From late January through late March 1941, there was a series of secret meetings between representatives of the United States Navy, the United States Army and the United Kingdom, held in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the secret meetings was to determine how the United States and Great Britain could together best defeat the Axis forces, if the United States entered into the war. The delegates worked to determine the best deployment plans for British and American forces. The sessions also determined command arrangements, specific areas of responsibility and military strategy. On March 27, 1941 a final agreement known as the ABC-1Staff Agreement was reached.
The ABC Staff Agreement first discussed the United States involvement in the conflict, “short of war” or short of declaring war. The agreement discussed the lend-lease policy in the Atlantic and deterring the Japanese in the Pacific. The ABC Staff Agreement then further discussed what would be the collaboration between the US and Britain, should the United States enter into war.
The primary focus of the agreement was Hitler and Germany. Believing that Hitler was the principle Axis power, war efforts were focused on Europe and the Atlantic theaters. Therefore the United States Naval forces were deployed to the Atlantic to aid where possible, “short of war”, in order to defeat Germany as early as possible. At that time Japan was warring only with China and posed less of a threat. Allied forces hoped to have discussions with Japan and deter her from actively supporting Germany.
Under the ABC-1 Staff Agreement further meetings were agreed upon. These meetings would be held between the United States and Great Britain in London and DC until the United States entered the war. When the US entered the war communications would continue through a group that would be known as “the Supreme War Council” (the group was later re- named “the Combined Chiefs of Staff).
The agreement further discussed strategic planning. The two countries would enforce the blockade against the Axis; support air attacks on Germany; eliminate Italy from the war through naval efforts; encourage other neutral countries to resist Axis coercion; concentrate forces in the British Isles; capture Mediterranean bases to protect Europe from invasion; and begin psychological warfare.
By March 27, 1941, the basic plan of war for the Allied forces had been determined. It hinged on the United States entering the war. However, at that time, the United States did not guarantee she would enter into the war effort.