File No. 763.72Su/52
The Diplomatic Liaison Officer with the Supreme War Council ( Frazier) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 5, 1.40 a.m.]
52. The discussion of employment of American troops began on the 1st instant and was continued on the following day; in the meantime drafts of agreements had been exchanged between the members of the committee appointed by the Supreme War Council.
The Council assembled at 11.30 on the morning of the 2d.2 The discussion was opened by M. Clemenceau, who pointed out that the greatest battle in the war was being fought on a [front] of 150 kilometers; if the Germans were able to break through at Villers-Bretonneux in three days they might easily reach Paris, and the Allied armies would in that case be forced to fall back to the Loire; if on the other hand they broke [through] at Ypres the British would lose control of the Channel ports and the situation would be an exceedingly serious one. He particularly desired to have these considerations borne in mind. General Foch then rose, and read a paper embodying his views on the subject. He said in substance that it was plainly the purpose of the German commander to exhaust the reserves and fighting forces of the Allies while still preserving intact a certain proportion of their own. It was quite impossible for him as commander in chief of the Allied armies in France not [Page 225]to be consulted about the numbers of troops coming from the United States to France or the disposition to be made of them upon their arrival. M. Clemenceau then turned to Mr. Lloyd George and said “Scientific something.”
Mr. Lloyd George after some deliberation remarked that this was the most dangerous moment of the greatest battle. England had called out six million troops—including the colonies, seven million; France had mobilized every available man; unless America came to the rescue of the Allies in the present state of danger, the Germans might be successful in their plans. If the Allies were defeated [without America] assisting them it would be an honorable defeat, but America up to the present time had sent over only a handful of men. How would the great American nation feel if at the time her assistance was most needed there were not sufficient men to aid the Allies?
General Pershing next spoke. He agreed perfectly as to the seriousness of the situation and would not take issue with General Foch on that point. Americans were just as desirous to take their part of the battle as it was possible for them to be. There might be a difference of ideas but they were united in a common purpose. The United States entered the war as an independent power; America must always be looking forward to the time when she could be fighting in the war as an independent army. The morale of the American troops was dependent upon their fighting under their own flag; the time was not far distant when American people would demand that their Army fight as a separate and autonomous unit. The General terminated by saying that he stood ready to sign the proposition which he had just submitted. The proposition was finally adopted with the addition of the final paragraph.
The remainder of the session was devoted to the approval of joint notes which have already been transmitted to the War Department by General Bliss, after adoption by the military representatives at Versailles. The conference thereupon adjourned to meet again at the beginning of June.
- The time of the session herein described is given in the printed French text of the minutes as 2.30 p.m., and in the English text as 2.45 p.m.↩