Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 185

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of the Department of State (MacArthur)1

top secret


  • The President
  • Lord Ismay
  • Mr. MacArthur

In response to the President’s request, Mr. MacArthur joined the President and Lord Ismay about 9 O’clock this morning. The President indicated that he and Lord Ismay had been discussing the French situation. The President said that he was concerned by the apparent French tendency, as demonstrated at the Bermuda meeting, to request additional commitments from the United States and United Kingdom as a sort of a condition for French ratification of EDC. The President said the United States had been extending all kinds of assistance to France and supporting France on the basis that the French Government would move ahead on EDC. He mentioned the $385,000,000 which had been granted to France for Indochina and stated his recollection that this had been granted on the condition that France ratify EDC.

Mr. MacArthur commented that the U.S. had not linked the $385,000,000 for Indochina and the EDC in the formal documents which had been exchanged when the recent Indochina agreement was completed. It had been deemed undesirable to link these two questions publicly or in the documents which had been exchanged, since it had been feared that opponents of EDC and opponents of France’s continuing effort in Indochina might join together in the Assembly and block the French Government in its plans to send further reinforcements to Indochina, which were essential if success were to be achieved there. On the other hand, Ambassador Dillon in his conversations with M. Laniel and M. Bidault had made clear that we were extending this aid on the basis that the French Government’s determination to put EDC through the French Parliament at the earliest possible moment had not in any way changed.

Mr. MacArthur recalled that the President had sent a letter to M. Laniel about September 202 which after expressing regret that Laniel could not visit the U.S. had stated the President’s understanding that both M. Laniel and M. Bidault believed the situation in France was propitious for the French Government to move quickly toward ratification and that both the French leaders were trying to bring it about by the end of the year. Mr. MacArthur also mentioned Laniel’s reply to the above letter, which was received early in October, in which Laniel had confirmed that his Government’s commitment in connection [Page 1841] with EDC was binding and that his major concern was to get early French ratification of the EDC. Mr. MacArthur added that Laniel had not, however, indicated that it would be possible to get final French action before the end of the year. The President said that he recalled the exchange of letters and that probably was what he had in mind in connection with the linking of the additional aid to Indochina to the EDC.

In connection with the French problem, Mr. MacArthur expressed the opinion that the problem in France was not of French public opinion but one of parliamentary opinion and that until the French elections for the Presidency on December 17 were out of the way, we could not expect any constructive action of any kind from the French with respect to this problem. After the presidential elections considerable would depend on who was elected President and who the next Prime Minister would be. In this latter connection, there might be a real political crisis in France on the election of the new government, since the EDC question might be the major problem on which the formation of a new government would hinge. The President indicated that we should not let the French forget that EDC is a French proposal; that the U.S. has given all sorts of support to France—both in furnishing arms equipment and in increasing the numbers of U.S. divisions—and Europe on the basis that EDC would go through. We have reached a point where if EDC does not go through, our whole programs and policies aimed at building real defensive strength in Western Europe will be in very great jeopardy. Furthermore, we cannot go ahead developing plans for Europe when we don’t know what kind of a Europe we will have to deal with.

The President said that he felt that Lord Ismay could be very helpful in driving home to the members of the North Atlantic Council the importance of bringing EDC into effect in the next couple of months if our whole collective effort aimed at European defense was not to bog down and come apart at the seams.

Mr. MacArthur threw out the suggestion that in particular Lord Ismay might bring the gravity of the present situation to the attention of the Dutch and Belgian members of the North Atlantic Council and their respective governments so that the latter could put pressure on the French. The advantage of this was that, whereas France always took the position that the U.S. and U.K. were not involved in the EDC and, therefore, were not making the kind of sacrifice that France was making, the Dutch and Belgians were prospective members and were making sacrifices of an equivalent nature to those of the French. For example, if the Dutch and Belgians indicated to the French that if EDC failed through French opposition, they would have to consider making arrangements with Germany and including the U.S. and U.K. so that the German situation would not drift indefinitely and [Page 1842] perhaps take a turn which would jeopardize both the Netherlands and Belgium. Mr. MacArthur said that this was just a personal idea of his own but if the Dutch and Belgians knew the gravity of the situation as the United States sees it and if they heard it from an international figure like Lord Ismay, they might be able to do some helpful work of some kind on the French. The President said that if we could get the Dutch, the Belgians and the other members of EDC to work on France, it might be very helpful and also he hoped Lord Ismay would do his utmost with all members of NATO in his role as the senior civilian official of the entire organization. Lord Ismay said that he fully agreed and would do his best with NATO and would also see what he could do with the Dutch and Belgians.

Lord Ismay then in a very general way gave some of his views on NATO mentioning in particular that we had now reached a point where defense expenditures had to level off and the great problem was to get the most effective defense with the resources which would be available. Lord Ismay paid a high tribute to General Gruenther who, he said, was doing a superb job not only in the headquarters at SHAPE but in his talks and meetings with members of the NATO Governments and their parliamentarians and high officials. The President said that he had made the decision to leave General Gruenther in Europe because he believed that General Gruenther, more than any other figure, could hold the NAT organization together and keep it moving ahead. In connection with General Gruenther, the President said he had been disturbed by the tendency of Field Marshal Montgomery to sometimes take quite an independent line in some of his statements, particularly when he was visiting other NATO countries. The President mentioned the Field Marshal’s trip to Greece as a case in point. He said he thought that if Monty were off the reservation, Ismay as the senior civilian official of the NAT Organization should speak to him in no uncertain terms. In a military command unswerving loyalty was expected of subordinates. The President understood that Monty was happy to serve under General Gruenther but if Monty could not follow out the directives and policy of General Gruenther then he should go and be replaced by someone who would. In particular, the President said that if the question ever came up about a choice between Field Marshal Montgomery and General Gruenther, there was absolutely no question where the President stood and it might be useful if Lord Ismay would let Monty know how we felt about this. The meeting then broke up with the arrival of Miss Whitman with some papers for the President’s signature. On taking leave Lord Ismay said that his discussion with the President had been tremendously helpful and that he was deeply grateful to the President for giving so generously of his time. He would go back to Europe and do his utmost to be helpful with respect to the matters which he had discussed with the President.

  1. The meeting took place from 9 to 9:40 a.m. on Dec. 8.
  2. For President Eisenhower’s letter to Laniel, Sept. 20, see p. 812; for Laniel’s reply, Oct. 8, see p. 820.