Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Lucius D. Battle, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State

top secret
Participants: Secretary of State Acheson
Secretary of Defense Marshall
Foreign Minister Schuman
French Minister of Defense Moch
Foreign Minister Bevin
British Minister of Defense Shinwell

After the closed session of the six Ministers this morning the Secretary reported on the conversation which had taken place.1 He said that he opened by explaining the delicate situation we found [Page 1392] ourselves in as far as moving ahead with the European Army in the absence of an agreement for Germany to participate. He said that we were in a series of “fixes”. He pointed out that the North Atlantic Council would meet next week and he doubted that the French could change their position if they were unable to change it today. Following that there was a meeting of the Defense Ministers scheduled for October 16. He pointed out that there would be a great deal of interest in these meetings and it was essential to find a way to do something at both of them. The Secretary said that he and the UK were convinced that the plan was the right one. He said that he considered the participation by Germany essential.

The Secretary then asked General Marshall to speak on the question of what he thought the effect would be on him if the Germans were not allowed to participate. He also asked him to touch on the difficulties with Congress, with the public, and with regard to obtaining necessary appropriations.

General Marshall said that he would be immodest and say that no one in the history of the US had ever gotten as much money out of Congress as he. He said that he was thoroughly familiar with the difficulties of getting funds and mentioned the portion of our Congress which is isolationist, and another portion which is purely destructionist. The General pointed out that many of the latter group would try to kill the whole plan on the grounds that Germany was not participating. He impressed on them the great difficulty which would result in getting anything like the appropriations which were needed if we did not go through with the broad over all plan.

The Secretary then took over again and said that it seemed to him that some action was required next week. He pointed out that the French Parliament met on October 17 and that Mr. Moch could probably say no more at the Defense Ministers meeting on the 16th than he could say now. Mr. Shinwell asked Mr. Moch what would be done in the French Parliament. Mr. Moch replied that betting was against the Parliament supporting a decision in favor of participation by Germany. He said, however, that he thought there was a chance of getting a “package” sold to the Parliament.

The Secretary said that both he and the world had great confidence in both Mr. Schuman and Mr. Moch. He said that France and the world were quite lucky to have them in their positions of leadership.

Mr. Moch asked whether it was inherent in the US plan that German units be formed at the division level. He asked if it could not be handled with companies, battalions or some smaller units. He also asked [Page 1393] if it were possible to organize the German units to serve in some army of another country. He said he knew the Germans would not want to serve in the French Army, but thought they might be interested in serving in the US Army.

The Secretary said that the Foreign Legion idea was no good. He said that the German units must be throughly German units and not mere mercenaries. He referred the question of size of units to General Marshall.

General Marshall said that he could not answer this question but would have to study it. He said that the division was the most efficient unit from a purely military standpoint, and that he thought that sooner or later the organization would come to the division unit. He said that it might not be necessary to start with divisions and agreed to consider with the French the most practical way to handle this question.

Mr. Bevin asked if American troops would move to Europe before the matter of German participation was settled. The Secretary read the President’s statement on the sending of troops to Europe.2 He then said that we were going ahead on the assumption that Europe would do the sensible thing. He said that if the Europeans came over in October and said they would not do anything about German participation we would then have to review the whole thing. If they came over in October and said it was still unsettled and they did not know what they would do, we would also have to take another look into the whole problem.

After the meeting Mr. Bevin told Mr. Acheson that he did not think the French would do very much. The Secretary disagreed and said he felt the French would move ahead. Mr. Bevin asked what we would do if the French declined to agree on the German units and the Secretary replied that we would have to consider going ahead anyway. He told Mr. Bevin that the paper agreed this morning3 permitted certain latitude and that a way might be found to accomplish the purpose. The Secretary said that he told Mr. Bevin the French should be given a sense of inevitability and that they should be pressed as much as possible.

[Page 1394]

During the meeting it was decided that General Marshall would arrange to postpone the meeting of the Defense Ministers until October 28 rather than have it on October 16 as previously scheduled. It was thought this might give more time for the French to get Parliamentary decisions, etc.

After the meeting also Mr. Moch enlarged somewhat on his mention of selling a “package” to his Parliament. He said that if he could be given definite information on what the US would give the French under the aid program, what troops would be coming over, etc., that this would be strong leverage for getting the Parliament to go along with the German units. Mr. Moch then said he would like to continue his plan to come over with Mr. Petsche the first of October even though the meeting of the Defense Ministers was now postponed until Oct. 28. He thought that going ahead with his plan to come here in early October might give him additional ammunition with which to deal with the Parliament on October 17. He mentioned this briefly to General Marshall. They agreed to consider it.

  1. Copies of this memorandum were made available on September 25 by the Director of the Executive Secretariat (McWilliams) to Messrs. Webb, Matthews, and Perkins with the notation that Secretary Acheson “desired that the most limited circulation be given the paper in view of the serious consequences to the French delegates and to our own gains in the negotiations should the information therein become public.”

    For the text of a telegram informing the American Embassies in the United Kingdom and France and the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner in Germany of this meeting, see Secto 44, September 23, p. 343.

  2. Presumably a reference to the statement released by the White House on September 9; for the text, see Department of State Bulletin, September 18, 1950, p. 468, or Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1950, p. 626.
  3. Presumably a reference to the agreement on immediate measures on Germany, the text of which is in telegram Secto 45 from New York, September 23, scheduled for publication in volume iv. For related documentation, see pp. 1 ff.