Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Acheson)

M. Alphand28 called at his request. I had been informed of his proposed visit and questions by Dr. Feis29 and my reply given below [Page 879] was outlined at a meeting attended by Governor Lehman,30 and Messrs. Feis, Atherton,31 Dunn,32 Hackworth,33 and Veatch.

M. Alphand informed me that he had been representing the French National Committee on the so-called Leith-Ross Committee in London where he had been working on French requirements after occupation. He had heard of a proposed United Nations organization which we were formulating and that it would supersede the Leith-Ross Committee. He wished to learn anything I would tell him as to the proposed French membership upon that organization as it would be a most serious blow to the French National Committee if, as the result of a new organization, they ceased to participate in this vital work. He hoped that its representatives would be continued as the official French representative and believed that if this would be done an arrangement would be worked out for collaboration between the Committee and the North African Government.

I replied as follows:

The origin of the idea of an international relief organization broader in scope than the Leith-Ross Committee was the view of many of the governments participating in it that it was essential to the operation of any relief organization which had to consider needs in relation to supply possibilities from all sources, to have an organization including supplying countries as well as countries in need of relief, including Russia which was not represented on the Leith-Ross Committee, and including the countries of the Far East which were also not represented. To work out any such organization requires the agreement of a great many countries. At present we are engaged in ascertaining the views of the British, Soviet and Chinese Governments, and therefore no one in this Government could answer the question as to what the proposed membership of any future organization will be. That must be the result of discussions with many powers and the meetings of many minds; so I could not give any official reply to his question, or even an informal personal reply, because the matter has not yet reached the stage where any individual’s judgment would be helpful.

It might, however, be useful to discuss with M. Alphand the nature of the problem presented and to get his views as to how it could be approached. Everyone would agree that the French Empire was a most important factor in the relief situation both from the point of view of the relief needs and of the supply available to meet relief needs. It is clearly essential to find some way in which the French views can be presented, needs ascertained, and supplying possibilities [Page 880] enlisted. At the present time the areas under the authority of the French National Committee and of the North African Government should be regarded as net supplying areas, although there is of course some need for relief in North Africa. The great relief needs will come in metropolitan France. The great problem is to find some form of French representation which can bring together the supplying capacity and relief needs, and I suggest for both, if the French National Committee and the North African Government were able to work out such a situation between them, it would be of immeasurable help to all governments which must work together in establishing the relief organization. Therefore, I should hope that, before those of us who are working on the problem have to find an answer to M. Alphand’s question, this possibility could be fully explored and if possible solved.

If it cannot be solved, the problems seem to me very perplexing. I could imagine that many of the governments might be concerned over the prospect of having two French delegates, certainly if each delegate were to get a position equal to their own. There would also be the possibility of confused instead of united recommendations as to needs and potentialities.

It seemed to me that, from my point of view, the matter of relief operations was one in which it was almost easier to reach accord than that of military operations, and in view of the achievements made in the latter field, one was very hopeful of similar achievements in this. At any rate, it would seem to me that it would be more useful for the French representatives to explore such a possibility than it would be for me to speculate on what could or could not be done in case this becomes an impossibility.

M. Alphand expressed a general agreement with these views. He asked whether I could say that, provided the two French groups were able to discuss this matter in the near future, no decision would be taken as to membership in the organization until some way could be found in which their views could be communicated. I said that I had great difficulty in answering this question, first because I had no authority to, and second because I was not clear as to what he had in mind by a decision or when or how it would be taken. In fact, what was occurring now was a constant interchange of views. As this went on, the views of the various countries would, we hoped, come closer and closer together. At some point, and in a manner not yet clear to me, these coinciding views would become a decision. I thought, however, that it would be accurate to say that the time for taking action on a relief organization proposal was not immediately imminent, and that there was in fact sufficient time in which the French views could be [Page 881] considered by all the nations before they reached their own final conclusions.

M. Alphand again stressed the great seriousness to the French National Committee of being severed from the present European groups considering the needs of that area. I told him that I was sure everyone appreciated this, and appreciated the knowledge of French conditions and a wise counsel which the Committee had brought to the deliberation of the Leith-Ross group. It seemed to me so plainly necessary and desirable to continue and enlarge French participation in this work that I was sure some plan could be found along the lines which we had discussed. M. Alphand also expressed the belief that this would be possible and said that he had found our discussion most helpful.

Dean Acheson
  1. Hervé Alphand, Director of Economic Affairs of the French National Committee.
  2. Herbert Feis, Adviser on International Economic Affairs.
  3. Herbert H. Lehman, Director, Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations.
  4. Ray Atherton, Acting Chief, Division of European Affairs.
  5. James Clement Dunn, Adviser on Political Relations.
  6. Green H. Hackworth, Legal Adviser.