EUR files, lot 59 D 233, “Letters—France, Jan.–Aug. 1955”

No. 514
The Counselor of Embassy in France (MacArthur) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright)

personal and secret

Dear Jamie : I enclose a memorandum, which I dictated in considerable haste, of a conversation between General Eisenhower and General Koenig. It occurred at a small informal luncheon where there were four of us present (i.e., Generals Eisenhower, Gruenther, Koenig, and myself). While Koenig is an old comrade-in-arms of the General and served under him both in London and Normandy, as far as I was able to ascertain, Koenig’s approach was quite negative. In essence, he says nothing can be done until de Gaulle comes to power on his own terms.

The object in having Koenig come to SHAPE, insofar as we were concerned, was to try to exercise influence so that the absolute hostility of the Gaullists to the European Army might be somehow shaken. We did not make one single inch with Koenig and it was clear in my mind that the root of General de Gaulle’s and Koenig’s opposition to the European Army is that it will mean the disappearance of a French national army. This is very difficult for any French general to swallow.

You may wish to pass this along to Ridge.1 I particularly invite your attention to the fact that you will be having Koenig in Washington in May on a trip whose main purpose is to try to sell the [Page 1196] RPF to our people. You and possibly David Bruce would be interested to know that at one point of the conversation, General Eisenhower asked whether Koenig had explained his views to David. Koenig replied that he liked Ambassador Bruce and that he saw him from time to time socially, but that he had the feeling the Ambassador and the Embassy were reticent about seeing him because of his association with General de Gaulle.

It was good to see you over here, and we only regret that your trip was so brief. This carries with it every good wish and all the best.2

Yours ever,

Doug

[Enclosure]

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of Embassy in France (MacArthur)

secret

Participants:

  • General Eisenhower,
  • General Gruenther,
  • General Koenig, French Deputy from the Bas-Rhin,
  • Mr. MacArthur.

Several days ago General Koenig wrote General Eisenhower saying he would be very glad to call upon him. In reply, General Eisenhower invited General Koenig to lunch with him today. In the course of the conversation, General Eisenhower expounded his views on the role of leadership which France should play in continental Europe and his conviction that in the long run, European union was essential if the European countries were to be able to maintain an adequate standard of living while at the same time maintaining adequate military forces for their defense. He pointed out that the continental European countries could only do this if they made maximum collective use of their own individual economic, financial, productive, manpower, etc., capacities. General Eisenhower thought that France could take the lead in organizing a unified Western Europe.

[Page 1197]

He expressed the strong view that it was essential to get along with the signing of the European Defense Community Treaty in the next month. The signing of this treaty should not await the organization of a European federal political union, which would obviously take at least a few years to work out. However, the EDC was a step in the direction of European unity and should be implemented now, while the situation in terms of Germany was probably as favorable as it would ever be. At the same time, the participating European countries could organize some forum where they could study the problems of political union and come up with a plan for governments to examine perhaps in a year or eighteen months. General Eisenhower concluded by saying Germany will not continue to drift indefinitely between East and West, and that Adenauer, who was well-disposed toward European unity and affiliation with the West, will not remain in power indefinitely. Even now, the German Social Democrats and the neo-Nazis are both chipping away and endeavoring to undermine his position. We should, therefore, press ahead rapidly, and by signing the EDC Treaty tie Germany solidly and irrevocably in with the West.

Koenig said that while he agreed with General Eisenhower, it was naive to believe that the present French leaders would ever do anything constructive. He said they were nice, amiable gentlemen, but that they lacked character and that to them politics was an end in itself, instead of means of coping with France’s ills. He asked for General Eisenhower’s candid opinion on the French Government, saying that he could not believe anyone had any confidence in it since it constantly made promises which it never fulfilled. For example, Moch had promised 15 divisions by December 1951, and France had only produced about half that number. General Koenig said that when a government committed itself it should do so seriously and not make lighthearted promises which it had no intention of keeping.

General Eisenhower said the question of a government being able to meet its plans frequently depended on financial and economic quesions, on which he, General Eisenhower, was not in a position to pass judgment. If the reports on France’s economic and financial situation which he read in the papers were accurate he could understand how and why they had been unable from the financial end to do what they had said they would do, particularly in view of the increasingly heavy financial burden in Indochina.

Koenig said he agreed there might be financial difficulties which would prevent a government from meeting a commitment, but this was not the case in France, where lack of leadership, incompetence, and fumbling had been responsible for a very considerable part of the slippage. He again said that France could never fulfill [Page 1198] the role of leadership which General Eisenhower envisaged for it, with the present leaders. Messrs. Pleven, Pinay, Reynaud, Auriol, etc., were all pleasant and amiable politicians, but they would never give France real leadership.

He said that from the military point of view, de Gaulle and the RPF insisted that the government should increase the number of officers and non-commissioned officers in the professional army; that it should increase the term of military service to 24 months; that it should instill in the French armed forces real morale and will-to-fight by seeing that they were properly organized, trained, and equipped. These were military conditions for the entry of the RPF into a coalition government. Unfortunately, the other parties were unwilling to accept these conditions because of the Socialists, who were at heart anti-anything that had to do with the military. Recently, Paul Reynaud had sounded out all the parties to find out if a government of national union could be formed. Reynaud made no mention of it being headed by de Gaulle, and the presumption was that someone else, possibly Reynaud himself, might head it. The RPF had been willing to participate, but the Socialists had refused to enter any government in which the RPF joined because they would not agree to the military conditions de Gaulle felt were essential to France’s security.

Referring to General Eisenhower’s views on European Union, General Koenig said General de Gaulle strongly favored such union. He did not, however, favor the European Defense Force. In any event, steps for European military integration could only be taken after there was a political union through which political agreements had been reached. Insofar as the RPF is concerned, it does not object to a German national army.

General Eisenhower said that while the RPF might not object to a German national army, Adenauer had objections, fearing that there might be a rebirth of German militarism. Furthermore, General Eisenhower had the feeling that the French people were opposed to a German national army. Koenig did not dispute this point, but simply said that de Gaulle was strongly opposed to the European Army because it would mean the disappearance of the French national army. This was unthinkable.

General Eisenhower said Koenig had said that General de Gaulle was for European union. If this were really true, why did he not support steps in this direction which the present government was taking? Koenig replied that the present government would never achieve any real steps in the direction of European union because of the incapacity of the present leadership and that therefore there was no point in the RPF’s supporting a government which had a [Page 1199] policy of the lowest common denominator and would never produce constructive results.

General Eisenhower said he was discouraged and disappointed in what General Koenig said. He felt that the survival of France and Europe were at stake. General Koenig gave him the impression that playing politics was more important than survival. Koenig replied that it was the present French leaders and not the RPF who were playing politics. The RPF would not lend itself to this and would remain a party which had only France’s interests at heart.

In conclusion, General Koenig said he was going to the United States in May to attend the West Point Sesquicentennial and that while in the United States would make occasion to see a few prominent Americans in public life to get across to them General de Gaulle’s real views, which he felt were sadly misunderstood in the United States.

  1. Ridgway B. Knight.
  2. In a reply to MacArthur dated Apr. 11, Bonbright acknowledged receipt of this letter and commented that “with the experience of the past ten years under our belts, it seems to me that one thing which remains unchanged in this changing world is the attitude of the Gaullists, at least those of the hardcore. I must say, however, that I take considerable satisfaction in the signs of strain within the RPF party itself.” (EUR files, lot 59 D 233, “Letters—France, Jan.–Aug. 1955”)