and Chiefs of Staff prepared for the Tehran Conference in Iran; the emerging partnership between Roosevelt and Stalin would become more evident at that meeting.

Significance

The Cairo Conference of November, 1943, was a significant milestone in World War II Allied diplomacy. This meeting between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Chiang Kai-shek produced the Cairo Declaration, which was announced on November 30, 1943. The declaration delineated the Allied aims to defeat Japan and addressed the imposition of postwar terms on Japan regarding the restoration of territories. The European war was also addressed, and it was in these deliberations that the differences between Churchill’s Mediterranean priority and Roosevelt’s preference in scheduling Operation Overlord became evident. The military conversations between the American and British Chiefs of Staff did not resolve the multitude of concerns that needed to be addressed. The differences between Roosevelt and Churchill carried over into the Tehran Conference with Stalin, which opened on November 28, 1943. Cairo Conference (1943) Cairo Declaration (1943) World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];Allied planning meetings

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Best, Geoffrey. Churchill: A Study in Greatness. New York: Hambledon and London, 2001. Perhaps the most useful single-volume biography of Churchill; includes valuable insights on Churchill’s use of personal diplomacy and summit meetings, including the Cairo Conference.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Edmonds, Robin. The Big Three: Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin in Peace and War. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1991. A standard and reliable study of the relationships of the three leaders that provides a wealth of information on the summit meetings.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gilbert, Martin. Churchill: A Life. New York: Henry Holt, 1991. One-volume biography of Churchill by his official biographer; provides a balanced perspective and considerably detailed information on all aspects of Churchill’s work—including the Cairo Conference.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kimball, Warren F. Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. New York: William Morrow, 1997. An excellent scholarly study of the Roosevelt-Churchill relationship as it emerged during the war; considerable attention is drawn to their contrasting styles at the summit meetings.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Meacham, Jon. Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship. New York: Random House, 2003. Worthwhile study of the Roosevelt-Churchill relationship that was being transformed during 1943, the year of the Cairo Conference.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ramsden, John. Man of the Century: Winston Churchill and His Legend Since 1945. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. This important work covers Churchill’s development of his own legend and the interpretations of others; all aspects of Churchill’s role during World War II are addressed in this study.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Reynolds, David. In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War. New York: Random House, 2005. An outstanding book that focuses on Churchill’s leadership as a diplomat and a politician and as a historian who advanced an interpretation of the war that was personal but has endured.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sainsbury, Keith. The Turning Point—Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, and Chiang Kai-Shek, 1943: The Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran Conferences. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Sainsbury’s study remains the most thorough book on the two phases of the Cairo Conference and related Moscow and Tehran meetings; it demonstrates the growing confidence of Stalin and the fragility of the alliance.

World War II: Pacific Theater

World War II: European Theater

Nationalist Chinese Forces Battle Communists as Japan Advances

Casablanca Conference

Western Allies Invade Italy

Tehran Conference Promotes Allied Cooperation in Iran

Invasion of Normandy Begins the Liberation of Europe

Yalta Conference

Potsdam Conference

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