751.5 MAP/6–950: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Bruce ) to the Secretary of State


2782. Personal and eyes only to Ohly1 from Bohlen. Please pass to Bonesteel.2 In view of effect and possibly confusion in some quarters as result of Pleven’s letter to Secretary Johnson3 and Schuman’s letter of May 174 to Secretary in London concerning French disappointment [Page 1375] and concern at delays, et cetera, in actual delivery of MDAP equipment for 1950 program, I believe that following estimate of real causes of French concern which I received direct from Pleven himself in recent private informal conversations would be helpful if only for purposes of clarification. It should be borne in mind that while these views come directly and confidentially from Pleven, we believe they represent widespread feeling in French military establishment which is beginning to permeate certain parliamentary circles.

Pleven’s chief complaint has been his inability to obtain sufficiently in advance information concerning expected schedule of arrivals of equipment under MDA program. While he is extremely disappointed that deliveries under the 1950 program have been so long in getting under way and will be stretched over so long a period, it is the absence of advance information on these subjects which has perturbed him more. He has repeated to me on several occasions that it is the uncertainty in regard to the MDA program which has made it very difficult for him to make proper dispositions in regard to training of units, arrangements for reception of matériel and other related matters. He does not claim that he has been specifically misled by any American authority but definitely indicates that he has been forced to work in the dark in regard to the program because of the paucity and delay in receiving the necessary information. French, however, apparently did infer from the presentation last November of what was virtually an agreed list of deliveries for the 1950 program that this matériel was, therefore, available and would be delivered some time within the vicinity at least of the calendar year 1950. He is fully aware of US fiscal year and I do not believe there was any confusion on this point.
Pleven points out that the absence of clear indications concerning arrival of shipments has made it necessary for him to keep Cherbourg in a state of readiness far in advance of actual arrivals which he states is costing his budget between two and three million francs a day. He is unable to understand, and we have been unable to give him a clear answer, why only roughly 2,000 tons of equipment have arrived to date in France.5 He emphasized the bad political consequences among the dockers who have gone along with the government against fierce Communist opposition by the failure of ships to arrive more frequently. It must be recalled in this connection that Pleven has gone all out in meeting Communist opposition and efforts at sabotage and he is therefore understandably particularly concerned [Page 1376] re use that Communists could make politically on failure of the program to materialize more quickly.
His letter to Secretary Johnson and Schuman’s to the Secretary, which he of course inspired, were due to his learning suddenly, without any advance indication to that effect, that the delivery of the 90 mm anti-aircraft guns could not be completed before fiscal year 1952, which completely, he states, upset his plans for the formation of French anti-aircraft units. Again, on this point, he particularly emphasized that had he known last fall at time of delivery of lists, or even early in the winter, that this equipment would not be ready for at least 18 months, he could have made in time the necessary dispositions.
He is anxiously awaiting the answer to question raised in his letter of May 25, quoted in our 2753 to Department of May 29,6 in regard to cost of transport and its possible effect upon the total deliveries under the 1950 program.
I emphasized very strongly to Pleven the complication in this matter of programs of delivery, the availabilities in US, et cetera, and warned him against drawing unwarranted inferences in the absence of definitive information. In order to disabuse him of any idea that US Government was holding out on him, I told him that since we had not received at the Embassy the advance notices to which he was referring, I could only assume that the information for practical reasons was simply not available in Washington.
Pleven is also disappointed in regard to status of exchange of information on new arms. He was under impression following his conversation at The Hague with Secretary Johnson that a visit to the US for the Defense Ministers of the Atlantic Pact countries would be arranged sometime early this summer for the demonstration of new weapons. Now he learns it is postponed until October, which he feels is additional delay of several months in moving forward on concerted standardized rearmament plans.

We will continue to do our best to combat French misunderstanding and apprehension in regard to MDA program, but in all honesty both General Richards7 and I feel there is good deal of justification for French attitude primarily on point of absence of clear and timely information concerning implementation of MDA program.

We cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of advance information on these subjects, whenever physically possible, even though it is necessary in elementary prudence to take a more pessimistic position as to future deliveries, et cetera, than subsequent events might justify. We hope maximum effort to this end can be made in order that important psychological effect of US assistance in this field is not dissipated through misunderstandings.

[Page 1377]

Since foregoing was received from Pleven on strictly personal and confidential basis, please handle with greatest discretion as to distribution. [Bohlen.]

  1. John H. Ohly, Deputy Director of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program in the Department of State.
  2. Charles H. Bonesteel 3d, Executive Director of the European Coordinating Committee of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program.
  3. Letter to Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson, dated May 25, not printed.
  4. The letter, handed to Acheson by Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on May 17, was quoted in telegram 2725 from London, May 17, 8 p. m., not printed. (751.5 MAP/5–1750)
  5. In telegram 2931 to Paris, June 21, not printed, Ohly said he could not understand the 2,000 ton figure because about 7,000 measurement-tons had been shipped prior to May 31 in addition to 96 naval aircraft. Six vessels with an additional 8,000 tons had sailed, or would sail, for France in June (751.5 MAP/6–2150). In answering telegram 3132, June 27, not printed, Bohlen said the apparent discrepancy in tonnage was caused by confusion in the use of long-tons versus measurement-tons or weight versus cubic feet. He thanked Ohly for the information and assurances in telegram 2931, said he would draw upon it in conversations with Pleven, and repeated his wish that he be kept fully informed on supply and shipment matters. (751.5 MAP/6–2750)
  6. Not printed.
  7. Maj. Gen. George J. Richards, USA, was Chief, Military Assistance Advisory Group, France.