Memorandum of Conversation35

Participants: Mr. Léon Blum;
Ambassador Bonnet;
The Secretary; and
Mr. Matthews36

Mr. Blum called to pay his respects to the Secretary.

Mr. Blum said he was profoundly touched at the hospitality extended to him by the American Government and wished to express his deep appreciation to the Secretary and also to the President.

The Secretary mentioned that it was unfortunate that both Mr. Clayton and Secretary Vinson were away at this time, but that they were expected back shortly and it would not delay Mr. Blum long.

The Secretary said he had hoped to talk with Mr. Bidault in London about France and find out a lot of things about conditions there, but before they could keep their engagement Mr. Bidault had been called back to Paris because of the General’s resignation.

Mr. Blum said he would be glad to give the Secretary any information he wished and would be perfectly frank. He remarked “frankness is the quality only of a diplomat.”

[Page 419]

The Secretary said he was interested in the effect of the drought on their hydro-electric system. He said he understood because of the lack of electricity the factories could operate only half a day and inquired if that situation had improved.

Mr. Blum said the situation was back to normal now, and although there was no reserve, they expected to have enough power through the summer as there was heavy snowfall in March.

Mr. Blum said he was glad to have an opportunity to talk with the Secretary about a very important matter for France. He said the question of coal looms predominant for French economy. The people are deprived of heat, of power and most important of food.

The Secretary said he thought the power situation had improved and that with the coming of spring heat should no longer be a problem and there remained only the lack of food.

Mr. Blum said that in three or four months the food situation should not be so acute because they hope to have a better crop. It is a tragedy, he said, that the people will have to starve during the forthcoming months, but that after that the situation will change and by next year France will be self-supporting.

The Secretary inquired if France could not produce vegetables which would alleviate the situation.

Mr. Bonnet replied that the weather is too cold.

Mr. Blum said after August the food situation should continue to improve. He emphasized that what France needs is coal. They normally import a great deal of coal, he said, and they have now established production of their mines. More plants are ready to go into operation than they have coal for. The entire reconstruction of France depends upon obtaining coal. They import coal from the US but it is expensive to pay for in dollars and ship in US vessels.

The Secretary inquired how much coal France produces and how much was produced before the war.

Mr. Blum replied that France now produces 3½ million tons a month; before the war they produced 5 million tons. He said that production in the mines in the north is above normal, but the 5 million figure included the mines near the Saar Basin where production has not been reestablished. Mr. Blum said that the Ruhr is now producing a million tons a week—four or five million tons a month, out of which France gets only 300 thousand tons. The export of this coal is fixed by the Control Council in Germany at 750 to 800 thousand tons and France gets only 300 thousand.

The Secretary inquired why the mines near the Saar Basin have not been restored in ten months.

Mr. Blum replied that this was because the house to house fighting in that area had caused so much damage that the towns were virtually [Page 420] destroyed and there were not even homes for miners to live in. They do have hopes of obtaining considerable amounts of coal from this area when it can be built back. Transportation is not a difficulty because France’s transportation system is almost completely normal now. Mr. Blum emphasized that the question of coal is most important and said he had instructions before he left France to talk with the Secretary and with President Truman regarding a more normal and equitable distribution of German coal.

The Secretary said he was sure that those in charge of the matter would be glad to work with Mr. Blum’s representatives on this matter. He said that everything possible had been done to increase production there because we know that it is the primary need of all Europe and that progress has been made.

Mr. Blum said that he wanted the Secretary to realize he would answer frankly any question the Secretary asked—that he could treat him like an Almanac to find out anything he wanted to know about France.

The Secretary said he would certainly avail himself of the opportunity. He said he was sure Mr. Blum would be informed as soon as Mr. Clayton and Mr. Vinson had returned so that he could talk with them.

  1. Memorandum drafted by Dorothy H. Morgret of the Office of the Secretary of State.
  2. H. Freeman Matthews, Director of the Office of European Affairs.