Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

Prime Minister Churchill to President Roosevelt 1

top secret

Prime Minister to President Roosevelt. Personal and Top Secret. Number 822.2

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3. Thank you for your kind wishes about the Paris-De Gaulle trip.3 I certainly had a wonderful reception from about half a million French in the Champs Élysées and also from the party opposition centre at the Hôtel de Ville. I reestablished friendly private relations with De Gaulle, who is better since he has lost a large part of his inferiority complex.

4. I see statements being put out in the French press and other quarters that all sorts of things were decided by us in Paris. You may be sure that our discussions on important things took place solely on an ad referendum basis to the three great powers, and of course especially to you who have by far the largest forces in France. Eden and I had a two-hours talk with De Gaulle and two or three of his people after luncheon on the 11th. De Gaulle asked a number of questions which made me feel how very little they were informed about anything that had been decided or was taking place. He is of course anxious to obtain full modern equipment for eight more divisions which can only be supplied by you. SHAEF reasonably contends that these will not be ready for the defeat of Germany in the field and that shipping must be devoted to the upkeep of the actual forces that will win the battles of the winter and spring. I reinforced this argument.

5. At the same time I sympathize with the French wish to take over more line, to have the best share they can in the fighting or what is left of it, and there may be plenty, and not to have to go into Germany as a so-called conqueror who has not fought. I remarked that this was a sentimental point which ought never the less to receive consideration. The important thing for France was to have an army prepared for the task which it would actually have to discharge, [Page 285]namely their obligation first to maintain a peaceful and orderly France behind the front of our armies, and secondly to assist in the holding down of parts of Germany later on.

6. On this second point the French pressed very strongly to have a share in the occupation of Germany not merely as subparticipation under British or American command but as a French command. I expressed my sympathy with this, knowing well that there will be a time not many years distant when the American armies will go home and when the British will have great difficulty in maintaining large forces overseas, so contrary to our mode of life and disproportionate to our resources, and I urged them to study the type of army fitted for that purpose, which is totally different in form from the organization by divisions required to break the resistance of a modern war-hardened enemy army. They were impressed by this argument but nevertheless pressed their view.

7. I see a Reuter message, emanating no doubt unofficially from Paris, that it was agreed France should be assigned certain areas, the Ruhr, the Rhineland, etc., for their troops to garrison. There is no truth in this and it is obvious that nothing of this kind can be settled on such a subject except in agreement with you. All I said to De Gaulle on this was that we had made a division of Germany into Russian, British and United States spheres: roughly, the Russians had the east, the British the north and the Americans the south. I further said that, speaking for His Majesty’s Government, the less we had of it the better we should be pleased and that we would certainly favour the French taking over as large a part as their capacity allowed, but that all this must be settled at an inter-Allied table. I could of course issue something which would be a disclaimer of any loose statements made by Reuter, but you may not think this necessary in view of the obvious facts. I am telegraphing to U. J. in the same sense. We did not attempt to settle anything finally or make definite agreements.

8. It is evident however that there are a number of questions which press for decision at a level higher than that of the high commands, without which decisions no clear guidance can be given to the high commands. Here is another reason why we should have a triple meeting if U. J. will not come, or a quadruple meeting if he will. In the latter case the French would be in on some subjects and out on others. One must always realize that before five years are out there must be made a French army to take on the main task of holding down Germany. The main question of discussion between Eden and Bidault was Syria, which was troublesome, lengthy and inconclusive but primarily our worry.

9. I thought I would give you this account at once in case of further tendentious statements being put out in the press.

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10. I thought very well of Bidault. … He made a very favourable impression on all of us and there is no doubt that he has a strong share in the power. Giraud was at the banquet apparently quite content. What a change in fortunes since Casablanca. Generally I felt in the presence of an organized government, broadly based and of rapidly-growing strength, and I am certain that we should be most unwise to do anything to weaken it in the eyes of France at this difficult, critical time. I had a considerable feeling of stability in spite of communist threats, and that we could safely take them more into our confidence. I hope you will not consider that I am putting on French clothes when I say this. Let me know your thoughts. I will cable you later about the meeting and the meat.

Prime
  1. Sent by the United States Military Attaché, London, via Army channels.
  2. Paragraph 2 of this telegram is printed ante, p. 15.
  3. The reference is to Roosevelt’s No. 648, of November 14, 1944, ante, p. 14.