Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

top secret

Meeting With the President

item 2. the position of germany in the defense of western europe 1

I reported to the President that in accordance with his directive to me we had been doing a great deal of thinking about this subject in the Department. I wished to lay before him certain general ideas, not for any decision on his part but to learn whether he thought we were thinking along the right lines.

I said that in some quarters there was a thought that the question of whether or not Germany should be rearmed should be brought to the President through the Security Council for decision and that after this decision had been reached, work should proceed on methods. It seemed to us that this was the wrong way to go at it. The question was not whether Germany should be brought into the general defensive plan but rather how this could be done without disrupting anything else that we were doing and without putting Germany into a position to act as the balance of power in Europe. It seemed to us, for instance, that to create a German General Staff in the German Army and a German military supply center in the Ruhr would be the worst possible move, would not strengthen but would rather weaken [Page 703] Western Europe and would repeat errors which had been made a number of times in the past. The President said that he agreed with this view and gave illustrations of the mistakes which had been made along this line from Napoleon’s time on.

I said that we were thinking along the lines of the possible creation of a European army or a North Atlantic army.2 Such an army might be made up in part of national contingents and in part by recruits from a number of countries who could act under a Central European or North Atlantic command. German economic power might be integrated with the production of the other Atlantic powers so that it would not be a separate and complete source of military equipment, but would have to operate with the others. In such an arrangement, Germans might be enlisted in a European army which would not be subject to the orders of Bonn but would follow the decisions reached in accordance with the North Atlantic Treaty procedure.

I asked whether such an inquiry would seem useful to the President. I warned him that there might be many difficulties developing. The President expressed his strong approval of this line of thought and directed us to proceed along these lines. I told him that the results of such work would come to him in an orderly way through the National Security Council in the event that it proved practicable after further study.

  1. President Truman and Secretary Acheson also discussed matters connected with the meetings of the United Nations Security Council and Nehru’s note of July 13 to Secretary Acheson; regarding the latter, see vol. vii, p. 372.
  2. For further documentation on the creation of a European or North Atlantic Army, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.