Foreign Policy—Germany

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State

Participants: President Truman;
French Foreign Minister, M. Bidault;
French Ambassador, Mr. Henri Bonnet;
Acting Secretary Grew

I saw the President this morning at about 10:25 and suggested that in the course of his second conversation with Mr. Bidault,70 the French Foreign Minister, it would be well to refer to the fact that French troops are still occupying areas in northwestern Italy contrary to the directions of the Commander-in-Chief and that they have apparently refused to move. The French in this case are doing just about what Tito is doing in Trieste and Venezia Giulia71 and it might be helpful if the President would point this out with complete frankness. The President concurred.

Mr. Bidault and the French Ambassador then came in at 10:30. Mr. Bidault said to the President that he wished to thank him heartily for the President’s statement to the press after their, last conversation. He said that this statement had made a very fine impression in France and had greatly strengthened Mr. Bidault’s hand, as well as the relations between the two countries. The President said that he was very glad to know this and that it had been gratifying to receive Ambassador Caffery’s report of the French reaction to the statement. The President said that he is interested in France and feels very strongly that the friendship between France and the United States should be steadily strengthened, and he wished to do whatever he could to that end. Mr. Bidault expressed appreciation.

The President then said that even among friends it is best to place one’s cards face up on the table, and that he wished to explain to Mr. Bidault the unfortunate effect on our relations of the fact that French forces are still occupying areas in northwestern Italy contrary to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. The French are in fact doing very much what Marshal Tito is doing in Venezia Giulia and in Trieste, in other words they are occupying territory, the ultimate possession of which is under dispute, and they are thereby prejudicing the ultimate settlement of these matters at the eventual peace conference. This, the President said, gives ammunition to those in our country who may be trying to stir up trouble between the United States and France, and he would be very glad if the Foreign Minister would take steps to overcome this situation. The President said that [Page 699]there had been other incidents of a similar nature, notably in the French occupation of Stuttgart.

Mr. Bidault listened carefully to the President’s remarks, which were accurately translated by the French Ambassador, and then said that he himself knew nothing about this situation except what he had seen in the newspapers, but that he would take the matter up immediately upon his return to France.

Mr. Bidault then said that he did not feel that he need trouble the President with the various troubles he had in mind as he had been able to explain the French point of view to me in our two-hour conversation on May 19. He hoped that the President was familiar with the points he had taken up with me, especially with regard to certain French desiderata in Germany. The President immediately indicated that he was in entire sympathy with the French point of view and thought there would be no difficulty about arranging matters as the French desired. Mr. Bidault expressed great gratification at the President’s statement, whereupon I felt obliged to make sure that the Foreign Minister was not taking this as an official commitment concerning the ultimate disposition of the Saar, the Ruhr and the Rhineland, which Mr. Bidault had mentioned in his talk with me. I therefore said that I thought the President was referring to the French desire to have part of the American zone in Germany and not to the other areas mentioned, as the President had not yet had time to study the record of my own talk with the Foreign Minister, although I would see that a full statement of the points raised by Mr. Bidault would come to the President’s attention. Mr. Bidault immediately replied that he fully understood this and realized that the President was not in a position to make a definite commitment at this time.

Mr. Bidault then said that he thought it might be helpful for him to issue a communiqué to the press this afternoon concerning his visit to the United States and the helpful nature of his talks with the President, but that he or the Ambassador would of course first clear the communiqué with me. The President assented, and I arranged to see the Ambassador at 11:30 to examine the proposed communiqué.

Mr. Bidault then took his leave after a very friendly exchange of compliments with the President.

Joseph C. Grew
  1. Memorandum of conversation not printed.
  2. For documentation relating to the concern of the United States over the control of Venezia Giulia, see pp. 1103 ff.