740.0011 European War 1939/32741/10: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

831. For the President and the Secretary. The news from the front this morning is good. Daladier77 informed me that at dawn the Germans made an attack on Huntziger’s army in the Reims district which was repulsed with catastrophic losses for the Germans and that Huntziger’s army was counterattacking successfully. Other French and British attacks in regions which I must refrain from specifying are going well.

It is obvious that the fighting of the next 3 or 4 days will result in a victory as important, one way or the other, as the victory in the first [Page 437] battle of the Marne. If French and British counterattacks should be successful the German forces would be diminished greatly. If on the other hand the Germans should be successful a German advance on Paris would be possible within the course of a week.

Mandel78 who has resumed the power over the domestic life of France that he had when Clemenceau was Prime Minister said to me today that he did not fear that there would be a demand among the people of France for acceptance of a German offer of a separate peace even though the present battle should result in disaster. He felt on the other hand that there would be great danger if the French should be obliged to abandon Paris. Many of the men who were most vociferous now in demanding war to the bitter end would be in favor of peace at any price if Paris should be lost.

He thoughtfully expressed the opinion that if the battle now in progress should be lost Paris could not be defended successfully.

In this connection he said that he would like to speak to me seriously about a matter which he considered of the utmost importance. He went on to say that I did not perhaps realize how much it meant to the French Government and to French resistance to have me personally in constant contact with the members of the French Government. He understood perfectly why even in case of a German occupation of Paris I should wish to stay in Paris. He felt however that it would be absolutely essential to have close to the French Government in case the French Government should be obliged to leave Paris some one who spoke French perfectly and at the same time had the confidence of the French Government and of the President and yourself.

I told him that in case of a German occupation of Paris I intended to send to follow the French Government a staff of Embassy Secretaries.

Mandel said that he felt this would be altogether inadequate and he asked if it might not be possible for you to appoint someone to be temporarily a representative of the President of the United States at the seat of the French Government wherever that might be. (Incidentally he expressed the opinion that the French Government would not go to the region of Tours where great preparations have been made for an evacuation of the Government but would go either to Bordeaux or the Massif Central. Daladier expressed the same opinion to me this morning.[)]

Mandel developed his idea at length and I think it should be considered seriously.

I recommend therefore that in case the French Government should be obliged to leave Paris and in case I should be cut off from contact [Page 438] with you as the result of the occupation of Paris by German troops you should appoint Tony Biddle as special representative pro tern of the President of the United States to the French Government.

Biddle’s relations with Paul Reynaud79 and other members of the French Government are as excellent as his French.

  1. Edouard Daladier, named French Minister for Foreign Affairs May 18, 1940.
  2. Georges Mandel, French Minister of the Interior.
  3. French President of the Council of Ministers.