The Ambassador in France ( Caffery ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Lovett )

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Dear Mr. Lovett: With reference to our exchange of telegrams on the subject,1 I am enclosing a memorandum which sets forth views on the French National Defense problem expressed by M. Georges Bidault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and M. Pierre Henri Teitgen, French Minister of Armed Forces, in the course of a conversation with Major General Harold R. Bull2 and myself last evening. The remarks of Messrs. Bidault and Teitgen have been set forth in some detail since it is thought that several different aspects of some of the points they touched upon may be of interest to our military authorities. Inasmuch as General Bull departed from Paris before the attached memorandum was prepared in final form I am enclosing an [Page 617] extra copy which you may wish to have transmitted to him. I am also enclosing a copy of the report of the more technical conversation which General Bull had the next day with General Mast and General Zeller, as prepared by my Military Attaché.3

I have few comments to make other than that I concur with Messrs. Bidault and Teitgen that there is a widespread fear psychosis in Western Europe and particularly in France, that in the event of Russian aggression the United States does not plan to defend Western Europe and therefore it will be occupied by the Russians. Also it is my personal conviction that any future French Government with which we may have to deal, a Communist Government naturally excepted, will share very fully the opinion of Messrs. Bidault and Teitgen regarding the absolute necessity for a defense plan designed to defend Western Europe from Soviet occupation.4

With all good wishes,

Very sincerely yours,

Jefferson Caffery

Memorandum of Conversation, by the First Secretary of Embassy in France (MacArthur)5

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In the course of a conversation last evening at which were present:

  • M. Georges Bidault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs,
  • M. Pierre Henri Teitgen, French Minister of Armed Forces,
  • Ambassador Caffery,
  • Major General Harold R. Bull,
  • Brigadier General F. J. Tate, Military Attaché,
  • Mr. James C. H. Bonbright, Counselor of Embassy,
  • Mr. Douglas MacArthur 2d, Secretary of Embassy,

M. Bidault and M. Teitgen expressed the following views in connection with the French national defense:

There is a very strong and widespread belief throughout France and the other countries of Western Europe (they mentioned Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and even England) that in the event of war with Soviet Russia the United States does not plan to defend Western Europe but will abandon this area to the Soviets and base its defense lines possibly on the Pyrenees, but chiefly on North Africa. The French believe that in the event of war the United States military [Page 618] planners are thinking in terms of three main war theaters: 1) the Far East; 2) the Middle East (with its vital oil fields); 3) Western Europe. They believe that the United States attaches far more importance to the Far Eastern and Middle Eastern theaters than to the Western European theater. In particular they believe that the United States does not consider the war potential of Western Europe is sufficient or that the social and political situation (particularly in France) in Western Europe is stable enough to justify the risk involved in endeavoring to defend Western Europe.

Bidault and Teitgen said that while there might have been some justification for the United States holding such views six months ago, there had been developments in the intervening period which in their opinion tended to establish the fact that the United States in its own interest should re-examine its strategic concept with a view to including Western Europe within the area which should be defended militarily against Soviet Russia. For example, France in its international relations has made its final choice between Soviet Russia and the United States and has aligned itself irrevocably and solidly with the latter (as proof they cited the position taken by France at the last Foreign Ministers Conference in London, etc.). Similarly, in the internal sphere the French people have definitively chosen against Communism. Teitgen and Bidault said that prior to the strikes of last November and December doubts on the part of the United States of the ability as well as the will of the French Government and people to prevent the Communists from taking over France were understandable. As a result of the events of last November and December, however, it should now be clear to us that the overwhelming majority of the French people are opposed to Communism, are willing to fight it and that the Government itself has sufficient strength and authority to suppress any Communist attempt at insurrection. Thus, France’s position and action—both international and internal—justified and even required the United States to give the most serious consideration to an over-all plan looking to the defense of Western Europe. Teitgen and Bidault both emphasized that despite the present governmental crisis and even if they “were not in the Government tomorrow” they were fully justified in exposing the foregoing situation to General Bull, because they could state positively that any French Government, from de Gaulle to the Socialists (the Communists naturally excepted) would take exactly the same position that they were taking and would insist on the necessity for an over-all strategic military plan looking to the defence of Western Europe.

General Bull then asked whether in the event of war the French Government could maintain internal order in the face of a Communist [Page 619] uprising. Teitgen and Bidault both replied that if the front were “as far to the East as possible” in Germany and if the front were not broken by the Soviets the French could guarantee that order would be maintained, although the Communists would certainly be able to commit some sabotage behind the lines. “Under such circumstances, however, the Communists would not be able to stage a successful uprising and the French people would be united in their efforts to crush them.”

As proof of the state of mind of the majority of French people when faced with a grave Communist threat, Teitgen cited the fact that in the disorders last November and December the French Government originally had only 27,000 combat troops at its disposal in metropolitan France. It had mobilized 290,000 men, Teitgen said, “in perfect order and discipline and there was not one single case of a mobilized individual having to be brought before a military tribunal”—this despite the fact that food, uniforms and general living conditions for the conscripts were very unsatisfactory. He added that in southern France, where the Communists are strong (he mentioned the area from Nice through Marseille to Montpelier and Nîmes) there had been a complete stoppage of all rail traffic as a result of the strikes. Nonetheless when the conscripts received the announcement of their mobilization 87% of them reported on time, despite the fact that they had often to proceed distances of well over 60 kilometers on foot or on bicycle, and despite the fact that in view of the paralysis of transportation they had legal grounds for not reporting on time. This spirit, Teitgen reiterated, reinforced his conviction that in the event of war if an unbroken front could be established in Germany as far to the East as possible, the French would be able to cope with any Communist insurrectionary actions in the rear.

On the other hand Teitgen and Bidault both stated that if the front were penetrated by the Soviets or if it were established well inside the French frontiers, the French people who have been invaded and occupied three times in seventy years would believe that a Soviet occupation was imminent and inevitable. This psychological outlook would so sap their will to resist the Communists (because the population would wish to take no serious anti-Communist action which would invite hideous reprisals when Soviet occupation occurred) that the Government in all probability would not be able to maintain order.

In connection with the present Communist efforts to take over Western Europe, Communists were counting heavily on two major factors.

The first of these factors is misery. Misery resulting from a deterioration of the Western European economic situation was necessary [Page 620] from Communist viewpoint to create a situation involving increased suffering and hardship for the masses which the Communists would exploit to “capture” a demoralized and disaffected population. The Communists’ hopes to create “misery” had been dealt a severe blow by the Marshall Plan, which the two Cabinet Ministers believe will prevent the economic deterioration on which the Communists had been counting.

The second great factor is fear. They said that in addition to preventing misery, it is equally or more important to eliminate the fear psychosis which is weighing so heavily on Western Europe, and which in fact saps not only the will to resist the Communist offensive but the very strength of the Western European peoples. The fear complex stems from the belief that should war break out, the United States will abandon Western Europe to the Soviets; that the Russian hordes will occupy the area, raping women and deporting the male population for slave labor in the Soviet Union; that France and Western Europe will be occupied and devastated by the Soviet hordes and atomized by the United States. They said that as long as such fears exist it is virtually impossible to envisage a strong Western Europe. Furthermore, serious military cooperation between the Western European countries looking to their own defense is to all intents and purposes purely theoretical unless the countries believe that there is a reasonable possibility of successfully defending themselves. They will only feel that there is such a reasonable possibility if they have the encouragement and backing of the United States and believe that the United States plans to try to defend Western Europe.

As additional argument why Western Europe should be included in the area which the United States will endeavor to defend Bidault and Teitgen said that in the event of war with Soviet Russia they had not the slightest doubt of the ultimate victory of the United States, although it would unquestionably be a long, bitter and hideously costly struggle. However, if Western Europe were not defended the United States would find after the struggle that this area, as a result of Soviet occupation and atomic warfare, would be completely devastated and depopulated. There would be no Western European civilization or population to share with the United States the task of reconstruction. In other words, the United States after its victory would have only Asiatics and African and Colonial natives with whom to cooperate in the task of world reconstruction.

For the foregoing reasons both Bidault and Teitgen expressed the conviction that American strategic planning should be based on a defense of Western Europe. They pointed out that Western Europe would not be coming empty-handed and could make a solid contribution, [Page 621] particularly in the form of manpower and also light equipment, etc. France, for example, could furnish between one and two million men with light arms, equipment, etc., and might even eventually be able to furnish some items of light equipment to other Western European countries which were a party to the coordinated defense plan, if they could count on obtaining certain heavy equipment, that the French were unable to manufacture in reasonable quantity or quality, from the United States.

Teitgen then said that while he realized General Bull was in Paris in a purely unofficial capacity, and was not authorized to do other than listen unofficialy to the French point of view, it is urgent that France have an indication of what the United States could do to help. He made it clear that he was thinking of the establishment of coordinated general defense plans for Europe in terms of the immediate future (he mentioned within the next year or fifteen months) and that he would be interested in receiving the answers to such questions as:

Does the United States really want and will it encourage and back military talks and understandings between the countries of Western Europe looking to a definite plan to defend Western Europe?
Given the serious condition of French economy the French Army is faced with a grave problem trying to maintain the equipment for its forces now under arms. For example, insofar as heavy material is concerned the French are producing a few tanks, airplanes, self-propelled weapons, etc., but at terrific effort and waste of their limited resources. If the French could concentrate largely on producing certain items (particularly light arms and equipment, etc.) and could depend on us for certain categories of heavy equipment they would be able to obtain from their resources maximum utility and could arm and equip a very considerable number of divisions. With this in mind the French would like to know what we can do to furnish them such heavy equipment on a basis of equipping perhaps somewhere between twenty and forty divisions. If we could help, in addition to equipping themselves they might also eventually be able to assist other Western European countries.

General Bull said that as he had made clear from the very beginning and as M. Teitgen correctly understood, he was not, of course, in a position to even try to answer the questions put forward by M. Teitgen. His sole mission was to try to get as clear a picture as possible of what the French had in mind. He understood the critical problem with which the French were faced but hoped that M. Teitgen would understand that we also had supply problems. If French requirements could be met from surpluses it would be one thing, but from existing surplus he did not think that more than one percent would be suitable. Heavy items, such as motor transport (which in reply to General Bull’s question Teitgen had indicated were a critical item) [Page 622] which the French needed so badly were also in short supply with our own military establishment. Therefore if we were to furnish them to the French they would have to be manufactured, which in turn would require the voting of credits for such a purpose, etc. This was a political and governmental question and not one which could possibly be treated on a military level, either officially or unofficially.

General Bull said that nonetheless he appreciated very much the opportunity which had been given to him to listen to the French exposé and that if the French, quite informally and completely unofficially, wished to give him an indication, perhaps in memorandum form, which would clarify the French thinking and what they were in a position to do themselves, it would be helpful to him in getting the over-all French picture.

Teitgen agreed and indicated that he would cause an informal paper to be prepared for him—but that it would probably take a minimum of 8 or 10 days.

  1. Not printed.
  2. General Bull, Deputy Director of the Organization and Training Division, General Staff, U.S. Army, was in Europe as personal representative of the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (Eisenhower).
  3. Not printed.
  4. This document was initialed: “G. C. M[arshall].”
  5. A routing slip attached to this document is marked “OK—G. C. M[arshall].”