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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : First Quebec Conference

17 to 24 August 1943

Location: Quebec, Canada
Players: Churchill, Roosevelt, and US and British diplomatic and military advisers.
Outcome: Plans were made for a US landing in Italy; the plan for the Allied landings in France was approved; and the UK and USA agreed there would be no nuclear attacks without mutual consent.

US President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill meet the press
US President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill meet the press©
The first Allied conference held at Quebec followed the Second Washington Conference which had taken place from 11 to 25 May 1943. The aim of the conference was once again to discuss the future military strategy of the alliance.

The Americans still took the approach that they needed to square up to the British at these summit meetings. Their hope for the conference, codenamed Quadrant, was to 'win the match'. They were not prepared this time to be diverted by events in the Mediterranean; the Americans wanted an invasion of France.

However, Allied forces had invaded Sicily the previous month, and during the conference news of Italy's impending surrender on the island arrived - and with it the very real possibility of establishing an Allied front in northern Italy, close to Germany.

In the end, Eisenhower authorised a landing on an Italian shore with the purpose of diverting the Germans from the landings in France - an operation that had now been codenamed Operation Overlord.

The Quebec Conference also endorsed the COSSAC's outline plan for the Normandy landings. The title of COSSAC (Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander) was held by General Frederick Morgan, but the acronym was also used as a name for the organisation he headed.

Churchill had succeeded time and again in putting back the date for a landing in France. The Quebec Conference was the final time, however, that he would propose a diversionary attack away from the Second Front in France.

The conference also established a new theatre of war in South East Asia, with Lord Mountbatten as commander, and reached an agreement to dissuade Spain from supplying tungsten to Germany and to withdraw one of its divisions from the German-Soviet war.

The UK and USA also agreed that neither would use a nuclear weapon - now in rapid development - or communicate nuclear intelligence to a third party without mutual consent.

One of the stranger events at the Quebec Conference was the discussion of a plan to build an aircraft carrier out of ice. The mastermind behind this plan was a scientist called Geoffrey Pyke, who developed a substance he called Pykrete, made of frozen seawater and sawdust. A prototype was demonstrated at the Quebec Conference and the project had many high-powered supporters - but the plan was abandoned in favour of the artificial harbours that were constructed for the Normandy landings.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.


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