lot 59 D 233, “EUR—Subject files
The Counselor of Embassy in France
(MacArthur) to the Under Secretary of State
Paris, May 1, 1952.
Dear David: With reference
to my letter of April 25,1 I enclose a Memorandum of Conversation prepared by
Dick Walters summarizing General Eisenhower’s conversation with
General de Gaulle last
evening when General Eisenhower was the guest of honor of the Order of the
Liberation. The Memorandum prepared by Dick Walters
has had no clearance, and General Eisenhower has not seen it so it has no standing but
represents, I believe, a good résumé of the conversation.
When General Eisenhower
arrived at the building which is the headquarters of the Order of the
Liberation, General de
Gaulle came out on the sidewalk to greet him as he
stepped from the car. They then proceeded into the building and General
de Gaulle led them to a
salon where he, General Eisenhower and Colonel Walters were
closeted during the conversation set forth in the attached [Page 1200] Memorandum. They then joined the
other guests (General Juin, General Koenig, Admiral d’Argenlieu and
Andre Poniatowski) for dinner.
Dick Walters tells me that the whole atmosphere was
the most extraordinary thing he has ever witnessed. General de Gaulle was completely relaxed,
was witty and filled with charm; as Dick put it
“even Tony Biddle couldn’t have put on a better
act”. Apparently the whole atmosphere was informal and very
You will note that General Eisenhower took the initiative at the beginning of the
conversation by making reference to de
Gaulle’s anti-American statements. Dick
Walters said that he fully expected de Gaulle to show some signs of
stiffness or resentment when General Eisenhower opened fire on him point blank as it were. No
such thing happened. de
Gaulle nodded and indicated that he fully understood
General Eisenhower’s point
of view and then went on to develop his reply.
While I have no illusions about de
Gaulle and his Party, I do think that the meeting served
a very useful purpose, and I believe that at least some of General
observations will remain with General de Gaulle.
This is written in great haste to catch the outgoing pouch, but carries
with it every good wish and all the best.
I am enclosing copies of this letter and the memorandum for George Perkins, Jamie Bonbright and Ridge Knight. You might also wish
to show this to Doc2
who has had some experience with this gentleman in the past.
Memorandum of Conversation, by Lieutenant
Colonel Vernon A. Walters
[Paris,] April 30, 1952.
Place of Conversation: Seat of the Order of
- General Dwight D.
- General Charles de
- Lt. Colonel Vernon A. Walters
After expressions by both Generals of their satisfaction at having
this opportunity to meet and talk informally so that they could [Page 1201] know what was in one
another’s minds, General Eisenhower said that one thing which had been
bothering him had been the intimations in statements and speeches of
General de Gaulle’s
that would indicate that the U.S. troops who were in France were
here as “occupation forces” or were in other ways unwelcome. He said
that it was difficult enough for Americans to convince U.S. public
and Congressional opinion of the need for sustaining the American
effort in Europe and voting the foreign aid appropriations. The
soldiers who are here would prefer to be at home. They felt they
were doing a service for their country and for freedom by serving
here. General de Gaulle
replied by saying that to understand his point of view General
was a citizen of a great, powerful nation, must understand that he,
General de Gaulle, saw
his nation, which had been great, now greatly reduced in power. He
felt it necessary to constantly remind the French people that they
must be independent and strong; independent even with their allies.
If they lost this love of independence, they could never become a
powerful partner for the United States. He was greatly distressed by
the weakness of the State in France under the present system. He
said quite frankly that he wanted to change that system. As it now
stood, it provided no continuity or opportunity for leadership. When
he made the statements which he did, it was not to attack the U.S.
but to help him in his struggle to achieve this change. General
General de Gaulle to
remember that his words were heard on the other side of the ocean
also, and to think of the effect they might have there. He said that
as far as the necessity of the stability of France was concerned, he
was likewise convinced that it was essential when a party had been
elected to power that it be able to exercise that power.
General de Gaulle then
said he would like to mention one or two other points. He said that
in Africa the French had sometimes been wrong and sometimes been
right, but nevertheless France needed that portion of Africa which
was associated with her. There were reforms which would have to be
carried out, but in the framework of those reforms the French hoped
that this portion of Africa would remain with them, as it was a
prerequisite for their own greatness, and because they felt so
strongly about this that anything which they interpreted as being
interference or trespassing on their rights made them leap into the
air, and particularly myself, added General de Gaulle.
replied that he presumed the General was referring to the alleged
activities of some U.S. Consular personnel in the North Africa area.
said that it was a tradition in the State Department which he did
not believe would [Page 1202] be
changed that their officials would be free to receive anyone who was
not a criminal or a member of some outlaw group, but likewise the
State Department condemned any interference by any American
whatsoever in the internal affairs of any other nation. He did not
believe you could stifle the wave of nationalism in any of these
countries, but hoped that the Arabs would realize that they could
not make a living by themselves and needed the French as much as the
French needed them. The only desire of the U.S. was for stability in
this area and for the French and native populations to work
increasingly closer together for the mutual benefit of both.
returned to the subject of the inferences against the presence of
U.S. troops in France and said that everything should be done to
avoid assisting the Communist poison in this respect. The presence
of these troops was a visible commitment that the U.S. would be
present from the beginning if anything did occur and not wait as
they did in 1914 and 1939.
General de Gaulle said
he was very happy to hear these views of General Eisenhower’s concerning
North Africa and with respect to the presence in France of U.S.
troops—he said, “If these troops were not here, the Soviets would be
at the Atlantic and there would be a Communist government in Paris”.
General de Gaulle then
said that he felt that the Atlantic alliance, and primarily the
U.S.–French alliance, was absolutely essential. Measures should be
taken against the Communists, but the present government was too
weak to do this. That is why he wanted to change the present
General de Gaulle then
said there was the question of the Germans. He mentioned he had been
one of the first to advocate an “entente” between France and
Germany. This would be the greatest contribution that could be made
to Europe and perhaps to the world, but it must be done in such a
way that the French people would not fear the Germans. General
that he felt that Europe in the long run could not earn its living
without a closer federation, particularly in the economic field. He
felt that the European Defense Community was the best way of
obtaining a German contribution while maintaining the necessary
safeguards. General de
Gaulle interjected that a federation between France
and Germany was absolutely essential. General Eisenhower said that France,
as the keystone of the European arch with her long tradition of bold
and imaginative leadership, could seize an extraordinary opportunity
by taking the leadership in this moment—so to speak, grasping the
flag and moving out in front. If she did this, she would never fear
the Germans, because the federation would be something which she had
General de Gaulle then
asked General Eisenhower whether, very broadly speaking, he felt
we should adopt an offensive or defensive strategy in the Far East.
said that, broadly speaking, because of the problem of the 400
million Chinese, the vast area of China, and the necessity of
building up adequate strength in Europe, he felt a defensive
strategy was probably indicated. General de Gaulle asked General
opinion concerning Indochina. The latter replied that Japan seemed
to want to be with the West, and to live she had to trade with the
whole South East Asian area—Indochina, Formosa, Malaya, Indonesia,
etc.—Indochina was the barrier to the advance of Communism into
South East Asia, and therefore it was absolutely essential to keep
the stopper in the bottle in Indochina and to make sure that that
stopper was strong; the fighting in Indochina was not a colonial
episode, but a tactical battle in the great strategic world struggle
against Soviet dictatorship. General de Gaulle said he was very
happy to hear these words from General Eisenhower.
General Eisenhower said
that during this converation he felt that one of the things at which
General de Gaulle had
been hinting was the question of prestige. He himself felt that the
NATO nations should support one
another and build up one another’s prestige and not “go around
cutting one another’s throats”. General de Gaulle replied, “You have
put your finger right on the heart of the problem”.
General Eisenhower said
that he felt that while General de
Gaulle and he might differ on points like the
European Army, he felt that the important thing was to agree to
understand the importance of the alliance between France and the
U.S. within its NATO framework and
to work with self respect, but also with mutual respect and
particularly understanding. General de Gaulle said, “I could not
agree with you more. I am most happy to have had this talk”.