The Ambassador in Belgium ( Murphy ) to the Secretary of State 1
1129. From MacArthur. General Eisenhower called on Pleven, Schuman and Moch January 8 and subsequently met with French [Page 403] defense officials. January 9 he called on Auriol and later visited Fontainebleau before taking off for Brussels. Following is résumé of his conversations:
1. Pleven visit
Eisenhower expressed belief that his mission could succeed if each country made maximum contribution to collective effort. Pleven expressed gratitude to Eisenhower for accepting supreme command. He said General enjoys profound affection and respect in hearts of French and is considered as “a general of peace”. Pleven then described problem of Communists and neutralists. He felt neutralists were perhaps even more dangerous since they were people of education and means and were type who collaborated during occupation. Communists also dangerous but there is difference between Communist leaders and Communist voters. Last group can be reduced very substantially if we are skillful in use of propaganda. We must convince them that our purpose is to establish a solid and efficient defense against aggression. Pleven said General Eisenhower’s statement2 had hit exactly right note and made excellent impression.
Pleven said present government or any other coalition which might succeed it prior to elections is assured of majority for all defense measures. Recent votes on rearmament justified this view. While vote on new taxes less satisfactory, success of government’s plans is assured. In fact, large majority of French people approve measures taken by government for defense and situation in this respect is better than a year ago.3
General Eisenhower expressed confidence that if France and other countries willing make necessary effort, Europe can be defended.
Pleven agreed but pointed out difficulties which French Government faces. Indochina represents very heavy burden.4 Pleven suggested to Attlee prior to Washington visit5 that there be discreet high-level meetings concerning southeast Asia. He felt this idea should be reexamined and such discussions held. In connection with French defense effort Indochina has created serious personnel situation with respect to officers and non-commissioned officers. If it were not for Indochina France could move faster in creating divisions in Europe. Furthermore, [Page 404] French financial problem complicated by Indochina. Despite this, France will do everything rapidly to build strength in Europe.
Another French difficulty is in military production field. France has qualified workmen and designers and hopes to obtain British and US support for French production but there have been delays for standardization and other reasons. General Eisenhower said he understood importance this problem. He did feel, however, that we should all make every effort to commence production of a maximum amount of good military equipment.
Eisenhower stated he had come to Europe to listen, learn and understand problems of different countries. Together, we must build necessary strength. We can achieve peace by fully developing strength that will engender confidence. While some believe that this may invite an attack before we are ready, there does not seem to be any other alternative if we are ever to attain security.
Pleven mentioned that many people feel German rearmament might be considered a provocation. Eisenhower replied he did not propose to discuss Germany now and that great harm had been done by too much talk on this subject.
Regarding SHAPE, General Eisenhower felt it essential that there be representation from all countries so that all would have feeling of common participation. Pleven agreed. He then said he was much disturbed by highly critical article in last issue of Time. He suggested that SHAPE might create some sort, of information service to enlighten public opinion on effort and progress that would be made. Meeting concluded with usual exchange of amenities.
Schuman visit was brief with Schuman assuring General of his pleasure at Eisenhower appointment and his desire to support him in every way possible. There was no detailed discussion. Eisenhower reiterated view that problem of developing adequate collective strength for defense of Europe is manageable if each nation translates plans into effective action and demonstrates its tenacity of purpose.
The preliminary meeting with Moch was very brief. Amenities were exchanged, during which Moch also mentioned his concern over Time article. Moch and Eisenhower then joined French defense officials.
4. Meeting with defense officials.
Detailed and highly classified aspects of French military plans were discussed. During discussion Eisenhower stressed necessity of getting on with job and translating plans into action.[Page 405]
5. Auriol visit.
After usual exchange amenities President Auriol expressed gratitude which France felt to Eisenhower for accepting command of forces of freedom. General Eisenhower had special place in hearts of French people who saw in him not only man of liberation of past but also man who would safeguard future. He then stated he would ask General Eisenhower to disregard comments which might appear concerning him in Communist press. They did not represent feelings of immense majority of Frenchmen. Also General Eisenhower would probably hear of the neutralists but neither they nor the Communists truly represented France. Immense majority of French people wished France firmly attached to United States, Great Britain and entire free world.
General Eisenhower then stated that in US we had isolationists who were kindred to neutralists in Europe. They, like neutralists, did not give us good press in some sectors. General Eisenhower was certain that the job could be done if all would put themselves to the task with firm resolution. It largely matter of heart, and if all put heart in it no doubt that success can be achieved.
Auriol then stated French people firmly determined to rearm. Recent votes which government had obtained indicated this was wish of 90 percent of the people. Only people who voted against were Communists on left and few De Gaullists on right who, while agreeing with program, voted against for political reasons. France had suffered much and twice in last half century had been battlefield of world. France must rebuild ruins of war: two million houses, industrial equipment which was looted by Germans, and overall economy. In doing this Marshall Plan had been of primary aid to France which would always be grateful to US. French were holding Indochina not for themselves but for free world. If this barrier fell Mao and Ho Chi-Minh would engulf Siam, Burma, Malaya and Indonesia. France would leave Indochina when there was peace. Auriol reiterated France’s will to rearm and spoke of necessity of moving quickly but at same time using prudence to avoid a showdown before there was sufficient strength in the west. General Eisenhower stated when he returned to US to speak with members of government, Congress, and other bodies he would like to have concrete evidence of the French will to rearm.
Auriol said there were three important factors in France—the will to rearm, the will to unite, demonstration of which France had given in the Schuman Plan6 and in the leadership of the movement for [Page 406] European unity. At same time France must be careful not push too hard and compromise her economy which would provide a fertile ground for the growth of Communist propaganda. Auriol added he knew General Eisenhower had technical conversations with French military and he would not touch on this. He stated that when General Eisenhower returns definitely he would like to have him to lunch and have a long talk with him at that time.
He concluded: “General Eisenhower, I give you my pledge as chief of the Republic that I will do everything in my power to mobilize the French Government and people behind you in what you are doing.”
- This telegram was repeated to London for Ambassador Spofford and to Paris for Ambassador Bruce. The Department of State was asked to pass this message to the Secretary of Defense.↩
At a press conference upon his arrival in Paris on January 7, General Eisenhower made a statement which included the well-publicized words:
“… there is power in our union—and resourcefulness on sea, land and air. Aroused and united, there is nothing which the nations of the Atlantic Community cannot achieve. Let those who might be tempted to put this power to the test ponder well the lessons of history. The cause of freedom can never be defeated.” (Department of State Wireless Bulletin, No. 7, January 7, 1951)↩
- For documentation on the political situation in France, see volume iv .↩
- For detailed documentation on the attitude of the United States toward the situation in Indochina, see vol. vi, pp. 332 ff.↩
- British Prime Minister Attlee visited Washington in December 1950.↩
- For documentation on the efforts of the United States to assure the successful negotiation of the Schuman Plan for a European Coal and Steel Community, see volume iv .↩