No. 1415
Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Bonbright)


The French Ambassador, M. Henri Bonnet, called on the Under Secretary1 at 3:30 this afternoon, and left with him the attached note (No. 678, September 4, 1945) relative to the disposition of the German fleet and Merchant Marine. The note states that the French Government “has just been informed”2 of the creation of a Tripartite Naval Commission in Berlin, consisting of representatives of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, charged with the task of dividing the German naval and merchant ships between the three countries. The note insists strongly that a representative of France be admitted without delay to the Commission in question and that there be no distribution of ships until the question of French participation is settled.

In addition to repeating the point made in the note that the setting-up of this Tripartite Commission is contrary to the agreements reached in the European Advisory Commission at London, to the effect that [Page 1565] all matters concerning Germany should be settled on a quadripartite basis, the Ambassador spoke at some length in support of the French request. He emphasized the immediate French need for a share of the German shipping in view of the great damage done to the French fleet and the sacrifice which France made by placing her usable merchant ships in the Allied pool. Merchant ships, he added, were urgently needed to carry supplies not only to France but to the colonies. In this connection, he referred specifically to the lack of transport and cargo space between France and North Africa. He indicated that naval vessels were needed for the purpose of patrolling and protecting French supply lines.

The Ambassador assumed that similar démarches were being made by his Government in London and Moscow but he hoped particularly to obtain the support of the United States Government. He stated that although, as indicated in the note, the French proposed to raise the question at the forthcoming Conference of Foreign Ministers in London, he would very much appreciate receiving an early reply, even of a preliminary nature.

Mr. Acheson indicated to the Ambassador that we would look into the question at once.

J[ames] C H B[onbright]

The French Ambassador (Bonnet) to the Secretary of State

No. 678

The Ambassador of France to the United States presents his compliments to His Excellency the Secretary of State and has the honor to direct his attention to the following question:

The French Government has just been informed that pursuant to an agreement arrived at in the conference of Potsdam4 among the Governments of the United States, of Great Britain, and of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a naval commission, in charge of distributing German warships and ships of the merchant marine among the three countries has been created in Berlin.

The French Government considers that the constitution of this tripartite commission is contrary to the agreements that had been worked out by the European Advisory Commission and approved by the Governments of Washington, London, Moscow, and Paris. [Page 1566] According to these agreements, the regulation of all affairs concerning Germany must be effected on a quadripartite basis.

The French Government cannot, consequently, admit the procedure that has been considered at Potsdam. On accepting the invitation which had been addressed to it after this conference to participate in the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the five great powers5 and on replying to the other communications pertaining to Germany which had been made then, the French Government had already pointed out that it considered itself obliged to reserve its position on the various arrangements which were concluded among the three Powers.6

The question of the German marine will evidently be raised by the French Government at the Conference of London. But it urgently insists now that a representative be admitted without delay to the naval commission of Berlin and that no distribution of boats be made until French participation has been settled.

France, which has emerged from the war with a marine very much weakened, and whose arsenals and navy yards have been devastated or destroyed, has a particularly urgent need of tonnage, in warships as well as in merchant ships. She expects that her Allies, recognizing the importance of her sacrificies, will accede to her request and that the Government of the United States in particular will be good enough to support her legitimate claim.

Mr. Henri Bonnet is happy [etc.]

H[enri] B[onnet]
  1. Dean Acheson.
  2. Cf. document No. 1414.
  3. Printed from the official translation (file No. 740.00119 Control (Germany)/9–445), rather than from the informal translation actually attached to the original of Bonbright’s memorandum.
  4. See document No. 1383, section iv.
  5. See document No. 1410.
  6. See documents Nos. 1403, 1406, 1407, 1409, and 1411.