The Ambassador in Denmark ( Anderson ) to the Secretary of State 1
603. Pass Defense. For Perkins from MacArthur. Following are résumés of yesterday’s conversation with Belgium PM Pholien and FonMin Van Zeeland:
1. Pholien expressed his happiness at seeing General Eisenhower. He said his appointment as Supreme Allied Commander had filled Europe with confidence. He wished to assure General that Belgium had the will to resist and was anxious to do her part.
General Eisenhower stated that American people were making extraordinary effort and sacrifice to build up military strength, and that when he returned to the US from this trip, he would have to report on what evidence he found to indicate Europe’s understanding of the need for urgency. He would have to appear before the American Congress and talk to members of the government and other influential [Page 411] people, and it would require concrete evidence that Europe is making a genuine effort if the American people were to be expected to shoulder this burden. Pholien replied Belgium was anxious to do its bit and that Belgian Government proposed to present to the Belgian Parliament this Monday a law to extend period of military service to 24 months. He stated chief difficulty in passage of this law would be Socialists. Liberals were opposed, but for political reasons only. Nevertheless, he felt confident that law would pass.
Eisenhower expressed satisfaction at hearing this and said that we in US were aiming towards a 27 months’ period and he felt that it would require at least 24 months’ service to build up the kind of strength we were trying to attain. Pholien said recent speeches of Mr. Hoover and Mr. Taft had caused uneasiness.
General Eisenhower said this was additional reason why it was necessary for him to be able to point out that Europe was not waiting to see what the US would do, but was moving forward rapidly to build up its own strength.
Pholien assured General that Belgium was ready and willing make this effort.
He then expressed regret Prince Royal2 was indisposed and unable to receive General Eisenhower. He added that Prince Royal had just signed decree placing Belgian units under Eisenhower’s command.
2. Van Zeeland said he delighted personally, as were all Belgians, at Eisenhower’s appointment as Supreme Commander. He said Belgian people conscious of danger which threatened them. This particularly brought home by developments in Far East. He felt that in this respect state of public morale much better than a year ago. He felt very great effort was necessary if West were to be able to defend itself. But he was confident this could and would be done. He felt, in this respect, that Eisenhower’s trip through NAT countries would be most helpful. Belgian Government was presenting to Parliament a law extending military service to 24 months. He could not guarantee, but felt reasonably certain this law would pass. Socialists were opposed to it on political grounds, rather than because they did not recognize the need for it.
General Eisenhower said that in US we likewise had our political problems. We are planning for the largest fleet any nation has ever had in peacetime, and a very large air force of some 90 groups. We expect, under present plans, to have some 3,500,000 men in uniform. We are paying extremely high taxes, and if he were not able honestly to point out that European nations were likewise making a great [Page 412] effort, Europe could hardly expect Americans undertake additional burden of European rearmament. He felt confident that, if each of 12 nations ready to make sacrifices and to stand together, success was assured. It was principally a matter of heart, and if all put their hearts into it, Western civilization could not be overcome by 190,000,000 backward people.
Van Zeeland said he convinced that job could be done. There had been some fatalistic feeling that, no matter how great the effort, an effective defense could not be built up. This was what had to be overcome. He felt that the fact that Eisenhower had accepted this appointment would greatly aid in combating this idea. He agreed with Eisenhower that it necessary that there be a greater sense of urgency.
General Eisenhower said that, as chairman of the Atlantic Council, Van Zeeland was in position to do something about this; Van Zeeland laughingly agreed, and repeated his conviction that this could be done.