763.72119 Military Clauses/79: Telegram
The Ambassador in France (Edge) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 20—5:23 a.m.]
542. Referring to my 525, September 10, 4 p.m., the following is a brief summary of the 2 hours of conversation today at lunch at the Foreign Office at which in addition to the three Americans mentioned therein were present only Herriot; Alphand, former Minister at Dublin, Chief of his Diplomatic Cabinet; Ray, head of his personal [Page 438]Cabinet; and Leger, at the present moment in the absence of Berthelot, Political Director of the Foreign Office.
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As to Germany, Herriot opened the conversation by stating how pleased he had been by your frank speaking against German rearmament and that he felt that it had been of great use with the British. I strongly urged that France take the lead in proposing some definite action along the lines of President Hoover’s suggestion which Reed likewise emphasized. Herriot replied that Hoover’s suggestions had been well received in France and he promised to do something emphatic at Geneva in the way of concrete suggestions for further reduction of armaments although he added “je crains au ciel” that I am sending Frenchmen to their death. Then followed long protestations of apprehension of German and Italian aggression possibly supported by Russia. Their statements in this regard were substantially the same as Herriot’s statements of last week although somewhat more in detail. They professed to be sure of the existence of an alliance between Germany and Italy. Reed suggested that a similar apprehension existed in Italy and to some extent in Great Britain illustrating by describing the activities of Italian engineers at this moment in mining all roads and bridges near the frontier; and Reed described to them the specifications of the modern British pursuit planes which as we know are based upon the time of flight of French light bombers between Calais and London. Herriot professed great surprise at this latter statement and announced that he would readily order transferred all French aviation activities from the northwest of Paris to the German and Italian frontiers. His emphasis upon this statement suggested that he might actually undertake this as a gesture of amity toward Great Britain.
We took occasion to point out that if one felt the necessity for arming against every possible alliance or contingency there was no end to armaments and in concluding the conversation again inquired if France could not do something or make some commitments along disarmament in accordance with the President’s suggestions, something which could focus public opinion on the willingness of France to act alone in this matter as a part of a world movement. The Prime Minister said that there was no question that France would disarm and was intending to do it that since he came into power he had constantly turned his attention to this problem and his only fear was that in view of the present state of German public opinion France might live to regret the disarmament in which she is determined to participate.
Full memorandum of conversation follows by next pouch. Cipher texts to London, Berlin and Berne.