740.5/3–251: Telegram

The United States Deputy High Commissioner for Germany (Hays) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret

581. Eyes only for Byroade. The sixth meeting on German contribution to European defense was held today, March 2,2 at which were present: on the US side, General Hays, Mr. Buttenwieser, Colonel Gerhardt, Colonel Taylor and Mr. Sultan. On the French side, Mr. Bérard General Ganeval, Mr. Jacomet and Mr. Kleinman. On the British side, Mr. Ward, Mr. Bathhurst, Colonel Craddock and Mr. Calpin [McAlpine?]. On the German side, Mr. Blank, Generals Speidel and Heusinger; Colonel Kielmannsegg, and Mr. Ostermann.

The opening statement by Bérard (chairman) is going forward under separate cable (sent Department 582, repeated Frankfort 706, Heidelberg 27, London 1653). After opening statement by Bérard, [Page 1023] Blank gave the German views on integrated divisions consisting of combat teams of several nationalities, and discussed this from a, military viewpoint. He re-stated briefly that the question of equality was of great importance to the Germans and that the question of German contribution could only be put to Parliament if full equality is granted. Re the military aspects of the multi-national divisions, Blank stated that any force they created must be one which could meet Russian forces with a reasonable chance of success. Therefore, the Allies must create quality in order to overcome quantity.

The Germans feel that their moral responsibility vis-à-vis the force as a whole and each soldier as an individual, was that the important task of the defense of freedom makes the best possible military formations only good enough. The decision to create multi-national divisions should be considered under four points:

First, the necessity for the rapid build-up of the European defense force.

Second, the necessity to create a highly effective defense force which is the equal of any Russian forces.

Third, the necessity to create a force that was simply organized and easily and rapidly employed with great flexibility.

And fourth, that we should consider that faults contained in the original structure would be difficult to eliminate later.

Blank stressed that they hoped to find a solution which would be acceptable both to the French and the Germans, and would make every effort to view the problem not only from the standpoint of the German opinion, but of the opinion of the other NATO countries as well.

Blank also stressed that they had explained before the reasons why they think the armored division is the best; and the second best would be a mechanized infantry division supported by armor.

General Speidel discussed the formation of a division consisting of combat teams of several nationalities. He stated that it could be done on paper but did not think it would be possible in practice because great difficulties would be bound to occur. He cited the difficulties in chain of command, in the field of mutual tactical support and fire support; the difficulty with tactical air support and supply. He stated that these difficulties were so great that this composite division might not operate effectively in battle and therefore might become an easy prey to the enemy.

He cited examples. The division must issue operational orders to about twelve subordinate units. In case there were three nationalities, this would require three translations and would be very time-consuming. He stated it was common practice for an infantry combat unit to be given armored support, artillery support, and transport support. If the infantry were French, and the armored were German, artillery Italian, and the transport were British, it would be impossible to [Page 1024]secure, proper coordination without interminable delays. Regarding communication, he stated each telephone man or signal man would have to be tri-lingual, or they would have to have a triplicate strength to pass down orders. There would be difficulties over food as Bavarians would want sauerkraut and beer, French troops white bread and red wine, and Italians spaghetti and chianti. To satisfy the troops would require a complicated supply organization and many more supply troops than would be normally justified. Speidel further stated that difficulties would apply to weapons until such time as standardization of weapons takes place throughout the command. However, in the beginning—that is, for the time being—troops would have to be armed with such arms and ammunition as is presently available, which in the case of three nationalities would create a difficult problem for ammunition supply. He stated the German view was that for an effective fighting unit, all the constituent parts of that unit and the tactical air support should consist of persons of the same nationality and under the command of a person of that nationality. He further stated that for economy of forces on the battlefield, it was constantly necessary to create special forces for a particular job. This was particularly important for reinforcing artillery. If these forces are of different nationalities, they would create difficulties. He stated, finally that the German view was that the division is the lowest level where the line of demarcation of nationality can be drawn. Any division composed of mixed nationalities would be more expensive, more complicated and more difficult to handle without producing as great fighting ability.

He stated if for reasons other than military it was desired to constitute a division of several nationalities then in the German view, the following must prevail: (1) The national unit (the combat team) must itself reflect a vest-pocket edition of a division. That is, it must have all the arms that a division has. (2) That they would propose two types of combat units so constructed that they could be coupled together, or coupled with another unit exactly similar. Each one of these combat units could be so equipped that it would be able to carry out a combat task independently. The size of the combat units must not be so great that when they are put together in a division, the division is too great and difficult to move.

The German view is that because of the large number of vehicles presently required for a division, that a division should consist of a total strength of 10,000 men. When a division gets to 15,000 or 20,000 strength, the command and movement become so difficult that it takes too much time to move all the components of divisions into battle positions and for these reasons the advantage gained by superior strength is lost through difficulty of employment.

The German view was that as a result of their war experience, it is not necessary to have a division in three component parts. Under the [Page 1025]German proposal three combat units, each with all the armament of a division, would when put together create too large a division, and therefore they would propose a division consisting of two combat units as follows:

A division commander of nationality of one of the units with staff; communication; artillery; engineer; and reconnaissance; an infantry combat unit consisting of: a commander, staff, communications company; engineering company; and reconnaissance company. One mechanized infantry regiment consisting of three batallions; one of the battalions to have armored troop carriers, anti-tank and antiaircraft units. One armored battalion of four companies, one artillery regiment of one light battalion, and one heavy battalion. Such supply and medical units as are necessary for the immediate needs of the troops. The other unit would be an armored combat unit consisting of a commander; staff; communications company; engineering company and reconnaissance company. One tank regiment of two battalions (a total of eight tank companies). One infantry battalion equipped with armored troop carriers with anti-tank and anti-aircraft. One battalion light artillery of three batteries. Supply and medical units as are necessary for the immediate requirements of the troops. The strength of the infantry unit would be about 6,500. The strength of the armored unit about 4,500. In putting these units together, they could put the armored unit with the infantry unit, and have a light armored division; or they could put the two infantry units together and have an infantry division; or they could put the two armored units together, and have a heavy armored division.

Speidel closed with the statement that the Germans were moved by the same ideas regarding security and protection of freedom as the other NATO powers. They are convinced of the necessity of the German contribution to the defense, and are prepared to proceed along any path that is politically acceptable to Germany. Bérard then stated to Blank that from what he could understand of the presentation, the German view was that from political and military considerations the solution previously proposed by the German delegates is the only one that is feasible. Blank corrected this statement by saying that their discussions with us only presented the military views and the political aspects of the German contribution should be worked out by the political representations.

It was agreed that the next meeting would be held on Friday, March 16, at which time the Germans would discuss the financial aspects under the same assumptions that had been made for their previous proposal—that is, nuclei training to start in September, cadre training in January, and divisional training in April. Total assumed force 250,000 men.

[ Hays ]
  1. Repeated to Frankfurt eyes only for McCloy, to Heidelberg eyes only for Handy, and to London eyes only for Spofford.
  2. A copy of Buttenwieser’s notes on this sixth meeting, sent to Byroade on March 7, is in file 740.5/3–751.
  3. Not printed; the statement transmitted in this telegram was the agreed tripartite reply to the legal questions raised by the German representatives at the third meeting on January 26 concerning German participation in European defense, and read in part:

    • “(a) Under international law, a state need not possess all attributes of sovereignty in order to enjoy, in an armed contest, belligerent status and the benefits of the rules of land warfare. …
    • (b) Even should the USSR not recognize the Federal Republic’s belligerent status, it may nevertheless either be legally required to, or otherwise find it practically appropriate to, accord the latter the treatment owing to such status. …
    • (c) There is some legal and substantial practical reason to believe that nationals of the Federal Republic would not be penalized under various Control Council measures prohibiting remilitarization.” (740.5/3–251)