The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 21—5:35 p.m.]
3019. I have discussed with Daladier, Guy La Chambre, Champetier de Ribes57 and Leger58 the conversations at the meeting of the Supreme War Council concerning purchases of planes in the United States.
Daladier had sent a note to Chamberlain59 (which I had seen) stating that he intended to cut all French purchases abroad in order to save as much foreign exchange as possible to make purchases of completed planes in the United States since he believed that it was only by obtaining absolute command of the air that France and England could carry out a successful offensive against Germany. He had proposed in this note that Great Britain should adopt a similar policy.
At the meeting of the Supreme War Council Chamberlain read reply to this note of Daladier’s. He stated that the British Government [Page 525] would be glad to have some Englishman associated with Pleven in making an inquiry in the United States as to whether or not it would be possible to obtain a vast plane production in addition to the production now existing. The British Government, however, believed that any considerable increase in the production of planes in the United States would create such a demand in America for additional machine tools that France and England would not be able obtain in the United States the machine tools that they needed for plane manufacture in their own countries. Furthermore American planes were so expensive that the question of financing purchases of planes in the United States was a most serious one which the British Government would have to study with care.
Daladier reiterated his intention of going ahead with this policy and expressed the opinion that it would be possible by calling on automobile factories and other factories in trades not unlike the aviation industry to obtain a greatly increased production without interfering fatally with the flow of machine tools to France and England.
It was the impression of both Daladier and Guy La Chambre that if the French should find it possible to create the facilities for the construction of a large number of planes in the United States and should order the planes the British would immediately request the French to permit Great Britain to have at least half the production.
In any event Daladier is absolutely determined to purchase as many planes as he can possibly get in the United States.
Ultra-confidentially, I can assure you that I am certain the combined French-British production of land pursuit planes and bombers is even today only about seven-tenths of the German production. Daladier now considers it obvious that France and England will not be able to obtain command of the air except through planes bought in the United States.
I discussed with him again today the question of how the war was to be won and he reiterated that in his opinion it was to be won only by gaining absolute command of the air and that this command could only be obtained through the purchase of planes manufactured in the United States.
He added that should it prove to be impossible vastly to increase the manufacture of planes in the United States the war would drag on in a bloody deadlock which might end in any sort of loathsome result but could certainly not end in any constructive manner.
He said that so long as he should remain at the head of the French Government he would therefore make every conceivable effort to get as many planes as could be manufactured in the United States.