The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10 p.m.]
2813. For the President and the Acting Secretary. I have just had a 3-hour conversation with Daladier, Guy la Chambre, Minister for Air, and Monnet54 which was frank and detailed to an extreme degree.
In accordance with our policy of not telegraphing dangerous information I shall refrain from giving any details but I am obliged to report to you certain statements of Daladier’s.
Daladier said that he was certain that this war could be won only if France and England should possess not simply superiority in the air but absolute domination in the air. He cited the figures of French and British plane production and stated his conclusion that France and England could never produce sufficient planes to achieve absolute domination in the air. If domination in the air could not be achieved the war would drag on until a peace of exhaustion and compromise which would insure exultant domination of Europe by Germany.
If it should be impossible therefore for France and England to obtain a sufficient number of planes in the United States to establish domination in the air he would unequivocally cease to be Prime Minister immediately. He could easily contrive an issue on which he would be overthrown and could turn over the Government to Bonnet or Flandin either one of whom would make an early compromise peace with Germany.
The single important question in his mind therefore was whether or not France could obtain sufficient planes in America to make possible a successful attack against Germany. He did not care how much the planes might cost. If Paul Reynaud should make financial objections Paul Reynaud could resign. He would be perfectly ready to make [Page 521] every French resource available to obtain these planes. He would not object to selling Versailles or any other possession of the French Government in order to get the planes.
Since he had established Monnet as head of the entire inter-allied organization for pooling the resources of France and England Monnet would be obliged to spend at least the next 4 weeks in London. Every day that the solution of the problem of obtaining planes in the United States should be adjourned would mean one day more of war and suffering. Monnet might go to the United States a month hence but is was essential to send some one to the United States immediately to have intimate and detailed conversations on the problem of obtaining planes.
He realized that this problem was an enormous one. He knew that the existing factories of the United States for the manufacture of planes and motors already had more orders than they could fill for the year 1940. He realized that it would be necessary to create enlarged facilities for the production of planes. In his opinion this might be done in Paris by the enlargement of existing factories for motors and fuselages but he thought this would be insufficient.
He believed it would be necessary to obtain the assistance of the great American automobile manufacturers and persuade them to turn a portion of their productive capacity to the production of parts of engines and parts of fuselages. The question of certain raw materials was also vital. He was shocked by the information about the cooperation of Aluminum (see your 1427, November 22, 1 p.m.55).
He would like to send to the United States immediately to handle the entire problem of planes René Pleven (Pleven has been a close friend of mine for many years and I have as complete confidence in his character and integrity as I have in Monnet’s).
Daladier then said that he considered it absolutely essential for me to accompany Pleven to the United States in the first possible clipper. I objected saying that I had written to the President that I believed an Ambassador should not leave the country to which he was accredited in time of war to go home on vacation and that I had informed both the President and my daughter that I positively would not be home for Christmas.
Daladier said that whether I liked it or not he felt it was my absolute duty to accompany Pleven to the United States. He would not feel that every possibility had been explored unless I could inform him personally that there were no further possibilities. He then asked me as a personal favor to him to make the trip. I continued to object and La Chambre and Monnet entered the argument insisting that I [Page 522] must accompany Pleven. Finally Daladier said that he hoped that I realized that he was entirely serious in what he had said about ceasing to be Prime Minister. He wanted to buy at least 10,000 planes in the United States. He might have to be content with a smaller number but if he could not obtain a sufficient number to establish dominance in the air he was absolutely determined to give up his post as Prime Minister and hand over the Government to some one who would make a compromise peace with Germany. He was not a bourgeois but of the stock of peasants who were used to facing facts however tragic and horrible they might be. If it should be possible for Pleven to make arrangements in America for the production of a sufficient number of planes well and good. France and England would win the war. If Pleven and I should inform him that it would not be possible he would have the facts in his hands from which to draw the necessary conclusions.
At this point I suggested that he had already entirely competent official representatives in the United States and that I knew the different agencies of our Government were giving and would continue to give every possible appropriate cooperation. He replied that the only opinion in which he would have absolute confidence would be my own.
It is unpleasant to me to be obliged to report this sort of thing which sounds as if I were engaged in attempting to make myself appear more influential than I am; but I feel obliged to report the facts and to add that Daladier was speaking with the utmost sincerity and furthermore in the presence of both Guy La Chambre and Monnet.
In view of the intensity of Daladier’s remarks I feel obliged to ask you for immediate instructions as to my future movements. I am tired and had planned to go to the south of France for a rest. But this matter is one of such importance that I feel that personal considerations should have no weight whatsoever.
Will you please let me have your instructions at your earliest convenience as I promised Daladier that I would let him know whether or not I could accompany Pleven.
Incidentally when I conveyed to Daladier the substance of your No. 1417, November 20, 6 p.m.,56 he gave Monnet instructions to inform the British Government immediately that Purvis would be acceptable to the French Government as Chairman of the Board of the French and British purchasing missions in the United States.