The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 6:05 p.m.]
498. The shock of Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia stunned not only the members of the Government but all Frenchmen. Thought as to the future has, however, already begun to crystallize in the following manner:
The invasion of Czechoslovakia ends definitely all possibility of diplomatic negotiations. Seven specific promises by Hitler that he would not invade Czechoslovakia were broken by this action and it is no longer possible to have confidence in any promises he may make.[Page 49]
Mussolini is considered as unscrupulous as Hitler and it is believed with equal force that no confidence can be had in any promises by Mussolini. The practice of diplomacy therefore becomes impossible. Nothing remains but to develop as much armed force as possible, as rapidly as possible, to await the day when Germany and Italy will strike against France and England.
It is believed that this day may arrive as early as the 26th of the month. Reports from Italy indicate that Mussolini’s prestige with his own people has been diminished so seriously by Hitler’s advance in Central Europe that he must attempt to make annexations for Italy. It is thought that he may first seize Albania87 but it is also thought that he may consider his present control over Albania sufficient and may first act by an advance on Djibouti. The French troops at Djibouti will resist and war will result not only in Africa but also in Europe.
It is believed that Hitler has promised Mussolini his support in such a war but would like to have Mussolini adjourn action until after he, Hitler, should have reduced Hungary and Rumania to the position of vassal states. It is not believed that Mussolini will wait for this new advance by Hitler even though Hitler may predict confidently that he will have both Hungary and Rumania in hand within a month.
Reports indicate that extreme fear of Hitler is now prevalent throughout Eastern Europe especially in Lithuania and the other Baltic States, in Rumania and in Hungary. There is consternation in Poland; but it is believed that the Poles will have the courage to fight if Hitler makes any direct attack on Polish territory. No assistance is expected from the Soviet Union against Germany unless Soviet territory is attacked.
The French are making every effort to persuade the British to introduce conscription and to prepare for immediate war.
There is no excitement in Paris or in France. There is only regret that Hitler’s action has ended the period when it was still possible to hope that constructive diplomatic action might maintain peace.