The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State 1
5295. Alphand called on General Eisenhower yesterday to pay respects.2 Following is résumé of conversation:
General Eisenhower expressed concern over tendency of NAT countries to adopt highly nationalistic approach to problem of selecting individuals to fill positions in SHAPE and command structure. Some nations seemed to view appointments as means of enhancing national prestige rather than as real responsibility which engages not only individual but also government. Recent flare-up over Fechteler and Conservative demand in House of Commons for UK air commander are cases in point and clearly demonstrate lack understanding of importance of substance and public relations aspect such questions. General said great damage could be done effort to build up European defense strength if discussions re appointments and other matters were constantly injected into parliamentary and public discussion on the basis that these posts were something to be eagerly sought by each nation and therefore the legitimate objects or inter-country struggles. Such discussions not only were divisive but gave real ammunition to our enemies. In particular General expressed view that NATO (through deputies) should impress on all members tremendous importance [Page 486]of public relations (a) in creating common understanding and belief in NATO, and (b) in taking every precaution to prevent debate and hence further misunderstanding on questions which were in the discussion stage.
Alphand said he agreed completely with General and thought he might well bring this question to attention deputies in next meeting. He mentioned fact that command structure for central sector was not yet agreed and there appeared to be certain divergent views on relationship of ground and air commands, particularly French desire to have tactical air under central sector commander. He assured General that French would not leak anything re discussions now in progress this question, particularly meeting with Juin.
General Eisenhower said he was faced with many problems and heavy responsibilities. He had not sought the job as SACEUR and had only accepted it because the NAT nations had requested and President had urged him. He then outlined in broad terms some complications re air and ground command in central sector and again emphasized that acceptance of command entailed responsibilities. He also pointed out that insofar as tactical air is concerned, France will have very little for at least several years and that it would be in their own interest to see a solution which would attract maximum air in defense of central sector under system which would provide best possible air support for ground forces. He believed he had solution in mind which would best meet this problem and stressed again fact that SHAPE was great collective enterprise which could only succeed if all members pulled together as team with great common objective rather than narrower national objectives in mind.
Alphand then mentioned his role in conference on European army3 said he was always at General’s disposition to furnish information about it. Since European army would if negotiations were successful be under General Eisenhower, he felt it important for him to be kept fully informed on an informal basis so that if French had ideas which would create difficulties for SHAPE they could be modified. General thanked him for this offer.
- Sent to London as 1268, Spofford from MacArthur.↩
- On February 21 General Eisenhower had established the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe, in temporary facilities at the Astoria Hotel in Paris. (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. First Annual Report, Paris, April 1952, p. 8)↩
- For documentation on the Pleven Plan for a European army, see pp. 755 ff.↩