Memorandum by the Secretary of State1


German Rearmament and Problems of the Defense of Europe

There are several groups of problems which present obstacles—and indeed serious threats—to the creation of an adequate defense for Europe. This memorandum deals with two or three of these groups of problems.


The first group of problems relates to the question of German participation. These may be stated in several ways. One way is to separate them, for purposes of identification, into the problems of the United States, the French (and to some extent the European), and the German points of view.

A. The United States Point of View.

I doubt whether it will be possible to provide the steady and sustained United States effort which is necessary to solve the European defense problem unless the question of German participation is settled in the not too distant future. This flows from the strong American characteristic of wanting to see a practicable program for the solution of a problem before whole-hearted and sustained American effort can be evoked.

To us it seems that, without enthusiastic German participation, the problem is pretty hopeless. In the first place, when we look at the map of Europe, it seems clear that the area to be defended must include Germany in order that there can be a practicable military operation. In the second place, it seems to us that, if the decision is made to abandon Germany, that country and its people will fall to the other side and that will make the whole problem unmanageable. In the third place, Americans are not going to work wholeheartedly for the defense of a country, the people of which are not sharing in the burden of their own defense.

For all of these reasons, from the American point of view, the solution of the question of German participation cannot be long delayed.

B. The French Point of View.

To the French the creation of the German army presents the gravest fears and dangers. They believe that this would raise the historical [Page 814] dangers of German military aggression; that it might lead to the involvement of Western Europe in a German crusade to recover Eastern Germany and the lost provinces; and that it would certainly involve putting Germany in the position of holding the balance of power and asking for bids from East and West for German favor. The French, I believe, will not cooperate in a program of German rearmament which does not give what they regard as adequate safeguards.

Furthermore, France will not cooperate in the essential program of progressive restoration of sovereignty to Germany until the military question is settled. Failure to get on with this program will raise the gravest questions of German adherence to the West.

It is for these reasons that the French have put forward the idea of a European Army which would include German units in such form and under such controls that, should British and American troops be withdrawn from Europe, the German contingents could not become disentangled from an abiding European defense structure.

We find many of the French proposals are impracticable from a military point of view. Furthermore the desire to establish economic and political institutions, which would support and control the Army, in complete and final form, raises such difficult problems as to promise a very long delay.

C. The German Point of View.

While it is hard to state this accurately, it seems true that the Germans would accept rearmament in a European setting in which they had a position of equality. They fear, as do the French, the re-establishment of the old military organizations, because they would carry the serious risk of increasing political control in Germany by the General Staff and the Officer Corps.

To them, the heart of the matter is the restoration of a large degree of sovereignty and a position of equality or lack of discrimination. This is just what the French will not accord until the military question is settled.

These three attitudes are producing stalemate. We Americans are impatient and wish to get on with German participation. The Germans and the French will not move—the French, because the military question must be settled before the question of German sovereignty can be attacked; the Germans, because the question of sovereignty and equality must be settled before they will move on the military matter.

It seems to me that two conclusions emerge from this analysis.

The first is that progress requires meeting all these points of view simultaneously and not picking one out for priority of treatment.

The second is that all the questions involved in meeting these points of view cannot be settled finally and completely before any practical, forward steps are taken—if these steps are to be taken in time.

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Therefore, not only does progress have to be made in satisfying all points of view simultaneously, but it must be made by stages. And there must be sufficient guarantees to inspire faith that, while ultimate goals on every question cannot be reached at once, the ultimate goals are accepted by binding promises. I shall return to this matter after setting forth two other sets of problems.


The second group of problems arises from the fact which I have been told, and believe, that there is a great difference in continental acceptance between the economic program embodied in the Marshall Plan and the military rearmament program embodied in the Military Defense Assistance Plan.

This difference, I believe, comes from the fact that the economic program was and is accepted as a European program formulated by Europeans for Europeans. True the United States inspired, stimulated, and underwrote the effort. But there was a great sense of participation among Europeans—both participation in the formulation of the program and in its execution. There was also a deep conviction that it was a program for the benefit of Europeans.

With the military rearmament program I do not believe that this is the case. While there has been European participation, as in the working out of the Medium Term Defense Plan, it has come to be regarded by Europeans as an American plan imposed upon them by the United States, and imposed sometimes without full understanding of the limits of their capacities, the nature of their problems, and the effect which excessive burdens might have upon undermining the whole objective.

To some extent this comes from the fact that there is no central European planning and directing organization comparable to OEEC in the economic field. We have dealt bi-laterally with each nation. They believe that often we have not kept the whole picture in mind and that the guiding and driving hand is that of the United States.

I believe that this situation can be remedied and that it can be remedied in connection with the solution of the problems mentioned under I above.


The third group of problems is related to the financial, economic, and production operations under NATO.

The least satisfactory operations of NATO are those connected with the FEB (Financial and Economic Board) and the DPB (Defense Production Board). The reason for this is, in part, connected with the discussion under II above and, in part, comes from the fact that NATO is too large and too disparate an organization to deal with financial, economic, and production problems as a whole. Nobody really [Page 816] expects that NATO is going to make decisions in these fields which will control action in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. These countries are able to work out programs for themselves and coordinate the programs.

The situation is different with the continental countries. There problems are much more similar to one another than they are to those of the partners over water. These are problems which have to be worked out by Europeans in the framework of continental Europe and then be assisted by the other partners.

There is need within NATO for pulling together the financial, economic, and production problems of the continental partners by those partners and for dealing with them together as a unit, rather than leaving them to generalized treatment which is equally acceptable to the United States, Great Britain and Canada.

These difficulties can, I think, be dealt with also in connection with those stated under I and II above.

a possible method of approach

The approach suggested is to take the idea of the European Army and see how it can be used to aid in the solution of the problems mentioned above.

The object should be, in the military field, to build on what we have under General Eisenhower—doing nothing which would confuse that military organization, but using it and stressing it for the purpose of creating what is in reality a European force in the field. It would be true that at present and for some time to come—perhaps for a long time—that force would be strengthened and stiffened by British and American contingents. But it would be a force which, as a military force, would not have to be changed in any fundamental way whenever the time came that the overseas contingents might be withdrawn.

Its continuance as a European force could be guaranteed by the most binding treaty obligations and by the creation over a period of time of supporting political institutions, dealing with financial support, economic support, production support, and the ultimate political bodies which would control the action and use of the army. Certain steps could be taken in all of these fields at once, but I doubt whether they could be final and perfect steps. Advantage should be taken of the fact that, due to the commitments of the United States and Great Britain in Europe and the presence of their troops there, factors of guarantee and safety are provided while these institutions are being subjected to actual experience and improvement.

Factors Relating to the Military Force in the Field. At the present time it can be stated that there is a European Army—not complete in all respects, but not very far from complete. At any rate, it is complete enough to take as a working basis.

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It might be stretching things a bit to say that this European Army is the army commanded by General Eisenhower. Perhaps from the French point of view it might be a sounder approach to concentrate on the central ground force, commanded by General Juin. Here, one can say, is an army which will be fully organized and integrated in a command structure, at the head of which is a French General. It would have in it the bulk of the continental forces, and could have all of them if there were a simple treaty provision that, upon any dissolution of the NATO Supreme Command, the Northern and Southern Commands and the Air Force would be added to it.

It would be into this Army that German contingents would be integrated. I do not know whether it would raise any military problems to accept the idea that German divisions on the Petersberg model should be incorporated in army corps with continentals rather than with Americans and British. If this could be done, then it could be said that the possible withdrawal of British and American troops would not affect in any way the military integration of the German contingents.

This, of course, is probably over-simplified and undoubtedly deals with only a small part of the problem. But it might furnish the beginning of a pattern and enable the French to accept some of the Petersberg ideas of the size and structure of military formations of Germans for incorporation into this European Army.

Training. Mr. Bruce has suggested that, if the training of the European contingents destined for the defense of Europe were turned over at the moment the troops were raised to General Eisenhower’s command (and in the case of the central ground forces, this would mean to General Juin’s command), the need for a purely German military training organization would be removed and Germany would be on an equality with the other continental partners.

I do not know whether this is practicable, but the idea seems worth exploration.

There would still be need in Germany for an organization to perform many functions connected with the raising of troops, but I think that the French would have to give way on their demand that all of this should be under a European commander, with no German institutions supporting him.

The European Defense Commissioner. It would seem to me that, outside of the weapons field, there would be great need for standardization among the European partners of many things, such as, the length of service, exemptions from service, pay and allowances, training schools, promotions, etc.

Here is a field in which the functions of a European Defense Commissioner might begin as the Chairman of a Committee of Defense Ministers, including a German official, and possibly end by having for all the continental partners such authority as any executive official [Page 818] would have over such matters in any of the countries. Perhaps the treaty might establish him with certain beginning functions, set out certain goals to be achieved, and provide for their achievement over a period of time in the light of experience.

A European Finance Minister for Defense. It might be possible for the treaty to provide for such a minister to begin as the Chairman of the Financial Ministers of the European partners, take over executive functions of the FEB for the continental partners, and provide the central point for discussion of American, Canadian, and possibly British assistance.

Goals might be set for the development of his office, possibly involving a requirement that his budget estimates for each of the countries would have to be incorporated without change in the various national budgets presented to their legislatures.

A European and Production Supply Minister for Defense. The treaty might set up such an office, the occupant of which might deal with the national ministers in the same way that the Finanical Minister would deal with his counterparts, and who would also take over for the European partners executive functions under the DPB, and should be the point of contact on production matters with the United States and others.

Provision might also be made for these three officers to form a Cabinet under one of them. They might start with the right to appear before the legislative bodies of the Cabinets of the continental partners.

Study might be given to some method of creating a supra-legislature made up of the various members of the different parliamentary bodies to pass authoritatively upon problems within this field.

The purpose of this speculative memorandum is to see whether there are not certain broad concepts which can be adopted without too much delay and which would permit, if adopted, a beginning both of establishing Germany in a position of equality with a progressive restoration of sovereignty and the beginning of the German contribution.

It seems plain to me that the question involving finance, production, and the ultimate control of the European Army go so deeply into the foundations of sovereignty that, if we attempt to solve all of these matters finally before any step is taken, it is likely that no step will be taken. But I think that a plan can be devised, which would be both inspiring and sensible, which would permit immediate steps to be taken to meet the problems which I outlined in I, II, and III above, and which would be capable of development under the blanket and protection of the NATO force and the political institutions, which might have the most far-reaching effect upon European political developments.

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If a start could be made along these lines, it would also be helpful both in removing the idea that the whole defense program is an American program and that this country is pushing the continentals on for the purposes of American policy and also of removing the dragging and deadening effect of British skepticism regarding European unification.

The British and ourselves would both be outside the organization and yet deeply involved with it through NATO.

It also might avoid two very grave difficulties.

One is the difficulty involved in spelling every step out in minute detail. This raises all sorts of problems, many of which never eventuate. The development of our own Constitution shows that many of the problems foreseen did not occur and most of the really important problems were not foreseen.

It also avoids the difficulty of trying to evolve a scheme upon which the last and final word is said.

It tries to accomplish two things: Commitment to a goal, but not attempting the final formulation of the goal. This has dangers, but it also has possibilities.

I put these suggestions forward for criticism, and there is no requirement that this criticism must be constructive.

  1. The source text, which is unsigned, bears a marginal notation stating that this was a copy of the Secretary of State’s original draft paper. Copies of this memorandum were sent to Matthews, Perkins, Nitze, Byroade, and Cabot. For the revision of this memorandum prepared by Jessup on July 12, see p. 827.