EUR files, lot 59 D 233, “EUR—Subject files II”

No. 515
The Counselor of Embassy in France (MacArthur) to the Under Secretary of State (Bruce)

top secret personal

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 friendly.

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 Eisenhower’s 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.

Yours ever,

Douglas MacArthur II

[Enclosure]

Memorandum of Conversation, by Lieutenant Colonel Vernon A. Walters

top secret

Place of Conversation: Seat of the Order of Liberation

Participants:

  • General Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • General Charles de Gaulle
  • 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 Eisenhower, who 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 Eisenhower asked 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.

General Eisenhower replied that he presumed the General was referring to the alleged activities of some U.S. Consular personnel in the North Africa area. General Eisenhower 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.

General Eisenhower 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 system.

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 Eisenhower said 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 brought about.

[Page 1203]

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. General Eisenhower 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 Eisenhower’s 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”.

  1. MacArthur’s letter informed Bruce of General Koenig’s initiative in organizing this dinner and concluded that “it is probably a good thing that the two men can meet prior to General Eisenhower’s departure.” (EUR files, lot 59 D 233, “Letters— France, 1950–1955”) Eisenhower wrote President Truman asking to be relieved of his post as Supreme Commander in Europe by June 1 and this request was accepted. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway succeeded General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander.
  2. H. Freeman Matthews.