740.0011 PW/8–2544

Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews)

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Memorandum of Conversation

Participants: Lord Halifax
Mr. Matthews

Lord Halifax called on me this morning at his request and left with me the attached Aide-Mémoire raising certain questions with regard to the French role in military operations in the Far East, with particular reference to French Indochina. The Ambassador stated that the question has become one of considerable urgency since Mr. Eden is anxious to give M. Massigli an answer to two definite points before the latter leaves London on August 29. The two specific questions on which Mr. Eden desires to give M. Massigli an affirmative answer are: (1) the attachment to the South East Asia Command headquarters of a French Military Mission under General Blaizot, and (2) the establishment in India of a “Corps Léger d’Intervention” (apparently already set up at Algiers). Lord Halifax said that the British Chiefs of Staff had informed him that our military people are in complete accord.

I told Lord Halifax that I would endeavor to obtain some rapid decision on the question, but that as he knew the matter was one which would involve a decision at a very high level. He said that he was aware of this fact but hoped that a favorable answer can be obtained sometime Monday.1

H F[reeman] M[atthews]

The British Embassy to the Department of State

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His Majesty’s Government have given consideration to a request by the French Committee of National Liberation that the French should take a more active part in the war against Japan.

In brief, their proposals are:—
That a French Military Mission should be attached to the headquarters of South East Asia Command.
That French Forces should take a more active part in the war in the Far East.
That they should participate in the planning of the war against Japan.
They should participate in the planning of political warfare in the Far East.
His Majesty’s Government’s views on the above proposals are as follows:—
The establishment of a French Military Mission with South East Asia Command would facilitate the work of SOE/OSS and would serve as the nucleus of the operational headquarters which may be required later. If the Mission is not accepted the French will probably concentrate on Chungking, where it would be harder to control them. The function of the Mission would be confined mainly to matters concerning Indo-China and it would not participate in questions of general strategy. It would therefore be much on the same basis as the Dutch and Chinese Missions attached to South East Asia Command.
The use of French land and air forces would stimulate resistance to the enemy among the French officials still in Indo-China, but with the administrative difficulties that would be involved now, His Majesty’s Government think that the offer of these forces should only be accepted in the later stages of the war and on the understanding that they are made up of good and experienced fighting men. The French have also proposed the establishment in India of a “Corps Léger d’Intervention” composed at the start of 500 men, and designed to operate exclusively in Indo-China on Japanese lines of communication. His Majesty’s Government understand that the Corps Léger is in being at Algiers and they think that it should be accepted, provided it is properly handled and kept apart from regular military information [formations?].
His Majesty’s Government feel strongly that the French should take no part in military planning for the war against Japan until the detailed preparation of plans for the liberation of Indo-China is undertaken.
There would seem to be no objection in principle to French participation in political warfare in the areas in which the French are interested. This should be a matter for arrangement between South East Asia Command and the French Military Mission.
Lord Louis Mountbatten is prepared to accept the French Mission providing it is a small one consisting of a General and, say, three other officers. He is also prepared to accept the Corps Léger and foresees considerable advantage in its employment.
The French are very keen to take their share in the war against Japan, and the Far East is the only area in which they are now not represented. The presence of Richelieu in Far Eastern waters means that they are already participating in fact if not in name.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff were invited by the British members to concur in paragraph 3 in the early part of this month.2 No [Page 249] reply has, however, yet been received from the American members. Monsieur Massigli is pressing His Majesty’s Government for a decision regarding the attachment to South East Asia Command headquarters of a French Military Mission under General Blaizot, and the establishment in India of a “Corps Léger d’Intervention” (see paragraph 3 (i) and (ii) above). It is suggested that a decision could be taken regarding the “Corps Léger d’Intervention”, whose numbers are small and whose activities correspond to those of American and British secret operations organisations, without prejudice to the wider question of from what source French forces operating in the Far East should be equipped. His Majesty’s Government are particularly anxious to be able to give him an answer on these two points before he leaves London on August 29th.
  1. August 28.
  2. In C.C.S. 644, “French Participation in the War Against Japan”, August 5, 1944, not printed. Paragraphs 2–5 of C.C.S. 644 are substantively identical to paragraphs 2–5 of the aide-mémoire of August 25.