396.1–PA/3–951: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State 1


5287. European army conference held first plenary session since February 222 on March 8 and got into heart of matter with presentation German counterproposal as to size of national component of proposed international force. Germans failure declare explicitly at start [Page 775] that they accepted broad outlines other aspects of French proposals led French chairman Alphand into initial comment that he saw “nothing Europe [European?]” about German counterproposal, but meeting ended on happier note with agreement to study German statement plus supplementary explanations furnished in course discussion as well as defense by French General de Larminat of his delegation’s proposal on grounds of its military practicability.

Next meeting will be of steering committee on March 15. Meeting opened with brief summary from Alphand on work steering committee covered in French draft convention distributed shortly before meeting (Embtel 5264, March 93). Meeting then heard prepared statement by German representative Roediger replacing Hallstein.

German proposal based on idea of common defense and FedRep’s contribution to organization European army. Given geographic conditions of central Europe, west must oppose Soviet quantitative superiority by qualitative superiority consisting of “operating units”, motorized, mobile and furnished with modern arms. Roediger claimed French proposal for mixed division including 16,000–17,000 combat troops does not entirely meet conditions that it is too unwieldy for rapid command and movement. Modern division must be based upon number of medium tanks and infantry in balanced proportion. German delegation had grave doubts of military efficacy of mixed divisions and cited several examples of difficulties that would arise through differences of language, execution of orders, artillery support anti-tank concentration, tactical air support, etc.

Conclusion therefore drawn by German delegation that all elements of operating units including tactical aviation should belong to the same nationality and be under same national command. In principle such an operating unit should be self-sufficient and so organized that could be combined according to the exigencies of the combat situation. Two types of such operating units are foreseen, one in which basic element would be infantry reinforced by armor, and the other, armor reinforced by infantry. The two types could then be combined, when required, into an efficient unit. The effectives of the “combat groups” should be formed in such fashion that when two are combined an “operating unit” results which would not be more than a combat force of from 10,000 to 12,000 men, depending on whether the two component groups were of same or different types. The combat group (6) would, in effect, be a small copy of a division in that it would include all arms essential for such a formation. German experience during the war indicated desirability of avoiding too rigid an organization of three groups.

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Combination of two combat groups would require establishment of staff of same nationality to which would be attached signal battalion and such specialized staff as might be required for reconnaissance, engineers, and artillery. Suggested that combat group of infantry should be 6,500 men and of armored units 4,500 men. Supply services could be concentrated at a higher command such as that of the staff of an army corps.

In conclusion Roediger contended these ideas merited profound examination by military experts and, in order to surmount political difficulties which German proposal might evoke, declared FedRep ready to renounce all armament production except small arms for police.

Alphand’s immediate reaction to the proposal was uncompromising in tone. He described German proposal as animated purely by military considerations and taking insufficient account of political factors. French proposal based on integrated European army and he found no allusion to this in German proposal. Without such integration western Europe would have only a coalition army. Proposal was therefore not acceptable. It had been his understanding that neither French nor German people desired German divisions or German general staff. He then requested French military advisor General De Larminat to reply in detail to German proposal.

This reply was lengthy prepared statement purporting to show feasibility of mixed division concept both on military and political grounds. Although American RCT chosen as type, was not necessary to follow its organization precisely. More important to work out procedures for operation of mixed divisions as experience in last war had demonstrated. Standardization of communications and technique had greatly developed in last war and it was therefore a question of application and goodwill rather than of principle.

De Larminat gave many citations of integration in the field of aerial navigation both civilian and military and the same for naval task forces particularly in convoy duty. On exercise of command, pointed out that divisional orders can be expressed in schematic form that is practically international. This idea can be adapted and developed. Admitted that interpretative part of order is more difficult but could be worked out with assistance of interpreters particularly as military vocabulary has much in common. Cited French experience with English orders during war. On communications found no problem within RCT, and for their inter-RCT orders would establish liaison groups or pass through headquarters staff. Vocabulary can be simplified by use of common expressions and simple commands. Divisional commander could direct artillery support and anti-tank fire. As to air forces, certain arrangements are already under way for Atlantic forces and such liaison system could be adapted for European army.

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De Larminat continued that supply problem not too difficult and can be worked out by schedules in advance. French troops during war were supplied both from UK and US sources and readily adapted themselves. Obviously munitions must be standardized by divisions. Concluded with statement that French objection was only against creation of national divisions. He thought delay in readiness division because of its mixed nationality would be only three months.

German representative then proposed that military committee examine the French and German statements, but Alphand objected because of lack of European elements in German proposal. German division could obviously be put at disposal supreme commander but that would not be contribution to European army. French have categoric opposition to German proposal not on basis organization RCT but on principle of mixed division and this cannot be decided by military committee. Roediger replied that German proposal does not necessarily envisage establishment German divisions but was directed toward most effective European army. Separate units would be under defense commissioner proposed in French plan, therefore a question of degree rather than principle.

As French and Germans seem to have locked horns, Italian representative intervened to stress necessity of finding compromise between military necessities and political realities. Suggested studying both statements taking into account over-all political objectives and then meet to consider how to proceed.

Alphand then stated that issue was clear in that Germans believed RCT inadequate on military grounds whereas French thought it was militarily sound and politically essential. He agreed that these positions should be considered after distribution of documents but not exclusively by military committee. Roediger likewise agreed that both political and military aspects be considered pari passu.

Belgian representative stated that difference between French and German views appeared boil down to question of whether largest national unit should be of 5–6,000 men or of 10–12,000 men. Alphand quick to state that French were certainly ready to discuss whether lowest international unit should be composed of two or of three national units, whether total strength should be 10 or 20,000 men. What appeared to him seriously objectionable in German proposal was that components of “operating unit” were all of same nationality and that this unit had staff of its own. He asked where a combined staff entered picture in German scheme.

Roediger then clarified German position by stressing that two RCT, would not necessarily be a division but an “operating unit”, and by stating that while staff of operating units would be nationally integrated, international staff would come at army corps level. Army corps could obviously have units of three nationalities.

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It was then agreed that Germans would incorporate these last explanations in their paper and conference would recess for several days to enable delegates to consider today’s statements. Steering committee will be convoked March 15 to decide what to refer to committees.

Despite Alphand’s attitude in meeting, both French and Italians hopeful that some progress had been made and way open for possible compromise. Germans also feel that way is not completely blocked but insist that conference can only go at slow pace. When suggested to Germans that conference might continue by discussing political institutions, Germans said would probably be ready to do so within a week but needed time consider French draft convention.

  1. This telegram was repeated to London, Brussels, The Hague, Copenhagen, Oslo, Rome, Lisbon, Frankfurt, and Luxembourg, and copies were also made available to the Embassy in Ottawa and the Department of Defense.
  2. For a report on the conference plenary meeting of February 22, see telegram 4981, February 23, from Paris, p. 769.
  3. See telegram 5293, March 9, from Paris, supra.