740.00119 European Advisory Commission/32: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

130. Personal for the Secretary. I strongly doubt that we will succeed in clearing through the Advisory Commission without further discussion and amplification the draft basic scheme for administration of liberated France. See Department’s 8108 December 23, 8 p.m.14 and my 82 January 4, 10 p.m.

Despite the fact that they have formally agreed to this document, the British appear to feel that it is inadequate in its present form as a basis of military planning and that certain modifications and amplifications are in order which cannot—in view of the political connotations—properly proceed from the military planners. They expect the Russians to come forward in the Commission with questions and comments, if not objections, with respect to the existing text, and I suspect that they propose to seize this opportunity to achieve reconsideration of a document which they cannot gracefully themselves propose for revision.

Their objections and possibly those of the Russians are believed to run along two lines.

(a) They feel that the tendency to distinguish between the French military authorities and the French National Committee is no longer realistic and that if we attempt to sidetrack the latter entirely in the appointment of a civil affairs director we will be faced with a campaign of sabotage which will vitiate many of the director’s efforts and render him largely useless to the Supreme Commander.

They would probably wish to see paragraphs (2) and (3) of the existing document altered so as to correspond to this view.

(b) They seem to feel that France cannot be treated in civil affairs as enemy occupied territory, that the rights accorded by international law to a military force occupying territory of another state are not suitable or politically expedient as a source of authority for the Supreme Allied Commander in this instance, and that account must be taken of French law. They evidently hope to establish this thought (which of course runs counter to the general tenor of the document they have already signed) by incorporating it in, and achieving acceptance of, some sort of supplementary document (examining the practical application of the broad principles laid down in the draft basic scheme). As you probably know, a supplementary document thus described was drafted by the British Delegation at Moscow;15 and I think it likely that it will appear at some stage before the Commission.

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My own view, based not only on the general picture as it presents itself to us here but also on informal contacts which we have had with COSSAC,16 is that on the first of these points the British position is not without logic and that we will have to make some effort to meet their views if we are to achieve the prompt submission of the document to the military planning authorities. Fortunately, I believe that we can accomplish this without incurring prejudice to the basic position incorporated in the paper dated October 6.

I think that justice could be done to the British view as well as to our own if paragraphs (2) and (3) of that paper were to be modified in such a way as to indicate:

(a)
that the French Committee of National Liberation would be invited to appoint a French military liaison mission composed of professional French officers to the headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander;
(b)
that the civil affairs director would be a French officer appointed by the Supreme Allied Commander from the French military liaison mission;
(c)
that the civil affairs director would be directly responsible to the Supreme Allied Commander.

You will note that this suggestion, while it permits the French National Committee to appoint the French military liaison mission (a feature which I am afraid is now practically unavoidable), ensures that the civil affairs director shall be a professional officer (thus excluding politicians placed in uniform for this purpose) and adds the specific provision—only implied in the existing agreement—that the civil affairs director should be directly responsible to the Supreme Commander. It thus provides us with some protection—as much, I think, as we can hope to get—against the French National Committee’s being confronted with too strong a temptation either to load the dice for future political developments in France or sabotage civil affairs work during the period of military occupation.

Unless you have strong objections I propose, if pressed, to discuss a compromise along the above lines, bearing in mind of course that nothing more binding than advisory recommendation to our Government could ensue from these discussions. With respect to the second of the British objections, I feel that they are definitely wrong and that their attempt to twist the spirit of the existing document should be flatly resisted. I fail to see how the Supreme Commander can undertake to observe and respect French law without taking in the French National Committee as a partner in the governing of France, with all the resultant division and obscurity of authority; and I think we should adhere strictly in this respect to the existing [Page 8]document which leaves these questions entirely in the Commander’s discretion.

If the matter is settled as indicated above, the overall approach to the treatment of French civil affairs would roughly be as follows: initially there would be only straight Allied military government. As various zones were freed from actual combat operations, the Supreme Commander might turn over the direction of civil affairs in them, at his own discretion, to the French director who would act under his authority.

Finally, the Supreme Commander, after the termination of hostilities, would determine the time at which civil affairs could be turned over entirely to the French and the various schemes now being worked on in North Africa (see Wilson’s 5 December 18, 7 p.m. to me, repeated to Department)17 for reestablishment of constitutional French authority could then be implemented.

Winant
  1. Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 812.
  2. Document entitled “Civil Administration of Liberated France”, dated October 19, 1943, not printed; circulated by the Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander as document COSSAC/3151/Sec., dated 26 November 1943.
  3. Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander; this office was held by Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick E. Morgan.
  4. This telegram from Edwin C. Wilson, American Representative to the French Committee of National Liberation at Algiers, not printed. For correspondence regarding the recognition by the United States of the administrative authority of the French Committee of National Liberation, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. ii, pp. 23 ff. For additional correspondence regarding the concern of the United States over the civil administration of France immediately following liberation from the Germans, see ibid., 1944, vol. iii, pp. 634 ff.