Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

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I decided to make a personal call on Weygand1 because of past acquaintance in 1918, and particularly 1919, and because of his distinguished [Page 675] position in French and military minds. He seemed deeply and emotionally appreciative. The conversation never touched on the conduct of affairs by him in the final fighting or by him in connection with African matters.2

He questioned me as to the American procedure in the raising of an army, particularly as to training methods, as to maneuver procedure, as to development of commanders, and as to the increasing of a singleness of purpose and spirit in the minds of the soldiers. I explained at considerable length the course of our operations, the intensive character and training, particularly as to replacements, the vast maneuvers, particularly as to the training of higher commanders, and of the operational and logistical staffs. I also explained our utilization of the movies as training aids, as a matter of fact as the principal contribution to training and technique, and as to the education of the soldier as to why he was fighting.

Weygand asked me to get for him the procedure followed in our development of divisions, which I had explained at length. I told him that I would get General Clark,3 who is largely responsible for the planning, to find the necessary papers.

In reference to all of this Weygand said their great error was a failure to conduct training, particularly psychological, during the period of the “phony” war, he using that term. He also made the point that this present situation required American methods more than those to which the French were accustomed.

He made a very emotional statement concerning the necessity of preparing a resistance along the line of the Rhine and of the tremendous importance of our assistance. I explained in confidence roughly what we hoped to do in the way of military re-equipment. I told him what we had done with three French divisions in Germany and, most confidentially, what we hoped to do for the two half-equipped divisions in France and four groups that lacked almost all equipment but were called divisions. He was exceedingly grateful for this information and assured me it would not go beyond him.

I took the occasion to beg of him to use all his influence to see that the French confined themselves in their effort at least for five years to the great deficiency in military strength, which was in ground forces. He asked me if I meant armored troops and airborne troops, and I said that armored troops, of course, were included and airborne [Page 676] could very easily be included as that was a minor matter of training, but that the French, the Belgians and the Dutch must provide the ground forces, and that because we had the air and naval forces in sufficient superiority, no money or effort should be wasted by the French, for at least five years as I said, in raising air forces or considering naval forces. He said what about liaison planes, for example. I told him that those were incidentals that could be easily handled, what I was talking about was a French air force of some proportions and I was referring to the French effort to develop an air carrier. I insisted that questions of national prestige should not become involved because they could not possibly realize these developments financially or from a time point of view to meet the crisis, and any such effort would diminish what must be done to prepare adequate ground forces.

Weygand insisted that he had no longer any voice in such matters, and I remarked that I knew full well that he was undoubtedly consulted by many, and the fact that General Béthouart4 was then waiting to see him was rather proof to the contrary. A letter from Weygand the following day requesting me to see General de Lattre de Tassigny5 was further evidence of the fact that the leaders were all talking to Weygand.

He seemed genuinely and emotionally touched by my call though in a very dignified and restrained manner.

G[eorge] C. M[arshall]
  1. Gen. Maxime Weygand.
  2. For documentation relating to General Weygand’s activities as Commander-in-Chief of French Forces and as Minister of National Defense in 1940 and also as Delegate General of the Government in French Africa, 1940–1941, see the appropriate annual volumes of Foreign Relations, plus The Conferences at Washington, 1941–1942, and Casablanca, 1943.
  3. Gen. Mark W. Clark, Commanding General, 6th U.S. Army, who in 1942 had been Chief of Staff, Army Ground Forces.
  4. Gen. Marie Emile Antoine Béthouart, French High Commissioner for Austria.
  5. Inspector-General of the Combined French Forces.