Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of European Regional Affairs (Martin)

top secret

US-French Ministerial Talks

(First meeting, October 13, 1950)

Department of State

Secretary Acheson

Mr. Perkins1

Mr. Thorp2

Mr. Nitze

Mr. E. Martin3

Mr. Bell4

Mr. Byington5

Mr. Breithut6

Mr. Lacy7

Mr. White8

Mr. Glenn (interpreter)

Treasury Department

Secretary Snyder

Mr. W. Martin9

Department of Defense

Secretary Marshall

General Lemnitzer10

General Scott11

Colonel Beebe12


Mr. Foster

Mr. V. Cleveland13

White House

Mr. Gordon14

Embassy, Paris

Ambassador Bruce

Mr. Tomlinson

Ministry of Defense

Minister Moch

General Vernoux15

Colonel Lasalle

Colonel Gouraud

Major Alzien

Captain Aymard Duvernay

Captain Beret

Lt. Col. Barthelemy

[Page 1397]

Ministry of Finance

Minister Petsche

M. Filippi16

M. Goetze17

M. B. de Margerie18

M. Denis

M. C. de Margerie [sic]

Foreign Office

Ambassador Alphand19

French Embassy

Ambassador Bonnet

M. Daridan20

M. Schweitzer21

M. C. de Margerie22

M. Baube23

Minister Moch outlined the French 20-division battle force program already known to us and the corresponding military budget (610 billion francs for Metropolitan France).

Regarding Indochina, he was careful to point out that the proposed budget (208.5 billion francs for Indochina; 31.5 billion for other overseas French territories) had been drafted before the recent turn for the worse in Tonkin. He pointed out that the French must face, in addition to guerillas as in the past, 50 fully-equipped modern infantry battalions, equipped with liberal amounts of artillery and mortars. Consequently, reservations are necessary concerning possible adjustments in the Indochina budget, depending upon the course of events.

Regarding the French military equipment program, M. Moch said that it was based on French assumptions concerning the delivery of MDAP end-items, with a view to procuring the balance in France. He gave four reasons justifying manufacture in France:

Because of the lagging rate of MDAP deliveries, one division must be equipped out of French production if the ten-division target is to be attained by the end of 1951. According to the Moch projection, MDAP deliveries would provide the following pattern for French battle forces: 10 divisions by the end of 1951; 11 or 12 by the end of 1952; 18 or 20 by the end of 1953. He stressed the great importance of the time factor, entailing a speedup so as to permit increased deliveries during 1952.
The French program in no way duplicates the US end-item program.
The French Government is unable to accept the additional burden of unpopularity resulting from unemployment over and above the unpopularity stemming from any rearmament program.
France, although definitely lagging in such fields as electronics and atomic research, nevertheless believes that it has developed items of equipment comparing favorably with the product of research of other nations (i.e. bazookas, 12-ton tank, very fast all-terrain reconnaissance vehicles. M. Moch said that the new 50-ton tank is superior to the British Centurion and equivalent in power to the Soviet Stalin type).

Minister Moch said that the rearmament program is well within the economic capacity of France, and that it would not even absorb the 15 percent slack represented by the present slump from 1949 peak production.

M. Moch then discussed the difficulties in providing France with needed assistance of 270 billion francs, in the form of matériel, machine-tools, POL, etc., which can be supplied under the present MDAP in an amount only one-seventh of the total requirement. He emphasized that urgency be placed on the solution of this problem as well as of the transfer question, if France is to be able to place 10 divisions in the field by the end of 1951.

In concluding his opening statement, M. Moch reviewed the full scope of the French effort since Korea (Army reorganization, initiation of military production, steps to increase the length of military service, new organization for territorial defense, and rearmament program) and injected a personal note as to his hard role, in which, after heavy post-Liberation reconstruction responsibilities, he found himself Minister of the Interior at the time of the revolutionary strikes in 1947, and now has been called upon to undertake similar efforts in the French military field. In facing this job, he said that he placed top priority on shipments of matériel to Indochina, in view of the critical situation there.

Secretary Marshall said that there did not appear to be disagreement concerning the French air program. With regard to the navy program, he said that there is slight disagreement over types of planes included in the program (the French should economize by making only antisubmarine carrier-based aircraft and delete the fighter aircraft). He expressed his opinion that steps should be taken immediately to assure the French 20-division program without, however, wanting to commit himself to this as a final program, pending the Defense Committee meeting on October 28. Regarding French-manufactured equipment, General Marshall recommended a gradual approach, with a US commitment to assist production of the full amounts only after adequate tests of prototypes, and in particular, field tests of the new French Tank Destroyer Division before proceeding with commitments to establish all seven of them.

[Page 1399]

Turning to Indochina, General Marshall expressed full understanding of the French dilemma. Referring to the French request for B–26 aircraft, he pointed to our difficult choice since planes could come only from the fighting forces, the Korea pipeline, or from US defense units. He asked clarification of the role of the 40 Hellcats (F–6–F) to be delivered late in October, in relation to the request for B–26 aircraft.

M. Moch replied that medium bombers are especially needed to combat new large and well-armed Vietminh formations for which Hellcats are too lightly armed. He said that the Hellcats would not add strength, [but would only replace two groups of P–63 aircraft which] would be cannibalized to provide spare parts to keep the other two P–63 groups flying. Mr. Moch specified that should B–26 aircraft not be available, B–25’s would be welcome. General Marshall announced that B–25’s are now retired, and are serving only as transports, but that he would look into the matter urgently.

Referring to the ground forces program, General Lemnitzer pointed out that merely with deliveries under present 1950 and 1951 MDA Programs, the French should be able to equip most substantially if not completely the 10 divisions planned for the end of 1951, and would receive much more than enough for training requirements. He pointed to the possibility of meeting any essential deficits from future programs. He urged that where deficits exist in the French forces, absolute priority be given to first-line combat units. Regarding the air program, he said that the proportions between air defense and tactical units appears satisfactory; he recommended no reduction and added that should the French find any reduction to be necessary, the air defense category should be cut rather than the tactical.

General Marshall then referred to the considerable increase in the French budget for expenditures for Indochina, especially in light of the fact that all the matériel for Indochina is coming from MDAP grant sources. M. Moch pointed out that while the apparent increase was 100 billion francs, the real increase was only 28 billion, broken down as follows: 10 billion for increases in pay scales, 11 billion to support additional forces in the armies of the Associated States, and 7 billion for essential military public works. Minister Petsche clarified the figures by pointing out that the initial 1950 budget of 140 billion for Indochina should be increased by the current request for a deficiency appropriation of 25 billion, plus a debit balance in the French Treasury account for the Associated States amounting to 35 billion francs.

M. Moch pleaded that no mere matter of accounting be permitted to delay the aid so urgently needed. He pointed out that equipment for 18 new Vietnam battalions and for 40,000 auxiliary troops in [Page 1400] the armies of the Associated States is separate from and in addition to the earlier request for matériel for 12 native battalions. He emphasized the necessity to build up forces by pointing out that after the recent loss of five French battalions, France had only 30 or 31 left, of which 24 or 25 are required to garrison posts in pacified areas, leaving an effective mobile force of only 5 or 6 battalions.

Summing up the status of requests for Indochina, M. Moch pointed out that the French had prepared between March and September 1950, sixteen difference [sic] matériel lists, in an order of decreasing priority, and that only the first three lists had been or were about to be delivered. He urged delivery of the three following lists (D, E and F) as well as a speed-up in the completion of deliveries under list A, B and C.

General Marshall then sought fully to clarify what, if anything (apart from equipment for 18 native battalions, 40,000 auxiliaries and B–26 aircraft mentioned during the meeting) had been requested by France and turned down by the US. M. Moch said that there had been only one turndown, with which he, in fact, agreed. He said that there is, however, a large area where no action has yet been taken one way or another. He urged especially for prompt action with regard to landing craft, which are particularly well-suited for operation in the shallow rivers of Indochina.

To keep the record entirely clear, Minister Petsche recalled the request of M. Schuman for financial aid for Indochina, to which no answer has yet been given.

Secretary Marshall said that 90 percent of the agreed French requests (lists A, B and C) are now delivered and that the balance would be forthcoming soon. All other requests have been consolidated for the Erskine–Melby Mission24 and may amount roughly to something like $330 million. The screening is nearly completed and discussions should begin soon with the French. General Marshall pointed out that the above total is greater than all the funds at our disposal for this part of the Far East. Consequently, the additional requests formulated this morning are difficult to handle. He suggested that an order of priority for all matériel requested be established by the French staff and General Brink,25 acting together in Saigon.

M. Moch said that he had just received a telegram from General Carpentier called for the immediate despatch of six battalions, and [Page 1401] that he was sending an answer to the effect that a paratroop battalion would leave during November 1–15, a Foreign Legion battalion around December 1, and three other battalions during December. In addition, 1,100 French officers and NCO’s would be sent as cadres and instructors for new Vietnam units. He emphasized the possible effects of such necessary measures on the military program for Metropolitan France.

  1. George W. Perkins, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
  2. Willard L. Thorp, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.
  3. Edwin M. Martin, Director of the Office of European Regional Affairs.
  4. John O. Bell, Assistant Director, Mutual Defense Assistance Program.
  5. Homer M. Byington, Jr., Director of the Office of Western European Affairs.
  6. Richard C. Breithut, designated as attach to the American Embassy in the United Kingdom.
  7. William S. B. Lacy, Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs.
  8. Presumably Lincoln White, of the Office of the Special Assistant for Press Relations.
  9. William McChesney Martin, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.
  10. Maj. Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Director of Foreign Military Assistance.
  11. Maj. Gen. Stanley L. Scott, Office of the Secretary of Defense.
  12. Col. R. E. Beebe, of the Office of Foreign Military Affairs, Department of Defense.
  13. Harold Van Buren Cleveland, Chief of the France, Italy, Switzerland, and Portugal Branch, Program Coordination Division, Economic Cooperation Administration.
  14. Lincoln Gordon, economic adviser to the Special Assistant to the President.
  15. Maj. Gen. Vernoux, Chief of Staff of the Combined Staff, French Ministry of National Defense.
  16. Jean Filippi, Directeur du Cabinet, French Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.
  17. Roger Goetze, Director of Budget, ibid.
  18. Bernard de Margerie, of the French Inter-Ministerial Committee for European Economic Cooperation.
  19. Hervé Alphand, Director General of Economic, Financial, and Technical Affairs, French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  20. Jean Daridan, Counselor of the French Embassy.
  21. Pierre Paul Schweitzer, Financial Attaché of the French Embassy.
  22. Christian de Margerie, Counselor of the French Embassy.
  23. Jean Baube, Counselor of the French Embassy.
  24. Reference is to the joint Mutual Defense Assistance Program Survey Mission to Southeast Asia headed by John F. Melby (special assistant to Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs) and Maj. Gen. Graves B. Erskine, Commanding General of the First Marine Division. For the press release announcing the dispatch of the Mission, July 5, 1950, and other documentation on its work and recommendations, see vol. vi, pp. 1 ff.
  25. Brig. Gen. Francis G. Brink, USA, was Chief, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina.