Executive Secretariat Files
Briefing Book Paper
Rearming of French Forces
Last August the British Embassy raised with the Department of State the question of equipping the armed forces of certain Western European Allies to enable them to maintain security in their own countries and to take part in the occupation of Germany. At that same time the British Chiefs of Staff placed the same proposal before the American Joint Chiefs of Staff. The British proposed that in view of the fact that French ground military units were presently furnished with American arms, that the United States should furnish arms and equipment to the French forces for the purposes indicated. The British, on the other hand, would furnish arms and equipment to the Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians and eventually the Danish. The British proposed that they furnish the French with air equipment. The American Joint Chiefs of Staff informed the Department of State that the British proposals, from a military point of view, were acceptable to them, but that the matter should be handled on a Government to Government level and not on a Combined Chiefs of Staff level.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff also indicated their view that the Soviet Government should be informed of the proposed action. Two memoranda (copies attached) on the subject were submitted to the President for his approval.1 That approval has now been received. The armament involved in these proposals is for post-European war delivery and is not involved in the present arrangements now under execution for the equipping of eight additional French divisions. The manner in which the equipment involved in the British proposal is to be supplied to the French Government is one to be worked out with the War Department and not at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As soon as the mechanical arrangements can be made with [Page 305]the War Department it is proposed to discuss the matter first with the French authorities at a Government [level?] and at the same time to inform both the British and the Soviet authorities of the action we have taken.
The manner in which payment may be made by the French Government for the supplies thus envisaged is to be determined in discussion with the French authorities.
The British Embassy has informed the Department of State that the Departments of the French Government concerned in this matter are considering the complicated question of how far the mutual aid agreements between the United Kingdom Government and the countries in question are applicable to the equipment and training of Allied forces for the post-hostilities period. The British Embassy states that when final conclusions have been reached the Department of State will be informed. The equipping and training by the United Kingdom Government of Belgian, Norwegian and Dutch forces are at present governed by mutual aid agreements in force between the United Kingdom and the Governments in question.